One might be hard-pressed to find a more rewarding faith experience than the Harry Potter Retreat, which took place Saturday and Sunday at Chapman Lake. Combining elements of spirituality and fantasy, the retreat centered on some of the dominant themes present in the Harry Potter books, such as identity, forgiveness and death. As participants of the retreat, we were asked to focus on these as parts of our own life experiences and further analyze them within the context of the books. Harry Potter finds himself in a new world and has to forge his identity as “the boy who lived.” He has to find forgiveness in himself and learn to forgive those who have hurt him. And he constantly faces death in those he has lost at the hands of his enemy, Lord Voldemort. These are subjects not foreign to anyone.
While most are familiar with the books to some degree, not all who read them take notice of the aspects of spirituality within them. I certainly did not. But after attending the retreat, this reality could not be clearer. There were four talks given regarding the themes of identity, forgiveness and death, and each one brought with it a deep personal revelation in facing these difficulties by growing through them. The theme of death in the novel is most prominent; we were encouraged to reflect upon the many deaths faced in our own lives, whether the deaths of loved ones or the death of self. We reflected on Albus Dumbledore’s quote, “The true master does not seek to run away from death. He accepts that he must die, and understands that there are far, far worse things in the living world than dying.” However dark this prospect seems, the novels, like the Christian faith, tell us that accepting death brings about the blessing of new life. This is just one example of a theme we explored and discussed.
Although the retreat dealt with serious subjects, it was filled with lighthearted activities. We started off by making our own wands with art supplies and were greatly entertained with a Harry Potter-themed scavenger hunt.
At night, after winding down the first day, the participants and leaders partook in a very competitive and highly energized hour of Harry Potter trivia. Overall, the leaders of the retreat could not have done a better job. They mixed work with fun all in great spirits and brought the true magic of Harry Potter to us all. Whether it was in the Room of Requirement, the Burrow, the cupboard under the stairs or Hogsmeade, we were all encouraged to share insight with respect to the novels and with respect to ourselves. Rev. Rick Malloy closed the retreat with a wonderful summary on the importance of the books in light of spirituality and emphasized the many ways Harry Potter coincides with Christian beliefs.
I would encourage anyone to sign up for the Harry Potter retreat as soon as possible. I also ask for all those who are fans of the series to look a bit deeper into the world of Harry Potter and reflect upon the spiritual reality within it.
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