Sunday, September 03, 2017

Sept. 3, 2017, column:
Folks from Texas Panhandle join trip to Oxbridge
By Mike Haynes
            Two of the most beautiful places on the planet are settings for some of the most enlightening intellectual encounters in the world.
            The rising spires of Oxford University and the shining river flowing next to Cambridge University both stir thoughts and emotions in the minds of students, faculty and visitors to those ancient English towns.
            For 10 days this summer, scores of men and women soaked up academic and spiritual refreshment in those surroundings at the C.S. Lewis Foundation Summer Institute, popularly known as Oxbridge.
             And four Amarillo area people were instrumental in making Oxbridge happen.
The technical team for the 2017 C.S. Lewis Summer Institute at Oxford and
Cambridge, England, included three men from Great Britain, two from
Colorado and from the Amarillo area, George Hutcheson, lower left;
Randy Ray, lower right; Ryan Putman, center; and Kirk Manton, second
from right in back row. (Photo by Lancia E. Smith for the C.S. Lewis Foundation)
          The event occurs once every three years, and the 2017 edition explored the theme, “Irrigating Deserts and Cultivating Gardens: Pursuing Calling with Purpose and Hope.” The topic came from something the renowned scholar and Christian writer C.S. Lewis wrote in “The Abolition of Man” in 1943:
  “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments.”
            That statement fits well with Lewis’ consistent encouragement of imagination, which the C.S. Lewis Foundation also does. “Advancing the renewal of Christian thought and creative expression” is part of the foundation’s mission, and those who attend Oxbridge rub elbows for a week and a half with scholars, clergy, musicians and artists – half while staying in rooms of St. Catherine’s College at Oxford and half at Cambridge’s Robinson College.
            Amarillo has had a presence at several of the triennial Oxbridge events. As he has before, Trinity Fellowship staff member, poet and photographer Kirk Manton headed up the 2017 volunteer technical team that also included Randy Ray, a West Texas A&M University communication faculty member; Ryan Putman of Amarillo and George Hutcheson of Dallas and formerly of Amarillo. In 2011, Amarilloan Daniel Innis assisted Manton at Oxbridge.
Longtime CSL Foundation volunteer and writer Nan Rinella has helped with Oxbridge and other foundation events but wasn’t able to make it to England this summer.
“This work has afforded me the opportunity to serve God in ways I never would have thought possible,” Manton said. “I have been able to combine three of the great passions of my life: my love of serving God with my technical skills related to lighting, sound and video, my joy of seeing my friends get the opportunities to travel and fulfill their dreams of exploring the life and locations associated with C.S. Lewis and our rich Christian heritage in England, as well as feed my love for the academic life focused on the mind and imagination, integrated with a deep faith and spiritual renewal.”
Some of that Oxbridge renewal from July 24 to Aug. 3 was inspired by speakers such as author Larry Crabb; Helen Mitchell, who writes about faith and work; Stan Mattson, founder of the CSL Foundation; and Walter Hooper, who was C.S. Lewis’ personal secretary in the last months of Lewis’ life in 1963.
Artists included Malcolm Guite, an Anglican priest, a fellow of Girton College at Cambridge, a poet and founder of the rock band, Mystery Train; the Ad Deum Dance Company from Houston; and the City of Oxford Orchestra.
Those men and women were only a few of the speakers and artists on the program.
The Amarillo technical crew was joined by three British men and two from Colorado. They were working but also got to experience much of the institute.
“I loved my time at Oxbridge,” said Ray, a Pampa native. “For those of us who have a deep appreciation for C.S. Lewis, it provided a chance to get to know this hero of the faith better.
“I walked Addison’s Walk, where Lewis made his conversion to Christianity. I saw where he taught at Oxford and Cambridge. I went to the local pubs where he met with his colleagues (including J.R.R. Tolkien, the “Lord of the Rings” author). I even had the unique privilege of spending the night in his bedroom at his home, the Kilns.
“Those few days of walking in his steps made a profound impact on me.”
The CSL Foundation owns the Kilns, where Lewis and his brother, Warnie, lived even after Lewis left Oxford to teach at Cambridge.        
            The academic setting might sound daunting to some, but according to the foundation’s website,, Oxbridge “is for anyone interested in the theme,” whether they are laypeople, professors, business people, clergy, students or teachers.
            “What is common is a love of faith, learning, fellowship and the arts.”
            If those criteria apply to you, I suggest saving up for Oxbridge 2020.