Starting a local CSL group a discussion from MereLewis

Starting a local CSL group, a discussion from the MereLewis listserv (may no longer be in service)

Here’s a very interesting discussion about starting a local discussion group from the Mere Lewis listserv. Nice example of the kind of thing that can go on on a list serv, as well. I’ve reproduced this by permission of the posters. Obviously, the same principles may apply even if you’re starting a group devoted to JRRT or Chuck, or general fantasy, or knitting and basket-weaving. But see other files (to be added here) for alternative suggestions. In the end, whatever works for your group.–David Lenander

Subject: starting a local CSL group

Date: Tue, 11 Feb 1997 09:39:50 -0500
From: AOL User <>
On Mon, 10 Feb 1997 Chris Grant <> wrote:
>>>I am interested in hearing about people’s experiences with local groups
(societies, clubs, whatever) that focus on Lewis. I am wondering about the benefits such groups have to offer (versus, say, individual study of Lewis’s writings, participation in Internet groups like MereLewis, or membership in some national society which does not hold meetings where you live). In particular, I would be interested in hearing your answers to the following questions:

(1) Is there a critical number of participants?
REPLY–In my opinion a minimum number of participants would be 3, if the mix is right. A group of 10 is more likely to have the right mix. Whatever the starting size, the right mix will cause the number to grow.

(2) Is there a critical number of CSL “experts” that need to participate?
R–I would guess a minimum of one person who is moderately “knowlegeable”. There are reference books that are a great help. And you can always call on MereLewis! A second expert would be a useful check (“Iron sharpens Iron” Proverbs yyy) — and m o r e than “useful” if she/he has a different background. Some beginners who greatly desire to discuss what Lewis has to say on a particular topic and who are enthusiastic about it are very valuable. They are the ones who will keep the meetings going … and bring others to later meetings.

(3) Can such an organization successfully serve a heterogeneous audience?
R–Within limits of civility, the more diverse the better. A Lewis passage means something to me but I learn when I hear what it means to others with different backgrounds and other viewpoints.

(4) How often do/did you meet?
R–Once a month because we come from a radius of 30-40 miles (The NY CS Lewis Society) but I would think twice a month for a more compact goup would be reasonable.

(5) Were papers presented and discussed at the meetings or was some other format followed?
R–Papers on themes are presented, summaries &/or critical reviews of books by and about Lewis (e.g. one Narnian Chronicle per month would attract many and cover a wide range of topics — see Doris T. Myers’s “C.S.Lewis in Context” which covers the Chronicles and 8 other Lewis books), summaries & reviews of books by and about any of the other seven–Sayers, Chesterton, Williams, Macdonald, Tolkien, Barfield– usually with reference to Lewis, skits of Lewis scenes are read, favorite passages are read by members (some ad lib), passages about a previously announced topic are read (with ad lib contributions allowed), etc. These can lead to topics for future meetings.

(6) Do you <gasp> run out of interesting things to discuss after a while?
R–Lewis wrote 50 books and there is always a great variety of topics to choose. If the people involved feel that Lewis has something worthwhile to say on a relevant topic they will come and participate.

Thanks for making me think about this. Come to think of it, I’d like to start a local discussion/reading group myself — are any other people in the 914 (Rockland County, NY) or 201 NJ telephone area codes interested? (With 814 ML subscribers in USA I might get a response from one or two.) Question –are there 906 ML subscribers world-wide? Second question– is some ML person working on a FAQ file for ML?
Under The Mercy, Jack Haynes

End of MERELEWIS Digest – 10 Feb 1997 to 11 Feb 1997 – Special issue