After the past couple of winters, I was surprised that the weather cooperated and the heavy snow went south of Clarke County. Last Friday there was only a light dusting of snow, as innocuous as confectionary sugar on a pastry; so on Saturday, anyone in Berryville who wanted to, had no problem arriving at the Barns of Rose Hill for the Preview of Saving Place, Saving Grace. In fact, so many people arrived that the 180-plus seat auditorium was sold out. An additional 75 who persisted were rewarded with an unscheduled second showing.
For literally years, now, George Patterson has been gathering material for the film–I remember him photographing the grad students from the University of Michigan’s School for the Environment and Natural Resources in 2009. Most of what George shot during all these years did not show up in the fifty-seven minute film or it would have ran for about a week! What did show was a familiarity with the Abbey, its members and a sensitive grasp of our vocation and way of life.
Documentaries rarely look so beautiful or display such complex layers of sound; but that’s not just window dressing. What is communicated, at least in my perception, is the transcendent beauty of the place, the sacramental character of natural beauty and its bio-diversity that allows us to be touched by the spiritual and meet the Creator in creation. Without that, the words to that effect would not have their force, could not convince.
In brief, the film is structured according the liturgical year, the season’s of which impinge upon nature’s yearly cycle. Within that framework, something of the Abbey’s history unfolds and our challenges and vulnerabilities are laid bare. Again, the natural setting is not just a frame for this story but a context. The monastic community is not seen–as is too often the case in similar films–as an exotic artifact, unchanging in timeless isolation, but as a developing, human reality, interacting with the real world about us. Our neighbors and our friends also play their part in the story and together we are shown building a future, taking responsibility for ourselves and contributing to the broader community about us.
What is also clear is the seamless connection between monastic spirituality–our commitment to the place and God’s creation–and our efforts to become better stewards of the environment. It is both our service to our human brothers and sisters, to creation and to the Creator.
YOU CAN VIEW SAVING GRACE, SAVING PLACE –copy and past into your browser: www.pbs.org/video/2365931560