by Iwan Russell-Jones
I knew that I had to make this film after my wife, Amanda, and I took part in the ‘Boat Course’, a remarkable educational experience that Loren and Mary Ruth Wilkinson devised and have been offering at Regent College for many years.
From the Wilkinson’s home on Galiano students and teachers set off together in two rowing boats on an 8-day voyage around the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, to think, study, discuss and meditate on the meaning of life on this our beautiful and fragile planet – to ponder Technology, Wilderness and Creation (to give the course its correct title).
It was an unforgettable trip – shipping our oars while a pod of Orcas crossed the channel just metres in front of us, standing in wonder on the beach in the dead of night as the sea was lit up by millions of plankton working their miracle of bioluminescence, reading the Scriptures and praying together using the rhythms of Celtic daily prayer in the stunning setting of the Pacific Northwest, contemplating the devastating long-term impact of the acidification of the oceans … And weaving it all together with insight, poetry and passion was Loren himself, who has spent decades of his life thinking and teaching about the human experience and its relationship to a biblical understanding of creation.
At the end of the course when we were discussing what kind of action each of us might be taking in the light of all that we had learned, I realised that I wanted to make a film with Loren centred around these important themes. And so it began.
Film-making can be a wonderfully collaborative process, and that was certainly true in this case. “Making Peace with Creation” provided an opportunity to draw on the skills and experience of a very talented group of students, some of whom had already indicated their interest in working on a documentary with me. A local camera professional, husband of another of our students, offered his services and kit free of charge, and, given the fact that we had very little money to make the film, this was a decisive development. For me, it’s a source of pride and joy that the credit list, from production team, camera and sound operators and drone pilot, through to film editor, graphic designer, artists and musicians, is dominated by people directly connected with Regent College.
The key collaborators to get on board from the very beginning, of course, were the Wilkinsons, and they were understandably wary. Loren is currently working on a book centred on these themes, and both he and Mary Ruth were concerned that involvement in a film would be a serious distraction. Thankfully, they were open to persuasion, and could see the merit in a film that not only explores the same serious questions addressed in the book, but that also features a number of Loren’s poems which beautifully express his powerful Christian vision. By happy accident, a volume of his collected poetry, Imago Mundi, was published just as we were completing the film.
I learned the craft of film-making at the BBC where I spent many years producing and directing documentaries and educational programmes for chidren and adults. The mission of the BBC is to educate, inform and entertain, and in its almost 90 year history it has insisted that these are not mutually exclusive aims. Although it’s not a fashionable view, particularly among academics, I firmly believe in the power of film and television to celebrate, explore, challenge and even sometimes, perhaps, to change the world.
And that is my hope for Making Peace with Creation and the study guide that accompanies it. There are few more pressing issues facing the human race in the 21st century than that of our care and responsibility for God’s world.
In this film Loren places the cross of Jesus Christ at the very centre of creation, a sign of the self-emptying love of God which is the basis of our hope and the pattern for our engagement with one another and with our threatened planet.
Iwan Russell-Jones is head of the Christianity and the Arts program, Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and the first incumbent of the Eugene and Jan Peterson Chair in Theology and the Arts at Regent College in Vancouver. Read the Faith Today interview with Loren Wilkinson in the latest issue. And subscribe today.