E-fish July 18th 2003


Nigel Hanscamp


Matamata Union Parish


Warning: This is a long fish. If you want a Word or .rtf version, please

contact me.




Plugging in: movies that make you go hmmmm


Sunday: family bibles


Monday: looking backwards for our faith


Web Pages: connecting with contemporary media



Plugging in.


Movies, TV, music.


[note: The websites referred to in this section are listed in the "websites"

section at the end of this e-fish]


Some people might remember when the entertainment industry was, well, simply

about entertainment. But things have changed. Entertainment might be a

vehicle, but there is more, much more behind most movies - and much secular

music - than simply to entertain. (Let's leave out the money making bit for

now!). Politics, national pride (or shame), international issues such as

pollution and nuclear holocaust, and even God become part of the agenda

(often unconcealed) of many movies.


There are movies that examine history. The movie genre brings historical

events to life because we can see them re-enacted before our eyes. The plot

brings characters to life. But the story may also challenge our assumptions

and biases. Once a person has watched 'Saving Private Ryan' or 'Black Hawk

Down', they will no longer glorify war. (They may no longer trust the news

media or governments either!)


Movies like these also have a way of examining a nation's soul. They cause

us to think deeply and act differently. This is the science - or more

likely the art - of the movie industry.


I still remember the numbed silence with which a mate and I walked out of

the theatre after having seen "Once Were Warriors". We were forever

changed. For us it wasn't just a story about Maori. The issues were just

as applicable for us, in our marriages. And the issues were about our



Movies effect people emotionally, socially, and yes even spiritually. Those

who have seen "Bruce Almighty", "Stigmata", "What Dreams May Come" or

"Matrix / Matrix Reloaded" will know what I mean. OK, so "Dogma" is a

little way out to be called spiritually significant, but even there one can

find some deep truths. Like it or not, many people today get their

spirituality and faith fed by MGM studios and Sony records ("What once was

hurt / what once was friction / what left a mark / no longer stings /

because Grace makes beauty / out of ugly things." From the song "Grace" by

U2 from the album "All That You Can't Leave Behind").


So I have 2 reasons for wanting to learn about the (more than) entertainment

industry. The first is to know what is shaping people's faith and thinking

in our community. The second is to be aware of what might shape my own.


(If you want a short study on using contemporary media in small groups

(rationale & practice), I have reworked one from the Connect Bible Studies

website for use in a study group. If you email me, I will send you a copy -

for free!)


A caveat here. There are some movies I don't like, and don't watch. I don'

t do horror or "adult" (whatever that misused title is supposed to mean!).

I also don't really get into chick-flicks (romance). Occasionally my wife

coaxes me to watch one, but not by choice. (I quietly admit that I did

enjoy the last one!) I also enjoy movies simply for their entertainment

value. "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" has stunning graphics, and I

still laugh hysterically at the Pink Panther movies.


So briefly, here are some tools to add to your workbench, if this is an area

that interests you. These are things I have learned as I have gone along,

and some that I have picked up from others. You might have a few of your

own. Let me describe the process as it will unfold in the coming weeks.


First, I watch the movie before screening it to others. Warnings might need

to be given to any sensitive people, or the movie might turn out to be

totally inappropriate. I was going to bring to a Pizza and video night the

Robin Williams movie "What Dreams May Come", which I personally think is a

first rate movie examining hell and death from the thinking side of the

Hollywood menagerie. However on reflection I decided that the very

situations of death examined in the movie might be too close for several of

our people. I was glad I made that decision.


Second, we advertise. In 2 weeks our evening homegroup will start another

study, this time on the movie "Iris" (based on the book "Elegy for Iris" by

John Bayley, & starring Kate Winslet, Judi Dench, Jim Broadbent). Giving

people 2 weeks notice, we advertise in the church bulletin. I know of

several people outside the home group who will join us for this study,

because of the issues it raises.


Week 1 we will watch the movie/video. No agenda, just a bunch of people

watching a tear-jerking movie. There will be food, (maybe even popcorn) a

serious 'must' for an event like this.


Week 2 we will start the study. At the moment I get most of my ideas from a

couple of places online. So I've downloaded a study from the Connect Bible

Studies series. They cost around $10 to download, for a 4 week study that

can be copied for your group - and then used again in another situation.

(No, I won't send my copy to you for free. The writers need bread on their

table, and I want to encourage more studies!) You can also buy these

studies in a book at a local Christian bookstore for $12 - $14. (I use

Impact Books - ex Scripture Union, but I assume any shop could get them).


The studies highlight a different theme each study. In the case of "Iris"

the issues are living, dying, caring, communicating. Other issues like

Alzheimers/dementia, love and grace are bound to come up, as will things

like coping with loved ones who are sick, and maybe that question of 'why

does God allow this?'


Each study starts with a quote from the book/movie/song. It then takes a

question suggested by the theme, and gets us into bible study on it. Then

the study provides questions that connect us back to our daily lives and the

people we meet.


An example from "Iris". The following bits have been cut and pasted from

the study itself.


Key Issue: Dying


Judi Dench's portrayal of the deterioration Iris Murdoch endured is powerful

and moving. Alzheimer's Disease reduced an intelligent, enthusiastic lover

of life to a bewildered dependant. At the beginning of the process, Iris

was most frightened of losing her mind. But her body suffered too. So how

realistic is the Bible about the challenge of long-term illness? Did Bible

characters have a smooth ride, or can they help us face these difficult

times? What does the Bible say about the pathway to death? And finally,

what does the good news of resurrection really mean?


Bible Study


Topic: Loss of interaction


Quote: "There are some drugs, aren't there, Iris? But they don't last long

and when the friendly fog disperses, there yawns the precipice before you

..." (John Bayley)


* Read Psalm 88:1-18. What impact did the Psalmist's illness have on his

relationships? What was the effect on his outlook?




* Read Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:8. How does the writer of Ecclesiastes picture

the gradual decline in health and interaction? Why does he conclude

everything is meaningless?




* How can we encourage each other when we face long-term suffering?


* The Victorians were encouraged to pray for a "good death". What would it

mean for us to do the same?


. and another 8 or so 'implications' questions


End example


There are 2 other places I get study material from (sometimes in combination

with each other). The first is the group which puts out the Connect Bible

Studies, Damaris trust. They will often put out thoughtful comments and

even studies on movies and books. They also have a "Gospel and Culture"

thing going which gives thoughtful comment on current issues in the secular

media. The second place is the oddly titled "Hollywood Jesus". Here David

Bruce has gone to considerable lengths to examine current films for good

discussion points. This is an extensive website with comment on just about

any movie you have seen in the last 3 years.


A study over 5 or more weeks can be presented as a complete unit. Many

people will commit to a 5-6 week event, but not to a full year of home

group. But another option is to simply go to a movie as a group (or rent

the video), and then meet for conversation afterwards over pizza and fanta.

This is also a great occasion to invite non-church people to a 'church'

event. Their perceptions are bound to be different to those of the church

folk, and will generate some great discussion. (For more on how to do an

event like this, with an example, go to

www.hollywoodjesus.com/newsletter046.htm .)




have a go. Grab some friends, your choice of snacks, and a movie like "What

Dreams May Come", and have a great evening. If you want some good

discussion afterwards, check your start time. There's nothing worse than

finishing a good movie at 10pm - and then finding that everyone is too tired

to talk.






It's Bible Sunday this week. Our congregation contains a significant number

of older people, and so I am going to try an idea around the Family Bible.


Rebecca and I asked our parents if they have Family Bibles. My family haven

't had one, and Rebecca's family one was given away. So there are none in

either of our families, on any side.


But many people in our congregation do have them. I know. They show them

off to me when I go to visit, or dust them off when we are looking for

family details when Grandma has died.


Our congregation has a lot of combined wisdom, and I hope to tap into it on

Sunday. I want to know who has family bibles, where they keep /kept them,

what they do with them, and how old they are. I want to know whether they

are FAMILY bibles, or family BIBLES; i.e. whether they are kept for the

family information in them, or whether they are read as bibles. I want to

know if they allow flowers or leaves to be pressed in them (yes, it does get

done). I want to know if family members are allowed to write notes in them

about favourite verses or passages that have effected them.


I also want to know how these bibles were used in the families. Were they

kept on the shelf, or were they read during meal times? Who did the

reading - was it only Dad, or did everyone get a turn? Were there any

significantly memorable moments with the bible readings - did Mother always

choose the same passage? What were the family expectations in passing on

the bible? Would it always be read? What would be recorded in it? What

event was used to pass the bible on to the next generation (21st, wedding of

first child, birth of first grandchild, death of father, etc)?


I found a website that was interested in family bibles for more than just

the genealogies (One website, out of all the ones that refer to family

bibles!!) It talked about the 'supplemental information' that the bible

might contain (and he refers to a 1797 bible which contained a table between

the Old and New testaments with sections titled "A Man May Not Marry His ."

and "A Woman May Not Marry Her .") The website talks about the events

recorded, not just in the front pages, but also in the rest of the bible -

thoughts and quotes on scripture passages. Bookmarks, underlined verses,

newspaper clippings. They tell stories about the family faith, not just

history. They tell how that faith might have been passed on.


So then there are two 'now' questions I am left with for Sunday.


How might the use of a Family Bible effect how they/we read the bible today?


And, if the Family Bible represents a passing on of faith (not just

religious observance) how can that "passing on" continue to be practised by

all of us now, today?


(I have just re-read the above section and have decided to cut the questions

down for Sunday! But I'll hang onto the others for another time.)


I enjoy hearing stories of faith, especially from people in my church family

whom I am learning to love and respect.






This week Rebecca and I are going on a hunt for her family's Family bible.


So why not join us. How about trying a 'rear-view mirror' project about

some family Faith-History. Genealogical research is an 'in thing' at the

moment. But what about taking some time to talk to family members about how

faith was - or wasn't - passed on in your family.


What were the faith-generating practices in your family? How was a family

bible (or book or story or faith-practice) used to pass on faith? Was

prayer a private thing, or was prayer done together? Was it the mothers, or

the fathers of your family who worked hard to pass on faith? Who are your

ancestors who have significantly contributed to your faith? If your family

has a line of lay preachers or ministers or missionaries, how might that

have influenced your faith?


I know that both of my grandfathers were men of faith. I'm looking forward

to finding out more about Rebecca's family.


If you came to faith without family influence, you might be surprised at the

background you find when you dig down a couple of generations. There might

be a reason why the family never went to church - or left it.


If you find yourself at a 'dead-end', start writing your story down, so that

your great, great grand children won't come to the same stuck place.


Web pages


Movies/Books/Contemporary music


These sites will provide discussion and study material beyond movies.


But be warned. It is possible to spend a LOT of time in these sites!








This site also has some provocative material which David Bruce uses in

questions of how the media tries to influence us in advertising; messages

that are hidden in how advertisements are put together, what and who is

being targetted, etc.


Have an awesome week.


Nigel Hanscamp