Lake Avenue Church was filled with excitement and emotion as graduating students prepared to take part in Fuller Seminary’s 64th annual commencement ceremony. Thousands gathered in the church sanctuary to celebrate the graduates as well as Richard J. Mouw’s last commencement as president of Fuller Seminary.
Approximately 500 students were a part of this year’s commencement ceremony. Students earning master’s and doctoral degrees from the School of Psychology, School of Theology, and the School of Intercultural Studies represented the 2013 graduating class.
Man of Steel is aptly titled. The movie hits with the force of girder beam accidentally dropped from the top of a skyscraper during construction, shattering the sidewalk below and claiming the lives of a couple of hapless pedestrians in the wrong place at the wrong time. This time, he doesn’t soar. Superman smashes.
I once took a class entitled “The Politics of Jesus”. Where we had discussions about the role the military played in our society and no matter your opinion, it made for an interesting discussion. While in that class, I had the opportunity to speak with a friend who was serving in the military. He gave me an honest perspective about military life that enhanced what I was learning in the class, it was really eye opening.
This is part 2 of Ed McNulty’s exploration of cinematic depictions of church congregations in cinema. Part 1 can be read here. There are SPOILERS throughout these articles. – Editor
Like Tender Mercies, director/writer Robert Benton’s Places in the Heart, is set in Texas. Part of it is based on the director’s grandmother’s experience of hiring a black itinerant farm worker when she was young. Its theme of “pay the mortgage or lose the farm” is right out of the old melodramas, but is done so artistically that Sally Fields as the widow Edna Spalding, helped by an African American to harvest the cotton crop in time to win a prize, won the 1984 Best Actress Oscar.
The church scene relevant at this point takes place at the climax of the film. It is a relatively long scene in which the pastor is reading from 1 Corinthians 13 as the trays of Communion elements are being passed around.
Starting a career? Do you want to “help” people? The New York Times columnist David Brooks offers young adults some counter-intuitive advice in his recent, provocative article “The Way to Produce a Person.”
Mr. Brooks opens his column by pointing readers to a story in The Washington Post about a young man, Jason Trigg, who desires to help fight malaria in Africa. Trigg’s solution to the African crisis is to take his MIT degree to Wall Street, work for a hedge fund, live a simple life and give his money away. It may sound noble, but Mr. Brooks wonders if it is plausible to sustain this commitment over the long haul. And, Mr. Brooks is not convinced that it is the best way to actually assist hurting people on a different continent.
Hollywood often uses Christians and the church as shorthand for hypocrisy, coldness of character, or closed-mindedness. This is such an old practice that some believers are convinced that the film industry is “at war” with Christianity, even though this is a true depiction of some churches.
In the following paragraphs I will look at a number of films in which the church is a part of the plot. Some of these are indeed negative, but many are positive. I will deal more with images of the church than of individual church leaders because more has been written on the latter, individuals such as Elmer Gantry (negative) or A Man Called Peter (positive) and a host of amiable Catholic priests (very positive).
Indeed, most films in which Christianity is a factor focus upon an individual with scant reference to the church itself: in the delightful film about a Methodist preacher and his family, One Foot in Heaven, the church is more of a backdrop against which the pastor has to struggle to get them to fix up the rundown parsonage. In the more recent Changling, we see only the congregation listening to its anti-crime crusading Presbyterian minister, Gustaf Breigleb, castigate the corrupt Los Angeles Police Department. Thus in the following films the focus is more on the congregation.
At the conclusion of each workweek, there stands Saturday – a day generally free of work responsibilities and a lot of external commitments. Saturday feels different from the other six days of the week. Monday through Friday has a familiar routine, and, for me and my family, Sunday has a predictable pattern from week to week. But Saturday stands out as a day full of possibility each week. Looking at this, I started to wonder: where does Saturday fit in my cycle of work and rest?
For a little bit of history, it is helpful to remember that the five-day workweek is a relatively new practice. Henry Ford began allowing his workers in automotive factories to work five days a week for a total of around forty hours in 1926 (for a whooping $5 a day!). Today, many knowledge workers and professional offices continue to observe this pattern. In many communities, Sunday was already established as a day of rest (and for Christian communities of faith, of worship), but now there was considerable more ‘free time’ starting after work on Friday. In essence, we now have a secular Sabbath: Instead of just resting on Sunday, we have from after work on Friday until work starts again on Monday morning.
Watch the Baccalaureate service on Vimeo
Fuller Seminary’s graduating class of 2013 was honored on June 5 at a special Baccalaureate service held at the First Congregational Church of Pasadena.
Faculty and graduating students in full regalia filed into the church’s sanctuary to celebrate the class of 2013. Provost Emeritus and Professor of Anthropology Sherwood Lingenfelter, preached a powerful sermon on “The Risk of Following Jesus” based on scripture from Psalm 84 and Matthew 26.
He explained that his sermon is based on reflections taken from his meditations on the gospel of Matthew on what it means to follow Jesus, and his 50th class reunion at Wheaton College. What he took away from those two things, he said, is that following Jesus is a “risk-filled, anxiety-producing journey.”
“I am better with other people’s kids than I am my own.”
We’ll never forget the first time we heard this honest, gut-wrenching confession from a successful youth pastor. This sharp, thoughtful leader was honestly sharing his own struggles with being a parent in ministry. When he articulated the words above, you could hear a collective resonance in the room as leaders from around the country agreed: Yes, this is an issue for us too.
Maybe you can relate. It’s one thing to have conversations with students in our ministries about everything from scripture to school to sex. It’s quite another thing to have those same conversations with our own kids. Especially during seasons when they are beginning to stretch the boundaries of our relationships beyond the limits we imagined we’d be stretched. Especially when we have to talk about curfew, math homework, and violin rehearsal in the same space and time. Especially when we walk past the bedroom we’ve asked them to clean up at least twelve times in the past two days.
Yeah, those young people who live under our roofs can be hard to talk with about faith.
They’re also the same young people, by the way, who see all of our inconsistencies, failures, and flaws. Not only do they see them, but they also feel personally impacted by them in ways the rest of the youth ministry never will.
So what about those kids?