Some vacations recharge us with rest and recreation. Some with natural beauty. And if, like me, you love to learn, some vacations renew our souls with a feast of iron-sharpening-iron teaching and discussion.
Maybe you could join me this summer in England for a week (or two) in the company of kindred spirits who delight in Lewis and treasure both his intellect and imagination. Oxford. Cambridge. Days of speakers and panels. Nights of music, dance and drama. And it only happens once every three years. Even if not, I hope you’ll enjoy these pictures.
From the time I first heard of it, Oxbridge went on my bucket list. (Is it a bonafide “list” if you only ever had one item on it?) In 2008 my sweet Mom gifted me with a trip to the Cambridge week, where these pictures were taken. This summer I’m deeply honored to be invited back as a speaker at the Oxford week. Other speakers will include Larry Crabb and Joseph LaConte. Info here.
For twenty-nine years Lewis taught English at Magdelen College in Oxford, then concluded his career at Cambridge where he taught Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Magdalene College. Oxbridge begins with a week at Oxford and concludes with a week at Cambridge with a side trip to the gorgeous Anglican Cathedral at Ely in between.
When we visited Ely in 2008 we stumbled into The Lady Chapel where the choir from King’s College of Cambridge was recording a beautiful, new classical album. Amazing acoustics.
Most statues of Mary feature her sitting passively, holding Jesus. Here she is strong and pro-active with one foot thrust forward, yet with crowned head bowed in humility, arms lifted in praise—the perfect posture for a strong woman who is passionately pursuing a life of service and worship. The pedestal bears the inscription, “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord.” Few religious statues have moved me as deeply.
In 2008 one of our speakers was Philip Yancey, with whom we sheltered from the rain in the Porter’s Lodge at Queen’s college on the way to our concluding reception. One of the highlights of Oxbridge is making new friends who love to discuss Lewis or Yancey or theology over a cup of tea.
One Lewis-loving friend I’ve connected with through the Foundation is Lancia Smith. She will also present a talk at Oxbridge and has written this helpful blog post encouraging attendees to read up on Lewis and the presenters. Understanding the context of Lewis’s life and writing and this year’s theme, Pursuing Calling with Purpose & Hope, will deeply enrich this Oxbridge experience. She provides other tips and a gorgeous slide show of previous Oxbridge Institutes.
In the spirit of Lewis’s celebration of imagination, each evening after dinner, we’ll enjoy Max McLean’s one-man show on Screwtape, or Houston’s Ad Deum Dance Company, the Oxford City Symphony, English Country dancing, or other artists and performers.
Beyond the nightly performances, the cities of Oxford and Cambridge overflow with world-class art and architecture. I felt my IQ going up a few points simply walking down the cobbled streets, browsing in the book shops or enjoying refreshments in a punting-themed pub by the river Cam.
Oxford attendees can visit the Kilns, the home of C.S. Lewis, now owned by the Foundation, or The Eagle and the Child pub where the Inklings (including Lewis and Tolkien) met every Tuesday morning to discuss their studies and writing. Diana Glyer has written a delightful book, Bandersnatch, about how the Inklings sharpened one another by The Company They Keep.
If England doesn’t work this year, maybe you’d like to attend a Christian writers’ conference or Willow Creek’s annual Leadership Summit or Baylor’s October Symposium on Faith and Culture: The Bible and the Reformation. This year marks the 500th Anniversary of The Reformation and there will be many learning vacations hosted across the country. Maybe you’d like to gather your own tribe for a weekend of discussing books, heading to the museum.
Whatever your budget or availability, I hope you’ll nourish your mind and heart this summer/fall. May you overflow with love and worship for our Father who has given us these great gifts of intellect and imagination and opportunities to nourish them.
What are some learning vacations you’ve enjoyed? Please respond in the comments below…