C.S. Lewis is one of the world’s best-known and most-celebrated Christian authors. From his hugely popular children’s series, The Chronicles of Narnia, to his “grown-up” works, such as Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters, the prolific British writer brilliantly communicates what it means to have faith in Jesus Christ.
That’s why Regent offers students an annual opportunity to participate in the C.S. Lewis Oxford Study Abroad course. School of Communication & the Arts (SCA) professors Dr. William Brown and Dr. Ben Fraser lead the one-week program that retraces the great author’s footsteps in Oxford, England.
“We love teaching this class, and most students say it is one of their favorites,” says Fraser. “C. S. Lewis is one of the great communicators of the 20th century.” Fraser adds that Lewis mastered several different writing styles and has proved to have lasting power. “More than 50 years after his death, his books still sell in the millions and are as popular as they were when he died.”
“The program offers students a unique perspective on this major literary light,” says SCA dean Dr. Mitch Land. “His writings exemplify how to communicate the gospel through indirect means: fantastical stories whose heroes reflect the very heroes of the faith, especially Jesus Christ.”
This year, eight doctoral candidates and two undergrads from Regent, spent a week walking the hills and valleys where C. S. Lewis strolled with other literary giants, including J.R.R. Tolkien and G.K. Chesterton. “I want our students to understand that Lewis was a man of reason and imagination,” says Fraser. “I also want our students to know the power of myth and imagination to communicate truth and faith. Reason has it place, but well-crafted stories and imaginative writing grips the heart and transforms man.”
Ph.D. in Communication student Mary Myers participated in this year’s study abroad for two reasons: “First, one of my fondest childhood memories is sitting in a rocking chair in front of a wood stove at my aunt’s home reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for the first time,” Myers remembers. “Secondly, I’ve always wanted to travel to the places I’ve read about in Lewis’ works. I was hoping to experience the cultural context more fully — and I did!”
Students touched down in the U.K. with a course syllabus for “C. S. Lewis & Friends: Communication, Myth and Imagination.” They earned three credits for attending classroom sessions and lectures about the author’s major works, touring his home, interacting with noted Lewis scholars, and visiting famous Oxford landmarks, including Magdalen College, where Lewis taught.
Myers encourages donors to support study abroad programs like this, because they allow students to learn through experiencing. “No degree of book learning can replace personal and spiritual experience, which this program provides in abundance,” she says.
Another Ph.D. candidate, Heather Stilwell, says the trip challenged her communication style. “I knew C.S Lewis to be a meaningful writer within the Christian faith,” she explains. “But after an intimate study of his works and seeing aspects of his life, which were so influential to him, I have a new appreciation for him and his works. He was deceptively simple, yet marvelously deep.”
While this trip was funded solely by participants, Stilwell encourages future donors to see the significance of their gift more broadly. “It’s an opportunity to help students experience God and to find His calling in a whole new way,” she says. “The Lord is able to do amazing things when we get away from all that is familiar and gain fresh perspectives on life.”
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