Watershed Online

Nets Stylesheet

WE’RE developing a movie blog website that you might find helpful in reflecting on movies for spiritual growth with your group.

WHY movies?

Movies speak the universal language of story, a basic human need. Spiritually speaking, films incarnationally mediate the truth that our groaning creation yearns for God’s glory. It’s also been noted that sitting in a darkened theatre, together with a community of strangers, is strikingly similar to a medieval village gathered at the local cathedral, waiting for a self-transcendent experience.

Clearly, many movies are deeply evocative -- emotionally, mentally and spiritually -- and not merely entertainment. But what do we take from them amidst the rush of modern life? How can we who identify ourselves within the Christian Story be encouraged in our discipleship by reflecting on movies? How does this reflection come about?

Our Winnipeg house church, Watershed Community, has been gathering monthly since 1994 to watch and discuss movies hoping to hear words of insight and hope. Individually and together, we’ve been fortunate to learn something about culture, ourselves and how Spirit can speak compelling words of life into our everyday struggles. The group process we’ve adopted has had an evolution that’s included a few twists and turns. Recently, we decided we wanted to share our current ‘movie group’ model so that others can possibly benefit in their own contexts.

WHAT is being proposed?

A flexible context, hinged on a movie blog website, by which faith-oriented groups who meet in person or anonymously online, can be spiritually encouraged by sharing insights evoked by watching movies. Why not learn from each other in how to approach movies more fruitfully?

WHO can be involved?

  • Those who have an interest in making connections between the questions raised in movies and their personal and corporate spirituality. Our group is oriented towards following God-in-Christ but we are open to hearing from those of other faiths or perspectives who are also learning from movies.

  • Those who realize that, like any spiritual discipline, to be united with others on a common path is more beneficial than following it alone with limited resources.

  • Groups that may be interested include Bible, book study or small discipleship/growth groups who desire another avenue of encouraging authentic faith in each other.

WHICH kind of movies are suitable?

We have found that spiritually interesting movies need not be necessarily esoteric. Many first-run films culled from the entire spectrum -- from drama, comedy, documentary to horror -- lend themselves to good discussion. Remember, movies chosen need not necessarily provide the deepest answers but they will likely have important questions raised, intentionally or not. And praying for the Spirit to be involved, having Scripture available for consultation, and inviting honest community input will more than likely give groups a way forward. Recent examples of films viewed by our Watershed movie night group include Crash, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Magnolia, L.A. Confidential and the classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

HOW does it work?

First, ask your group whether watching movies more intentionally is what you want to do next. Then consider using our movie blog as a way of organizing your movie group’s reflections. This includes

posting relevant questions about movies viewed, as well as personal responses and reviews. We have found this is an important place to deepen our own reflections, and to be encouraged by others’ insights. Third, we are open to dialogue with other movie groups about the gifts and pitfalls of running a movie group. We can also suggest printed or online resources that may be helpful in picking your movies and in raising relevant theological/spiritual questions of the movies you watch. We realize that your group may want to adapt and modify the model to suit your group’s particular needs; templates are available. If interested, please email us at lylep@shaw.ca or ltwiebe@mac.com.

WHY are we proposing this? What’s the cost?

Watershed Community has found that reflecting on movies together has deepened our particular Christian spirituality. Movies have challenged us to examine our lives, to ask tough questions like whether we are truly listening to the Spirit’s call. We’ve grown to appreciate what a trusting faith can look like in various situations in our world. We are learning to see ourselves in both ‘villains’ and so-called ‘heroes’. Bringing the text of Scripture and the Spirit to our reflections, we have been challenged to see how the love of Christ is infused in the stories we watch.

Conventional media reviews do not tend to filter movies through a meta-narrative or ‘bigger story’ and therefore are rather limited in terms of meaning-making that touches our lives. Thus it seems beneficial to have a way of deepening the meaning of the films we watch, as well as critiquing perspectives that arise.

With interest growing among faith groups to use film for ministry and spiritual encouragement, we felt a call to share our process with others, readily acknowledging that other groups will likely tailor our model to fit their needs. We also acknowledge our desire to network with others in terms of mutually encouraging each other on the spiritual path.

The cost is free. We feel this attempt at offering a service is part of our vocation, and so the sharing is its own reward.

What is the BACKGROUND of Watershed Movie Nights?

Although our community has been watching movies together since 1994, recently we’ve been inspired by the Ignatian approach as offered in Finding God In the Dark by John Pugente and Monty Williams. The movie resource book was suggested to one of our members, Linda Tiessen Wiebe, by Gordon

Matties of Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg who runs a film reflection group called Seeing is Believing. Interested in learning more, three of us attended a Finding God in the Dark workshop run by Monty Williams at Loyola House in Guelph in 2006. Although we’ve modified the process suggested, we’re been grateful this past year to submit to a structure that is based on seeing ourselves as “Loved Sinners”, the first theme in the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. Each movie we’ve watched this past year has challenged us to consider this key fundamental discipleship theme: we live as flawed, destructive-bent creatures yet we are still loved by a Higher Source. Your group may want to consider this book as a way of ordering your choices for movies. Other resources are available as well.

There is much more to be said about how the powerful medium of movies can spark intelligent discussion and the spiritual formation of our character! We’d like to learn how you’ve been touched by these mythic tales and so enter into a mutually-encouraging dialogue. We look forward to hearing from you. Pass this on to whomever you think might be interested.

Watershed Community
759 Toronto Street
Winnipeg, MB R3E 1Y5

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