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.
Unpredictability will be the overall theme to this blog post. Oxford, and the Kilns specifically, revels in being unpredictable. We do have a set schedule, but there is never a fully planned out day; it’s simply not possible. We do tend to have tours set up throughout the week, but just like that a camera crew could show up for an interview, or a day planned for rest is taken up with a random home repair, or the foremost expert in G.K. Chesterton could show up and want to give a tour of his own and enjoy some tea to top off his time at the Kilns. Unpredictability is normality at the Kilns.
This goes just as much for Oxford. There is such a unique but wonderful culture here. I have been told by the friends I’ve made here that soon the effects and wonder will wear off and it’ll be just like any other city. But just taking a stroll down Cornmarket Street disproves this idea in seconds. There is such a history to this city, being a cultural haven for tons of different countries to gather here to either study or just live. It is a true inspiration to try to become a more worldly-driven person.
But you’re not here to read only about Oxford. You want to hear about the Kilns, which of course I can deliver. The Kilns is constantly in motion. Whether people are dropping by, or someone wants to talk to the Warden about the history of the home, or a former guest of the house decides to drop by and share stories of Lewis and life at the Kilns, nothing is predictable.
One of the greatest offerings the Kilns has available is the Scholars-in-Residence program. You can check out the full details here, but in a nutshell the program is an offering to students studying in Oxford or another local college, pastors or teachers on sabbatical, or anything in-between. The Scholars-in-Residence live at the Kilns and have it be a haven of knowledge, discussion, general nerding out about Oxford and culture, and growing in this amazing community.
The Scholars-in-Residence program is such an amazing experience to hear about all different aspects of faith, learning, and where people are in their lives. Thus far with my time being here, the Kilns has had two amazing short-term scholars, both of which brought in entirely different stories of life, growth, and faith. It’s been such an enriching experience getting to know them, and share in their journey.
We currently have one long-term scholar who has been a delight to get to know and share the Kilns with. While I do consider myself a social person in many ways, I definitely have come to realize that prior to coming here I was mostly social with people who shared similar interests and were in similar places in their lives. Living under the roof of Lewis has shattered this mindset for me. The current long-term scholar is at Oxford to get his masters in History, a subject of which I enjoy but know very little about. So I was a bit intimidated trying to be a resource of the Kilns and helping to manage and assist the scholars that would be coming and going from the home.
But once again the ghosts of the past invaded the home, and it’s become not only a great friendship, but also an amazing opportunity to grow and share with each other about our studies and our paths. He and I will often end our evenings with a cup of tea and sit in the common room (“the living room” for you Americans….Wow I’ve changed so much already). We’ll talk about what he is working on, as well as general interests in life and what we hope to do with our time in the UK. It has been such a blessing being able to interact with everyone who comes and goes at the Kilns.
I think giving tours has really helped me appreciate and enjoy the home even more. The tourist’s enthusiasm kick starts mine in many ways. As an American I’ve had to get used to answering the question, “So, why are you here?” But just hearing myself say what I’m doing here at the Kilns gets me excited.
This is actually a rather convenient time to be writing this post because, as of November 4th, I’ve been in Oxford for a month. Now to the average person that last sentence is definitely skim-over-worthy, but I promise it has a purpose.
Two years ago I did a study abroad program and spent a month in the UK. It was an amazing experience and made me promise myself that I would return in the future. So I look back to this last month – even this last year – and I’m sort of blown away. The Kilns is truly a gift to everyone who visits, but it’s a legitimate treasure for me.
It may be a bit before I write you guys again as we’re in prep mode for the Westminster Abbey event on the 22nd of this month. So I’ll need to focus on that for the time being. But I promise, with all the excitement of the Westminster Abbey event, the next post will be one of the Lewisian ages! Until next time, this is Nick Haddad, signing off.