by Steve Laube
This past weekend I had the privilege, once again, to attend and participate in the C.S. Lewis Foundation’s Fall retreat in Houston.
Not a typical writers conference it focuses on the extraordinary contribution of Lewis and his fellow Inklings and ultimately a celebration of the Arts in light of the incarnation of Christ. The speakers were extraordinary. They included:
Devin Brown (one of my clients), professor at Asbury University and author of The Christian World of the Hobbit
Diana Glyer, professor at Azusa and author of The Company They Keep: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community
Malcolm Guite, Chaplain and Fellow, Girton College Cambridge and author of The Singing Bowl. He is also an accomplished musician
Louis Markos, professor at Houston Baptist University and author of Restoring Beauty: The Good, the True, and the Beautiful in the Writings of C.S. Lewis
Max McLean, president of Fellowship for the Performing Arts and is best known for his audio recordings of the Bible and for his theatrical presentations of The Screwtape Letters
I sat in two workshops on writing given by Malcolm Guite, the first appropriately titled “The Word and the words.” (the capitalization is intentional). During his presentations I heard more extemporaneous quotation of Shakespeare, Gerald Manly Hopkins, George Herbert, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, and Bob Dylan than I have ever heard in my life. I felt my mind and soul swell as they were slowly filled with so much art and incarnation that I could barely stand it.
That evening we sat entranced by Max McLean’s dramatic reading of C.S. Lewis’ sermon “The Weight of Glory.” The range of thoughts and emotions that coursed through me as I listened included conviction, delight, joy, gratitude, intimidation and ultimately inspiration. I had never heard it read before having always treated it as a written essay because of the book by the same name. But Lewis wrote it as a sermon at the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford, on June 8, 1942. May I challenge you to read it before the end of the year? (Here is a link to a PDF of its text.) Max McLean’s presentation was astonishing. He made it come alive. I wish everyone I know could have been there to experience it.
The second day was equally stimulating. A morning plenary by Diana Glyer called “Rough Magic: Lewis, Tolkien, and the Alchemy of Creative Conflict” explored the differences that made the friendship of Lewis and Tolkien so powerful.
Then followed to breakout sessions with four course offerings in each. I had the fun of speaking on “The Marks of a Christian Writer.” Later that afternoon was a plenary by Louis Markos who spoke on Lewis’ The Four Loves which explored the necessity for friendships as part of a healthy Christian life. (You would enjoy Dr. Markos’ 12 part audio course on C.S. Lewis available from The Great Courses online.)
The evening was filled with a concert by Malcolm Guite and ended with an hour long presentation by the Ad Deum Dance Company with brought dance into worship and interpretation in a glorious way.
There was fellowship, stimulating conversation, debating great ideas and more. What a weekend. If you ever have the opportunity to attend one of the events sponsored by the C.S. Lewis Foundation please make every effort to do so. Next Summer is their major Oxbridge event in England.
Was there a highlight conference for you this year?
Sounds amazing and unique Steve. There is a C.S.Lewis library in the basement at Taylor University where my daughter attends as a professional writing student–I think it sealed the deal for her when she was making her college selections. Perhaps someday, when she’s not a poor college kid, she can attend the conference you went to. For me, ACFW is the bomb. If I never get represented or published, my life has still been enriched by so many wonderful people that it’s been worth the ride!
I love the works of C.S. Lewis! The Screwtape Letters is my favorite, but everything of his is absolutely fascinating.
Steve, I’m so envious, I’m a lovely forest green this morning. I adore C. S. Lewis and own several biographies as well as his books. Thank you for letting us know about this conference. My favorite conference to date involved critiquing in two small groups – by an editor and agent- over 3 days. Powerful, professional critiquing of my and others’ writing is enormously helpful. It was Andrea Brown’s Big Sur Children’s Writers Conference. No pandering, just straightforward feedback. Looking forward to 2014 Mt. Hermon critique/mentoring track with Jeff Gerke for my Christian speculative fiction.
Thanks for the good write-up about this wonderful conference which I also attended. Your presence and wisdom, Steve, always add so much to this rich learning environment. The C.S. Lewis Foundation has high standards and does a consistent job of providing conferences packed with outstanding speakers and entertainment yet priced for an excellent value to attendees.
Oh, to be a fly on the wall!
Two years ago, I was part of a bible study that began each class by following along in a specific chapter that was read by Max McLean. His voice is soothing and engaging. I agree that he does bring the scriptures to life, but I can’t really describe it. It’s like I’m sitting with him in biblical times. That is how well he paints the picture with his voice. We nicknamed him “Dr. Frasier” hehe, and over half the group put him on our ipods. With all you mentioned, Steve, I can see why you cup is overflowing with spiritual riches.
KT, I attended the Andrea Brown conference 4 years ago! Yep. You nailed it. Get to the point, let’s not mess around type feedback. I clicked with a fellow author there and we have formed a fantastic friendship both on a writing and personal level. Connecting with fellow aspiring writers is a huge blessing and a priceless reason to attend a conference. Maybe, I’ll see ya at Mt. Hermon…. I’m working on it…
OK, J.D., hope to see you there!
What an amazing weekend. One day I’d love to go to England and visit some of the places C. S. Lewis lived/visited/ wrote/ or whatever. What an amazing man.
Thanks for sharing about your weekend.
(I live in Wilmore where Asbury University is located and good friends with many of the professors. I’m trying to remember if I’ve met Devin Brown. Both of my boys have gone to college there, so I think at some point we may have met.)
Thanks for the link to “The Weight of Glory”! It’s a new piece for me, and I’ve been thinking about it all day. It’s been a luminous autumn day here in the mountains, and I love the idea that we will “pass in through Nature, beyond her, into that splendour which she fitfully reflects.”