Here is Part 3 of my continuing series giving a ‘fireside view’ of the events in England honouring the life of C.S. Lewis and the 50th anniversary of his death. This one is a bit longer than the earlier ones, so by all means get comfortable and enjoy the view! For those readers who are just now joining us, this series is dedicated with special affection to those who wanted to attend the memorial events for C.S. Lewis in England but were not able to.
On November 22, 2013 C.S. Lewis was memorialized in Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner. This day was a pinnacle event for Lewis scholars and friends and certainly climatic in the sense of national recognition of Lewis by the British people, something I believe every Lewis admirer around the world is very gladdened to see. Who could not rejoice in this memorial being established in the sacred place of Westminster Abbey, the hallowed ground of British history, a place that has long guarded those memories and objects precious to British national identity? Who among us could be anything less than thrilled for this coming to pass and not in some way feel a tiny share of the honour given to one so loved, respected and identified with?
Dr Malcolm Guite gives an illuminating explanation of the significance of Westminster Abbey to the British people here in an earlier interview this past summer. Scroll mid-way down the post to find his remarks.
As for my day, it began in the lovely Sanctuary House Hotel and Fuller’s Restaurant. Even though the ceremony was not scheduled to begin until noon, for me personally and professionally the morning was filled with activity. Two meetings defined the morning. One of those meetings was with a friend who I have corresponded with for several years but never met face to face.
Honor is someone who has been very inspiring to me over the years that I have known her and the joy of being able to meet in person was truly a gift that I cherish from our God and Creator.
As Honor, Peter and I visited we were joined by Steve Elmore, my very dear friend from the C.S. Lewis Foundation based in Redlands California. Steve and I have worked together in various ways behind the scenes for the C.S. Lewis Foundation events for a few years and he is not only very talented regarding the work he does in management, graphics and communication, he is also wise, kind, and funny. And he is a splendid friend!
Shortly after Steve appeared in Fullers (where a number of of us were having breakfast), Will and Josh Vaus made their appearance for my second meeting of the morning. Will and I have known each other for only a couple of years but I have admired him and enjoyed his good company from the very beginning.
For this momentous event, Will brought his youngest son Josh with him, and I can report that Josh was one of my very favourite encounters in London. What a delight to get to do some father-son portraits to commemorate their trip and special time together! Since the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have wanted to make a “proper author’s headshot” for Will. This image is almost precisely what I had “seen” in my mind’s eye when Will and I first met at the Colloquium at Taylor University in 2012. It is hard to describe how happy it makes me to see an image come to light the way I saw it first in my mind. For me, there is literally a sense of incarnation when an interior image becomes visible to others.
As the hour was getting closer to the service, Will and Josh joined Peter and me on our walk over to the Abbey to get into the queue for the service. We stopped long enough for a quick snap of Will and Josh in front of Westminster Abbey and for some reason this image remains one of my favourites from the entire day. Of course, it is completely impossible not to be taken in by Josh; after all who could resist a young man who says I remind him of Meryl Streep?!
Will and Josh Vaus in front of Westminster Abbey
With good cheer and a desire to escape the chilly November wind, we fairly dashed over to Westminster Abbey at that point. People were already entering the Abbey and finding their seats. I found myself torn between excitement, wonder at the beauty of the Abbey itself, frustration at knowing I would not be able to do any photography during the ceremony or after while inside the Abbey, and sheer joy that this great day had finally come. The service really was one of the most beautiful services I have ever attended. I am not someone that especially appreciates formal church services for the most part, so when I say it was beautiful it means something significant. The service was truly a carefully thought-through event, with each small detail attended to with attention and intelligence. While Lewis would undoubtedly have been uncomfortable with the homage paid to him and the expense of the service and memorial stone, I cannot imagine that he would not have been pleased and even moved by the obvious depth of love demonstrated in the careful composition of this service. I wrote a brief recap about this service the night it occurred while Peter and I were tucked away in our B&B in Cambridge. You can read that post here.
An excellent account of the service was written up and posted by Holly Ordway. You can read Holly’s post here. Though I can share no images of the service itself, you may listen to whole service here, courtesy of Westminster Abbey. And if you have only a few minutes and want to catch just a brief glimpse of the service here is a link to a short video of Douglas Gresham reading, and then the prayer and remembrance bouquet offering.
After a personally distressing encounter in the Abbey following the service which left me literally in tears, I was kindly greeted outside the Abbey in the windy chill by beautiful and gracious Martha Linder. It has been a long time since I was reduced to tears by a public official, and consequently, it has also been a long time since I was comforted like a crying school girl the way Martha Linder comforted me in this instance. She genuinely represented the love of God to me in a moment when I felt completely undone.
This is the first sight that greeted me when I came back in from my cry-fest outside the Abbey. I’ve mentioned this prayer huddle earlier but this image is still profoundly important to me, because it represents exactly where we all need to be at this point in history. We need to be praying in community for where we are now and where we are being called to go forward. What is not visible in this image is that Diana Glyer is praying in the group also along with Katie Hornell, Stan Mattson, Jerry Root, and Andrew Lazo. This moment was and is an answer to prayer, prayed for months by many Lewis scholars and friends. This moment anchored me. And if this image of the prayer huddle is only picture that I was allowed to make, this one is probably the most important one that I could have.
Diana Glyer and Jerry Root – Westminster Abbey
JAC Redford – Westminster Abbey
Seeing JAC Redford in the lines of people moving out of the Abbey was a moment of personal grace for me. At a moment when I felt especially diminished and rejected, seeing JAC’s face and hearing him say my name with recognition was a lesson in caring that caught me completely off guard. That moment is one of the one’s I consider the most significant of my entire stay in England this trip. The power of how we say each other’s names is something worth contemplating. As a tiny moment in the enormity of that great sanctuary and event, it plays quietly over and over as an object lesson in how to speak like Christ.
As the thousand or so attendees filed out of the Abbey a small gathering occurred outside in front of the Abbey, made up of various friends streaming out of the sanctuary on their way to other places. Those minutes were so much fun! No one wanted to linger long outside because it was cold, but we took hearty advantage of the beautiful light and this opportunity to take pictures in front of the Abbey with each other. One of the deeply and personally important aspects of this trip for me was that I was joined not only by my husband Peter (for which I was and am over-joyed), but also by our daughter Regina and her husband Jay. Those moments of picture taking and introductions to special friends will linger with me as some of the sweetest gifts of this trip. Getting to introduce Regina and Jay to Malcolm Guite was priceless. Peter getting to meet Malcolm’s wife Maggie was a taste of different but important pieces of a puzzle finally coming together on the same table. Having Regina shoot images of Malcolm and me was joy!
Jay and Regina Mountjoy
Malcolm Guite and Lancia E. Smith – London
Andrew & Peter 1 – London
Watching Andrew Lazo make Peter laugh was worth every last cent we spent for this trip.
Andrew and Peter – brothers at heart
Regina laughing – outside Westminster Abbey, London
It also happened to be my pleasure to be able to meet Brian Allain in person. Brian and I have been talking together for several months and this was our first opportunity to meet face to face. Brian is Director of the Frederick Buechner Center and was in London taking part in the festivities along will the rest of us.
Brian Allain – London
And one of my very great joys was the opportunity to meet the grandson of Owen Barfield, whom Lewis called his “wisest and best of my unofficial teachers”. Meeting Owen (named for his grandfather) was one of the real highlights of my experiences in England. I had the great honour of doing some quick portraits of Owen and his beautiful daughter Bonnie. I deeply look forward to an extended conversation with Owen in the months ahead, and I am very grateful for the gift of some of his grandfather’s books. Reading those copies will always be illuminated and anchored in knowing that I have met Owen and that there are real, flesh and blood people involved in all this, not just legends whom we admire so much but who can no longer be directly reached.
Owen A. Barfield – London
Another beautiful development was watching the Lord do something lovely in bringing two of my friends into relationship with each other in a new way. What fun to see Nan Rinella and Honor Clare White in each other’s good company, knowing that the Lord is doing something good and beautiful there for both of them! Good hearts, like cream, always rise to the top.
Nan Rinella and Honor Clare White – Outside Westminster Abbey, London
Marveling again at “the staff work of the Omnipotence” I loved watching my encounters with a marvelous Lewis scholar from Romania – Denise Vasiliu – become quickly woven into connections with other well established Lewis scholars like Diana Glyer, professor at Azuza Pacific and author of “The Company They Keep“. This meeting filled my heart with praise for the goodness of God at work among His people.
Diana Glyer and Denise Vasiliu – Fullers in London
And last in this day, before Peter and I got our rental car and headed up to Cambridge, came this perfect glimpse of Andrew Lazo throwing his head back laughing. I wait for images like this through hundreds – sometimes thousands – of other images to catch a moment when light mixes with shadow and captures the essence of how I see someone. Of all the images I have made of Andrew over the years, this one is my absolute favourite. His laugh is a benediction and in my heart I know no matter how deep the disappointments and great the struggle may be, in the last chapter Andrew will laugh with the Lord in triumph over every enemy. This image gives me hope and confirms for me why it is that I do what I do.
What a good day we all had, those of us I could show you here, and all those of us that I could not. God’s good company was with every one of us and of all the things I could say about this great day, it was a day defined essentially by love, smiles and laughter.
Click here for Part 1 of this series.
Click here for Part 2 of this series.
Part 4 – Tea at the Kilns of this series.
All of the images presented here are by me, Lancia E. Smith, with the exception of one – the image of Malcolm Guite and me together. That image is courtesy of Regina Mountjoy. All the images are used with permission for Cultivating.
Lancia E. Smith is an author, photographer, teacher, and business owner. A grateful lover of the Triune God, Lancia is the Founder & Executive Director of Cultivating & The Cultivating Project. She has served in executive management, church leadership, boards, and Art & Faith organizations over 30 years. She & her husband Peter have parented 7 children, & have a flock of beloved grandchildren. Lancia loves garden and website design, beautiful typography, road trips, being read aloud to by Peter, & cherishes every book she ever read by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and George MacDonald.
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