Seizing on the phenomenal success of Harry Potter books and films, the Church of England has published a resource guide advising youth leaders to harness the frenzy to promote Christianity, the Daily Telegraph reported on Wednesday, July 18.
"These sessions draw parallels between events in the world of Harry and his friends, and the world in which we are seeking to proclaim the gospel to young people," Owen Smith, youth worker at St Margaret's Church in Rainham, Kent, writes in the guide.
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The resource -- "Mixing it up with Harry Potter" – offers creative ideas for using the Potter books as a basis for Christian teaching.
It uses film scenes to prompt discussion about moral choices and extracts from the books to demonstrate the power of words and their impact on others.
From theological concepts such as sacrifice and mercy, to everyday issues such as fears and boasting, each of the 12 sessions provides a basis for an hour's discussions and activities.
The sessions include Bible verses that present the Christian perspective on the theme, and prayer activities drawing on the topic.
The guide is designed for use with 9-13 year olds and will be available for churches to purchase from a range of Christian and general booksellers.
The publication comes as the world awaits the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — the eagerly anticipated seventh and final book of the series — on Saturday, July 21.
Fans of the bespectacled boy wizard will be queuing outside bookstores around the globe to receive their copy of the book, which is expected to break records and become an instant best-seller when it is released.
Since its debut in 1997, Harry Potter books have gained immense popularity, selling more than 325 million copies in 200 countries and have been translated into more than 63 languages.
Smith, 24, and church leaders rushed to Potter's defense against earlier accusations by evangelicals for glamorizing the occult and attracting children to the idea of witchcraft.
"The magic in the books is simply part of the magic that J. K. Rowling has created, in the same way that magic is part of the world of Christian writers such as C. S. Lewis," reads the resource guide.
"To say, as some have, that these books draw younger readers towards the occult seems to me both to malign J. K. Rowling and to vastly underestimate the ability of children and young people to separate the real from the imaginary."
In recent years, the Potter phenomenon has received backing from church figures including the former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr George Carey, who described the film as "great fun" and a serious examination of good and evil.
Diocese of Oxford Bishop John Pritchard on Wednesday praised Rowling as a great storyteller.
"There's nothing better than a good story to make people think, and there's plenty in the Harry Potter books to make young people think about the choices they make in their everyday lives and their place in the world," he said.
"Jesus used storytelling to engage and challenge his listeners."