I am the University's Dean of Spiritual Life. I trained originally as a linguist and words are still central to the way I see the world, and approach the texts of Scripture, life and interpersonal encounter. I guess that is why my MA Theol. dissertation, supervised by Prof Elaine Graham at Manchester University and for which I earned a Distinction, was titled ‘Feminist Hermeneutics, Midrash and Pastoral Care’.
My earlier PhD from Leeds University was also focussed on words: specifically the religious poetry of Spain in the decades leading up to the work of the great Catholic mystics who took words to their very limit, not least with San Juan’s ecstatic ‘un no se qué que quedan balbuciendo’ when he hears the creatures speaking of the divine among them…
I also have undergraduate degrees in Modern Languages and Theology from Hull and Nottingham; and a PGCE (with Distinction) from Leeds Trinity University. I am a Jesuit-trained Spiritual Director working originally under the late great Fr. Gerard W Hughes SJ, walker of great distances, none more so than from head to heart.
From 2003 to 2016 I coordinated the large chaplaincy team for the three universities of the Manchester HE community and did extensive advisory work for British, European and North American universities around chaplaincy provision.
Prior to this I worked for a number of years in mental health with the unemployed, homeless, prostitutes and rent boys, substance abusers and other victims of social policy and bad luck, as an advocate, manager and eventually chaplain to psychiatric services. During all this time I also undertook university lecturing in Church history, pastoral theology, Islam, Christian spirituality and mysticism, gender, sexuality and ‘dis’ability.
My current passion is the exploration of the linkage between theological language, interpretation, thinking and praxis on the one hand, and the current ecological crisis and our loss of connection to the cosmos on the other. And how a renewed public earth-focussed theological discourse might offer grist for a more hopeful future for both humanity and the other-than-human creation with which we interdependently share this planet. For everyone’s sake.
I also have considerable experience researching Multifaith Spaces – those deceptively complex spaces that are now so common in hospitals, airports, universities and even shopping centres and motorway service stations. I am particularly intrigued by the impact these spaces have on those that use them. I also have a burgeoning interest in restorative space.
I have also over recent years written on chaplaincy provision and explored the interface between the training of clergy as spiritual directors and of counsellors as spiritual adventurers. Various academic collaborations, especially with William West, were published, see below.
I guess at this point you can tell I am a practical theologian. And somewhere and somehow I was also ordained as an Anglican priest. I have published several books not least – a three-part exploration of risk and discipleship, ministry, preaching and theology; as well as a practical spirituality handbook for university students, available in all good bookshops!
I am an Honorary Research Fellow at the Manchester University Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine where I am co-supervising a doctoral thesis on ecclesiastical acoustics.
At Winchester, my role as Dean of Spiritual Life involves engaging the community in creative ways around the university’s spirituality and other values.
Areas of expertise
- Practical Theology and applied hermeneutics
- Theology and risk
- Shared religious space
- 2014: Risk-shaped Ministry: on Going Out to the People of God, RPI: San Jose, CA.
- 2013: Risk-shaped Preaching: Preaching Outside the Box, RPI: San Jose, CA.
- 2013: Forty Days in the Wilderness RPI: San Jose, CA.
- 2012: Recipes for Good Living: The Beginner’s Guide to Spirituality O-Books, UK.
- 2010: Risk-shaped Discipleship: On Going Deeper into the Life of God, RPI: San Jose, CA
Selected book chapters
- 2016: ‘Multifaith Space: religious accommodation in postcolonial public space?’ in Patta. R, Dunn, J & Joziasse, H., eds, Living together after Empire. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
- 2015: ‘Managing therapeutic, spiritual and faith-based pastoral programmes in an international multi-faith Higher Education community’ in William West & Greg Nolan, Therapy, Culture and Spirituality. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
- 2011: The impact of dialogue on increasing international understanding’ in Proceedings of the International Conference ‘Dialogue between the West and the Muslim world: Diversity, Understanding and Communication,’ British Muslim Heritage Centre, Manchester.
- 2010: ‘Pastoral Care and Counselling’ in William West, Exploring Therapy, Spirituality and Healing. London: Palgrave MacMillan.
- 2007: ‘Spirituality, Prayer and Music’ in Festshrift for the Indian theologian John Mohan Razu. New Delhi: ISPCK.
- 2013: ‘Towards a Theological Reading of Multifaith Spaces’ International Journal of Public Theology, York St John University.
- 2010: ‘Towards a Theology of Multifaith Space’, Inter-religious Insight, Nov.
- 2009: ‘Towards spiritually-skilled counselling’, Thresholds, Summer 2009
- 2009: Contributor in Living It Out (A Handbook for LGBT Christians), London: SCM Press
- 2008: ‘Spiritual Direction and Counselling’, with William West, Thresholds, Summer 2008
- 2007: ‘Counselling and spirituality in the British HE sector, Thresholds, Autumn 2007
- 2016: Paper: ‘Anne Primavesi’s challenge to the churches.’ International conference Serving the Earth: A Theological Exploration of Earthiness Manchester University, April.
- 2016: Paper: ‘Multifaith Space: religious accommodation in postcolonial public space?’. Manchester University’s international conference Lincoln Theological Institute.
- 2015: Multiple Faiths in Postcolonial Cities: Living together after Empire, May. Presentation: ‘Adam, Jesus and the last chance saloon for creation: in search of an overdue paradigm shift.’ Sustainable Ethical Enterprise Group, MMU Business School, Dec.
- 2015: Keynotes: ‘Risk-shaped Ministry’, diocese of Manchester Authorised Local Ministry Conference, Nov .
- 2014 Keynote: ‘The Design of Shared Religious Space,’ Stockholm University, June.
- 2014 Keynote: ‘Acts 10-11 and Galatians 3: On Rearranging Our Mental Furniture,’ UK Changing Attitude “Unadulterated Love” Conference, Stockport, Feb.
- 2013 Keynote: ‘Creating Space for Interfaith Community’ Aberdeen University, Scotland, Nov.
- 2013 Keynote: ‘Creating a New Theological Commons’ European Network of Religion and Belief with London Boroughs Faiths Network, London, Nov.
- 2013 Keynote: ‘Resurrection and Re-Incarnation: can there be common ground?’ national Hare Krishna celebration, Croome Court, UK, Sept.
- 2013: Paper: ‘Chaplaincy and Transformative Education in the HE context.’ Conference of European University Chaplains, Sigtuna, June.
- 2013: Keynote: ‘Creating Shared Religious Space’ for Church of Sweden and Christian Council of Sweden’s national conference for sector ministers and chaplains, Stockholm. April.
- 2013: Presentation on Muslim-Christian dialogue, community masjid Fisksätra, Stockholm. April.
- 2013: Presentation ‘Shared Religious Spaces in Today's Plural Western Communities: Is There an Emerging Theology?’ Manchester Cathedral. Feb.
- 2012: Keynote: ‘Christian and Hindu self-understandings,’ national Hare Krishna celebration, Croome Court, UK.
- 2012: Keynote: ‘The Design and Management of Multifaith Spaces on the HE campus.’ national conference: UK Churches Higher Education Liaison Group, Sept.
- 2012: Paper: ‘Shared Religious Space and the HE Community: is there a theological imperative?’ Global HE Chaplains Conference, Yale University, NJ, June.
- 2012: Presentation ‘Multifaith Spaces and Human Transformation’, Wellesley College, Boston, June
- 2012: Paper: ‘Religiously Motivated Multifaith Spaces,’ International Conference “Multifaith Space: Symptoms or Agents of Change?” Manchester University. March.
- 2012: Presentation ‘Discerning Our Vocation,’ National Conference of the Student Christian Movement, York St John University. Feb.
- 2011: Presentation: ‘Multi-faith Spaces: the future of humanity or the unravelling of meaning?’ University of Southern Illinois. Nov.
- 2011: Paper: ‘Multifaith Spaces: symptoms or agents of social change?’ Society for the Scientific Study of Religion Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Oct.
- 2011: Conducted fieldwork in Macedonia on shared Muslim-Christian worship spaces.
- 2011: Presentation: ‘Risk-taking and Spirituality,’ National Conference of the Student Christian Movement. Feb.
- 2010: Presentation: ‘Multifaith Spaces,’ Arts & Humanities Research Council Religion and Society Phase III conference, Lancaster University. March.
- 2009: Presentation: ‘Sharing Sacred Spaces on HE campus’ national conference UK Churches Higher Education Liaison Group. Sept.
My involvement in mental health work and support for children’s educational projects in India resulted in a collaboration with the New Zealand composer, and my distant kinsman, Eric Biddington in the production of:
- ‘Unstrung Heroes’, a disc of words and music exploring mental ill-health. Christchurch, New Zealand. 2012
- ‘Music and Friendship’ a disc exploring friendship through music. Christchurch, New Zealand, 2010
- ‘Music and Enchantment’ a disc exploring music and enchantment. Christchurch, New Zealand, 2008