Steve Elmore: Today I’m going to interview Dr. Crystal Hurd, an alumnus of three of our Foundation C.S. Lewis Retreats.
SE: Tell us about what you do, both in terms of work and personal pursuits.
Crystal Hurd: I am currently employed as a high school English and Creative Writing teacher, but my indulgence is Lewis scholarship. I’m the author of Thirty Days with C.S Lewis: A Women’s Devotional. I maintain a blog at crystalhurd.com where I explore and discuss various aspects of Lewis’s works.
Most recently, I transcribed an unpublished Lewis manuscript titled Pudaita Pie: An Anthology for inclusion in volume 32 of VII:Journal of the Marion E. Wade Center. Additionally, I contributed a chapter on Flora Lewis for the book Women and C.S. Lewis: What his life and literature reveal for today’s culture. I currently serve as Review Editor for Sehnsucht: The C.S. Lewis Journal.
Aside from this, I’m also a graduate student in Poetry at the University of Texas, El Paso (MFA Program).
SE: What was your first experience with one of the Foundation’s programs.
CH: In 2012, I was invited by Nan Rinella to read an elegiac poem dedicated to my grandfather at the Bag End Café during your Fall Retreat. Using this as an “excuse” to attend (that’s what I told my boss), I was ecstatic to finally attend a Foundation event. While there, I also attended a Sprinklings writers group meeting and listened to many wonderful lectures by astute and informed speakers.
In between the lectures, I met and befriended a wide host of kindred spirits, people with whom I still have a close relationship. Andrew Lazo told me, “Welcome home” as I chatted into the morning hours with him and Rebecca Choat. I was among a special group of friends, threads of a larger tapestry composing my artistic and spiritual life. I felt that I had “found my place.” Earlier that year, I had experienced some personal trauma and I was still bruised when I boarded the plane for Navasota, but that hurt fell away immediately when I entered the conference.
The experience renewed my self-esteem, reinvigorated my passion for my faith, made me fall in love again with Lewis’s works, and introduced me to a wonderful group of friends. I redefined myself in a new and splendid light, washed by God’s promises, Lewis’s words, and the companionship of my new “family.” When I say that the Lewis Foundation changed my life, I mean it in every sense of the word.
SE: On that note, tell us a bit more about how the C.S. Lewis Foundation made an impact on your life and work.
CH: The Lewis Foundation has made an enormous impact on my life in many ways. The Foundation has helped me develop my faith, has encouraged me to appreciate deeper aspects of C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, and the Inklings, and has widened my group of friends (an accomplishment for a confirmed introvert!).
I found new friends who share my literary interests and sharpen my interpretations of text. The Foundation also introduced me to so many wonderful people, many who now provide me with feedback on my own creative work. Spiritually and artistically, The C.S. Lewis Foundation has made a lasting impression on my life and work.
SE: How would you characterize the C.S. Lewis Foundation/its programs? What makes the Foundation different? Unique?
CH: The Foundation provides people of many faiths to gather, learn, and discuss on common ground. What I noticed during my first Foundation conference was a multitude of people from various denominations eating and chatting respectfully together, with no contention or antagonism.
I remember thinking, “All of these individuals of different walks of faith are together and there’s not a single sour argument, just a climate of mutual appreciation and respect.” I called it a “thin place” because I imagine that Heaven is a harmonious blend of denominations.
I especially adore the Foundation’s focus on literary appreciation and literary development. Not only are participants encouraged to read and contemplate Lewis and other literary giants, we are encouraged to attend a Sprinklings meeting and share work or hear others share at Bag Eng Café. It is a wonderful place of artistic nourishment.
SE: The C.S. Lewis Foundation’s mission is “Inspired by the life and legacy of C.S. Lewis, the C.S. Lewis Foundation equips and encourages Christians to live their faith within the world of ideas and the arts.” How have you been served by that mission?
CH: The C.S. Lewis Foundation has given me hope that faith, intellect, and imagination can meet and marry successfully. Growing up, I was convinced that Christians had to relinquish their intellectual life to prove their allegiance to the faith. As an adolescent, I was asking the “hard questions” to refine and develop my faith, but many urged me to stop because I was strolling into dangerous philosophical territory. I wanted an environment that welcomed my inquiries.
When I first read Lewis, I was astounded. He granted me permission to ask the hard questions and pursue the answers without being judged. I wasn’t being difficult or antagonistic; I was genuinely curious about the ambiguities of my faith. Lewis satisfied that curiosity, and he did it without condescending on his readers. He was a breath of fresh air to my flailing faith, and the Foundation has shown me that there are members of our population who possess the same hope.
Every time I return to an event, I am refreshed and renewed. The Foundation is a blessing for the Christian artist/scholar.
SE: Crystal, thank you so much for telling us about your experience with our programs!
CH: Many blessings to you and your wonderful staff! You all remain in my prayers.