At 8 a.m. on a Monday, while many students are still sleeping, the members of Hillsdale’s G.K. Chesterton Society gather for their weekly meeting. Chesterton was a British author, poet, theologian, and journalist.
“It’s ironic that we meet at eight in the morning,” said freshman Seth Winters, co-consul of the society. “Chesterton liked to say ‘Daybreak is a never-ending glory; getting out of bed is a never ending nuisance.’”
The Chesterton Society was founded this semester by Winters and his co-consul, sophomore Maggie Vangieson.
Winters said he started the group because of the impact Chesterton’s work had on him.
“Chesterton is my favorite author and has a big influence on my day-to-day life,” Winters said. “His work is very wonder filled, and he is a staunch defender of truth.”
Vangieson said she discovered Chesterton in high school and bought many of his books last summer. She says she decided to go to a conference put on by the American Chesterton Society, where she met Winters.
“When I heard he was starting a Chesterton society, I had to get involved,” Vangieson said.
A typical meeting consists of around 10 members gathering for breakfast and then reading an essay or short story by Chesterton paragraph by paragraph around the table before discussing it. So far, the society has tackled several works including “On Running After One’s Hat,” “On Lying in Bed,” “A Defense of Skeletons.”
“We did the skeleton essay for Halloween,” Winters said.
Students said they appreciate the format of the meetings.
“It’s cool hearing the stories out loud,” freshman Patrick Mitchell said. “It helps the mystery come alive; you hear the inflections.”
It is the beauty of Chesterton’s work, members say, that they have come to appreciate throughout their studies.
“Chesterton writes in a way that doesn’t draw attention to himself,” sophomore Emma Trist said. “He draws out the beauty in the most normal unassuming thing like rain.”
Others say they want to understand Chesterton because of the authors he influenced.
“I come because Chesterton is quoted by many of my other favorite authors,” Mitchell said. “Understanding Chesterton helps me to understand the authors he influenced, like Evelyn Waugh and C.S. Lewis.”
Vangieson said her vision is to help expose Chesterton’s work to other students.
“We want to share Chesterton with the campus because he’s brilliant and he talks about many of the things we study here: God, truth, and the good life,” Vangieson said.
Despite the healthy numbers of the society, both Vangieson and Winters said they would like to see more students attend.
“Right now, we just add chairs and if there’s too many people to fit, we just sit farther away from the table,” Winters said.
Vangieson said anyone is welcome to come.
“Chesterton is accessible, and whether you’ve read him or not, you’ll learn something,” Vangieson said. “He’s challenging and makes you think, but he’s enjoyable along the way.”