Love of Lewis Famed writer’s fans gather monthly to delve into fantasies, theology By James Dowd October 2, 2004 At half-past seven on the second Sunday evening of each month, a merry band of C.S. Lewis devotees gathers at Memphis Theological Seminary.

There are no visitors — any fan of Lewis is immediately welcomed into the fold — and the get-together resembles a family reunion where folks swap stories about a favorite uncle. “There are no dues and it’s casual. Pretty much all you have to do to be a member is show up,” said Dennis Beets. ” And enjoy talking about Lewis. That helps.”

The Memphis C.S. Lewis Society — more academic than a book club, but lacking the formality of a panel discussion — promotes lively discourse on the contemporary writer and theologian. A specific selection is featured each month, but dialog frequently drifts to any and all things Lewis.

“We have a primary topic of discussion, but the format isn’t rigid,” said Barry Anderson, the group’s president. “People share insights and ask questions. Along the way I think we all learn something.”

Lewis, born in Ireland in 1898 and educated at Oxford, became a professor and an author in several genres. He received acclaim for his religious writings and literary criticism, and his “Chronicles of Narnia” fantasy series has charmed readers of all ages for generations.

“I read the Narnia books first and gradually became a fan of his other work,” said Rebecca Cupo, 16. “His writing is pertinent today.”

The club was born in 1996 when several MTS students and a professor gathered to share their passion for Lewis. Word of the meetings spread, and soon membership grew to more than two dozen. “Whenever I read Lewis I’m uplifted by his sacramental understanding of reality,” said W.E. Knickerbocker. “It’s encouraging to realize there are others who feel the same way.”

As it grew, the organization developed a Web site and donated a set of Lewis books to the seminary. Members continue to add volumes and encourage seminarians to check them out.

“We’re small, but we hope to establish one of the premier Lewis study libraries in the country,” Anderson said. “We’ve had a lot of interest from students who appreciate the materials.”

And now thanks to a charitable donor, Lewis’s likeness is always on display.

Member Tom Boulden commissioned a bronze bust of the writer patterned after one at Wheaton College. The same artist cast a likeness for Boulden, which he presented to the society. “I thought it would be a nice thing to do, and it adds a novel touch to the society,” Boulden said. “This way, he’s always there, keeping an eye on things.” The society’s next meeting will be 7:30 p.m. Oct. 10 at the seminary, 168 East Parkway.

For more information, check out the Web site at narnia.org. — James Dowd: 529-2737