The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


February 1999 Books/Movies/Videos

Things Seen and Unseen: A Year Lived in Faith (Knopf) by Nora Gallagher is a bright, hopeful and epiphanous account of her experiences at Trinity Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara, Calif. She writes lyrically about her involvement as a regular worker at the soup kitchen, a member of a Thursday evening base community, a lay eucharist minister and a participant in alternative liturgies.

Shopping for Faith: American Religion in the New Millennium (Jossey-Bass) by Richard Cimino and Don Lettin is a bellwether volume for anyone interested in contemporary developments and future forecasts in American religion. They see the expansion of spiritual pluralism and practice as something to stand up and cheer about.

Lectio Divina: The Ancient Practice of Praying the Scriptures (Crossroad) by Basil Pennington presents an in-depth analysis of this Christian tradition that the author calls "a way of friendship" wherein we pay attention to "the love letters from the Lord." Pennington sets the process of praying the Scriptures in the context of meditation, contemplation, compassion and action.

A Civil Action (Touchstone, PG-13-strong language) is a real-life thriller set in the 1980s when a stubborn attorney (John Travolta) went to battle against two of the nation's largest corporations on behalf of some families in Woburn, Mass., who claimed the companies had contaminated the town's drinking water with chemicals that resulted in the deaths from leukemia of eight children. Steve Zaillian directs this ethically powerful film.

The Children of Heaven (Miramax, PG) is a bright jewel of a film written and directed by Majid Majidi. It revolves around the frustrations and challenges of a brother and sister living in Tehran after he loses her newly repaired shoes. This means they only have one battered pair of sneakers between them to wear to school. This film is a cross-cultural masterpiece that touches the heart and reveals the universality of familial love, sibling relations and the struggle to make do in dire circumstances.

A Thin Place: Iona and the Celtic Way (Cathedral Films and Video, 800-229-3788, not rated) was shot on the island where St. Columbia established one of the great centers of Christian faith in 563. Vivienne Hull and Danny Martin, who lead retreats to Iona, discuss the major aspects of Celtic spirituality, including companionship with Jesus, respect for imagination, reverence for the earth and a delight in the art of pilgrimage.

Shadrach (Columbia TriStar, PG-13-language, brief sexuality) is set during summer 1935 when the 10-year-old protagonist is exposed to death and the universal yearning to dwell forever in a magic moment of our youth when we feel free of trouble. The film also reveals the creativity it sometimes takes to express deep compassion.


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February issue


Embracing diversity