The Midwest Chesterton Society is the oldest continuously meeting Chesterton Society in the Western Hemisphere, having met monthly, without fail, since its inception June 6, 1979. Frank Petta, Ann Stuhl Petta, and Art Livingston co-founded the group with the idea of a Chesterton Society that keeps the spirit of the Chesterbelloc, even if all of us are not distributists. We began the annual Chesterton conference in 1981, developing it and fostering it until the late 1990s. We have had such distinguished speakers as Frank Sheed, Aidan Mackey, Alzina Stone, Dale Ahlquist, and Joseph Schwartz speak at our meetings. We moved to our semi-permanent home at Centuries and Sleuths in 2001.
The discussion lasts for two hours, but many linger to chat for another half hour or so. Our meetings have a reputation for being freewheeling affairs with an occasion need to bang the gavel for order and get back on topic. Some find this maddening, but to some degree we unintentionally replicated the spirit of the Distributist League meetings—organized anarchy. It is not rare for poignant questions being raised by a customer distracted by a customer overhearing some comment that caught his interest.
We may be the group closest to being a band of luddites even among Chestertonians. The idea has not crossed anyone’s mind. We like to talk, drink coffee or wine, and talk some more—although we would not object if anyone wants to join us who would start a website or produce a video.
We meet on the second Saturday of the month at Centuries and Sleuths Bookstore. We email an agenda to those for whom we have information about a week before the meeting usually including a number of questions used as touchstones for discussion.