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Series to reconcile creation and Lent

| Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Center for Spirituality and Campus Ministry will co-sponsor the Lenten Film Series, “Reconciliation with Creation,” which focuses on ecological creation and conversion and will be shown throughout March and April.
Director of the Center for Spirituality Elizabeth Groppe said Lent is a time of self-scrutiny, penitential discipline and conversion in our relationship to God and others.
“This film series concerns one dimension of that conversion ⎯ conversion in our relation to creation,” Groppe said.
She said the series will provide education on different dimensions of ecological degradation.
The first film shown on March 3, “Dirt!,” addressed soil erosion and degradation. As we prepare to receive Lenten ashes accompanied by the Biblical words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” the film was particularly relevant for Ash Wednesday, Groppe said.
On March 24, the film “Mountain Mourning” will be shown. The film documents the consequences of mountain-top removal coal mining for the Appalachian mountain region and the people who live there.
Other films in the series include “Living Downstream” and “A Sea Change: Imagine a World without Fish.”
In “Living Downstream,” ecologist Sandra Steingraber explores the connections between the toxins humans have introduced into the environment and human health as she wages her own battle with cancer. “A Sea Change: Imagine a World without Fish” is an award-winning documentary about carbon emissions and ocean acidification.
Groppe said the film series will conclude on April 24 with “The Student, the Nun, and the Amazon,” which follows British students James Newton and Sam Clemens in their journey over sea and land to meet Sr. Dorothy Stang, who gave her life to protect the Amazon rainforest and the people who live there.
The films will be shown at 6:30 p.m. in Vander Vennet Theatre on Monday evenings, followed by a discussion and Lenten prayer.
Although most of the films are not explicitly theological, the realities they document indicate the drama of sin and death, and how grace and freedom involve all of creation.  This idea promotes Saint Paul’s message to the Romans that all of creation is “in bondage to decay,” Groppe said.
When she first saw the films, Grope said she felt grief at the scope of the degradation that we inflicted upon creation, which, Saint Bonaventure wrote, is like a mirror that reflects the power, wisdom and goodness of God.
“Ecological degradation fractures this mirror and hinders our potential to know God through the created order,” she said. “It is also closely correlated with human suffering, for degraded ecosystems cannot support human life and flourishing.”
Senior Hannah Olsen said she was glad that she took the time in the midst of a busy week to watch the film [“Dirt!”] and participate in the discussion afterwards.
Olsen said she didn’t feel overwhelmed with the issues that stem from disregard for sustainability, most likely because the end of the film was about small-scale efforts that have changed whole communities, even if they only touch one community at a time.
“I think the call to action, even if a person can only cause a small-scale change, is very important to hear and discuss,” Olsen said. “It didn’t make environmental issues seem like problems that could only be addressed if you have a lot of power or influence.
“There was an African story about a hummingbird trying to put out a forest fire while the other animals just stood and watched. The bigger animals, which could carry a lot more water, told the hummingbird that its actions would never make a difference, but it told them, ‘I’m doing all I can.’ This film, and having a discussion afterward, encouraged me to do all I can. It is better than doing nothing.”
Olsen said the prayer at the end drew a great connection between spirituality and the state of the world, ending with the line, “our indifference changes the world.”

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