A reader wonders whether he should come to the Chesterton Conference in Reno

He writes:

Hello Mark,

It has been a pleasure reading your blog for some time now, and also wonderful knowing you are a fellow Chestertonian! I am one of the initial members of the newly formed Central Florida Chesterton Society.

I need some advice, and perhaps a boost. I do have the time and opportunity to attend the 31st Annual Conference in Reno. My wife has given me the okay to go, but I am hesitant at spending so much on travel and lodging for myself- it seems a pretty big luxury, almost extravagance (about $1000 bucks all told, when it comes to flight from Orlando, lodgings, and food, etc.). We “can” afford it, but I am still on the fence. Time is fast approaching and…should I go for it? Please note: not asking for donation or anything, anything like that. This would be my first conference, and I just want to know if I should take the money and run, as it were, or wait until next year. Lord knows I want to see the Manalive movie, and enjoy the company of like-minded folks, and get a boost before I begin teaching the new school year, but I feel almost selfish for the indulgence.

I’ve been hemming and hawing about this for over a month now. Tip me one way or another sir! I know you don’t know me from Adam, but, well, heck, you’re Innocent Smith! Pull the gun out, man! And thanks!

Come to the conference or I’ll blow your head off.

Seriously, I don’t know what to tell you. I find the conference to be joyful and invigorating. On the other hand, the only times I’ve been able to go were when I could afford it (because it was in Seattle) or somebody paid my way because I was speaking. We are emphatically lower middle class and so have to budget carefully (there’s a reason our vacations tend toward camping trips locally and never toward things that require significant outlays of cash). So I’m not going to tell you that you should come because I don’t know you. If your wife is cool with it and you can afford it, then do as you please. If your conscience is bugging you and you are unsure what to do, why not ask God if he’s got some other use for the $$$ or if it’s okay to go? See what he says. Take it to Mass and ask for guidance. if you do come, be sure to come to the closing banquet, which is a delightfully Chestertonian affair where we make all our own entertainment. Joyous!

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  • Leo


    It seems from your letter that you are relatively comfortable financially and coming to the conference would not be an imprudent use of funds. Also, knowing what it is costing me to travel from PA for the conference, I can tell by your cost estimate that you are not adding unnecessary luxury to the trip (no first-class flight, not a top of the line suite, etc). Traveling across the country is expensive, but it seems you would be willing to choose your arrangements wisely to keep cost down. I don’t think vacation is inherently selfish or extravagant. It certainly can be, but from what you describe you don’t appear to be going for either of those things.

    I think there is value in attending the conference, both in what you gain and what your students will gain by a refreshed teacher.

    I may well be biased, but my vote is for you to come and enjoy yourself. Chesterton Conferences are a celebration of life like no other and you are guaranteed to go home in a better mood than you left:)


  • ivan_the_mad

    I had a chance to go to a Chesterton conference a couple of years back, and I blew it. I’ve regretted it ever since. Go, man, go!

  • Tim Jones

    You never know what will happen at a Chesterton conference! I can’t make it this year, but if you can go, go.