Drawing on a shared affinity for films and a desire to maintain the collegial relationships that were formed during our seminary experience in Austin, seven Episcopal priests (now in ministry from Virginia to California) have collaborated since 2005 as Cinema Toast. We gather monthly via conference call to “check-in,” attend to one another, and converse about films we have viewed in our respective locales.
The scope of our conversations was varied—ranging from the occasional glancing review of a film’s value as entertainment to an in-depth probing of the filmmaker’s artistic intent, use of cinematographic methods for effect, and the theological tenets to be gleaned from this cultural medium. We constantly had before us three principle objectives: to support one another, to be aware of the hermeneutical lenses with which we view films, and to discover relevant connections between the world of modern film and the world of parish ministry. All of us have integrated elements of our “Cinema Toast” experience into our work as pastors, teachers and preachers. Our film “library” includes Maria Full of Grace, V for Vendetta, Chocolat, Good Night and Good Luck, Capote, Syriana, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Narnia, Crash, A Girl in a Café, Jarhead, Da Vinci Code, Munich, Brokeback Mountain, An Inconvenient Truth, and Taxi Driver. Two members of our cohort have chosen to publish film reviews, including Bonnie Malone, and Torey Lightcap.
Near the end of our two year project, the group convened a weeklong gathering in Manhattan in conjunction with the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival. We immersed ourselves in the New York film scene while enjoying something of a wonderful reunion and R&R session. It was a fabulous experience!
We have now begun the next phase of our collegiality…no longer with regular conference calls for the “film-of-the-month” club, but our communication with each other continues with an email group and frequent phone calls to one another, and we are plotting another film pilgrimage for 2008.