From Oxford to Cambridge

Saturday, July 29th, was transfer day. Around 10 a.m., we boarded the double-decker bus from St. Catherine’s College in Oxford to Robinson College in Cambridge, about a two hour trip. Since our afternoon was free, our All Saints’ Group (which, by attrition now numbered eight; three people were only here for the first week), walked into town for lunch. Although Cambridge is generally more quaint and less busy than Oxford, you mightn’t have been able to tell on this day. Tourists were everywhere! We were concerned about whether or not we might find a place to eat together, but finally we found a pleasant spot that served very good food.

Walking from Robinson College, Cambridge to town

Punting on the Cam River

Lunch with the All Saint’s gang at The Senate

Have you ever seen a garbage can playing guitar? Come to Cambridge!

Walking back to Robinson College in the rain, crossing the quad of Claire College

After a delicious lunch of sea bass, an old-fashioned, and a glass of port, I joined the group for punting. I initially found it strange that we would all be kicking footballs, but soon discovered that the word has a different meaning here in Cambridge. From Wikipedia: “A punt is a flat-bottomed boat with a square-cut bow, designed for use in small rivers or other shallow water. Punting refers to boating in a punt. The punter generally propels the punt by pushing against the river bed with a pole.” So, we hired a private boat and punted for forty-five minutes on the Cam river. Parts were idyllic, although most of the time we were playing bumper boats with the mass of humanity also punting on this day, some of whom were punting their own boats with no experience and clogging up the narrow waterway. It was pleasant, however, slowly traveling the calm waters while viewing the backs of a number of Cambridge colleges.


Our punter (with Linda and Martha) with the “Mathematical Bridge” behind

Oxford had one; so does Cambridge — The Bridge of Sighs

On the evening of our first day in Cambridge, we were in for a special treat. Max McLean, founder and artistic director of Fellowship for Performing Arts, a New York City-based producer of live theater from a Christian worldview. He has performed a number of one-man shows based on works by C. S. Lewis and the Scripture. Cindy and I had seen his Screwtape Letters in the states. On this evening he performed “The Most Reluctant Convert,” a powerful and wonderfully presented story of the conversion of C. S. Lewis from atheism to Christianity. The after-show Q&A was equally enjoyable. He commented on how this audience was different than any other he performs for in that we were a group of people that traveled halfway around the world to study C. S. Lewis.

Robinson College, our home base in Cambridge.

The Set for Max McLean’s “The Most Reluctant Convert”

Max fielding some questions from the audience after his outstanding performance.

Sunday morning was free. I used the time to get caught up on blogging, among other things. Then, at 11:30, we boarded the bus for Ely Cathedral. Ely is situated about 14 miles northeast of Cambridge and is home to a massively beautiful church which dates from the 11th century. However before we visited the cathedral, we were blessed to visit with 90 year-old Mary Turner, the widow of a respected Greek Scholar Nigel Turner. She lives in a 17th-century house right across from the Cathedral. Martha, one of the ladies in our group, became friends with her many years ago on previous visits to the C. S. Lewis Summer Institute. She served us lunch and entertained us with her stories, her home, and her beautiful gardens.

Our first glimpse of Ely Cathedral upon exiting the bus.

The storybook home of Mrs. Nigel Turner

The majestic Ely Cathedral

Martha and Mary inside Marry’s lovely home.

What a view through the window!

In Mary’s kitchen with the food she prepared for our lunch. She was so kind and sweet!

From the garden in the rear of the home; Ely cathedral towering above in the background.

Mary’s lovely garden.

Our All Saints’ group in the garden.

After leaving her home, I walked a quarter-mile to see the house of the controversial Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland, during the 17th century English Civil War. On the way back to the Cathedral, I walked down High Street in this small, ancient town of Ely. I spent my time before the beginning of Evensong walking through the Cathedral, admiring it’s grandeur. I was saddened by all the damage done during the reign of Henry VIII when he gave the order for the dissolution of the monasteries. So much beauty was destroyed in Catholic churches and abbeys. Most of the niches of the cathedral which once bore statues were empty. The beautiful stained glass of the Lady Chapel was destroyed. Other decorative features were defaced or destroyed as well.

Ely Cathedral

Oliver Cromwell’s home from the 1600s in Ely

Interior of Ely Cathedral

One of the distinct architectural features of Ely Cathedral is this octagonal tower in the center.

An architectural marvel.

Looking through the choir into the apse.,

One small detail of the beautiful stained-glass windows.

Thanks to Henry VIII — empty niches.

Looking up into the octagonal tower.

Evensong was a glorious experience! The C. S. Lewis Chamber Choir transported us into heavenly places with their song. The sounds of praise reverberated through the massive cathedral providing an aesthetic and spiritual encounter not experience by many. How blessed we were!

Our C. S. Lewis Summer Institute Choir rehearsing for Evensong.

Back at Robinson College in Cambridge, we had dinner before attending a performance by the Ad Deum Contemporary Dance Company, communicating the beauty of the Christian message through dance. It was a lovely end to the evening.

Ad Deum Dance Company

Communicating truth through dance.

Two Days in Oxford (Part 2)

The morning of Thursday, July 27th began with a great devotional by the Orthodox bishop Kallistos Ware, followed by plenary addresses from Joseph Loconte and Lael Arrington. During the afternoon, I skipped my second sketching class for some sightseeing. (Actually, I showed up at the wrong place for the class. I would be considerably late by the time I joined the class, so I thought I’d launch out on my own.)

The eminent Orthodox bishop and theologian, Kallistos Ware speaking to us concerning our individual callings.

Joseph Loconte

Kimberly Reiter, whose testimony of coming to Christ from atheism through singing sacred choral music in college and then reading the works of C. S. Lewis, was remarkable.

I visited the wonderful Ashmolean Museum, which was much more impressive than I had imagined. Cindy and I were in Oxford six years ago on our England vacation. We saw many sights, but there were some we didn’t see, including the Ashmolean. From antiquities to modern art, one could find it all there.

Panel from an altarpiece showing St. Catherine of Alexandria.

Small panel painting of Jerome reading in the desert.

After the Ashmolean, I visited Keble College for the soul purpose of hunting down a painting. The college was founded in 1870 by John Keble, who had been a leading member of the Oxford Movement, which sought to stress the Catholic nature of the Church of England. The college itself was pretty, but I walked steadily toward the Kebel College Chapel, in which resides the English Pre-Raphaelite artist, Holman Hunt, painting, The Light of the World. In this allegorical work, Jesus stands on the outside, knocking at an overgrown, long-unopened door which has no handle on the outside. It must be opened from the inside.

The Quadrangle at Keble College, which was established in 1870 as a monument to John Keble, an important figure in the Oxford movement, stressing the Catholic nature of the Anglican Church.

The beautiful Keble Chapel

William Holman Hunt’s famous The Light of the World in the side chapel.

Magnificent Last Judgment Mosaic on the rear wall of the chapel.

Finally, I walked over to Christ Church College, whose illustrious alumni include Lewis Carroll, John Locke, and John Wesley. It’s Great Hall was the inspiration for the Hogwart’s Hall in Harry Potter. The Cathedral is a twelfth century church and has a famous choir which has been there since 1526, when John Taverner was the organist and also master of the choristers. Cindy and I did see Christ Church when we were here before, but we did not go into the Picture Gallery. Today I visited this small museum which had a number of significant works of art in an uncrowded space.

The beautiful grounds of Christ Church College

Christ Church College grounds

I love the way this tree grows up the side of the building and branches outward.

The famous (and crowded) Great Hall of Christ Church.

In the Dining Hall

The striking Tom Quad within Christ Church College

Christ Church Cathedral

The Michael Stained Glass Window

What a beautiful ceiling!

In the picture gallery: Sandro Botticelli’s Sybils

Picture Gallery: Albrecht Durer Engraving of The Dream of the Doctor.

On Thursday evening, I attended a Hymn Sing at Holy Trinity Church just outside of Oxford. Holy Trinity is famous for being the church of C. S. Lewis. It is not a large cathedral, but a simple parish church. In the graveyard surrounding the church lies the tomb of C. S. Lewis and his brother. The church also possesses a “Narnia Window” in honor of Lewis’ extremely popular and influential series, The Chronicles of Narnia. The singing of the hymns, led by the C. S. Lewis Chamber Choir in the church of C. S. Lewis, was quite an experience.

Our first glimpse of Holy Trinity

The burial site of C. S. Lewis

Holy Trinity from the cemetery.

C. S. Lewis Choir practicing prior to the hymn sing.

Holy Trinity’s Narnia Window to honor former parishioner, C. S. Lewis

Friday was another great day. It’s beginning, however was a little rough. It started with a 1:00 a.m. fire alarm going off in the building I was sleeping in. The most annoying, screeching alarm drove us into the courtyard for about ten minutes before the all clear was given. Of course, by then, I was so adrenalized I couldn’t get back to sleep so well. Then, at breakfast, I was asked to go check on a lady that I had seen 36 hours prior. She was a 70-something year old sweet lady who was riding in the transport van when it rear-ended another vehicle. She hit her face and head on the seat in front of her and had a couple of small cuts around her right eye which did not require sutures. She was taking a blood thinner (Plavix) daily. If she had rolled into an emergency department where I was working, I would have scanned her head. But, since I had no scanner, we talked about the signs and symptoms of an intracranial hemorrhage. All day the next day she stayed in her room, but someone checked on her and felt she was okay. At breakfast this morning, however, she was confused and having difficulty speaking. After briefly assessing her, I felt she needed to go to the hospital. The staff at the conference gave me the emergency number to call (111, which I assumed was equivalent to our 911). I called and attempted to obtain assistance, but was told that there was no one available at this time and that she would put me in the queue and that someone would call me back when available. I thought, “This is a strange emergency system in Great Britain! I’ve got a lady with a potential brain bleed, and I’m being put in the queue.” The strangeness was clarified however, when someone called me back 15 minutes later. She said I needed to call 999 to have an ambulance come immediately. The conference folks thought the 111 number was an emergency response number, however it is a nursing triage line for folks who’d like advice on non-emergency issues. Once I dialed 999, the ambulance was there very quickly.

Anyway, I missed the first speaker of the day while attending to the needs of this lady. The next two speakers, however, were very good. We heard from Mary Poplin on Worldviews and then were treated to an exceptional hour of storytelling with 86 year-old, Walter Hooper, who shared anecdote after anecdote of his time spent with C. S. Lewis. It was wonderful!

The inimitable Walter Hooper, former private secretary of Lewis and now literary advisor for his estate.

The afternoon was free. So, after grabbing a quick bite to eat, I headed over to Magdalen (pronounced Mawdlin) College (founded in 1458), where C. S. Lewis spent the bulk of his career. I walked through the beautiful naveless chapel and gazed upon the charming cloister before going for a stroll on Addison’s Walk in the footsteps of Lewis, who often did the same. In fact, it was on this path in the autumn of 1931 when Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Hugo Dyson talked about myth and reality and the idea that Christianity was a myth with a unique difference, it was true. The conversations continued long into the evening. This was a turning point in Lewis’ coming to the Christian faith.

Fawns and a lamppost outside St. Mary’s. Sound familiar?

The magnificent chapel of Magdalen College.

Sepia stained-glass window of the last judgment in Magdalen College’s Chapel.

Reproduction of Da Vinci’s Last Supper in Magdalen College’s Chapel.

The Cloister at Magdalen College


The famous Addison’s Walk at Magdalen, notable in the story of C. S. Lewis’ conversion.

From a herd of fallow deer belonging to the college

The Hall at Magdalen

From Magdalen College, I attempted to visit the Bodlean Library, but was unable to do so because the tours were booked for the day. So, instead, I looked through the special Jane Austen exhibit at the Wesley library, a part of the Bodlean. Afterwards, I made my way back to the Ashmolean Museum for another, less-rushed, visit.

In the observance of 200 years since Austen’s death, the Bodleian Library’s Weston Library had this exhibit replete with an abundance of materials from Jane’s life.

The Ashmolean’s excellent exhibit of Raphael drawings (no photos were allowed inside).

At 6 p.m., I met up with my friends, Dave and Linda Marichal from All Saints in Lakeland, and my friend whom I first met in my days at Biola University, Holly Ordway. We attended a serene, yet beautiful, mass at Oxford Oratory (aka, St. Aloysius Catholic Church). This church was the home church of Tolkien, and also the church of Cardinal John Henry Newman. After mass, we walked around the corner to the Cafe Rouge, for a nice French meal and excellent conversation.

Saturday evening mass at the Oxford Oratory

St. Aloysius Catholic Church (The Oratory)

Interior of St. Aloysius

French dining at the Cafe Rouge

With this, the first half of the C. S. Lewis Summer Institute came to a close. On Saturday morning, we would transfer to Cambridge to continue this wonderful experience which challenges the intellect and the imagination.

Oxford, United Kingdom (Part 1)

Our first full day of the 2017 C. S. Lewis Summer Institute opened with inspired singing and worship in one of the lecture halls at St. Catherine’s College. The architecture and beauty in Oxford is amazing. Unfortunately, however, the main conference area this year is in a very modern (among the newer of the 38), might I say ugly, college. The buildings are blocky and uninspired. But, the beauty of our conference compensated for the less than inspiring surroundings.

On the morning of the first day, July 25, we were blessed with the autobiographical lecture of the president of the C.S. Lewis Society, J. Stanley Mattson, followed by a wonderful lecture on the power of art to inspire spiritual growth by the author of 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know, Terry Glaspey. Between the two presentations, the Summer Institute Choir performed. Wow!

Andrew Lazo interviewing C. S. Lewis Foundation president, Stanley Mattson.

The heavenly choir, one of the most outstanding choral groups I’ve been privileged to hear.

Terry Glaspey, addressing the conference.

In the afternoon of the first day, we all went our separate ways into breakout sessions. I decided to do something totally different (for me) and take the class on sketching. It was fun and interesting. There is one more class to go. After a roast duck dinner at the college dining hall, we walked over to the splendid Oxford Town Hall for a Traditional English Country Dance. I demonstrated my skills (or lack thereof) for a couple of dances before slipping out early to rest for the night.

19th Century Exterior of the Oxford Town Hall

With this sumptuous interior, we probably should have been doing the waltz, not old English country dancing.

The next morning, We were blessed in plenary sessions by Joesph Pearce and Andrew Lazo. After lunch with the All Saints’ crew at The King’s Arm Pub, I visited The Kilns, the home of C. S. Lewis in which he wrote all of his Narnia books, as well as other important works. It was great!

Joseph Pearce, former IRA terrorist, who is now an influential Christian thinker and speaker.

Andrew Lazo, respected speaker and writer on C. S. Lewis and the Inklings

Lunch at the King’s Arm Pub. Mmmm… Fish and Chips.

At the Kilns, so named because it was built on the site of a former brickworks.

C. S. Lewis’ Home

Lewis’ upstairs study where he wrote the Chronicles of Narnia

Lewis’ bedroom, next to his study

The pond back behind the home where Lewis would relax. The Kilns today is in a very blue collar neighborhood. The plant which produces the world’s supply of Mini Coopers is very near.

Lewis built this bomb shelter by the pond during WW II. Looks a little like a hobbit house!

On the evening of the 26th, we made our way back to the University Church of St. Mary the virgin for a special treat, a concert by the C. S. Lewis Chamber Choir and the City of Oxford Orchestra. The beautiful music performed in such a glorious space as this 11th century gothic was a sensory experience unmatched by any other. From Handel to Mozart, from Massenet to Albinoni, the evening was outstanding!

Setting up for the concert at the University Church of St. Mary.

The choir is glorious! Did I say that yet? The constituents are remarkable musicians, many of whom have very successful careers in the secular world.

The excellent City of Oxford Orchestra. It was an unforgettable evening.