Authors Lavinia Byrne and Jane McBride has an unusual suggestion for connecting with God this Lent and it involves the classic musical.
Lent is a time in the Christian calendar when many choose to set aside time to think, pray, engage with scripture and its themes. As a result, we can find new ways to be and to behave in the world. In other words, we consider our place in God’s creation and how we use the time and resources we have in ways that build up those around us and help everyone to flourish.
We have written this Lent book in conjunction with the musical/movie West Side Story, and given it the title A Place for Us, after one of the musical’s most memorable songs. This evokes the idea of practically creating a place during Lent within which we reflect and around which we act.
West Side Story, like Romeo and Juliet on which it is based, and like the story of Jesus’ sacrifice, death and resurrection, is first and foremost, a love story. As with all love stories that involve human beings, where there is love there are also other complicated emotions such as jealousy, betrayal, exclusion and inclusion, anger, and frustration. All these emotions explode when the gangs of Jets and Sharks meet on the streets of New York. They are also present in the Gospel stories around Holy Week when divine love and human interest collide.
West Side Story, like the story of Jesus’ sacrifice, death and resurrection, is first and foremost, a love story.
Phil Lane, director of Oasis Belgium, a charity which helps in particular, trafficked women and refugee families, has written poems to accompany each chapter of the book. The poems look at issues of social justice linked to the book’s themes and emphasise the importance of reflection leading to action, of kindness expressed in generosity and help to those most in need.
West Side Story evokes violence and fear as well as self-sacrificial love and redemption, as does the Gospel story of Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, torture and crucifixion, death and resurrection. As Christians living in the world, we are called to hope and to help, to mourn with those who are sad, to celebrate with those who are happy.
The book contains different sections each week based on scenes from the movie, and each session includes a relevant bible passage, reflections, questions for discussion, and a poem. There are five chapters and the themes covered are belonging, otherness and difference, the gift of love, the promise of a place for us, and the tragedy of betrayal. The sessions may be followed individually or in a group.
Consider your place and space and the difference your life makes to those around you.
We hope that this Lent book will offer all those who use it an opportunity to consider the place and space they inhabit, and the lives that intersect with theirs, whether family members, friends, work colleagues, or strangers. The use of themes from a movie and the incorporation of poetry intend to underscore the ongoing relevance and timelessness of bible stories with which we are sometimes overfamiliar.
Take a fresh walk through the Gospels this Lent in the company of the cast of West Side Story, the lovers and the fighters. Consider your place and space and the difference your life makes to those around you. Take time for contemplation and then dare to act.
You can buy a copy of A Place For Us: A Lent course based on West Side Story here.