Friday, 5 November 2010

Retreat Cineman Retreat Cinema Retreat Cineman Retreat Cinema

OK I admit it, some of these Outside Edge columns have failed to persuade my readers.  When I suggested that watching 18 certificate films is good for us it quickly became apparent that some of you see things differently.  When I advocated city-centre retreats as a much needed alternative to seeking God in the rural not everyone was convinced. 

What’s a man to do?  I know!  Why not combine the two ideas?  This week, dear reader, I would like to suggest that watching films is a great form of retreat.  Forget drafty prayer cells, knock those expensive Laura Ashley-fied country house conference centres on the head; head instead for the multiplex.

This the place to step out of your routine.  This is the place where time runs differently.  This is the place to switch off and tune in.  This is the place to immerse yourself in big ideas.  This is the place to learn to see things from a whole new perspective.

Here’s the deal: in exchange for seven quid you get three hours away from it all, alone with others in the dark and the chance to contemplate issues of beauty, morality, truth and character.  And, if my experience is anything to go by, you may well find yourself bumping into God.  All this and popcorn too!  Can’t be bad.

If you are tempted to object that clearly it can be bad, that film often plunges us into the dark side, then dear reader, I have to reply that you seem to have a limited knowledge and a shallow experience of retreating.  To retreat is often to confront darkness, the darkness of our world and the darkness of our own soul.

If you are tempted to object that what I describe is not retreat but escapism, then dear reader, I have to reply that these are very closely related.  Retreating begins by escaping.  What’s important is that it doesn’t end there.  To retreat is to escape from busyness and routine so as to attend to God, God’s world and our own inner life; to attend to these things that we might gain insight, grow in wisdom, and then re-engage the every day - fresher, deeper.

I recently lead a church away day.  We talked a lot (or at least I did), we sang, we prayed.  It was good.  But for those of us who chose not to spend the afternoon shopping, walking or playing football the most potent part of the day was watching the film, Whale Rider, a moving exploration of identity, spirituality, tradition, renewal and the survival of a distinctive way of life in the face of an indifferent society.  We cried.  We were uplifted.

Consider this too dear reader, even if you are not persuaded by my impeccable logic and subtle rhetoric it seems that many millions of others are.  According to a recent survey in America over twenty percent of the population now turn to media, arts and culture as their primary means of spiritual experience and expression. 

Cinema is a foundry of world views, a forging place of  moral opinion and spiritual perspective, it is a potent expression of the creativity with which the Creator imbues creatures.  It is an arena where the spirituality of inherently spiritual humanity bubbles to the surface and pops right in your face.  And no, of course, it’s not all Godly but neither is it Godless.  The Spirit wafts across these sometimes dark, chaotic waters and hatches life.  But only those who take the time, only those who look and listen, will notice.

(To explore these ideas further read Craig Detweiler’s Into the Dark or Robert Johnston's Reel Spirituality both published by Baker - you can go get them by clicking over there on the right, in the sidebar, the Stuff I Reccomend bit.)

My turn to do a month's worth of opinion pieces for the Baptist Times' "Outside Edge" column has come round again. With the agreement of the editor I'm posting my BT article here. To check out the Baptist Times as a whole click here.


Craig Gardiner said...

your 'stuff i recommend' costs me a small fortune ... (not come across Whale Rider before) but with sabbatical coming up i have the time to actually read what i've bought ... strangely I often find myself agreeing with your outside edge comments ... should i seek help?

Sarah Fegredo said...

A youth pastor friend of mine is developing urban retreat material using art galleries. I tried a few with her and it's quite an interesting experience being inwardly quiet and present to God in the Jewellery gallery of the V&A at half term.

Glen Marshall said...

Craig, I recommend exorcism.

Glen Marshall said...

Sarah, you mention urban retreats; you might like to know that I am leading a day of city centre retreating here in Manchester on June 18th. It includes and art gallery, but also shop windows and transport interchanges. Watch this space for more details.