Angels + Demons = Connections

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Click here to read Mark Hadley's review of the film

Click here to read Mark Hadley's review of the book behind the blockbuster

St Augustine’s Neutral Bay made sure the premier of Angels and Demons at Cremorne’s Orpheum Theatre was a sellout.

They are among several churches branching out the arts this month as part of their evangelism strategies, and making new connections.

St Augustine’s had hired the theatre for last Thursday’s premiere screening of the film based on Dan Brown’s second novel. A crowd of 300 turned up, 200 of whom were guests.

"We looked at Angels and Demons and we said "It's something that will be in contemporary culture that will engage the church, it's a discussion that the culture's going to have anyway, so we might as well be part of it’,” says assistant minister, the Rev David Ould. 

“In the film, one of the characters says the church has got to open up its doors to the world and we're just trying to do that as many times as we can, so that we can go out and talk to people and so that people will come in and talk to us about the things that matter.”

Mr Ould says a talk given before the screening by senior minister, the Rev Craig Roberts(pictured) on whether the church should suppress science provided the perfect opportunity to hand out over 100 copies of Luke's gospel, which was "written by a man of science and of faith".

The Angels and Demons premiere was St Augustine’s fourth film screening event, with previous choices including Amazing Grace and The Passion of the Christ.

Mr Ould says a number of people became Christians after the church’s Da Vinci Code film screening.

“That film raised really important issues about the historicity of the gospels and who Jesus is, and it tapped into emotions and responses that people were feeling anyway, and it made people talk about them,” he says.

“And that gave us an opportunity to provide the truth. The key thing is that we're not afraid of these things because the Bible's got more than enough answers in Jesus Christ. But rather we want to embrace them and use them.”

Kirribilli’s heart for art

Church By The Bridge (CBTB) has invited local artists to join in their celebrations for the 125th birthday of the ministry of the Anglican Church in Kirribilli through I Heart Kirribilli, an art exhibition and prize.

CBTB's community pastor Hayley Neal says the exhibition was a "random idea" influenced partly from her background in the creative arts which has tapped into a section of the community with which CBTB had no previous contact.

"Art exhibitions are something that they like to go to but [Kirribilli is] also a reasonably creative community and with a community feel and local ownership, so it's also a way to celebrate Kirribilli," she says.

“One unbelieving person said to me, ‘thank you so much for this initiative’ and was really thankful that the church was willing to invest in artists, and another unbelieving guy said ‘it's just great that you're willing to invest in the local area’ as well," she says.

Entrants have been asked to "represent or symbolise life within Kirribilli" through painting, drawing or photography, by portraying the history, places, events, personalities or culture of the Harbourside village suburb.

Ms Neal promoted I Heart Kirribilli through Google Ads, Facebook advertising and invites, free advertising on art forums, and promotional mailouts to major art schools, and local art classes and art societies.

Of the 39 entries now vying for the $3000 in prize money donated by CBTB, 34 were from outside the church community.

Judges Gaye Stevens and Carla Hananiah have been "overwhelmed" by the quality of the work submitted for a first-time exhibition, and locals have been asking Ms Neal when the next exhibition will be held.

I Heart Kirribilli will open this Saturday at Church By The Bridge and will run through next week, with a prize night on Thursday May 28.

Oatley West does dramatic Jesus


Meanwhile at All Saints Oatley West, a dramatic reading of Luke’s Gospel drew a capacity crowd of 60 to the performance in the church hall on Saturday evening, May 9.

It was a first for the church, but the reading, performed by theatre company The Backyard Bard seemed a natural next step after giving out The Essential Jesus, says rector, the Rev Dr Stephen Anderson.

“They describe what they do as ‘biblical storytelling’ " in this case, it’s a one-man theatrical performance of an abridged version of Luke’s Gospel, using a few simple props and as much stage space as was available,” Dr Anderson explains.

“And, of course, everyone was able to go home (on the night) with copies of The Essential Jesus in their hands " along with a new compulsion to read and wrestle with it!”

Locals weren’t put off by the Jesus focus of the event, and even if they didn’t come, Dr Anderson says good conversations arose from the invitations.

“Tactically, our primary rationale for staging events through this year is to give people new things to talk about as we forge new connections,” he says.

The church hall was decked out like a theatre, with lighting, cafe-style seating and a simple backdrop on stage.
“One couple invited their friends out for dinner ‘before the show’!.. Still, we didn’t pretend to be anything other than what we are—for instance, we ran a promo (including the SX Digital clip) for an upcoming Life of Jesus course during the interval.”

Dr Anderson says the reading was a risk worth taking, and the one-man show performed by actor Rob Turnbull had the audience “spellbound”.

“At their tables, some people chatted with friends about Jesus for up to an hour afterwards… Seeing the storyline played out from beginning to end over just a couple of hours is hugely engaging,” he says.

“I was freshly astonished by Jesus’ resurrection.  Others found him especially vivid.  Some commented that this was the easiest invitation to a church event they’d ever extended " and the event itself was equally non-threatening.”

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