A new series, The Convent, has just begun on BBC2. It runs for the next 3 Wednesdays at 9pm, following the stay of four women at a Roman Catholic convent for 40 days. I find it a fascinating watch - as I did a previous series focusing on five men who similarly stayed in The Monastery. It was filmed at Arundel, and has a great site here which even includes personal pages for each of the sisters.
What has been so brilliant about the two series is the way in which, surrounded by a Christian community, many of the deeper issues of human existence have come to the surface for the particpants. Each have sought to find God at work among the building blocks of self-worth, moral failure, ingrained personality traits, foundational memories and questions of life direction.
In this version one of the women is a recent evangelical convert and ex-alcoholic running on the spiritual equivalent of cocaine. Another is a deeply emotionally-scared woman abandoned as a child who thinks God is punishing her. A third is a successful single, driven business woman who feels her life is shallow and can initially only see time as a utilitarian resource for achieving surther success. And the fourth - obviously chosen for entertainment value by the producers - is an atheist hippy who lives in an open marriage.
It sounds like ecclesiastical big brother, but I think it avoids such crassness.What I really love about these programmes is that they show that the heart of Christianity is about the remaking of whole people in Christ's image (as opposed to the car-salesman view of Christianity where the aim is simply to succumb to a "do you accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour?" pitch or risk a roasting in hell).
I've not seen the full series yet, but going on the press reviews The Convent seems to be able to weave its healing magic to varying degrees for its inmates, just as The Monastery did for the men.*
It's well worth a sympathetic meditative viewing (in between the football, that is).
[*For those who missed the first series, in the case of The Monastery, filmed at Worth Abbey, one guy said his encounter with God caused him to leave the soft-porn industry; another revisited the idea of a vocation as a priest; an ex-paramilitary gave up his job to work in prisons; and even the toughest of the group decided his high-pressure high-income career was no longer his life's calling. Only an older poet seemed not to be changed much...]