Religion and popular culture sparked the imaginations and deep spiritual discussions from comic book nerds, gamers and superhero fans of all ages on Sept. 29 at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia.
ΘeoCon (pronounced thee-oh-con) is a one-day convention where attendees gather to explore themes of theology and morality in pop culture. These mediums include comic books, graphic novels, gaming and science fiction films. The set up was in a comic-con style venue for participants to explore connections between speculative fiction, fandoms, pop culture and how myths make meaning in the world.
This is the first gathering by the organization held for people of faith.
The opening ceremony began with a performance by the Kankouran West African Dance Company and greetings from Shayna Watson, creator of ΘeoCon and alumna of the seminary. A reference to “Stars Wars” was used towards the end from the prayer — “May the Force be with you” — with some members of the audience responding, “And also with you,” a humorous nod to Catholic and Episcopalian services.
The plenary sessions combined ministry and outreach work in communities that ties in with comics and sci-fi. Most speakers on the panel were clergy from various Christian denominations and shared how they connected with the characters from DC Comics, Marvel and the game “Dungeons & Dragons” to foster religious life through storytelling.
ΘeoCon’s Sacred Marketplace had vendors selling comic books, games and accessories for fans. Podcast hosts were there to promote their shows, while Travis Dawson from Photo Fun Zone in Burke, Virginia, had a free photo booth allowing attendees to take pictures with famous comic heroes as a backdrop, including Black Panther.
A game truck was located outside for participants to play video games. The truck was provided by Xtreme Game Experience based in Fort Washington, Maryland.
The Fandomentals sessions were workshops with presenters on topics about virtual sacraments, how to use the storytelling process to heal from trauma, and African-American women protagonists’ morality in sci-fi and perspectives on Harry Potter.
Watson shared with the audience that she plans to go international and schedule the next ΘeoCon on a day when those of Jewish and Muslim faiths can participate. She also wants representation from other religious faiths, as well as atheists and humanists, at the next convention.
The closing ceremony was hosted by Betsy Gonzalez from Popping Collars Podcast. A raffle was held for participants to get comic and sci-fi theme pins and posters and a Cosplay Walk with people in their favorite comic and movie characters.