As a priest, I’m always curious about shows featuring religious folk. That’s how I fell down the rabbit hole of Midnight Mass, a new horror/drama series on Netflix created and directed by Mike Flanagan, a former altar boy.
The 7 part limited series released in September, 2021 introduces us to Riley Flynn. Riley is returning to his familial home after spending four years in prison. With Riley, we enter the fishing community of Crockett Island. Riley’s return coincides with the arrival of a strange new priest, who has replaced the old monsignor at St. Patrick’s. It is these two arrivals that drive the series to its apocalyptic end.
Midnight Mass checks all the boxes for a horror film. The long shadow of evil stretches from the opening scenes into the intimate stories of the characters. The characters are surrounded by hints of violence and evil while still holding space for the good and mundane. By the time evil appears at the altar of St. Patrick’s, we are well prepared. Watching blood pour into a chalice is more sinister and sacred than most of us want to admit.
If you are an easily offended Christian, you’ll want to take a pass on this series. But if you are a person of faith willing to watch a a slow-burn horror film, Midnight Mass will meet your expectations for the genre and leave you with food for thought.
The series doesn’t demonize or disgrace people. The two Muslims and many Christians on Crockett Island are portrayed with honesty and respect. They are allowed to catastrophically fail and still find grace. In the extremity of their choices and the gruesomeness of their behaviors, we find a timeless morality tale.
As only this genre can do, suffering and death are pervasive in the plot. If the characters aren’t talking about it (and they do, a lot), they’re full gushing in it. But the true issue is how each one responds when evil emerges in the very places they call good. Like I said, a timeless morality tale. In the blurry goodness of hymn singing and candles, sermons and stories, the parishioners at St. Patrick’s become victims of sedated faith. The congregation’s willingness to hide all the warning signs in altar cloth and bible verses leaves them unprepared for the horror spawned among them.
Thank God, the source of the horror in this series is completely fantastical. But we have only to look around to see how abusive leaders and their misuse of their “sheeple” can be deadly. Faithful to the Christian tradition, Midnight Mass reminds us: death is not the last word, nor the worst outcome. It’s our choices that hold the greatest terror.
In the long history of the Church, men have held positions of leadership and power at all levels. This was as much true at St. Paul's as it was anywhere. In fact, as far as I can tell, I am the second female Rector. The first female lasted for about a year.
Now, not only do we have a female rector, we have a female deacon, and much of the leadership you see up front each week is female. That's great! Our vestry is comprised almost entirely of men, so there is good representation there. But, I don't want to commit a sin against men that was made against women. I'm talking about the sin of marginalization. While we would all agree that everyone belongs and should find support and voice in our community, to really achieve belonging, we need to be intentional to make space and create opportunities. We need to encourage men who might hang back, and, maybe, we need to create safe space for men to be together.
I've been listening to a podcast called, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. It's a deep dive into what happened at a Mega Church in Seattle when their outspoken pastor cultivated an environment of toxic masculinity with himself as the most toxic. Men were attracted to the church because it affirmed their value in their families, careers and Christ's Kingdom. But the message was wrapped in images of domination and misogyny. I wonder, how can we affirm and value men without the toxicity? Men are critically important in their relationships, families, careers, and Church - as are women, and folx who identify as neither or both. So how do we ensure that you, our St. Paul's men, are included?
I invite you to go to comment here, on our Blog page. Respond with your thoughts and opinions. Whatever your gender, share yourideas on how we might avoid marginalizing or de-valuing men at St. Paul's. Click the button below to get right to the spot.
It has been over a year since we were together regularly in person. Things have changed. We've changed. How do we strengthen our common bonds? Here are a few suggestions: