Monday, February 21, 2011

Faith & Film: The King's Speech

by Rev. Laura Barclay

One of my co-workers has been instrumental in starting a faith and film series at her church for fellowship in and outside of the church walls. Because film is a common medium for discussion, we have chatted about possible films to include in the series. With this on my mind, I recently saw The King’s Speech, which may be one of the best films I’ve seen in a few years. It follows the true story of the reluctant King George VI (previously Prince Albert) who is afflicted with a stammer. As Prince Albert, he is second in line to the throne after his older brother Prince Edward. The film follows several speeches he gives where he struggles and pauses throughout, much to his discomfort and the disdain of the audience. After trying many unsuccessful speech coaches, he meets Lionel Logue at the insistence of his wife. They argue and debate about Lionel’s methods, but they soon become very close friends and Albert is able to share traumatic events from his life. His father, King George V passes away and his brother becomes King Edward VIII. When King Edward contemplates marriage to an American socialite who is twice divorced (deemed improper at the time), Edward faces abdication. The prospect of being King and preparing for the onslaught of Hitler hangs heavy on Prince Albert’s heart as he does some soul searching at the prodding of Logue. Edward marries the American, abdicates the throne, and Albert becomes King George VI. As Britain declares war on Germany, he faces the ominous task of delivering a powerful, yet comforting speech to his people.

While the tale is historical and you can simply “Google” his name to find out what happens, I don’t want to spoil it for you. Before this movie, the story was little known and even restricted from being published during the long lifetime of Prince Albert’s wife, Queen Elizabeth (the current Queen Elizabeth II’s mother), who died in 2002. She loved her husband deeply and the memories were too painful to re-live.

Although the church, personified by the Archbishop of Canterbury is portrayed as somewhat antagonistic and disapproving of Logue’s methods, the story itself draws interesting parallels to the story of Moses. Both Moses and King George VI struggled with a stammer, were reluctant to lead, wanted someone else to be chosen instead, and had to find a way to stand up to a frightening, oppressive dictator. It was powerful to see Prince Albert wrestle with his disability in order to be comfortable being the leader his people needed, much in the same way Moses had to overcome his discomfort with his speech in order to confront the Pharaoh.

I recently read a news article about how children who stutter found a role model in watching this film. In the story, kids who stuttered expressed the need to be listened to and not judged. They were inspired by the leadership portrayed in the film after facing similar humiliating public speaking experiences. Parents discussed the need for optimism, patience, and support. I encourage you to read the story to see the real life applicability.

This true story incorporates the themes of friendship, overcoming adversity, and leadership, and could be very popular in community-wide or small group viewings. Discussions could be held about thematic elements, biblical allusions, and/or addressing stuttering and fear of public speaking. The acting is superb by every performer, and I encourage you to see it as soon as possible!

The movie is rated R, most likely for language, which is used during the course of the unorthodox therapy session. It stars Colin Firth as King George VI, Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth, and Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue. Check out more details about the movie here:

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Spirit of Cairo

by Thomas Whitley

Our interim pastor, Dr. Gerald Keown, preached this past morning from Isaiah 58. Verses 6-7 speak of the type of fast that God desires:

Is this not the fast which I choose:

To loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house…

It occurs to me that this is exactly the spirit we have seen in Cairo as of late where Christians have protected Muslims at prayer and vice versa. People are fighting against wickedness and oppression and are caring for one another in remarkable ways. I have even seen a picture today of rocks that had been used to defend Tahrir Square turned into a cross and crescent.

As my late mentor and friend Dr. Goodman used to say, when you see God at work among another group, recognize it for what it is and celebrate and honor it. Many people in Egypt are showing us what it is like to live a life in line with the spirit of God, yes secular Egyptians, Christians, and even Muslims. I, for one, recognize it and celebrate it.

Thomas Whitley is an adjunct professor of religion who lives in Columbia, SC, with his wife, Trinity, who is a Student Minister. This article originally appeared on his blog,

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Faith Postures – A Review

by Rev. Laura Barclay

Faith Postures: Cultivating Christian Mindfulness is the first book by Holly Sprink, a graduate of Truett Seminary. In it, she relates the mindfulness of yoga to the Christian faith. Sprink’s hope is that we can make our faith a fully present reality in our daily lives and actions, rather than relegating it to Sundays and Wednesday evenings. Through short vignettes and assignments at the end of each chapter, the reader is invited to come along on the journey toward a greater understanding of the present reality of God, our neighbor, and the wonder of creation.

Sprink shows how a person can use intentional, contemplative spirituality to move from an inward to an outward focus. By being conscious of our thoughts and practices, we begin to shape and mold our behaviors to incorporate compassion for our brothers and sisters in Christ. In the first part of her book, we are invited to perceive how God works in our lives, take notice of ourselves and our capabilities, look for the kingdom of God, notice where Jesus story meets ours, realize when obstruct the witness of Christ, and learn about the plight of our neighbors, near and far. In one chapter, she recounts her story of being a chaplain in a South African support group for women infected with HIV and AIDS. The experience was overwhelming, but her ability to comfort these women was strengthened by her capacity to see Jesus in the room with them. At the end of the chapter invites us to, “Voice a prayer of thanks for God’s total identification with us, the objects of his love” (31).

In the second part of Faith Postures, Sprink invites us to realign ourselves to God’s reality by seeking different “postures” or practices of faith. She encourages us to find beauty in the monotonous, to renew and excite ourselves with worship, look for hope in death, realign ourselves to hospitality, be contented, become peacemakers, share, show toleration for others’ beliefs, and above all, love. She shares the story of finding hope throughout the last days of her grandfather’s life. Along with her anger and fear, she found ways to remind herself that God was with her and also mourning this end. She incorporates biblical stories and scriptures throughout each vignette to center us in scripture. Her ability to weave biblical texts into her own narrative connects her thesis to scripture and tradition, and also allows for the verses to come alive as she relates each topic to our present reality.

Perhaps the best way that she invites us to mindfulness is the reflection questions at the end of each chapter. Sometimes there are active assignments, like reading about issues facing foreign countries. Many times, we are invited to pray, reflect on our day, or find ways that the lesson intersects with our lives. As someone who formerly took yoga, and would like to take it up again, I appreciated the translation of yoga’s lessons into the Christian life & scriptures for further contemplation. I encourage you to read this for personal reflection, renewal, and deepening of your active spirituality.

For more information on Faith Postures, check out this website:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Celebrating 200 Years – Old Records Tell a Story

by Dr. Mark T. White

From the yellowing pages of The Raleigh Times, the Triangles’ now defunct “evening paper,” comes the story of a church which dates back to 1811. Voices of the past, speaking through spidery, old-fashioned handwriting, tell the trials, triumphs, and even the misdemeanors of a once small church of long ago, now the First Baptist Church of Clayton.

Our church, which now covers over two city blocks, was once only an ambitious little church located across the railroad tracks from what was Bartex Mill and near the old McCuller’s Cemetery in what is now West Clayton.

Records show that the church was founded by William Creath of Virginia and Robert T. Daniel of Wake County. It was then called Johnston Liberty Meeting House. The first two members received into the church were Judith Avery, and Regdon Johnson, who became its first pastor.

According to The Raleigh Times article written by Betty Garvey, who was a member of our church, the elders kept a careful eye on their flock and condemned offenses such as card playing, gossiping, drinking, dancing, and something they discreetly called “disorderly walking.” Anyone who stepped out of line was reported to a committee composed of the pastor and church elders. Unless the sinner repented and asked for forgiveness, he was either expelled for a limited period, or excommunicated from the church.

From 1839 to the latter 1800’s, the church diary is merely one long record of misdemeanors. The clerks who kept the records seemed to record every detail of member’s offenses. “The elders probably became distraught with some of their women folks,” wrote Miss Garvey. “The strict rules and regulations of the church stamped out all the women’s natural forms of expression such as gossiping, arguing, and bustle-twitching; therefore, the women who yielded to their natural impulses could be assured of monthly meetings with the elders.”

Now, the Baptists and the Methodists are on the best of terms, but once the relationship was not so loving. In March of 1842, “Eliza Turner was excommunicated for disorderly conduct and for associating with the Methodists in Raleigh.” The career of Lewis Poole can be followed with interest. After a long life of ups and downs and monthly moral skirmishes with the elders, he finally wrote a letter of apology to the church in May of 1858. He was given the gentle boot of the church elders; however, evidently he and the church became reconciled because six years later he was excommunicated again for associating with the Methodists!

I’m glad we’re living in the 21st century, because oftentimes I’m found associating with those pesky Methodists myself!

Mark T. White is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Clayton, NC. This article first appeared in their church newsletter, The Outlook.