Church hosts classes on 'Harry Potter' and Christianity

Church hosts classes on 'Harry Potter' and Christianity

CUMBERLAND - Harry Potter and the Christian faith. No, it's not a lost book to the seven-part series that has continued to mesmerize readers and movie-goers of all ages since J.K. Rowling penned the first installment in 1997.

Rather, it is an upcoming program hosted by Emmanuel Episcopal Church in which participants will discuss Harry's adventures in the context of Christian theology.

Good and evil, incarnation, Eucharist and resurrection are among the concepts that run parallel between the wizarding world and the Christian faith, said the Rev. Joan Testin of Emmanuel, a self-proclaimed "huge 'Harry Potter' fan" who has read each of the books between 10 and 12 times.

The concept of sacrifice, for example, she said, is demonstrated by both Harry and his mother.

But while resurrection is a large part of both the Christian faith and "Harry Potter," as Lord Voldermort comes back to life several times, they are not equal, Testin explained. Where Lord Voldermort makes a follower cut off his own hand as a sacrifice to complete a resurrection, "Jesus doesn't demand like Voldermort did," she said, showing "the antithesis of what we proclaim as Christians."

The discussion-based classes were inspired by the Rev. Danielle Tumminio, who teaches a course at Yale University using her book, "God and Harry Potter at Yale: Teaching Faith and Fantasy Fiction in an Ivy League Classroom."

Testin said that regardless of religious affiliation, everyone thinks about God regularly, even if it is to decide that no higher power exists.

"We're all theologians," Testin said. "We all think about God."

While she said some Christian denominations have denounced the books for supposed Satanic content of magic, the Episcopal Church was not one of them.

"(J.K. Rowling) has over and over again proclaimed her Christianity. Who we are comes out in our writing," Testin said, noting that there are themes, but no direct reference to Jesus or God.

Sunday classes start Oct. 20, and continue monthly through May 2014, always running from 6 to 7 p.m. in the church at 120 Nate Whipple Highway. A different book will be discussed each month, leaving Muggles plenty of time to refresh their memories or even read the books for the first time.

Movie clips will also be shown during the class, so while it is open to readers of all ages, some parts may be too frightening for young children.

Testin does stress that the free program is open to the public, regardless of religious affiliation. There will be no offerings collected, and even voluntary donations will be turned down. No money will be changing hands at all, Testin said, and there will be no recruiting to join the church.

Rather, it is just a chance for "Harry Potter" fans to lead discussions and search for more meaning in their favorite texts.

"In the Episcopal Church, nobody is supposed to check their brains at the door," Testin said, adding that the goal is to "start to get people to think about the deeper meaning of life."

The schedule of books and topics of discussion is as follows:

* Oct. 20 - "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" - evil and good.

* Nov. 24 - "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" - sin and love.

* Dec. 22 - "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" - incarnation.

* Jan. 26, 2014 - "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" - Eucharist and resurrection.

* Feb. 23, 2014 - "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" - salvation and community.

* March 23, 2014 - "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" - faith and The Chosen One.

* April 27, 2014 - "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" Part 1 - wilderness and revelation.

* May 18, 2014 - "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" Part 2 - sacrifice and grace.

For more information, call the church at 401-658-1510.