The large banner on the lawn of Leverington Church in Roxborough has been raising eyebrows as if it were a Wingardium Leviosa spell.
“If I read ‘Harry Potter meets Jesus,’ I’d probably think it was cheesy, too,” Pastor Langdon Palmer said. “But I didn’t know how else to put it.”
Palmer’s unconventional eight-week sermon series at the Presbyterian church, which started May 12, has raised something else, as well: attendance. He said weekly attendance has risen 10 percent to 20 percent.
“People are literally saying, ‘I came because of Harry Potter,’ ” he said. “It’s a little bit of pressure because hard-core Harry Potter fans know everything.”
Palmer, who has been pastor at Leverington Church for five years, almost didn’t do the series. He was afraid religious people who are skeptical of Harry Potter would think he was trivializing the Gospel. And he was worried that Harry Potter fans who are skeptical of the Bible would believe he was distorting the books to fit his own ends.
But as a man who loves both and as a pastor who sees a generation of people more familiar with the stories of Harry Potter than those in the Bible, he decided to go for it.
“I think if we’re going to be good teachers, we start with what people are familiar with to teach them about what they’re not familiar with,” said Palmer, 60.
In his sermons, which are available as podcasts on the church’s website, Palmer uses audio and visual clips from the Harry Potter films to illustrate his points. He equates the unexpected and mysterious letters Harry receives to join Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to unexpected and mysterious messages people might be receiving from God.
And he likens the relationship between Harry and Professor Albus Dumbledore, the wise but often inscrutable head wizard at Hogwarts, to his own relationship with God.
“It’s so parallel,” he said. “God is so good and so kind, but there are times he seems arbitrary, where he leaves, where he doesn’t explain himself — just like Dumbledore.”
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[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Stephanie Farr and originally published at The Inquirer. Title changed by P&P.]
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