John Relly Beard Lecture


This annual lecture marks the end of the Minster’s Conference and the start of the General Meetings. It was given by Rev Peter Francis, the Warden and Director of Gladstone’s Library.

Sitting in the Dark, Seeing Salvation looked at Theology and Film in three sections. The first argued that although the highest cinema attendances were in 1946, we are in a golden age of film watching with a UK average of eighty-six per person per year, across all media. He then looked at films based on the biblical narratives, dividing them into those that were mere tableaux, and thus aped mediaeval art, and those that re-imagined biblical stories. This was illustrated with challenging scenes from Italian, Canadian and South African films. Films that included religious themes illusions and messages concluded the clips, and included a discussion of the loner coming in, sorting out, and leaving as a trope that must be treated with caution.

One of many intriguing ideas in the presentation was that films allowed a trial run of the outcomes of moral and ethical dilemmas. Films do not mimic life or vice versa, but give us a means to engage with the questions of life. In this way, film can transcend the realm of mere entertainment and become art, in that it can help us to understand and resolve the human condition. The lecture was engaging and well presented, and the clips illustrated rather than dominated the themes. The subsequent question and answer session gave a revealing glimpse of the depth of knowledge and passion of the lecturer for his subject.

This was a lecture that was time well spent, considering how film can inform our own spiritual journeys and be a tool for both education and discussion.

Photograph of Rev Peter Francis with Rev Maud Robinson by John Hewerdine