C.S. Lewis, Inklings topic of class trip

Multimedia by Amanda Parrish

Ray Van Neste, associate professor of biblical studies, began the first full day of the Inklings retreat with a brief devotion. | Photo by Amanda Parrish

By Kathryn Flippin

Seventy students, faculty, guest lecturers and community members gathered April 1-3 at Montreat College in Montreat, N.C., for the annual Inklings Fellowship retreat.

The first Inklings retreat premiered 10 years ago when Dr. Hal Poe, Charles Colson professor of faith and culture, felt the need for not just another conference, but a retreat. He said he wanted a weekend where people could get away with other Christians and renew their minds spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and creatively.
Poe studied the special group of like-minded scholars and writers, including C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, who called themselves “the Inklings” years before forming the idea of a special in-depth retreat.

“The Inklings weekend is self-selective for people who are already interested in the writings of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien,” Poe said. “This common bond allows people who come to the retreat from several walks of life to form a shared friendship.”

Every year, several speakers are brought to the meeting to encourage and model a familiar theme. This year, Nigel Goodwin, founder and international director of Genesis Arts Trust, along with Poe, his daughter Rebecca Hays, and Dr. Don King, English professor at Montreat College, focused on the theme “Fools for Christ.” They highlighted the different so-called “fools” in such stories as “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and “Lord of the Rings.”

“We wanted to focus on the importance of contrasting those who are a ‘fool for God’ or a ‘fool of God’ by asking the question, ‘Whose fool are you?’” Goodwin said.

Students who attended said they enjoyed the sarcasm and intellect of Goodwin during lectures. They also had a chance to explore the surrounding area of Montreat and Black Mountain, N.C. Certain times were left open, allowing participants to get away in the stillness of the mountains and reflect on their lives.

David Conway, junior history major, said he enjoyed being able to walk around and talk with friends in a more intimate setting away from the business of school. He said he also enjoyed the “Inklings Night,” where students could present their own creativity for fellow participants. Poets, musicians and writers were all present.

“It was great to see people use their gifts for God,” Conway said. “It added a personal touch to the weekend and allowed each of us to know one another on a deeper level.”

Poe said he knows how effective the Inklings retreat is, especially after a weekend full of appreciation for the creativity of Lewis and Tolkien. In the future, Poe said he wants to expand the opportunities for more people.

“The intimacy is always needed and expanding to more than 100 would be too much, but to offer many retreats like this in the future would allow more people to participate and still understand the full experience,” Poe said.

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