Greetings from Oxford, England! I am absolutely thrilled to be the acting warden here at The Kilns this spring. God is so good, and He never fails to surprise me with this fact. The series of events that led me here could have happened in no other way than through God’s omnipotent guidance and plan.
A little about myself: I am a graduate of California Baptist University in Riverside, California with a BA in English and Communication Arts with an emphasis in Theatre. I also have an extensive background in dance of many kinds and a huge heart for the art of story and its ability to inspire hearts and point them to Jesus.
Since graduation, I have been apart of the camping ministry in northern California, where I have seen so many miracles of God that it is a wonder I still worry about the future sometimes! I am still not sure what my plans will be after this fantastic chapter of my life comes to a close at the end of June, but I am keeping the memories of all of His wonderful past blessings and moments of guidance close to my heart as I journey on.
I have been a great admirer of C. S. Lewis ever since I read the entire Chronicles of Narnia to my little brother before he went to sleep each night, doing all the voices and being just as enraptured by the great lion who was not tame, but good and of those most fortunate of children who found their way from our world into a magical world full of wonder and adventure. During college and beyond I have often lost myself to this world in his other works of fiction, thrilled on what he had to say about the written word, and been challenged in my walk with Christ in his books such as The Four Loves and Mere Christianity.
And then I discovered that one of his own greatest inspirations had been George McDonald, an author I had actually found at quite a young age and held dear to my own heart for the writing of what is still to this day my favorite fairy tale of all time, “The Light Princes.” This made me love C. S. Lewis even more. However, I had never actually read a biography on him and knew very little about his actual life.
Since coming to Oxford at the very end of February, I have been quite busy becoming acquainted with C. S. Lewis’ home, the lake, Shotover Hill, our resident scholars, our neighbors, the lovely people who have come for tours, and the city at large. After devouring biographies on Lewis at a breakneck speed and learning all I could from Kate Simcoe, The Kilns Coordinator, and Michael Ward, the author of Planet Narnia, it has been my pleasure to greet people from all over the world, showing them his home and telling the wonderful stories about his life within these walls.
Former resident scholars from The Kilns have brought their families. Students studying abroad and parents of scholars in Oxford have made this a highlight and must see when coming into the city. Retired clergy who have held C. S. Lewis up as one of their greatest inspirations have giddily traipsed through the halls taking pictures of every room, bookcase, and wardrobe. And the grandchildren of neighbors have also come by for a visit to see where the author of their beloved Chronicles of Narnia lived. I still pinch myself occasionally to check if it really is true that I am actually here, actually living in his house! Again, God is so very good.
A couple Saturdays ago I was excited and a bit nervous to have Walter Hooper and a couple friends of his join a tour I had scheduled for an American family. I was incredibly nervous about having to guide a tour of C. S. Lewis’ home in front of a man that knew him and actually experienced life here at The Kilns with him in it! Fortunately, he was very gracious and everyone on the tour, including myself, was thrilled to hear his stories throughout the different rooms. There was one story in particular that touched my heart deeply and made several of us in the party misty eyed, and I would like to pass this one along to all of you.
Maureen was the sister of Paddy Moore, C. S. Lewis’ friend in World War I. He and Paddy had made a pact together that if either of them were killed in battle, the other would take care of his family. Paddy had a mother and teenage sister who were estranged from their father and didn’t have much to live on, and Jack, as C. S. Lewis liked to be called, had his father and dear brother. Sadly, Paddy did die in the war, and so, true to Jack’s word, he took Mrs. Moore and her daughter Maureen into his keeping and they in time became like the mother Jack lost as a child and the sister he never had.
Maureen lived at The Kilns with Jack, his brother Warnie, her mother Mrs. Moore, and a small host of help until she was married. Shortly before Jack’s death, through an intricate and almost bizarre series of events, Maureen inherited a castle on the very northern shores of Scotland along with the title of Lady Dunbar, Baronet. When Jack was in hospital, Maureen came to visit him. Walter Hooper met her at the door and warned her that he hadn’t been recognizing anyone and to not be upset if he couldn’t remember her. Maureen walked into his hospital room and put her hand into his. “Jack?” she said. “It’s Maureen.” Jack looked at her and said, “No it isn’t. It’s Lady Dunbar.” Maureen was astonished. “Jack! How could you remember that!” And Jack replied “On the contrary. How could I forget a fairy tale?”
Hopefully, there will be more fairy tales to come. I will keep you posted!
Mary C. Pearce
Acting Warden at The Kilns