CLERICS in the diocese of St Albans are sharing the pulpit with scientists from within their congregation and touring their laboratories this month, in a bid to nurture the relationship between science and faith.
The project “Take Your Vicar to the Lab” is one of eight to have received funding of up to £10,000 as part of Scientists in Congregation, one of several schemes in a Church of England-backed programme, Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science, funded by the Templeton World Charity Foundation (News, 20 March 2015).
It was launched in February to help churchgoers “engage confidently” with science, and to put the spotlight on Christians who work in science-related fields.
The project is due to start in parishes across St Albans this month. Churchgoing scientists are inviting their vicars to visit their places of work, and, in return, will be asked to give a sermon or presentation on the subject of science and faith. The £8000 Templeton grant will cover travel expenses, conferences, and a report on the project next year.
The director of ministry for the diocese, Canon Tim Bull, who has a Ph.D. in genetic engineering from a Christian perspective, is leading the project. “We hope that clerics become more aware of the world of science, and likewise that scientists will gain a greater appreciation of the Christian faith,” he said. “The relationship between science and faith is fruitful and mutually enhancing; having a Christian faith helps me see how we might address some of the more difficult questions raised by science.”
The project is being overseen by the Bishop of Hertford, the Rt Revd Michael Beasley, who spent ten years studying the relationship between ministry and epidemiology — the cause, effect, and control of disease. He said: “Take Your Vicar to the Lab is about dialogue and understanding. Science is the most fantastic and wonderful way of understanding the natural world. . . But what science perhaps cannot answer are some of the deeper questions of purpose, meaning, and value.”
Grace Church, in the diocese of Truro, is using its £3000 grant to conduct interviews between scientists and congregations which are to be shared on their website in an attempt to contradict the view that science and faith are in conflict.
The church leader, Andrew Sampson, said: “These interviews will illustrate our conviction that faith in Christ is not only for Sunday mornings, but affects the way we live the whole of our lives.”
Ely Cathedral is using its grant to organise a science festival next year, “From Dinosaurs to DNA”, to celebrate science, medicine, and technology through discussion, debate, the arts, music, worship, and prayer. The cash will also fund a pre-festival training day for teachers, and a science-related networking event.
“Ely Cathedral, itself a marvel of medieval engineering, was built by people wanting to explore the big questions of life and seeking answers about existence and our world,” Canon Victoria Johnson, a former research scientist, said. “We hope the festival will help us connect with people in new ways, and inspire the scientists of the future.”
Other successful schemes in the first round include discussion evenings at Baptist churches in Leeds, a series of science and faith booklets for young people at the Cathedral Isle of Man, and a broader project to develop materials relating to creation and science for Messy Church leaders across the UK.
The second round is open for admissions. For details, visit http://community.dur.ac.uk/christianleadership.science/the-project/scientists-in-congregations/.