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Grants for science work ripple through C of E

10 February 2017

LAMBETH PALACE

No conflict: Trevor Thorn, the co-leader of the Sing of God and Science project, explains how his initiative will work at the Scientists in Congregations event in Lambeth Palace last week

No conflict: Trevor Thorn, the co-leader of the Sing of God and Science project, explains how his initiative will work at the Scientists in Congregati...

TEN new projects that promote understanding of the relationship between science and faith will “ripple the space-time” of the Church’s ministry, the Principal of St John’s College, Durham, the Revd Professor David Wilkinson, said last week.

Professor Wilkinson was speaking last Friday at Lambeth Palace, where it was announced which church communities had applied successfully for individual £10,000 grants.

The grants were awarded by the “Scientists in Congregations” programme, which was established in 2015 (News, 20 March 2015). An earlier scheme in Scotland has been running since 2014 (Comment, 12 February 2016; News, 30 May 2014)

Professor Wilkinson, who co-leads the programme, compared the projects to the discovery last year of gravitational waves. In the same way as black holes, billions of light years away, caused ripples in space-time itself which could be detected on earth, so, too, would the impact of the ten projects “ripple the space-time of our apologetics and ministry,” he said.

He continued: “We hope that these will be catalysts of other projects. To inspire by their diversity and to enable those who have not participated in the normal discussions of science and faith to be involved.”There are things here that I would have never dreamed of doing and I have been working in this area for a long time.”

Among them are a collaboration between St Michael-le-Belfrey in York and the Riding Lights Theatre Company to put on a new play reimagining the story of Job as a modern-day scientist questioning the relationship between faith and science.

Derby Cathedral will enter into partnership with the university and local engineering firms to arrange public lectures and evensong featuring live experiments.

Church primary schools in the diocese of Ely will use their £10,000 to publish a book of 30 new songs on the theme of science and faith, of which the best will be performed live in Ely Cathedral.

A project at Trinity Church, Lewes, will involve the congregation going on nature walks between each of the parish’s three churches, as local ecologists explain the environment and ministers offer prayers and theological reflections.

The parish of Honley with Brockholes, in West Yorkshire, will utilise the neighbouring River Holme as a launch pad to deepen the local community’s understanding of climate change and flooding.

The Bishop of Kingston, Dr Richard Cheetham, the programme’s other co-leader, said of the projects: “They bear witness to the widespread and vibrant desire to enable a fruitful and stimulating conversation between science and faith, which is much needed in contemporary society.”

Dr Cheetham has also been involved in another strand of the Scientists in Congregations programme: inviting bishops and other church leaders into laboratories at Durham University to meet scientists and learn about new research.

Professor Tom McLeish, of Durham University, said that such meetings served to dismantle the age-old myth of a conflict between science and religion. “The Church doesn’t need to be frightened or on the backfoot. After a few minutes, the scientists and bishops recognise that they jointly celebrate truth and understanding, honesty, discovery, and wonder,” he said.

New RE resource A set of resources, God and the Big Bang, for use in secondary school RE lessons has been launched. It includes lesson plans, activities, and DVDs featuring scientists discussing the relationship between faith and science.

“The disciplines of science and religion have often been kept separate from each other on the curriculum,” the God and the Big Bang project co-ordinator, Steph Bryant, said. “Science teachers have not necessarily felt sufficiently informed to discuss complicated issues concerning different faiths. RE teachers have felt the same about science. This resource brings them together in a creative, dynamic way.”

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