Fall Issue 5
“Making Peace with Creation”
That Documentary You Were Wondering About
BY AARON KROGMAN
During the fall of 2015 I scheduled a meeting with Professor Iwan Russell-Jones, curious to find out if there was anything he was doing that resembled something of his previous work as a documentary filmmaker for the BBC. My timid hope was that he’d say, “Yes, I am in fact, and you’re welcome to take part!” What he actually said was, “Maybe,” but I could see the wheels were turning. A couple of weeks later, an email appeared in my inbox, and a plan had been hatched. Fortuitously, Iwan had just finished a stint that summer as Professor of Record for INDS 525 Technology, Wilderness and Creation, (affectionately known as the boat course), and his experience of the content of the course left him convinced that there was a film to be made.
In short order, Iwan assembled a motley group of students that had expressed some interest and experience in filmmaking, and the planning for a guided study was underway. Most importantly, Loren and Mary Ruth’s agreement to take part was also secured. We began with parts of Loren’s manuscript for the book he has been working on, and several of his poems, sketching out what we might explore with a camera or two, dreaming up ways to portray on screen a theology of creation, creativity, and creatureliness.
With a crew of 6 students, a cameraman named Andy Watkins, and Amanda Russell-Jones taking care of craft services, we were ready to hit record. The February reading week of the Winter term in 2016 marked the first of several trips to the Wilkinson’s home on Galiano Island. We captured Loren’s thought on the nuances of Genesis and its implications for humankind’s vocation, about the brilliance and beauty of the created world that science is revealing to us, about the cycles of life and death, of circles and crosses and how the Incarnation is the still point around which all things turn. We looked deeply into the artwork that crowds their walls, we captured vistas and eagles and tafoni and seals, we recorded Loren reciting both his poetry, and Hopkin’s, and more. Of course, Mary Ruth made multiple appearances as well.
Significant contributions to the film were also made by artists Erica Grimm and David Robinson, Loren’s son-in-law Paul Teel who is an expert on the history of science, as well as Iain McGilchrist during his recent Laing Lectures, and many others including a restoration ecologist, an astronomer, and a Galiano farmer. We wrapped filming in May with a weekend in Tofino, capturing an installation of Regent alum Dan Law’s artwork as a metaphor for the piece.
The highlight for Dafydd Russell-Jones, crew member and general expert at spotting wildlife, was “the early morning shoot of the caves on the beach in Tofino where we had to work closely as a unit to film Dan Law’s hand sculptures before the tide came in. This was near the end of the filming process and for me, working creatively in community to seek a more profound engagement with what it means to be a creature who is called to steward God’s good and groaning creation was a fantastic opportunity to embody the kind of vision that Loren shares so beautifully in this film.”
Dave Siverns, another crew member and our sound engineer, hopes that “the film will start some really good conversations about how we, as disciples of Christ, should interact with creation. It’s an important issue for society at large these days, and it feels like the church’s response is often tokenism, if anything at all. Loren adds this really interesting, embodied theology that I think needs to be heard and seen, and I hope this film will help people move towards a fuller understanding of our roll as creatures in this amazing created world.”
As it stands right now, the editing process is well under way, with the first rough cut complete as of this week. The title of the film is Making Peace with Creation, and will eventually be available as a download through the Regent bookstore, or on DVD with a study guide. The plan is to show the premiere at Regent on December 7th 2016, with Loren and Mary Ruth in attendance, including the possibility of a talk-back session afterwards. Running time will be just over an hour. Mark your calendar, and look for more details to come!
BITE-SIZED THESES: St. Bonaventure on
Loving a Suffering Christ:
BY KASEY KIMBALL
I came to Regent after 6 years of work with a campus ministry. I’d taught my students that life with Jesus was worth the cost and that self-sacrifice was the pathway to true life. They had been convinced but my own faith had started to waver. Daily quiet times hadn’t saved my parents from separating after thirty-two years of marriage; profound experiences of Jesus hadn’t eliminated my need for a good therapist; no doctor, prayer minister, or spiritual director had been able to heal a chronic illness.
I knew that whatever I chose as a thesis topic had to help me recover a lost conviction that the universe wasn’t the disenchanted place I felt I inhabited. When I picked up Bonaventure on Hans’ recommendation, I was instantly hooked. Here was a theologian whose pages of beautiful, difficult prose bore witness to a God whose Triune nature is stamped on every inch of creation. In accordance with the earlier tradition, he taught that those who have been baptized into the body of Christ will enjoy union with God in eternal paradise. As a Franciscan, he placed great emphasis on the Incarnate Christ whose suffering and death reveal the love at the heart of the Triune life. To achieve union with God, we must love and thereby conform to Jesus who gave himself in love for the world. Here was the person I wanted to learn from and wrestle with.
As I continued exploring Bonaventure’s corpus I found myself most attracted to his two meditations on Christ’s life and passion designed to help the reader, by grace, love the human, crucified Jesus. In The Mystical Vine, he explains that Christ’s physical wounds reveal a prior, invisible wound of love and then asks the reader: “Who could fail to love the heart that bears such a wound? Who could fail to return the love of such a Lover?” (3.6). To love the Crucified is to be conformed to Him, ultimately by giving oneself away in love for God and neighbor. In this way, meditating on Christ’s passion help us love -and therefore suffer- in this world. However, these meditations also remind us that Jesus who was crucified was also raised and glorified. In this way, they help us persevere in our present sufferings, knowing that Christ’s passion brought us final relief from suffering and death. As Paul says in Philippians 3:10-11, we share in Christ’s suffering and death so that we might share in his resurrection.
Suffering has continued to be a major part of my story since I arrived at Regent. In my first term my parents finally divorced; in my second year my dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer; last month my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I live with depression and several other chronic conditions, all of which are painful and disruptive. In this midst of this pain and confusion, my thesis is not merely a work of the intellect, but one of faith and hope. In a world that tempts me to spend all my time, money, and energy avoiding suffering, Bonaventure challenges me to pay attention to Jesus’ suffering, and see mine in light of his. I pray that as I work with these texts, they will do precisely what were meant to: teach me to love Christ crucified, raised and glorified, and thereby heed the call to suffer in love and persevere in hope. As Bonaventure says in On the Perfection of Life: “love God much in this life, and you shall enjoy Him much in the next; let the love of God increase in you now, so that you may have then the fullness of His joy” (8.8).
“Bite-sized Theses” features a Regent Thesis Student bi-weekly. Are you writing a thesis? Have I not hounded you down yet? Shoot me an email!
Letter to the Editor
FROM AMANDA RUSSELL-JONES
I have often thought of writing for your publication--for after all words are my thing. I am the one who sits in traffic composing lyrics for faculty songs at Warm Beach Retreat or sketches for church on Sunday. Timothy’s internship with Paul being a particular favourite as advice to young adults on travelling--understand the local culture, do not break the law, avoid internment.
However, I have never yet sent in an article for publication, despite the ones I have written on the theme of the complete lack of recognisable grammar let alone poetry of some of the worship songs we sing. Musicians and other creative folk you know you are some of my favourite people but since I was seven George Herbert, the Wesleys and the Psalmist have had my heart and don’t get me started on the theology of some modern songs. ‘When I walk from earth into et-er-ni-tee’ being a line I will not sing.
I came close to sending in the piece I wrote about the Hillsong Creed which has God the Father conceiving the Son. If there is one thing we women do better than men and do absolutely exclusively it is conceiving. Mary conceived, fathers beget: old-fashioned word but biologically and theologically accurate. Which brings me to my point (just when you thought this was merely a rant). What has finally driven me to send in a comment piece? In the context of the US Presidential election, in a week full of dissing women, reading the words ‘repeal the 19th’. Wow! Disenfranchise the women of America.
My scholarly work has been on Josephine Butler (1828-1906) who championed not just women’s rights but the equal rights of all slaves, the Irish, all human beings who should not be ‘like coins trampled in the mire’, since they ‘bear the impress of the divine image’. In the past there was a fine tradition of women chaining themselves to the railings in Downing Street the home of the British Prime Minister to protest the need for equal rights. And there was the march on Washington.
I have been a visitor to the White House (pause for the reader to be impressed before revealing that it was as a ticket holding visitor on a candle-lit tour at Christmas). I have looked out through the bay window which is featured in so many films--ask Ron Reed and Matthew Nelson how many. I have also spent a couple of hours in the line working my way round the perimeter railings in minus temperatures with reluctant children of 4,6,8 and 10 and a way more reluctant husband. Nevertheless, I feel a march on Washington may yet be called for with placards proclaiming ‘I am a woman!’ And if I have to chain myself to the railings, it will be by the ankle.
POET OF THE WEEK: DON McKAY
BY BLYTHE HUTCHCROFT
Ecopoet, geopoet, that guy with a lot of birds in his poems: these are just some of the descriptors thrown at Don McKay in the past four decades of Canadian literary criticism. While these categories help orient us to McKay’s large and maybe looming oeuvre, they also reduce our understanding of his poetics. When I introduce friends to his work, I like to begin with an explanation of McKay’s self-described “poetic attention.”
In his essay “Baler Twine,” McKay explains his interest in “wilderness,” which he defines as, “not a set of endangered species,” but rather, “the capacity of all things to elude the mind’s appropriations.” He reads the world—and reads language—with “a species of longing” for this wilderness, but “without [any] desire to possess” it. His poetic attention is a type of knowing that embraces unknowability, one that relinquishes our human desire to name, to appropriate, and to put to use.
In “Waking at the Mouth of the Willow River,” the speaker wakes up to an abundance of birdsong—a common symbol in McKay’s work for a wider otherness. This poem is situated geographically by a river but cognitively at the threshold between sleeping and waking. This poem both freezes and extends that moment, playing with the threshold of “afterdream”—that groggy second of “stewed Latin” before language kicks in.
Like many of McKay’s poems, “Waking at the Mouth of the Willow River” is situated at an edge, a between. These peripheries are another way of asking: what’s beyond our cognitive grasp? Where does wilderness reside? What wonder exists that can’t be named? In response, McKay exhibits a sort of letting go in relation to Creation’s deep otherness, an open-handed curiosity towards its holy wild.
McKay’s poetic attention isn’t rooted in any sort of religious belief, but perhaps you can imagine why it has deeply informed my Christian faith. I’ve been shaped by the way his poetry approaches the world with quiet, interested reverence. It’s a disposition I hope to adopt when approaching God, putting my own agendas on hold to marvel silently, dumbstruck by the mystery of it all.
If you liked anything about this poet of the week, you might want to check out McKay’s collected poems in Angular Conformity. Essays on his poetics can be found in Vis à Vis, Deactivated West 100, and The Shell of the Tortoise: Four Essays and an Assemblage.
Waking at the Mouth of the Willow River
Sleep, my favourite flannel shirt, wears thin, and shreds, and birdsong
happens in the holes. In thirty seconds the naming of species will begin.
As it folds into the stewed Latin of afterdream each song makes a tiny
whirlpool. One of them, zoozeezoozoozee, seems to be making fun of
sleep with snores stolen from comic books. Another hangs its teardrop
high in the mind, and melts: it was, after all, only narrowed air, although
it punctuated something unheard, perfectly. And what sort of noise would
the mind make, if it could, here at the brink? Scritch, scritch. A claw, a
nib, a beak, worrying its surface. As though, for one second, it could let
the world leak back to the world. Weep.
Talking With Our Mouths Full: Claire Perini
WITH TROY TERPSTRA AND ED SMITH
This week we got to go out with the lovely Claire Perini, Regent’s Assistant Dean of Students, or as some have dubbed her, Chief Officer of the Student Identity Crisis and Meltdown Center, Certified Silver Lining Spotter, Basket-Case Manager, and Royal Guardian of the Couch of Tears.
We dined at Loaf, a sort of posh little sandwichery in the new UBC alumni centre. Actually, we didn’t dine at Loaf, since there were no tables to be had, so we found a concrete slab in the courtyard, and enjoyed getting to know this most vibrant and hilarious woman while eating our eleven dollar sandwiches (with no side).
When asked about her role, Ms. Perini describes herself as “occupying the liminal space between the profs and the students.” She concerns herself with the intersection of education and Student care, and the frequent anxieties of students who are making geographical, psycho-social, and spiritual transitions. “Students often don’t know how to manage their expectations about coming here,” she tells us. Occasionally she experiences the terror of active listening, not knowing what she is going to say to someone who is undergoing a crisis of one sort or another. This turns the conversation to frightening things which can happen at work, and Ed tells us about the time he almost cut his finger off with a table saw.
We discussed Australia for a while, and we noted that her last name, Perini, sounds Italian. “It is,” she tells us, “but I don’t really know why.” Perhaps, I ventured, one of her distant relatives was picked up for shoplifting while on vacation from Napoli to London. We also asked Ms. Perini what she thought of the recent decision made by her Australian government to put Steve Irwin on their national currency. She made a sort of gagging noise, and said, “Steve Irwin?! No!” She finds the croc-master to be a bit “embarrassing and dumb” as he perpetuates stereotypes that if you visit Australia you will be bitten, stung, or killed by something. We asked Ms. Perini, which Aussie she would put on the currency. “There’s got to be a kind, generous, philanthropic Australian,” she replied, “but I can’t think of any...Hugh Jackman?”
All in all, it was a most pleasant conversation. I wish we could include everything we talk about, but space doesn’t permit it. She does a killer North American accent, btw. Our review of the Loaf? Food was B+, and value was B. The sandwiches were nice, but pricy, and no extras, however the coffee was great, and Claire claims it’s one of the only places one get a “Flat White.” I don’t know what that is.
We sat in the courtyard, so I’m giving the ambiance a A-, but only because the courtyard was nice. Cafeteria style service, Claire gave it an A, we gave it an A-. A nice little spot, all in all. That’s it for this week! And remember, if you need to talk, the Ms. Perini’s Meltdown Center is just up the stairs!
BY STEVE BERKENPAS
All-female theology seminar deemed
“not a mistake” by college officials
A member of Regent’s facilities team was paged recently when a first year stumbled into room 231 and found it occupied by a group of women engaged in animated conversation. “It wasn’t the right time for the Josephine Butler seminar so I figured they were trespassing and paged Adam,” the student explained. “If they’re going to do a Beth Moore Bible study or plan a women’s retreat they should probably find another location. This is a theological school, not a church.” Upon further investigation it was discovered that this was in fact a Regent class: THEO 756: Atonement Theory from Irenaeus to René Girard, a program requirement for MA students with a concentration in doctrinal theology. According to the class list, no men had registered for it. “I guess there were just no men who needed the course or who were interested in the topic,” a registration officer surmised. “That happens sometimes; it’s probably nothing to worry about.”