Tuesday, April 04, 2023

thrilled with Ethnography as Pastoral Practice 2nd edition

I’m delighted to have a piece of writing published in revised edition of Ethnography As A Pastoral Practice by Mary Moschella, who is Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling, at Yale Divinity School.

“When Christmas angels tweet: Making matters and practical theology in researching mission online,” Ethnography as a Pastoral Practice. An Introduction, 2nd edn. by Mary Clark Moschella, SCM/Pilgrim Press, 291-305.

Delighted first to be published. It is an appendix in which I describe how I go about conducting empirical research, in this case into digital expressions of craftivism in general, and knitted Christmas angels in particular.

Delighted second, because it gives another lens on my research on craftivism.

“When ‘#xmasangels’ tweet: a Reception Study of Craftivism as Christian Witness,” Ecclesial Practices 7 (2), 2020, 143-62, (co-authored with Shannon Taylor). Doi.org/10.1163/22144471-BJA10016

The editor of the academic journal Ecclesial Practices called the article “rich”, demonstrating new “opportunities,” “skilful and sensitive application of ethnological tools” in “powerfully informing ecclesial research.”

Delighted third at the circumstances. Professor Mary Moschella sat in on a conference paper delivered at the 2019 Ecclesiology and Ethnography conference. She emailed after, asking if I could write for a revised edition of Ethnography as a Pastoral Practice, as she was looking for contemporary examples of high-quality, contemporary empirical research and would I write, not so much on the data as on the research journey.

Delighted fourth because I have used the first edition in my classes, teaching on mission, church, leadership and change. A short blog review from 2012 that I wrote is here. It’s a fantastic book. So to be published in a revised edition of a book I consider fantastic is pretty special.

Posted by steve at 08:10 PM

Friday, March 17, 2023

theological film review of We Are Still Here

Monthly I write a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 165 plus films later, here is the review for March 2023.

We are still here
A film review by Dr Steve Taylor

We Are Still Here offers a powerful cinematic experience. Over 90 minutes, ten indigenous directors offer an imaginative response to the arrival of James Cook and the realities of 250 years of colonialism.

We Are Still Here moves across geographies – between Aotearoa, Australia and Gallipoli in 1916 – and shifts between times. Narratives swiftly switch – from Arrernte lands near Mparntwe (Alice Springs) to Tuhoe lands around the 1860s, between Invasion Day protests and a post-apocalyptic Auckland in 2274.

These distinct narratives are delightfully held together by an unfolding animated rendering as a mother and daughter search for connection. The use of visual metaphor is compellingly beautiful; the rope that dredges Cook’s ship from the deep is the twine that seeks a daughter lost in urban exile.

Together the episodes offer a powerful portrayal of colonisation, not as a past event, but as a present and relentless structuring of power and economics. Colonisation is police beatings inside prisons named after Queen Victoria and the greedy hunger for indigenous taonga by a merchant working for Cook Ltd in 2274. Power and privilege is etched into a copper’s repeated request for ID from a young Aboriginal man and the shop assistants’ apology. ‘Sorry you had to go through that yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that.’

Christian faith is notably absent from We are still here. This is not unexpected. By accident and design, Christianity in Aotearoa and Australia has found itself entwined in the structures of colonisation. In Sydney, Samuel Marsden was known as the flogging parson, while in the New Zealand Wars, Bishop Selwyn offered chaplaincy to soldiers, seemingly oblivious to the ways the churches’ presence with the military becomes an absence for those caught in the horrors of Rangiaowhia in 1864.

These legacies generate transforming questions. Can we imagine a 2274 future in which indigenous peoples might be glad Christians also are still here? Could the liberating story of oppressed midwives in Exodus resisting the death cult of Pharoah’s empire create any dialogue within an Invasion Day protest camp? Such are the questions provoked by We Are Still Here.

Amid the multiple absences, Christian faith is clearly present as the Lord’s Prayer is uttered in the trenches of Gallipoli. A Māori soldier ponders the temptation of death by suicide as a way to escape the hell of World War I trench warfare.

This moment of prayer brought to mind a recent class on pastoral care offered by Anglican Māori Pihopa (Bishop) Te Kitohi Wiremu Pikaahu. Pihopa shared the story of a widely respected Māori kaumatua who asked to be buried beside those of his people who had chosen to commit suicide. The request for burial was made in response to how some Christian communities choose to separate those who commit suicide from those buried in what is considered the sacred ground of the cemetery. Such acts of Christian presence, in life and through death, offer ways of transforming what it might mean to be here still.

Rev Dr Steve Taylor is the author of “First Expressions” (2019) and writes widely in theology and popular culture, including regularly at www.emergentkiwi.org.nz.

Posted by steve at 09:36 AM

Thursday, March 09, 2023

pacific missiology in praxis: review of Winston Halapua, Living on the fringe.

picture of Living on the Fringes Winston Halapua, Living on the fringe. Melanesians of Fiji, Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific, 2001, 152 pages.

Winston Halapua, Living on the fringe. Melanesians of Fiji is a fine example of Pacific missiology. Rev Winston Halapua, who at the time of writing was Archdeacon for Pacific Islanders in New Zealand and Principal of the College of the Diocese of Polynesia, seeks to “sing a divine song until the pain of the marginalized in our midst is heard” (6).

The book focuses on an economically deprived and socially marginalized people, Melanesians born in Fiji. Historically, Halapua traces the labour practices of the 19th century, which between 1864 and 1911, resulted in 27,027 contracts of indenture for Melanesian workers in Fiji. When cotton and sugar cane prices changed, many of these workers could not afford to return to their homelands. Caught by shifting patterns of land ownership, many found themselves trapped in generational cycles of poverty.

Theologically, Living on the fringe. Melanesians of Fiji follows God’s Spirit, which yearns to bless the poor, hungry and those who weep (Luke 6:20-21). Halapua demonstrates what blessing might look like and the importance of loving God and neighbour not just with our hearts but with our heads as well.

Prophetically, Halapua examines the historical actions of his own Anglican Church. The Anglican Church in Fiji, while initially established to provide pastoral care to settlers, in time began a ministry to the Melanesians in Fiji. Halapua explores a bold experiment, the Wailoku settlement, where the church sought to provide holistic care. Halapua analyses the church’s actions sociologically, demonstrating how the patterns of mission care matched the hierarchical structures of the Anglican church. This mission, although genuine in intent, served to amplify the embedded patterns of dependency.

Yet prophetically, Halapua is showcasing the contemporary actions of his own Anglican Church. Living on the fringe. Melanesians of Fiji emerges from current activity as teams of local Wailoku leaders, Anglican theological students, priests, and Diocesan staff undertake human research together to understand current realities. Hence Halapua shows that research need not be abstract. Rather, research can be prophetic praxis. The mixed methods approach is a fine example of research forward, in which documentary analysis, interviews with stakeholders and personal involvement result in concrete future strategies. A fine example is how Halapua applies a strength-based approach to the Melanesian people he is researching with. He names the gifts evident in history – “Melanesians played a vital pioneering role for the Anglican Church in Fiji” (127) to empower agency in future decisions.

Halapua writes for “the year 2040 AD,” the year in which the lease on the Wailoku settlement will end. He notes that even if 2040 seems far away, a distant date “should not lull people into a false sense of security.” Instead, this fine example of research forward provides “the information upon which Melanesians can make choices necessary for their self-determination” (128).

Posted by steve at 11:24 AM

Saturday, February 18, 2023

lent resource

A spiritual takeaways resource I have put together for preaching at church on the Sunday before Lent.

lent resource

The resource emerged from reflecting on the language of beloved, well-pleased and listen that emerges from the Old and New Testament lectionary texts. To help ground these Biblical texts, I will offer 4 different ways that folk might explore ways to slow to listen and beloved. I drew the practices from Adele Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, which I find a great resource.

I will invite folk to randomly choose one. If it doesn’t connect, they can choose another. Hopefully, the takeaway invites folk into a Lent of love.

Posted by steve at 03:43 PM

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Race, justice and mission – my 2023 University of Glasgow Library Research Fellowship

I’m delighted to have been awarded a 2023 University of Glasgow Library Research Fellowship. This provides access for a month to what is a unique archive collection of mission archives. It also provides some funds to aid with travel and accommodation, which I hope to do around September 2023.

My research project is titled Race, justice and mission and here is some of what I wrote in my application:

Understanding the past demands a contemporary reappraisal of race and justice in the expansion of empires. The history of slavery invites educational institutions to assess their complicity in education, empire and exploitation. Slavery generally tends to be framed in relation to the transatlantic slave trade. However, a unique history of coerced Pacific labour is called “blackbirding.” Pacific peoples were extracted from island communities to build sugar plantations in Australia and Fiji. Recently, scholars have called for a reappraisal of “blackbirding,” the need for new Pacific genealogies and a critical reassessment of the “racial imaginaries” at work in the empire’s expansion.

My research project aims to illuminate the Glaswegian contribution to the modern Protestant missionary enterprise. The archives at the University of Glasgow Library offer a significant resource. Several Special Collections contain pamphlets and sermons that illuminate historic attitudes to other cultures, as students from the University were encouraged into mission activity by Christian student bodies meeting in and around the campus. The University Library Missions Book collection includes descriptions by missionaries who sailed from the ports of Glasgow and wrote of their encounters with “blackbirders” in operation. 

This unique archival material will be located in relation to the growing body of contemporary scholarship attuned to histories of slavery and the economic and educational complicities of British imperialism. My research project aligns with the University of Glasgow’s Historical Slavery Initiative, which seeks to respond to the University’s complicated entanglement with Scottish imperial expansion.

I am thrilled to have been awarded this Research Fellowship, grateful for the opportunity to access what is a unique collection and thankful for the help from Rev Dr Doug Gay in alerting me to the archive.  I look forward to strengthening academic relationships with various colleagues and friends and am excited by the important work already being done at the University through the Historical Slavery Initiative. This research allows me to return to my roots as Melanesian born and reflect on the Pacific’s particular histories of slavery.

Posted by steve at 08:17 PM

Monday, February 13, 2023

Scent in Lent: the aroma of Christian witness

A 2023 online sensory journey involving lectio divina, silence and participatory prayer.

We will use Zoom to gather. The 6 online sessions will run Thursdays (23 February ; 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 March) from 4:45-5:30 pm (New Zealand time). We will be taking time each week to “smell” a different passage of Scripture. So having a bible handy will be a help. There is a suggested cost of $10 per time. To register click here.

the aroma of Christian witness

A Scripture to help understand Scent in Lent – Exodus 30:22-25 – The Lord spoke to Moses; Take the finest spices… it shall be a holy anointing oil.”

Another Scripture to help understand Scent in Lent – John 11:39 “Martha … said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench.”

A prayer for Scent in Lent – “Lord God, you walk in all our memories; You know where we have been; What we have said, known and felt; Come to us in the scent we remember; The time when we walked with you; And know that we walk with you still” (Sense Making Faith, page 50)

A question for Scent in Lent – What does your church smell like? What would a stranger make of the smell of your church?

An exercise for Scent in Lent – Have a walk around your local area. Where are the pleasant smells? Where are the unpleasant smells? How might these smells guide the aroma of your Christian witness?



Posted by steve at 08:44 AM

Thursday, February 09, 2023

the role of people and communities on the call to ministry

There is an excellent article on how social influences shape the call to ministry by Erin Johnston and David Eagle in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

“Expanding the Horizontal Call: A Typology of Social Influences on the Call to Ministry,” Erin Johnston and David Eagle, (2023), Expanding the Horizontal Call: A Typology of Social Influence on the Call to Ministry. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. DOI 10.1111/jssr.12816

While call has historically been seen as an interaction between God and the person called, their research demonstrates how call is socially structured. Theologically, call is thus understood as an embodied experience, shaped by relationships and the ways churches are socially structured, particularly in gender, ethnicity and participation.

Johnston and Eagle interviewed 36 first-year seminary students training for ministry. In the stories of call, six typical social others who play a formative role in the call to ministry were identified. These social others act as instigators, exemplars, interpreters, affirmers, challengers and co-discerners. Without social interactions, “a call can not emerge or be meaningfully enacted” (2). The research also examined differences in the social shaping of call by gender. Men are more likely to describe experiences of affirmers and exemplars, while women are more likely to have challengers and interpreters.

As I read it, I spotted four implications for churches interested in developing leaders:

  1. Clergy are the most commonly cited source of influence, mentioned by 58% of participants. They play significant roles as affirmers, co-discerners and examplars. Practically, helping clergy understand what good practice in these different social interactions look like would be beneficial.
  2. Gender of clergy. The research showed that gender-matched exemplars are particularly influential – seeing a woman in a position of religious leader can evoke and solidify a personal call. “Given that the number of women in congregational ministry remains relatively low and barriers to ordination and leadership remain high, women are less likely to interact with gender-matched exemplars and as a result, may be less likely to consider ministry as a potential vocational path.” (10) Practically, ongoing commitments to removing barriers for women and enhancing the visibility of women in leadership in religious communities is needed.
  3. Participation. Most of the participants were called “during a period of deepening involvement in a community of faith” (15). Practically, providing ways for people to participate and get involved are essential.
  4. Ethnicity. The data was from the US and in that context, more social influences were reported by Black respondents than White respondents. This requires further reflection. The article suggested this might be related to the denominations from which participants came. However, it might also be related to how different cultures nurture identity and develop leadership across generations.

A great piece of research, that has theological and ministry implications.

Posted by steve at 12:16 PM

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Theological Education as “Being With” the Future Church – some AngelWings Ltd applied research

I’m delighted to have an Applied Research Abstract on Theological Education published in Review of Religious Research. Steve Taylor, “Theological Education as “Being With” the Future Church: Applied Research Among Local Leaders in an Australian Baptist Denomination,” Review of Religious Research, DOI: 10.1007/s13644-021-00480-z.

Here is part of the conclusion:

“A changing world presents significant opportunities for theological colleges and seminaries to re-invent themselves. Providers of theological formation have a significant role in resourcing the future church, particularly as they attend to collaborative and relational partnerships … [including] a renewed focus on local contextual theologies, empirical research, and grassroots partnerships. Such participation requires accompanying the local church, not as a problem to be fixed or a base for recruitment, but in a shared human quest to learn in change.”

The Applied Research Abstract draws on research I did in 2021 for Whitley College (working with René Erwich and Darrell Jackson) and the Baptist Union of Victoria, listening to some 47 stakeholders. The complete report belongs to Whitley College Board.

However, the Review of Religious Research is a journal that uniquely facilitates the sharing and comparing of applied studies between denominational and academic researchers. They offer four types of articles – Original Research Articles, Research Notes, Review Articles, and Applied Research Abstracts. The Applied Research Abstract is a type of article that summarises (without any references) an applied research study. So, in dialogue with Whitley, some of the research can now be shared more widely.

The article is online and paywalled, but if folk want a pre-publication copy, just DM me.

Posted by steve at 08:37 AM

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Coding as pattern making

Coding. Definition – assigning a code for the purpose of identifying.


One of the research projects I’m involved in explores faith formation in church schools. I have several rich 7,000-word interviews with school chaplains. To identify learnings, I am coding. Often I code with highlighters.

This time I am coding with Word document highlighters. On the right, the Word highlighter printed out to increase my efficiency. In the centre my codes by colour and in writing. On the left and on screen one of the 7,000-word transcripts (partially obscured to preserve confidentiality) and with various colours visible as I use the Word highlighter to mark bits of the interview. Plus the Word comment function for me to write notes. Cut and pasted these notes are becoming draft results and discussion – identifying the patterns of faith formation present in the lived ministries of school chaplains, as shared through interviews as they reflect on their practice.

Slow work. Rich and listening work. Fascinating patterns emerging.

Posted by steve at 08:10 PM

Saturday, November 05, 2022

innovation capture – a 2022 AngelWings Ltd international collaboration

A new AngelWings Ltd research project, and so a new journal – green, A4, lined. This research project, which I’m calling “Innovation capture,” is for the Diocese of Brisbane (Anglican) and with Complexability Australia. It’s a mini project, initially likely to be between 2 and 6 days. As with much of my work, it will be done remotely, from Ōtepoti (Dunedin).

The task of “Innovation capture” is to collect grassroots innovation case studies. This involves interviewing local parishes who participated through 2021 in a Diocese initiated Adapting Ministry in Complex times course. My task is to listen to their stories of action and change and then write up stories as learning case studies, with links to course content. The aim is to encourage and teach through storytelling.

It’s a project I committed to back in February 2022 but have been unable to get to, due to a range of other research contracts. So it was a relief to finally open a new journal and begin – conducting a 90-minute conversation and then drafting up a 1,000-word case study. This included discussion questions, along with links from the local story to various themes in the course content.

This is the fourth AngelWings Ltd small research project for 2022, alongside an evaluation of a student ministry in New Zealand, an evaluation of a community chaplaincy for a group in Australia and an educative course design weaving emergence and complexity theory with theology.

Posted by steve at 01:07 PM

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Muru: a theological film review

Monthly I write a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 165 plus films later, here is the review for October 2022.

A film review by Dr Steve Taylor

Understanding the history of Aotearoa requires tracing a whakapapa, or lineage, of state violence. The invasion of Parikaha in 1881 and the shooting of two Māori at Maungapōhatu in 1915, continue to reverberate through our history.

In 2007, Police conducted dawn raids on private homes throughout New Zealand. Dressed in black, armed with machine guns and knives, Police smashed doors, windows and furniture. A school bus with three people on board was stopped and searched. The police press conference later that day used the language of ‘terror raids.’ While seventeen people were initially arrested, Solicitor General, Dr David Collins, refused to allow charges to be laid under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.

In 2014, Police Commissioner Mike Bush apologised to the communities of Ruatoki and Taneatua. It was one attempt at muru, a Māori concept for reconciliation and forgiveness.

One of those arrested was Tama Iti. Interviewed at his art gallery on the main street of Taneatua ten years later, Iti spoke of the power of imagination. “We create [art] to keep communication open. Provoking thoughts and conversation is important.” (“Tuhoe community 10 years after the Urewera raids,” Stuff).

Muru is an imaginative rely to Iti’s gracious invitation to keep conversations open. Director Tearepa Kahi wanted to respond, rather than recreate, the terror raids of 2007. One way to provoke thought is to ask, “What if”?

What if people are angry and alienated? In the forests of Te Urewera, Tama Iti runs Camp Rama (fire light), teaching survival skills and preserving Tūhoe identity. Around a campfire, one man’s joke about a politician becomes a credible threat in the eyes of an eves-dropping Special Tactics Group (STG) surveillance team.

What if a drunk young man smashes mainstreet windows? Local Police officer ‘Taffy’ Tawharau (Cliff Curtis) guides a drunk Rusty (Poroaki Merritt-McDonald) back to his bed. The following day, a regretful Rusty sets off with his broom to make muru. In the eyes of another, one man’s broom handle becomes a long-handled weapon.

What if Police misused their powers? An armed STG officer (Manu Bennet as Kimiora) takes aim at a running Rusty and his bobbling broom. Shots kill a chasing Police officer and injure Rusty. With the operation spiralling out of control, STG are ordered to clean up their mess. Kimiora, armed with a high powered assault rifle, takes the law into his already blood-stained hands.

What if reconciliation could give history a new heart? In Te Hāhi Mihinare, Rev Dr Hirini Kaa begins with a Māori phrase, he ngākau hou (a new heart). For Kaa, when the gospel comes to Ngāti Porou through Piripi Taumata-a-kura, it reveals processes of debate and change. Tribes think creatively in the light of entirely new understandings they have derived from theological sources. Central to the Gospel is the sacrament of reconciliation. We often apply the gospel as individual acts of confession and reconciliation. Dr Kaa applies it communally. What might it take to reveal he ngākau hou (a new heart) amongst all who experience Aotearoa’s whakapapa of state violence? Such is the “what if” muru questions provoked by Muru.

Posted by steve at 08:27 PM

Monday, October 10, 2022

Article acceptance – Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy journal

Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy Stoked to get news this morning of the acceptance of a journal article in the academic journal Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy.

The article is titled “Lighthouse as a transdisciplinary boundary-crossing learning innovation in Christian communities” and is co-authored with Prof Christine Woods (University of Auckland) and Mark Johnston (now University of Glasgow). Together we reflect on the Lighthouse, a social innovation incubator weekend, funded by the Presbyterian Development Society, that we developed and ran for three years for the Presbyterian Church.

Social innovation in Christian contexts is greeted with suspicion by some theologians, as is talking about the apostle Paul in some business and entrepreneurship settings. So as well as running the Lighthouse, we set ourselves the task of writing for both audiences.

It was great to be published theologically last year in the International Journal of Public Theology (“Jesus as a socially (ir)responsible innovator: seeking the common good in a dialogue between wisdom Christologies and social entrepreneurship,” International Journal of Public Theology 15 (1), (2021), 119–143). (Some of story is here) ).

We then wrote for an entrepreneurship setting through the back half of 2021, reflecting on the Lighthouse as an educational innovation using two educative theories, boundary crossing and collaborative spirals. The invitation to revise and resubmit occupied late May/early June 2022. And now news of publication!

Thanks Presbyterian Development Society for believing in our funding bid :). Thanks Reviewer 2: “I thoroughly enjoyed reading this paper, it is a well-crafted and thoughtful paper that offers interesting insights and tools.”

Posted by steve at 09:22 AM

Monday, September 26, 2022

Published – Theologies of Fulfillment in a Reciprocal Study – International Bulletin of Mission Research

My latest journal article is now online – “Theologies of Fulfillment in a Reciprocal Study of Relationships between John Laughton and Rua Kēnana in Aotearoa New Zealand,” International Bulletin of Mission Research here.

Short abstract: Crossing the borders of religion presents challenges and provides opportunities. This article presents a contextualized case study from Aotearoa New Zealand. Photography, as a tool in discerning lived theologies, suggests a side-by-side relationship of reciprocity and particularity. Relationships across differences are revealed not in theory but in lived practices of education, worship, life and death. The argument is that Rua Kēnana and John Laughton enacted theologies of fulfillment, grounded in different epistemologies: mātauranga Māori and Enlightenment thinking.

I’m grateful for the writings of Dr Hirini Kaa and Archbishop Don Tamihere as invaluable resources in reflecting on mātauranga Māori and the life of te hāhi mihinare. I’m also grateful for the wisdom of Dr Wayne Te Kaawa in the writing and the resource and permissions of National Library of New Zealand.

Posted by steve at 12:22 PM

Thursday, September 15, 2022

The Quiet Girl: A theological film review

Monthly I write a film review for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Stretching back to 2005, some 165 plus films later, here is the review for September 2022.

The Quiet Girl
A film review by Dr Steve Taylor

“The Quiet Girl” rewards, but requires considerable patience. Cait (Catherine Clinch), a lonely child from a low-income family, is farmed out to distant relatives. In the hands of Eibhlin Cinnsealach (Carrie Crowley) and Sean Cinnsealach (Andrew Bennett), through simple acts of fingernails being scrubbed, hair brushed, and money offered as a treat, we witness Cait begin to flourish.

The movie (“An Cailín Ciúin” in the Irish) is based on Foster, Claire Keegan’s 2010 novella. In 2022 “The Quiet Girl” gained eight Irish Film and Television Academy awards, including best Irish film. Despite these accolades, the movie requires persistence. Time is slowed by sounds– the cuckoo’s call, the clock’s tick, the cry of a baby. Set in Ireland, with much of the dialogue in Irish, the occasional subtitle is lost.

First-time director Colm Bairéad works hard. The camera work is superb, capturing the summer splendour of rural Ireland. The plot is skilfully strengthened through delightful parallelism. Rhubarb appears twice, puncturing domestic tensions with garden humour. Runs recur, initially away from school, then timed toward letterboxes and back, finally toward embrace.

The acting is superb, particularly Catherine Clinch as the quiet Cait. Her vulnerability and growing joy as she finds the freedom to play are a delightful reminder of the transforming power of love. There are equally strong performances from Carrie Crowley as Eibhlin Cinnsealach and Andrew Bennett as Sean Cinnsealach. While Cait is the quiet girl, Sean names the wisdom of silence. In the face of a neighbour’s probing and destructive questions, he offers insight. “You can be quiet.” Sean’s sage advice provides needed wisdom as Cait returns to her family.

A movie set in Ireland tends to offer plenty for the theologically imaginative. “The Quiet Girl” is no exception, with religion evident in the rosaries held in dead hands and the priests who request their communities to pray for rain.

Light also does theological work in “The Quiet Girl”. The reflection of light and forest as water is scooped from the well evokes the wisdom of thirteenth-century English mystic Julian of Norwich. In Revelations of Divine Love, Julian wrote of how all of creation is enclosed in every little thing. Whether a small hazelnut or, in the case of “The Quiet Girl”, a scoop of water, we witness visual evidence that God made it; God loves it; God keeps it.

Another way to work imaginatively with film is to bring gospel stories into dialogue with specific scenes. As Cait returns home, Athair Chait (Michael Patric) announces, “The prodigal has come back.” His use of Biblical language sets up the emotionally charged final scene, in which, like the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:20, the Quiet Girl is enveloped in the loving embrace of Sean Cinnsealach. Her one word, “Daddy,” is enough. A relationally impoverished childhood lost has been redeemed through persistent acts of care and attention. It is a rewarding and richly satisfying ending, a fitting reward for the patient viewer.

Posted by steve at 10:18 PM