Monday, April 30, 2018

A Tough Movie

Yesterday afternoon a group of us went to see Indian Horse.

This is a movie that pushes the viewer to face the reality that was and is the Indian Residential School system. And pushes us to remember it is not ancient history. As one person said afterward "this was in my lifetime" -- it starts in 1959 and we push through 30 years of Saul's life.

The movie is the story of a small boy, Sau l Indian Horse. And to be honest his is really the only character in the movie that is very well developed. The others are developed only so much as they interact with Saul, though since the movie is told as Saul sharing his memories of his story that does make a deal of sense.

This is a tough movie to watch. It is disturbing to know that such violence and racism are a part of our identity as Canadians. It is one thing to know it happened, it is a whole other level of disturbing to see it enacted. But for that same reason it is a very important movie to see. Over the last decade Canada has officially been taking part in a truth and reconciliation process. But I have a strong hunch that settler-stock Canadians have yet to fully understand the truth (but want to rush to the reconciliation). If we are going to be serious about reconciliation we have to honestly name and recognize the truth of our past and our present [because racism is still a big factor in Canada].

Violent beatings, degrading treatment, inhumane conditions, belittling language. These run through the movie, these run through Saul's life. There are deaths, there is alcoholism, there is the glimmer of one teacher who seems to be a "good guy" and yet he also is part of the problem...

In fact it is hard to say there is much hope in this movie.  There is a lot of reason for despair. There is a lot of reason to think reconciliation is impossible. But hope? That is hard to find.

Where is the hope for reconciliation in Canada? IT lies beyond the pain.  I see on the film website that they are open to community screenings. I am going to suggest that the church host such a screening with a time for debrief and discussion afterward.  The piece I was pondering  was what age. Would it be appropriate for the church youth group? I think so but it would have to be carefully planned and plenty of attention paid to how the post-viewing discussion would be handled.

I think this is an important movie. I also think many people will find it too hard to watch.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Book 4 of 2018 Becoming Fully Human: The Greatest Glory of God

How can one ignore a book with a title like this?

Each topic/chapter in this volume is a series of reflections.  Each one starts with a few screens of text to introduce the topic at hand and then a series of one paragraph reflections. The reflections themselves appear to be drawn from a variety of sources, but the original source is often not given. That is my biggest frustration about the book, that Chittister does not name the sources enough..

For each topic there were multiple paragraphs that I found myself highlighting. For each topic there were multiple paragraphs I found myself saying "Hmm, not sure...". I think that is a good mix. It would be boring to read something with which one totally agreed and really frustrating to read something with which one totally disagreed.

I see this as a good addition to a church library as almost anyone could sit down and read all or part of it and be engaged

Friday, April 20, 2018

Book 3 of 2018 We Make the Road by Walking

A bit of an impulse purchase this time. Browsing through the lists and thought it looked interesting.

This book is set up as a support for small faith communities. I could see it being used in that setting, or as a small group ministry. Though I do wonder if a whole year of McLaren might be a little limiting for a faith community. After all even a congregation with resident clergy does not get a whole year of that clergy, what with vacation time and study leave and duties to the wider church (assuming the clergy in question makes use of those things).

I like the approach that McLaren takes in here. I would appreciate a chance to engage the discussion questions with a group.  I would not take a whole year to do the book, maybe do a quarter at a time.  At the same time reading this book has impacted my sermons over this winter.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Book 2 of 2018 -- The Lifesaving Church

One of the most challenging issues for a faith community to address is suicide. A few years back I was at a community meeting to discuss an uptick in suicidal ideation and behaviour in town and one of the local clergy said that he never knew how to prepare a sermon for someone who had died by suicide (because he said he did not know "where they were", had they died in good relation with God) [at the same meeting a supposed youth pastor in town said he did not understand why these kids were suicidal because they had no idea what actual suffering was, the ministry people at that meeting were somewhat less helpful than everybody else in the room].

How do we bring things like grace and mercy and forgiveness and love into a suicide situation?

This book by Rachael Keefe does just that. And does it really well. A large part of the power of the book is that it is memoir. Keefe is able to speak from her own experience after much self- and theological reflection on that experience.

AS a piece of writing the book is a light read. The whole volume is 102 pages, including 6 Appendices of resources for the church (clergy and layfolk) to consider in ministering to those who are struggling with issues around suicide and those who are on an arc that may take them to the brink of suicidal choices. The text is approachable and the memoir aspect makes it narrative, which draws the reader in.

At the same time there were times I found the book very challenging to read. At an emotional level that is.  If one is going to take seriously the challenges to the Body of Christ that Keefe raises up in these chapters (each of which is titled "The Body of Christ  ________"), if one is going to allow oneself to sit in and with her story, one is going to be struck to the heart.  More than once I had to take a break before moving to the next chapter, or the next section of a chapter, to stop and process what the story and reflection were bringing up within myself.

I almost didn't right this whole review. My first response as a review of this was to simply say "Read this book! Make sure there is a copy in the library of your church. Make sure there is a copy at the local Suicide Prevention office so they can lend it to church-folk. Read it as a group of care-ers and ask how ready we are to admit that the Body of Christ is all these things" Those sentences still stand. This is a very good book on a topic most of us do not want to talk about.

 DISCLOSURE: I received a free copy of this book with the promise to post a review of it.