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Theology Slam to return in 2021

04 November 2020

Competition will focus on the impact of the pandemic

youtube/church times

Molly Boot, Augustine Tanner-Ihm, and Sam Hodson take part in the 2020 Theology Slam final, which took place online in June

Molly Boot, Augustine Tanner-Ihm, and Sam Hodson take part in the 2020 Theology Slam final, which took place online in June

THEOLOGY SLAM, a competition to find engaging young voices who think theologically about the contemporary world, will return next year, and will focus on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is organised jointly by SCM Press, the Church Times, and the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity (LICC), and is endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. This will be its third year.

A statement issued by the organisers on Wednesday said: “The pandemic has upended millions of lives around the world. Amid so much uncertainty and loss, how do we make sense of what’s happening around us — and how should we respond? Theological reflection is essential to help us address these big questions, both as individuals and as a society, and Theology Slam is a key forum for this crucial discourse.”

Theology Slam is open to anyone aged between 18 and 30, and consists of a qualifying round and a live final. Entries open on 1 December, and the deadline for submissions is 11.59 p.m. on 11 January 2021.

In the qualifying round, applicants submit 500-word reflections that offer theological insights into one of six issues:

  • Justice in a time of pandemic.
  • Power in a time of pandemic.
  • Work in a time of pandemic.
  • Community in a time of pandemic.
  • Grief in a time of pandemic.
  • Creativity in a time of pandemic.

Applicants are also asked to submit a short video introducing themselves, and explaining why they are interested in their chosen topic.

Three entrants will then be chosen to take part in the online Theology Slam Live Final on 18 March 2021. Finalists will pre-record talks of between seven and ten minutes, based on their original entry. Each finalist will also receive a half-day training session on public speaking before they record their talk.

Archbishop Welby said before the 2020 final: “It is vitally important for the Church to nurture young Christians into thinking, speaking, and writing about God and the world, and it is even more important that the Church listen to their voices. #TheologySlam encourages us to do just that: listen to God, listen to the world, and listen to the voices emerging within the Church, so we can join into God’s work in the world today.”

The final of Theology Slam 2020 took place online because of the pandemic, and has been watched by more than 4000 people. The winner was Augustine Tanner-Ihm, whose talk called for the Church to move beyond “cheap diversity” and be a place in which black and minority-ethnic (BAME) voices are heard (News, 26 June; Comment, 3 July).

Mr Tanner-Ihm will be one of the judges of the 2021 competition, alongside the Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Revd Dr Isabelle Hamley; the director of the think tank Theos, Elizabeth Oldfield; and the director of the Centre for Culture and Discipleship at the LICC, Dave Benson.

The winner of the competition will receive £250 to spend at the Church House Bookshop, and the Theology Slam trophy, and their talk will be published in the Church Times.


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