From Now On
FROM NOW ON
A Lent Course on Hope and Redemption in The Greatest Showman
Rachel MannA Lent course on hope and redemption, using the film, |The Greatest Showman|
This is the most imaginative and original Lent course I have ever encountered - a refreshing antidote to excessively solemn spirituality. The admirable Rachel Mann, priest, poet and broadcaster, has taken as her inspiration the recent film, The Greatest Showman - a joyful ‘biopic’ of the life of the 19th century American Circus entrepreneur, Phineas T. Barnum - and has used it to explore the themes of faith, hope and redemption. She sets out her motives from the outset. God created the world, and saw that it was good (Genesis 1); yet we now too readily perceive and describe the world as fallen, broken by sin and full of guilt. The Greatest Showman, while not denying the reality of evil, provokes the question, ‘what do hope and love look like in a world that so readily tramples on those dreams?’ And it considers this in relation to people who are excluded - the aliens and outcasts, those with disabilities, ethnic minorities, those who are poor and unconsidered. The film thus mirrors, in general terms, the life of Jesus, who lived on the fringes and died like a criminal. It is a broad signpost for God’s priorities.
Anyone using this book will of course need access to the film (which had its premiere in December 2017), but it is now readily available on DVD. Although excerpts from the film provide the initial impetus, and are used to provoke the key questions, the course is thoroughly biblical. The scripture readings are carefully chosen and lead easily into dialogue and fruitful discussion. There are excellent opening and closing prayers for each session. The five weekly themes reflect song titles from the film: ‘A Million Dreams’, ‘Come Alive’, ‘Rewrite the Stars’, ‘Never Enough’ and ‘From Now on’. As the film features moments of triumph and episodes of apparent despair, it is easy to draw parallels with biblical narratives, especially Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and the cross. Rachel Mann has therefore produced a small masterpiece, which draws together the essence of Christian faith and modern culture. Although it is a book which will find its widest application in Lent house groups, it can be used at other times of the year, and by individuals. I recommend it wholeheartedly.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Stephenson
Reflection / Meditation / Spirituality
Festivals - Lent & Easter
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