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Films to make the point

23 January 2012

Ronan Head looks at a new kind of confirmation course

Gathered: this picture faces the confes­sion in Pray, Sing, Worship: A picture book for holy communion, adapted from an Austra­lian book, to help children to follow contemporary-language Common Worship Order One (SPCK, £6.99 (£6.30) hbk; 978-0-281-06591-2; £4.99 (£4.50) pbk; 978-0-281-06590-5); 10 pack (pbk): £44.99 (£39.50); 978-0-281-06592-9)

Gathered: this picture faces the confes­sion in Pray, Sing, Worship: A picture book for holy communion, adapted from an Austra­lian book, to help chil...

Moving Images, Changing Lives: Exploring the Christian life and confirmation with young people through film
Sarah Brush and Phil Greig

Church House Publishing £19.99
Church Times Bookshop £18

THIS is a resource from Church House intended to be used in confirmation classes, although it would also be useful to Christian youth groups in general. The authors — Sarah Brush and Phil Greig — suggest the use of film clips as “tools to explore the gospel”.

Over the course of 11 chapters, Brush and Greig introduce various Christian concepts such as communion, the Church, and prayer, using film clips as stimuli for discussion and learning. The book includes guidance on showing films in a church environment (issues such as licensing and certification), and gives clear instruction on how to run the course.

The idea of using popular films to generate interest in Christian teachings is a sensible one, and such an approach has the potential to enliven confirmation classes if enacted sensibly, i.e. as long as it is Christianity and not the film that is the ultimate focus of the session. When it works — as in the case of Bruce Almighty, which astutely introduces the concept of free will — it can be an effective way of engaging children.

There are a number of flaws in the book, however. Sometimes, the clips lack context, and, unless the children know the film, it is unlikely that they will have the desired impact. The failure of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to make the desired point on Creation is one such example. The book’s ultimate merits are dependent on the effectiveness of the films: where they fail, the book fails, and vice versa.

There may be a case for suggesting a larger bank of clips so that the instructor can choose those most likely to be understood. Perhaps the authors could build an accompanying website so that resources can be kept up to date. This would be a solution to a related problem: how to keep the re­source fresh as new films are re­leased. Of course, a web resource might make the book itself unnecessary.

As a methodology for teaching Christianity, Moving Images is useful; as a print book, it might have a limited shelf-life.

Dr Ronan Head is Head of Religious Studies and PSHE at The King’s School, Worcester.

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