One of my favourite things to do, much to the confusion of many, is to go along to theological conferences. Taking part in conversations, asking questions, meeting amazingly thoughtful people, and often exploring a new city or venue, is all part of the appeal. The Society for the Study of Theology (henceforth SST), in it’s constitution’s own words, “to promote excellence in the study of Christian Theology by facilitating and shaping theological thought, conversation and community. In particular, the Society’s object is to identify and discuss important themes, questions and dialogues which call for theological engagement; and to explore the nature of and foster theological integrity, responsibility and vocation in academy, church and other areas of public life.” More simply put, the SST is the main event/group in the UK that is up for serious, non-partisan discussion of theology and the relationship between the academy and the church. This year SST even gave an actual (thoughtful) atheist the stand, which you can read about in his blogpost.
A key highlight for me was (SST President) Karen Kilby’s paper, and whilst I wasn’t able to be in the room, I enjoyed reading it, and thanked her for it. Here is her stirring call at the close:
“We need both thinkers who will call to mind the immensely textured richness and complexity of Scripture, tradition and Christian practice—its peculiarity, its particularity, its utter distinctiveness from other thought- and life-patterns—and thinkers who urge us towards a grasp of an utterly coherent simplicity of Christian belief, a simplicity which might sound, to the ears of ‘unbelief,’ only just a little way away, in the end, from what anyone could affirm.“
I fully intend to delve into this in a future blog post – but suffice to say, for my own vocation and situation, I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated Karen’s words. I wonder, too, if these words might also be an unintended challenge to those seeking to take the ‘T’, in any meaningful Christian sense, out of the SST.
Socially, it was also great fun. I got to know a few people I’ve interacted with online, met up with old friends and former colleagues, from SPCK/IVP, as well as other folk. Being in Nottingham again was good – enjoying the new tram, seeing old friends, and being continually blown away but just how reasonably priced things are.
Another highlight was the panel I got to present in. I followed two brilliant women. Ally Kern spoke passionately, personally, persuasively and compellingly on domestic violence, in a paper titled ‘In churches too? Pastoral Theology and Care for Clergy to address Domestic Abuse’. I’ll be watching Ally’s career with interest, and you can find her on Facebook, Twitter and on her website. The sandwich paper (by which I mean it was the real treat, but sandwiched between Ally and I!) was from an old St John’s friend, the now Reverend Dr. Gabby Thomas. A Patristic scholar by trade, Gabby is working on a really interesting ecumenical project, based at the University of Durham in the Centre for Catholic Studies. Gabby’s paper was genuinely fascinating, titled ‘Receptive Ecumenism, Women and Hospitality’, and raised a number of questions for my own theological reflection. I spoke on empowering everyone, as appropriate, to contribute to the ministry of the church. When I’ve chased up a few references, I’ll be sure to post my paper on my academia.edu profile.