Wednesday, July 27, 2005

a pilgrimage on your doorstep

this afternoon i did something i've been meaning to do for a long time: i went to see the home of CS Lewis - The Kilns - on the outskirts of Oxford.
in order to do this i had to become an American tourist for the day. there's a conference on in Oxford at the moment for about 450 Americans. The CS Lewis Foundation put it on each summer and get mega speakers to come and talk - Rick Warren was there on Monday morning. Chuck Colson at some point. Joss Ackland, the actor who played Lewis in the film 'Shadowlands' is coming to do a dramatic performance of one of Lewis's sermons - 'The Weight of Glory' - on Friday night (edit: it was Anthony Hopkins - Ackland played Lewis in something else). the Americans pay big bucks for all of this.
as some of the sessions are held at St Aldates church, where i am still currently on the staff, i snuck in (snuck in? i've been surrounded by Americans all afternoon and i think it's rubbed off) the other morning to hear Rick Warren, more out of curiosity than anything else. apparently, 'The Purpose Driven Life' has been the best selling book, globally, for the last 3 years in a row - more even than Harry Potter. Anyway, I wasn't expecting to like Warren at all but surprisingly i thought he was a really good speaker who had a lot of really good things to say. maybe i'm not as 'emerging' as i thought i was!
so, all week they're doing these tours of Lewis's house 'The Kilns' and i was talking this lunchtime to someone who used to work at St Aldates and is involved now in organising the conference and she suggested i hop on the coach and go. so i did. i pretty much managed to conceal my nationality all afternoon by being a miserable git and not talking to anyone.
It was great to visit the house, and the church down the road where Lewis and his brother Warren used to go for more than 30 years (and to sit in the spot he used to sit in). The CS Lewis Foundation have restored the house from old photographs to what it would have been like when Lewis lived there and it was very evocative to sit in his study and imagine him sitting at the desk and writing the Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity etc.
It's not just a museum but also a working study centre and there are a small number of post-grad students who live and study there during the academic year.

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