Speakers & Artists

Plenary Session Speakers

Gregory Cootsona

Gregory Cootsona is Lecturer in Religious Studies and Humanities at Chico State University and co-directs Science for the Church, which resources Christian congregations as they integrate mainstream science into their ministries. He first started reading C.S. Lewis almost 40 years ago and hasn’t stopped.

Greg has written C.S. Lewis and the Crisis of a Christian (Westminster John Knox, 2014) and Mere Science and Christian Faith: Bridging the Divide with Emerging Adults (InterVarsity Press, 2018). He serves as part-time associate pastor for discipleship at Bidwell Presbyterian Church in Chico and previously served at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City. Greg holds degrees from U.C. Berkeley, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the Graduate Theological Union. He also serves as an advisor for BioLogos, Sinai and Synapses, Day1, and the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences.

He and his wife, Laura, live in Chico and have two emerging adult daughters (23 and 26). Besides hanging out with his family, he loves biking, reading, writing, listening to or playing jazz, and drinking good beer or coffee (though not at the same time).

Holly Ordway

Dr. Holly Ordway is Fellow of Faith and Culture at the Word on Fire Institute, and Visiting Professor of Apologetics at Houston Baptist University.

She is the author of Tolkien’s Modern Reading: Middle-earth Beyond the Middle Ages (Word on Fire Academic, 2021),  Apologetics and the Christian Imagination: An Integrated Approach to Defending the Faith (Emmaus Road, 2017), and Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms (Ignatius, 2014). Dr. Ordway is also a published poet and a Subject Editor for the Journal of Inklings Studies. Her academic work focuses on the writings of the Inklings, especially C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Her newest book is Tolkien’s Modern Reading: Middle-earth Beyond the Middle Ages (Word on Fire Academic, 2021). Her website is hollyordway.com.

Andrew Lazo

Andrew Lazo is a speaker and writer specializing on C.S. Lewis and the Inklings. He is a frequent speaker around the U.S. and U.K. and has written several articles on C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

In 2009, Andrew published Mere Christians: Inspiring Encounters with C.S. Lewis. In 2014 he also was honored to transcribe, edit, and publish a previously unknown book of C.S. Lewis,’ “Early Prose Joy,” which was Lewis’s very first spiritual autobiography.

He is Candidate for Holy Orders in the Diocese of Texas, and currently attends Virginia Theological Seminary preparing for priestly ministry in the Episcopal Church.

He also serves as a Distinguished Lecturer while concurrently pursuing his doctorate in the Romantic Theology program at Northwind Seminary. Andrew lives in Alexandria, VA with his wife, author Christin Ditchfield.

Retreat Pastor

Gregory Cootsona (see above)


Matthew Clark

Matthew Clark is a singer/songwriter and storyteller from Mississippi. He has recorded several full length albums, including a Bible walk-through called “Bright Came the Word from His Mouth” and “Beautiful Secret Life”,  a collection of songs highlighting, in George Herbert’s phrase, “heaven in ordinary”.

Matthew hosts a weekly podcast, “One Thousand Words – Stories on the Way”, featuring essays reflecting on faith-keeping. A touring musician and speaker, Matthew travels sharing songs and stories, and is currently recording a 33-song trilogy of concept albums to begin releasing in 2022. Whether it’s a song, a podcast, a meal, or an essay, Matthew loves to “make things that make room for people to meet Jesus.”

Ad Deum Dance Company

Ad Deum Dance Company is a professional modern/contemporary dance company based in Houston, Texas. It is directed by its founder Randall Flinn, who established the company in January 2000.

Ad Deum has toured across the USA, Canada, Mexico, Europe, and Asia. Their work has been featured in Dance Spirit and Dance Magazine. Ad Deum has performed the works of many choreographers including Steve Rooks (former principal dancer with Martha Graham), Caleb Mitchell (former Houston Ballet dancer), Hope Boykin (Alvin Ailey), Stephen Wynne (Talk Dance Company), Bill Wade (Inlet Dance Theatre), Durell Comedy (Limon Dance Company), and Ryan Corriston (former dancer with Doug Varrone), as well as the works of Mr. Flinn and Ad Deum Company members.

Ad Deum’s purpose is to create and perform relevant and redemptive dance works that maintain a high standard of integrity, excellence and artistry, offering beauty, grace, and hope to those they serve.

Brad Davis

Brad Davis (MDiv, MFA) is a poet and teacher. He has nine collections of poems.

His most recent, Trespassing on the Mount of Olives: poems in conversation with the Gospels, is the followup to his Opening King David: poems in conversation with the Psalms.

Individual poems have been published in such journals as Image, Spiritus, Poetry, Paris Review, Anglican Theological Review, Connecticut River Review, and Ruminate. While a student at Vermont College of Fine Arts, he won an Intro Journals Award from the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) for a poem that appeared in Puerto del Sol.

He has taught creative writing at two boarding schools (Pomfret School, Stony Brook School) and two colleges (College of the Holy Cross, Eastern Connecticut State University). A citizen of Canada and the US, Brad was born in San Diego and now lives in Putnam, Connecticut.

Breakouts and Track Leaders

(in alpha order)

Lori Arnold

Lori is a professor of English at San Jacinto Community College in Houston, TX where her teaching focuses on critical literacy practices and discourse communities.

Her research focuses on the rhetorical practices of using personal narrative or life writing to join discourse communities.

Scott Key

Scott Key serves as Program Director of the C.S. Lewis Study Center in Northfield, Massachusetts, an affiliate of the C.S. Lewis Foundation.

Recently retired as Professor of Philosophy in the School of Christian Ministries at California Baptist University, Scott helped establish and run the CBU Honors Program, and, previously, the 4-year Great Works Bachelor’s Degree Program.

Scott has also served as the Chair of the Department of History, Philosophy, and Political Science; as Center Director for two off-site campuses; and as Campus Minister. He has taught courses in Philosophy, History, Political Science, English, Psychology, Christian Studies, and Humanities.

His research areas include the history of philosophy, 20th Century Philosophy, Aesthetics, Ethics, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Christin Ditchfield Lazo

Dr. Christin Ditchfield Lazo (DCMin) is the author of more than 80 books, including the best-selling A Family Guide to Narnia: Biblical Truths in C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, and a contributor to Women and C.S. Lewis: What His Life and Literature Reveal for Today’s Culture. 

For thirty years, Christin has been speaking at conferences and retreats all over the country, calling believers to a deeper life of faith, a life of passion and purpose. 

She holds a bachelor’s degree in Christian Leadership, a master’s degree in Bible and Theology, and a doctorate in Spiritual Formation. Christin is a Certified Labyrinth Facilitator, trained to teach and lead others in the contemplative Christian practice of praying the labyrinth. 

Learn more about her ministry at www.ChristinDitchfield.com

Joseph Ricke

Joe Ricke (Ph.D., Rice University) is an independent scholar and director of the Inkling Folk Fellowship, an international group of scholars, readers, seekers, and artists, meeting via Zoom every Friday at 4 p.m. (EST).

He was previously Professor of English and Director of the Center for the Study of C. S. Lewis & Friends at Taylor University, where he organized directed the highly-acclaimed  Lewis & Friends Colloquium in 2016 and 2018. At Taylor, Dr. Ricke curated the acclaimed Brown Collection, and, in early 2020, oversaw the acquisition of the historic McCaslin Collection of Lewis materials.

He has presented and published numerous essays and book chapters on Shakespeare and early drama, the Inklings, and Christian higher education. He has co-edited three books and, since 2012, has organized the Lewis and the Middle Ages panels at the International Congress on Medieval Studies.

His research on “C. S. Lewis and Psalm Culture,” the subject of his breakout session for the Retreat, shows the depth to which Lewis’s thought, conversation, and writing were saturated in the language and ideology of the Psalms, and specifically looks at the relevance to the Ransom Trilogy.

His poems have appeared in various journals and book collections. As a singer/songwriter, he performs as Joe Martyn Ricke and with The Ricke Brothers.

Jason Smith (pen name J. Aleksandr Wootton)

Jason Smith serves on the board of An Unexpected Journal, as a strategist for the C.S. Lewis Foundation, and as the senior editor for acquisitions and development at Wootton Major Publishing.

In his spare time, he works a day job as a marketing director for a medical device engineering firm, where he writes about fun things like FDA regulations and embedded cybersecurity.

He is the pseudonymous author of the much-loved young adult fantasy series Fayborn and reviews every book he reads at www.goodreads.com/mrwootton.

Lancia E. Smith

Lancia E. Smith is an author, photographer, teacher, and business owner. A grateful lover of the Triune God, Lancia is the Founder & Executive Director of Cultivating The Cultivating Project.

Lancia is longtime friend and counsel of the C.S. Lewis Foundation. She has served in executive management, church leadership, boards, and Art & Faith organizations for over 30 years.

Lancia loves garden and website design, beautiful typography, road trips, and being read aloud to by her husband Peter, who lives with her in their rambling house in Northern Colorado. She cherishes every book she ever read by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and George MacDonald.

Note: Lancia E. Smith will not be appearing in-person at the Retreat. Rather, she will be live-streaming from her home in Colorado for an interview breakout session for both in-person and online attendees.

Melanie Stiles

Melanie Stiles is a Christian Life Coach, author, and speaker. She has accumulated hundreds of freelance bylines, authored two books specifically for writers, and frequently speaks at conferences, churches, and groups on topics relating to the journeys of Christian women, discipleship, and writing.

Her award-winning book, The Heart of a Ready Scribe: 52 Reflections for Writers, continues to be well received by the writing community. She has recently completed the second book of an intended six-part series titled, Let’s Write Devotionals! 

Melanie offers services to other writers including editing, ghostwriting, book assessments and more. In addition, Melanie serves as a Life Coach with certifications through the American Association of Christian Counselors, and pairs with individuals or groups to assist in goal achievement. Her programs can be customized to fit individual or group needs.

Melanie spends her free time volunteering as a Lay Minister at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas and as the Writers Workshop Coordinator of the C.S. Lewis Foundation.

* Program schedule, program elements, and speaker/artist lineup is subject to change.

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