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The Inklings Conference: May 1-2, 2020

Several years ago, due to his involvement with Every Moment Holy, my husband Ned made his first trek to the Rabbit Room’s Hutchmoot.

New to all things Rabbit-y, he did not know what to expect. His time was so full of goodness that I rarely heard from him while he was gone. But upon his return, he was quick to share stories of friendly people, good music, interesting discussions and talks, delicious food, and (what he thought would be my favorite) the beautifully arranged dinner tables. Throughout the year, Ned would regularly bring up his hope to take me.

Happily, the following October, I attended with him and discovered all the goodness for myself. Having enjoyed events hosted through L’Abri and Laity Lodge, being at Hutchmoot was like visiting an old friend. By the end of the gathering, I had experienced a sweet rush of richness that lingered in my mind and heart long after I returned home.

It was this lingering of the richness of this gathering of people, stories, ideas, art, music, books, and food—always wrapped up with delight and humility—that sparked my desire to resurrect our Square Halo Books conferences.

Encouraging our contributors and our audience in the world of faith, ideas, and art-making exhilarates us and has kept us going for these twenty years. Leslie Bustard

Square Halo Books is a small book publishing company Ned, our friends Alan and Diana Bauer, and I have been running for twenty years. In the Christian art tradition, the square halo identifies a living person presumed to be a saint. Square Halo Books is devoted to publishing works that provide materials useful for encouraging and equipping people in the Christian faith. Many of our books focus on the connection to faith and art making, such as It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God. Several books focus on specific artists, such as the Japanese print maker Sadao Watanabe. Recently we have published books about culture and theology, such as Good Posture: Engaging Current Culture with Ancient Faith; Don’t Plant, Be Planted: Contrarian Observations about Starting Churches; and Bigger on the Inside: Christianity and Doctor Who.

Many years ago, we had hosted a conference called The New Humanity: Christian Mysteries for Everyday Saints, with main speakers Charlie Peacock and his wife Andi Ashworth. We had loved pulling that together and hosting people around ideas, food, and music. Being at Hutchmoot inspired me to organize another gathering.

Focusing on the Inklings and their example of creativity, collaboration, and community has been a good fit for this new Square Halo conference. Throughout the years, these ideas have been foundational to how we pursue publishing books. Our team is made up of long-time friends who only have meetings at favorite restaurants, eating and laughing together while plotting and planning. We love to partner with writers and artists. Over the past few years, we’ve had many good meetings with our collaborators sitting around our kitchen table, envisioning and brainstorming what we can do together for the good of the church. Encouraging our contributors and our audience in the world of faith, ideas, and art-making exhilarates us and has kept us going for these twenty years.

So on May 1-2, 2020, we will be hosting The Inklings: Creativity, Community, and Collaboration, in Lancaster City, PA at the Trust Performing Arts Center. Each aspect of this conference has been planned to both highlight the work and community of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and friends, and invite attendees to participate in collaborative and creative activities themselves.

Our Friday night kick-off will be a collaborative event with local forum The Row House. Matthew Dickerson, the author of many books (including Ents, Elves, and Eriador: The Environmental Vision of J. R. R. Tolkien) will be focusing on Tolkien’s response to gnosticism as seen in the community and meals of Middle Earth. Afterward, we will officially open “The Inklings Arts Invitational” in the Square Halo Gallery with a pub night get-together.

Saturday will be a combination of large group gatherings to listen to our main speaker Donald T. Williams, as well as small group gatherings to listen to other speakers or participate in round table readings and enjoy other creative experiences.

Square Halo Books had the honor of publishing Donald Williams’ book Deeper Magic: The Theology Behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis several years ago. Donald will be enriching our minds and imaginations several times as he speaks about the Inklings.

Other speakers include the author Christie Purifoy speaking on placemaking in Narnia, poet Christine Perrin focusing on the poetics of the Inklings, and author Hannah Eagleson spotlighting Dorothy Sayers, a friend of the Inklngs. Matthew Dickerson will speak on hospitality in Middle-Earth and the welcoming of the stranger.

Collaborative, community building activities include a round table reading of The Man Born to Be King, led by Lancaster-local director Bonnie Bosso; a writers workshop led by author Shawn Smucker; and a pop-up printing experience led by Ned Bustard. Throughout the conference, the Reverie Actors Company will be presenting a dramatic reading of “Leaf by Niggle.” Be ready to enjoy this beloved tale, as two favorite local actors present it with costumes and props.

Inspired by the wonderful food offerings at Hutchmoot, breakfast, lunch, and tea will be served to attendees during the day. Several Hutchmoot friends will be also be joining us, helping us serve our guests. Saturday ends with a concert given in the beautiful Great Hall by favorite singer-songwriter Andrew Peterson.

For those wishing to keep the event experience going, on Sunday afternoon, The Row House and Matthew Dickerson will be hosting a Hobbit Hike along a nearby trail; lembas bread will be included.


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