Twenty-two churches in England and Wales have been awarded funding totalling £400,000 to delve into the relationship between science and faith through the church engagement programme 'Scientists in Congregations.'
Each church has received grants of up to £20,000 to spend over the next 18 months. The churches involved will host a range of outreach activities, building on the expertise of scientists within their congregations, focusing on topics from climate change to mental health, with the aim of showing how engaging with science can lead to a deeper experience of faith.
'Scientists in Congregations' is a programme run by the research project Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science (ECLAS). The ECLAS project is led from St John's College, Durham University in partnership with the University of York and the Church of England. Its directors include the Revd Prof David Wilkinson and physicist Prof Tom McLeish.
Revd Prof David Wilkinson, Project Director of ECLAS and Principal of St John's College, Durham University, told Premier more about the programme: "It's a very exciting project, and this is money from the Templeton religion trust, to encourage churches and projects across the country, to engage with scientists within their local community. This may be scientists in that congregation, or it may be in a local science project within that community. And this is to break down some of the fear that exists between science and faith, but also to affirm the vocation of those within churches who are science teachers, or engineers, or working in technology, or doing research science.
"There's a lot of folk who worship in Christian churches, who are scientists, or teachers of science, or technologists or engineers. And sometimes the church doesn't see this as a Christian vocation. And so some of the vision behind the project is to encourage those who are already within the congregation, or those who are sympathetic to questions of faith in the community to get together and to use their gifts for the benefit of both church and community."
One successful project, cited so far, is St Mark's Church based in Wrexham, which has been awarded a grant of £19,965. St Mark's and the local science activity centre Xplore! will jointly run Sunday afternoon activity sessions and a holiday club for local children, giving them the opportunity to encounter key science and faith concepts.
Teaching materials and programme content will also be made available to churches of any denomination across North East Wales.
The full list of churches and organisations receiving funding to participate in Scientists in Congregations 2021-22 is:
Cornerstone Methodist Church, Wadebridge
Great Yarmouth Minster
Holy Trinity and Christchurch, Stalybridge
New Hope Baptist Church, Coseley
Radio Maria England
Redeemed Christian Church of God, Royal City, Sevenoaks
Riding Lights Theatre Company
St Andrew's Church, Great Yeldham
St George's Church, Leeds
St German's Cathedral
St Lawrence Church, Gloucester
St Mark's Church/Xplore!, Wrexham
St Mary and St Eanswythe, Folkestone
St Peter Mancroft, Norwich
The Bible Reading Fellowship
Wembley Family Church