It all began with The Inklings . . .
It is amazing how simple stories can communicate and capture the attention in significant ways, and it was a simple story of friendship that was the genesis behind Addison’s Walk.
During the summer of 2008 our Executive Director, Andy Giessman, read a book that challenged him to rethink how he was engaged in ministry. Tree of Tales was written by faculty at St. Andrews University to commemorate the anniversary of J.R.R. Tolkien’s essay, On Fairie-stories. Tolkien demonstrated that good stories communicate the drama of real life. Instead of “banishing them to the nursery”, adults should think about and share these stories because they capture the reality all people find themselves in. Every person wishes to see good triumph over evil and for the right action to be taken. This was, in part, his thinking that went into books like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
The chapter that captured Andy’s attention the most dealt with Tolkien’s relationship with C.S. Lewis. Lewis and Tolkien both taught at Oxford and shared a love for ancient language and story. They were able to fuel their passion by meeting with others to share their own original work and stimulate one another to become better thinkers and story tellers.
Much has been written about this group known as The Inklings. What some may not know is that this group gave Tolkien the opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with Lewis. Together they would walk along a wooded pathway known as Addison’s Walk to discuss theology, philosophy, and myth. It was during these evening strolls that Tolkien patiently, lovingly, and creatively shared the story about the “true myth” that would radically alter his friend’s destiny.
Lewis later would say that it was these conversations that lead him to accept Jesus Christ as his Savior. Andy began to realize that even after earning Bible college and seminary degrees, he did not possess the skills necessary to fully engage in these “destiny altering” conversations. This nagging lack of ability led him to engage in a master’s level worldview program and then go on to doctoral study in philosophical theology. He needed to learn how to engage thinking people with reasonable faith.
During Andy’s last residency at Biola he learned of the concept of a study center. Armed with this new information, he began to dream about what such a center could look like in Scranton, PA. Because there are no para-church organizations on any campus in Scranton, he began to think that this was a much-needed ministry.
In the fall of 2013, Andy began to investigate other study centers in order to determine the scope of impact these centers provide. After discovering that this was a real possibility, he assembled a team of advisors to pray and talk with about the launch of a study center in Scranton. Addison’s Walk was a natural choice for a name for what it represents. The team gave their full support to Andy to begin the plans for a fall 2014 launch.