“This summer… we’ve been learning about how Harry Potter can be in our lives– not physically, but spiritually.” -Mara, WBUUC Youth
Truth can be found in all sorts of unexpected places. Because our impulse is to form beliefs about what is true from our own experiences, it takes training and discipline to remember that there are so many other experiences, different from our own, that we need to consider as we piece
together the puzzle of what is true. It takes discipline and a commitment to being in beloved community to truly discover, divine, and dive into Truth.
This summer, I worked with a group of youth to help them dig deeper into Truth through a beloved text- the Harry Potter series. The idea was inspired by a wonderful podcast, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, that challenges the listeners to use sacred reading practices to dig deep into the text.
Each week, we studied a different chapter through the lens of a theme, and invited youth to search for these themes in the text with all its magic and imperfections.
We then asked youth to think about where these themes like mercy, isolation, hospitality and humor show up in their own lived experiences, and what these lessons call us to do in our own lives.
It was beautiful to watch the youth as they deepened their relationships, not only with the text, but also with one another. They became seasoned in not just finding lessons in words on paper, but as seeing life experiences and stories shared between them as sacred text. The words and lessons of Harry Potter helped to hold this group through school endings and beginnings, as they tried to understand racism and hatred in our world, and through challenges with friends and family.
At the end of each class, we invited one another to engage in another practice inspired by the podcast: to offer a blessing to a character from the pages of the chapter or to a person in our lives. Teachers, parents, friends, perfect strangers, unsung heroes, the oft-misunderstood—living and imaginary—all received blessings from our thoughtful youth.
As weeks went by, our youth moved from stumbling through these practices, unsure of the path ahead, to becoming seasoned explorers, excitedly uncovering new lessons and callings and blessings, as if they were unlocking a secret door.
Our youth taught me that sacred reading practices are really practices in bearing witness—to the beauty of the text itself, to what the text evokes within us, and to the experiences that others share with us in the process. Bearing witness requires us to be present and mindful and genuine and open in a courageous way. I suppose, we don’t really need Harry Potter to do this. We just need to be present enough to lean into and to work together to uncover new truths, wherever we find them.