Nick Haddad currently serves as the C.S. Lewis Foundation’s Assistant to the Warden for The C.S. Lewis Study Centre at The Kilns. Before moving to Oxford, Nick served the Foundation as an intern in our Redlands office, as well as received his B.A. at Belmont University in Mass Communications. As a part of his time spent at The Kilns, Nick has agreed to write a series of blog posts regarding his experiences in order to give our readers an idea of what it is like to work and live in the former home of C.S. Lewis.
I had the opportunity, among his busy schedule, to sit down and talk with scholar-in-resident Anthony Sciubba about his studies, life in Oxford, and all things Kilns-related. Quick background on Anthony: Anthony hails from Gilbert, Arizona and attended Pepperdine University, receiving his undergraduate degree in History and Religion. From there he attended Yale Divinity School where he received a Masters Degree in History of Christianity. He is currently residing at the Study Centre at the Kilns, in the Scholars-in-Residence program, working on his MSt in Late Antique and Byzantine studies.
Nick: So Anthony, for starters, what drew you to applying to live at The Kilns?
Anthony: I was drawn here because of Lewis. C.S. Lewis is the inspiration behind why I want to be a Christian academic. He has always sort of been my role model of what it means to be a Christian and a scholar, while also writing fiction and Christian apologetic work.
N: So were you a big fan of Lewis before you came to The Kilns?
A: I actually had not read a lot of Lewis before I came to the Kilns. I had read the Screwtape Letters, some of Mere Christianity, and a couple other things, but they left a strong impression on me. They seem to embody for me what it meant to think about Christian questions intelligently: to articulate orthodox Christianity in a way where someone who is not necessarily Christian could understand it and find it compelling.
N: What is life like for you in Oxford?
A: It’s busy, and it’s fun. While living here at the Kilns, I study at Oxford so life is quite busy. I’m also teaching for Pepperdine in London, so I do have to commute there. But the Kilns has been an incredible center of operations to make the whole thing possible. It’s great having a place with so many wonderful resources and not having to be sequestered to a single room, as is so often the case in graduate school life.
N: So it seems things are great for the most part at The Kilns, but what are some of the challenges you are facing whether here at The Kilns, or in Oxford, or with your studies?
A: I think the greatest challenge of graduate school is isolation. It’s not necessarily the work; it’s more the independent-ness that’s required to read and write for hours on end, and then feel confident to present to a class or lecture. But the community at the Kilns has been a great help with that. You and Debbie (Debbie Higgens is the current Warden and Director of the Study Centre at the Kilns) have not only been a great source of friendship but also to keep me accountable when I’m over-working or not resting enough. That’s been a great help and a great joy.
N: Do you have a memorable story of Oxford or The Kilns?
A: Oh goodness, there are so many memorable stories! When I first came to the Kilns, getting that first tour from Debbie and seeing where Lewis lived, where Tolkien smoked…it’s certainly a special place for those reasons. I think that if I had to encompass the feeling and the gravitas of living at The Kilns in one word, it would have to be the word “legacy.” You just really feel like you’re part of a bigger story. I think my favorite memroy of that theme was during the Westminster Abbey event (commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Lewis’s death) last November. I volunteered to stay back and “man the fort,” for a number of reasons. One, I knew that everybody here wanted to go to the event, but also because I knew I was far too busy with work and classes, and Oxford would not pause for Lewis unfortunately. So there was this particular moment in the afternoon when I was in my room (Anthony lives in “The Music Room” which is the room where Lewis died on November 22, 1963), and I happened to notice that it was the exact hour in which Lewis passed away 50 years ago. It was just this moment that kind of hit me like a ton of bricks. Not in a cult of the saints veneration kind of way. More like “this is something significant.” A man who focused on living a life that was dedicated to God and to other people ended exactly 50 years ago. So I just stopped and prayed and read copious amounts of G.K. Chesterton because I felt like that’s what Lewis would have done.
N: That’s fantastic! So how important is it for you that The Study Centre at the Kilns is a Christian environment?
A: It is very important to me that the Kilns is a Christian environment. I like to sharpen my ability to think critically about everything, be it faith or history or theology; therefore, I try to engage these questions in a broader atmosphere, outside of a “Church context.” This is what I do at Oxford, and I did that before at Yale. But there is a special element in being able to come home to people who are also Christians. Home is a place where you can rest and sort of reflect on the day and actually get some reinforcement and encouragement. So I think that the Christian community at The Kilns does this very well. It’s good to be able to go home and talk about my classes and my lessons and get some support and critical feedback from Christian scholars at home.
N: Do you have any advice for anyone interested in studying or living at the Kilns?
A: My advice for people wanting to study at The Kilns is “do it.” It’s a special opportunity and one that you will probably never have again. And by being at the Kilns you sort of get the best of both worlds – the convenience of an urban city, but also the country retreat-like setting of living at the Kilns. There is also something very special about waking up in the morning and being able to read Greek in a room where Lewis read Greek.
N: Anthony I know you’re a busy man, so I just wanted to thank you for your time and letting me talk to you for a bit.
A: It was my pleasure. This went better than I was expecting (laughs).
For more information about the Scholars-in-Residence program, please click here.