Friday, 19 April 2013

AD: Anno Domini


Which would you say is the most compelling on-screen presentation of Christ and the early Christian Church you've ever seen?
That could be a tough question - you might think of the Mel Gibson production, one of the many versions of the Jesus movie or you might even prefer the old Jeffrey Hunter version of Jesus of Nazareth.
When I was a Year 12 student in the late 1980s, I studied Ancient History as part of a class that could be rather demanding at times, I must admit. (Luckily, that teacher and I are still on good terms!) Because of the class dynamics, and because of the quality of audio-visual resources on the Roman Empire, even back then, we watched quite a few videos that year e.g. all of Ben-Hur, all of Quo Vadis?, all of I, Claudius and best of all, all of AD: Anno Domini.
If you haven't heard of it, Anno Domini was a 1985 four-part mini-series with a famous international cast, a soundtrack by Lalo Schifrin (Mission Impossible) and to my mind, a very high degree of faithfulness to the text of the New Testament, especially the book of Acts.
It begins with the aftermath of the crucifixion followed by the risen Christ appearing among the disciples who have been hiding in despair, leading on to Pentecost etc. Sitting in class, I found some of these scenes so moving that as I recall I may even have let a little tear slide out (making sure my mates didn't see, of course).
From there, we follow the events of Acts with plenty of side-stories of relationships among Romans and Jews and some of the minor characters of the Bible narrative.
Special mention must be made of Philip Sayer as Saul/Paul.  It's a brilliant, unforgettable performance.  At times, I have found Youtube clips of some sections of the series, e.g. Paul teaching what we now know as 1 Corinthians 13, so you may wish to use some of these clips rather than show the whole series.
I do hope you can find the time to enjoy all or part of AD: Anno Domini.  

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The Skits Guys

Looking for Skits for worship. Try the Skit Guys. You can preview their skits before buying them. They have a range of topics they cover and while it is somewhat limited there are some great ones.

They also have videos of different skits as well as stills and moving backgrounds for presentations.

Monday, 8 April 2013

A Very Special Easter: a video for your chapel or classroom

The Easter season is still with us until Pentecost so I'm arguing you can still use this Easter video for a while yet!

A Very Special Easter by Steelehouse Media features the answers that children give to a range of questions about Easter.  These cover a lot of ground, from the prosaic ("What does the Easter Bunny do?") to the more meaningful ("How do we follow Jesus?").  As the creators say at their website,
"Crayon drawings animate real-life responses from children as they talk about Easter. Their unfiltered and heartfelt responses bring humour and depth to the subject. Only a child could mix the silly and the sacred to so powerfully illustrate what makes the story of Jesus and how we celebrate it so special."

The style of animation is very watchable and will capture the attention of even the most easily distracted student. The use of humour catches attention too, though the content moves to playfully serious stuff pretty quickly.  Although the kids interviewed are younger, it could easily be used with secondary students with the right introduction.

 This video could be used in a range of ways.

  • Compiling the questions used in the video could provide you with fodder for your own interviews.  In a chapel service, showing this video could precede a sermon based around the responses given by your own students.
  • In the classroom, a discussion based around these interview questions would be interesting, followed by this video.  
  •  Or you could show the video and have a discussion after it with the aim of discussing the 'errors' therein.

You can watch the video for free here or on YouTube.  To use the video in your classroom a purchase can be made in a range of sizes from standard definition through to high.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

One Day Retreats for Teenagers

One Day Retreats for Junior High Youth by Geri Braden-Whartenby and Joan Finn Connelly is a useful and insightful book on running retreats with, what would be called in Australia, middle school students. While it is a short book it contains some fairly detailed information and practical tips on how to run these one day events. The introductory section would be particularly helpful for those who may not have run retreats before. The book also includes six full retreats.

From the start the Roman Catholic authors explain their retreat philosophy as being centred on “active learning experiences, a sound biblical foundation and meaningful prayer experiences”. This approach can be seen clearly through all the retreats in the book and it is one that resonates strongly with me.

Possibly the greatest risk with running a day long retreat for this age group is that you may lose their attention or alternatively, by trying to keep it with engaging activities, fail to get them reflecting on the theme of the day. The authors overcome both these problems beautifully. The activities used are interesting and help the teenage participants learn and reflect in a hands on way. I also liked the inclusion of the muscle relaxation exercises which also aid those retreating to pray at the conclusion of the day. The structure of the retreats is such that participants move from activity to activity with each element lasting between 5 – 30 minutes.

The six retreats in the book cover the following topics:
  • Christian community
  • Freshman survival (or what we in Australia might call first year of high school)
  • Peacemaking
  • Peer pressure
  • Self esteem
  • Sexuality 

Each retreat connects the theme, through the activities, with real aspects of teenage life. For example the Christian Community retreat includes elements that explore “puts downs” and the impact they have on people. I also liked the way many of the activities try to help teenagers explore practical ways of dealing with the issues under consideration. Retreats in this sense should not only be spiritual but help the participant return to the world more fully equipped for everyday life.

There is a good appendix with icebreakers, guided meditation tips, muscle relaxation exercises and more tips for small group leaders.

Reading One Day Retreats for Junior High Youth  made me want to go and run some.