No theme has come in for such frequent treatment in the movies as the life of Jesus. More than twenty titles over a hundred years interpret his words and deeds. One diocese recently held a workshop on this topic, providing fresh ideas for both teaching and outreach.
The School of Lay Ministry in the Diocese of Ontario recently sponsored a workshop on Jesus and the movies, led by New Testament scholar, Richard Ascough. The day offered participants the chance to examine excerpts from film versions of Jesus’ story in light of contemporary biblical scholarship. Richard was an excellent facilitator whose love for both the scriptures and film shone through.
What they said about “Real to Reel”
Early in the day, Richard challenged his audience to consider which events in the life of Jesus they would include if they were doing a movie about Jesus’ life, and why. One participant commented that this exercise “encouraged me to think about whether my choices revealed more about Jesus or about me.”
Participants said that they valued learning “how to view films with a more critical eye” and looking for the “underlying meaning in what the film is trying to portray.” Those with a biblical background found the films gave them a fresh perspective. “Interesting!” wrote one: “I felt my eyes being opened to another kind of looking at the story of Jesus.” Another valued the workshop for “sensitizing me to the way I will read the Gospels and look at the movies.” In addition, participants affirmed “the ability of film to present the Gospel in spite of the shortcomings of the medium” and recognized “the value of film in presenting Jesus’ teaching, especially to those who were never exposed to traditional Bible teaching.”
Response to both the topic and Richard’s teaching style was so positive that we plan to offer the program again in the fall. By then, judging from participants’ responses, video stores in our region should be showing a noticeable increase in the number of Jesus films on loan!
Those interested in using film in teaching and evangelism will be interested in the website http//www.textweek.com/, which Richard highlighted Not only does it have links to sermons and commentaries on the lectionary readings, it also has two databases which allow you to search for movie titles and descriptions by theme, and for artworks by topic. This feature is great for people who would like to choose movies on spiritually significant themes either for personal viewing or for a parish event. It is also a gold mine for preachers who would like to find a film clip or perhaps an artistic image to illustrate a preaching point.