I stood on the pavement facing the dementor trying to lob a patronus its way, only to have my feeble efforts fail. Thankfully a young woman to my left, had mastery of her wand and spell and lay the dementor out flat.
Some fan fiction inspired by the Harry Potter series, perhaps?
Actually, it was all part of the “Perspectives on Potter” workshop at the recent ΘeoCon (Thee-o-Con) held at Virginia Theological Seminary(VTS) on September 29. The convention, or “con” was an invitation to “explore themes of theology and morality in pop culture.” The conference was the brainchild of Shayna Watson who just recently completed her certificate in Anglican Studies from VTS and is serving as a curate at St Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Harrisburg, PA.
Prior to her move into the Episcopal Church, Watson had been a healthcare chaplain and community activist where she developed a keen interest in sharing the gospel with community members who have not always found the church to be a place of safety.
There were a number of workshops besides the above-mentioned “Perspectives on Potter”, examples include “African American Women Protagonists’ Morality in Sci-Fi: Stephen King vs Octavia Butler,” and an exploration of the futuristic show “The 100” titled “Ethical Dilemmas.”
Featured speakers were Chuck Robertson, Canon to the Presiding Bishop and Wesley Sun, Director of Field Education and Community Engagement at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
Robertson is a self-acclaimed comic book nerd who counts Stan Lee, founder of Marvel Comics as a personal friend and who credits a comic book series featuring Superboy for setting him on the path to priesthood. While Sun founded a comic book company, Sun Bros Studios to tell stories rooted in spirituality and meaning.
Several Episcopal podcasters were also on hand to lead and facilitate different parts of the day’s programs (all are featured here at Episcopal Café). Ben Gildas (Priest and Pulse)Jordan Haynie (Two Feminists Annotate the Bible) participated in a forum with plenary speaker Wesley Sun on role-playing games as a model for Christian community formation and Betsy Gonzalez (Popping Collars) emceed the closing ceremonies and cosplay walk.
Cosplay (dressing up as your favorite character), comic books, or sci-fi may not be everyone’s thing. But at its heart, what this convention was about was the power of story in our lives – about how the power of THE Story, Jesus Christ, can change lives and the world.
Dr Patricia Lyons, Missioner for Evangelism and Community Engagement in the Diocese of Washington and one of the presenters in the Perspectives on Potter workshop captured the essential theme of the day when she said that “Logos without Mythos is like Law without Love.” Theology divorced from the mythic power of God’s story will not, and likely never has, excited the imagination and devotion of would-be followers of Jesus. The imaginative worlds entered through comics, novels, and games inspire millions, nurture empathy and understanding, bridge differences, lift up communal action and identity, and offer frameworks for understanding the epic tale of redemption and salvation that is God’s work in the world.
So say we all.