Cathy Crow, one of our friends and an alumnus of several of our conferences, including Oxbridge 2008, recently sent us an article describing her church’s creation of a Narnia themed library. Cathy, a professional librarian, spearheaded the project, and is featured in the article. We thank the Columbia Metropolitan magazine, author Susan Fuller Slack, and photographers Jane Ellen Moore and Lynn Greenlee, who gave us permission to repost the article and photos.
Through the Wardrobe
Northeast Presbyterian Church’s Magical Land of Books.
Once upon a time…
When the church library was established at Northeast Presbyterian Church on Polo Road, it took shape through the vision and dreams of Cathy Crow, a professional librarian and wife of the church’s pastor, George Crow. One of Cathy’s goals was to give the library a unique indentify, so she decided to name it The Lamppost. It was a reflection, in part, upon the words of Psalm 119:105: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”
Another lamppost that influenced Cathy’s design was from The Chronicles of Narnia, a series of seven children’s books sprung from the mind of Irish-born writer C.S. Lewis. The writer penned the first volume, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, in 1950, and librarians, teachers and parents in the United Kingdom voted the timeless tale the most influential children’s book of the 20th century.
In the story, four British children decide to explore an old-fashioned coat wardrobe and inadvertently pass through an entryway to Narnia, a magical land of enchantment that is populated with a rich diversity of wondrous beings. The children pledge allegiance to the wise and powerful golden lion Aslan. In an epic battle they triumph over cruel Queen Jadis, the White Witch who blankets the land with endless winter.
Lewis’ writings influenced Cathy’s spiritual growth and ultimately the development of the church library because, she says, “They reflect the best in Christian scholarship and literature.” Scholars say that Lewis was noted equally for literary scholarship and for his intellectual and witty expositions of Christian tenets.
Cathy explains that Northeast Presbyterian Church was growing, and the library needed to grow with it. So plans were developed for a new multipurpose building with ample room in the atrium for both an adult’s library and a special children’s library. Today, the welcoming new atrium evokes a sense of openness warmed with sunlight, and the expansive floor plan offers several intimate seating areas. Pam and Andrew Grayson, a designer and an architect from Birmingham, Ala., who also happen to be family members, designed the children’s facility.
Bringing Narnia’s imaginative theme to life, the children’s library is entered through a large handsome wardrobe, complete with a fur coat and wool hat hanging from a peg. After you pass through, you will see the Narnia lamppost, four thrones, wooden cabinets filled with colorful books and comfortable small tables with chairs.
The backdrop of the children’s library is a charming wall mural with illustrations featuring Narnian characters and scenes. Cathy obtained copyright permission from C.S. Lewis Co. Ltd. to recreate the enchanted pen and ink drawings of the original illustrator Pauline Baynes. Popular Columbia artist and church member Cherrie Nute Farley reproduced the drawings, bringing them to life.
The church held a grand opening celebration of the completed facility this past February. Newarly 400 guests of all ages attended. During the dedication, Howard Burnahm, noted British actor and Columbia resident, appeared as a very distinguished C.S. Lewis. In character, he welcomed the guests and explained how he came to write The Chronicles of Narnia. Several other Narnia characters made special appearances, including Aslan the golden lion; Mr. Tumnus, a faun who is half man and half goat; Mr. and Mrs. Beaver; and The White Witch. Visitors posed on the Narnain thrones for photo opportunities.
The new Grand Hall was the site of an elegant afternoon tea, a quintessential British pleasure. The superb tea foods included cookies, tea sandwiches and small frosted cakes. Other tea niceties straight from Narnia included Turkish Delight, a soft, chewy candy which the White Witch offered to guests. The stylish décor included tea tables beautifully decorated with elegant teapots, fresh flowers and charming tea quotations.
At the Adopt-a-Book table, guests could purchase from a large selection of books or select available books to donate to The Lamppost. Bookplates were on hand so purchasers could present the books in memory or in honor of loved ones or friends. This successful event earned close to $1,400.
Libraries are a precious resource. The door to a children’s library is like the wardrobe door in Narnia. It is a magical place in which childhood, scholarship and imagination come together. Parents are turning more and more to children’s literature to help instill values in their kids. Says Cathy, “Children and adults alike enjoy walking into ‘Narnia’ through the old wardrobe. Developing a motif for our library and making it a fun place to visit has helped strengthen our ministry and deepen our impact.”
This article is reprinted in this blog by permission of the Columbia Metropolitan magazine and author Susan Fuller Slack and may not be duplicated in any way without their permission. The photos are copyright Jane Ellen Moore and Lynn Greenlee.