Seedcorn grant awarded

We are delighted to announce that our advertised ‘seedcorn’ grant to enable a training institution to develop teaching resources in the area of trauma has gone to Lincoln School of Theology. They will deliver a programme in the autumn of 2019, and hope to make this a regular part of their provision.

Well done to Rhona Knight the lead investigator, Sally Myers the Principal, and their team. We look forward to sharing insights with them and learning a lot from their experience.

Red-letter day for project – book to publisher!

Delighted to report that, thanks to the huge efforts of Meg Warner, our lead editor, the project’s edited book went off to Routledge by the April 30 deadline. We thank all the contributors for their efforts, and particularly Bishop James Jones for a powerful and moving Foreword to the book.

Nov 12 2018 – a really generative day

Today the team, plus others writing chapters in the forthcoming book from the project, met with Professor R. Ruard Ganzevoort of the Free University, Amsterdam, to draw on his experience of both understanding and teaching in the area of trauma. We were joined in the morning by the Revd Dr Isabelle Hamley, Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The conversation was of the finest and will hugely assist the coming book. 

Working with archdeacons

It was a privilege to work with a group of Anglican archdeacons in London on Oct 8 2018. As they are the ones likely to get the crisis phone call from a parish priest after a shock-event, their reflections were of particular value. We hope to do further work with senior staff in this and other denominations.

Summer Holidays and a Teaser

Even over the summer break the trauma team is hard at work! In August the whole team will contribute a day at Sarum College’s Summer School. Last week Meg Warner ran workshops on Lament Psalms at the 2018 Modern Church Conference. If you are interested especially in Bible and Trauma look out for the 2019 programme for the Christ Church Summer School, held at Christ Church College, Oxford. Meg Warner will lead a week’s workshop on Bible, Trauma and Resilience.

Churches in Crises – A National Necessity?

This blog was first published by Via Media ( on 11 May 2018. The photo appeared with a re-publication in Christian Today.

Here in the UK we are currently marking a string of disturbing first anniversaries. The anniversary of the Westminster Bridge attack was 22 March, and the anniversaries of the Manchester Arena bombing (22 May), London Bridge Attack (3 June), Grenfell Tower fire (14 June) and Finsbury Park Mosque attack (19 June) are fast approaching. The cavalcade of disasters in the Spring and Summer of 2017 shocked and appalled us, even if we were fortunate enough not to have had friends or family numbered among the dead or injured. There is little doubt that the first anniversaries, as we reach them, will be similarly affecting.

For the nation’s churches, the experience was a little more complicated. Many congregations, of course, were situated near the disaster sites and lost members or suffered as a result of these events in a whole range of ways. But something very positive for the churches happened over that period also. The nation suddenly discovered that churches were there, and that they had some quite valuable things to offer.

This was nowhere more apparent than in the devastating aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire. The difference between the responses of the local council and the churches (together with synagogues and mosques) could hardly have been more marked. Those things that residents immediately looked to the secular authorities to provide – places to congregate, cups of tea, food, emergency supplies, venues for meetings and media conferences, collection and distribution points for donations, a caring word or a hug – were provided instead by the churches. Here was a network of buildings with on-site staff, catering facilities and willing armies of volunteers that could be mobilised at a moment’s notice, even in the middle of the night. Black and purple shirts became familiar, prominent, sights on the news reports in the days that followed – immediately recognisable.

That is not to suggest that the experience was different elsewhere. Following each one of these events churches played a significant role – sometimes observable and sometimes behind the scenes – and this was not lost on the secular authorities in each place. Most cities, towns or areas have disaster-response plans that are made by local authorities, together with policing, fire-fighting and other civic and community organisations. In the past churches have been sometimes consulted and sometimes not. That has changed. Religious leaders are now typically central partners in the making of such plans and religious buildings are being marked for key roles. And now when disasters occur, for the first time, clergy are being invited inside disaster cordons, to counsel and support victims and responders.

None of this comes without a cost for the churches involved, of course. A church that finds itself nearby a major disaster of this type, and which opens its doors to it, can expect to be overwhelmed by the demands made upon it, both in the immediate days after the disaster, and in the following months or even years. Especially if few of the victims of the disaster had been members of the church (which was the case for a number of the churches near Grenfell Tower) this can lead to real tensions over time. Congregations can find themselves quite literally knocked-off their ordinary course. One church, for example, was so overwhelmed by unsolicited donations following the Grenfell Tower fire that when its clergy and PCC decided they needed to do some ‘de-cluttering’ in order to make the church available again for the conduct of liturgy they dispatched three articulated-lorries full of donations to storage.

The role of churches following these disasters was not limited to the provision of post-disaster relief and care. Churches and clergy have also played important civic roles in marking, mourning and moving back to normality. Clergy from Southwark Cathedral, for example, following the London Bridge attack (in which it had itself been significantly affected) held an informal liturgy among the stalls of Borough Market, sprinkling holy water, saying prayers, and ‘re-claiming’ the area for local people, attracting enthusiastic participation on the part of those who happened to be there. Subsequently, local authorities asked the Dean to lead an observance to ease the dismantling of the impromptu memorial to the victims of the attacks – huge piles of flowers, teddy-bears and written messages – that had become, over time, a public hazard. An unplanned, and extremely moving, ritual ensued in which members of the gathered crowd moved forward one-by-one, unbidden, to carry individual items from the memorial into the trucks that that would take them away for burning. A similar ‘re-claiming’ ritual was welcomed in recent days by the people of Salisbury, following the Skripal poisoning, and although it is still very early days, it can probably already be said that the national service commemorating the six-month anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, held at St Paul’s Cathedral, will be looked back to as a very significant point in the community’s recovery from that tragedy.

I didn’t grow up in this country. I’m Australian and have spent most of my life in a country that doesn’t have an established church. Perhaps that makes me especially sensitive to what I see as the rich gifts that establishment brings, both to church and to nation. In the churches’ response to these terrible events one year ago I think that the public began to develop a renewed awareness of exactly what the Church of England offers to the nation – both nationally and parish by parish.

I hope and pray that the Church of England is also being led to a renewed awareness – an awareness of what it can be and who it is for.


‘Don’t waste a crisis …’

March’s nerve agent attack on Yulia and Sergei Skripal in Salisbury sent shock waves around the world, but it has been in Salisbury itself that the most immediate effects have been felt. Visitor numbers to Salisbury have dropped, and business profits fallen, and this has served to intensify the general feelings of fear and vulnerability that the attack has created. None of the residents want the attack to be what people worldwide think of when they hear the name Salisbury. The Rev’d Kelvin Inglis, Rector of St. Thomas’ Church, together with the Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, together decided to find a way to respond to these events and concerns and at the same time to do something to lift the community’s morale and rebuild its sense of identity.

Yesterday’s ‘celebration’ began with a service at St Thomas’ Church. Strikingly, one of the first elements of the service was a rendition of Russian composer, Rimsky-Korsakov’s, setting of The Lord’s Prayer. The music of fellow-Russian Sergei Rachmaninov was also sung, and the service ended with the whole congregation singing ‘Jerusalem’ together. After the service, which was billed as ‘A Celebration of the Community Life of the City of Salisbury’, the congregation joined other community members at the nearby Maltings, at a spot as near as possible to the place where the bench connected with the attack had previously stood, for a short ritual of ‘cleansing and reclaiming’. Ironically, it was raining at the time, but that didn’t deter the Rector from liberally dashing water across the site, symbolically ‘cleansing’ the area and ‘reclaiming’ it for the people of Salisbury.

This event has been the most recent of a series of liturgies following attacks in different parts of the UK. The St. Paul’s Cathedral service held six months after the Grenfell Tower fire was the most prominent of these. In light of the profile and magnitude of the disaster, the cathedral service served as a national memorial for those who died. Other events have been more local. After the London Borough Markets were re-opened after the London Bridge Attack, clergy from Southwark Cathedral, which had itself been inside the security cordon, went on a ‘walk’ through the markets, meeting locals, saying prayers and sprinkling water. Again, a public ritual was held in which the area was ‘reclaimed’, and during which the community both remembered the victims and looked ahead to the future life of the area. Movingly, an un-scripted element of the outdoor observance was the solemn removal, by members of the community, of flowers and mementos left at the makeshift shrine.

Reports following these post-disaster liturgies suggest that they have been meaningful and helpful, especially for those who live and work in places that had been blighted by violent attacks. Sometimes they have been surprisingly joyful events, as a whole community anticipates life returning to something approximating normal. People who don’t normally think of themselves as ‘church people’ have been particularly vocal in their appreciation. These sorts of observances are vehicles for local churches to serve their communities by providing space for public remembering and grieving, as well as offering a kind of permission and encouragement for life to continue and grow. As painful as such disasters can be, there is always the hope that through them new life will appear, and the church has a crucial role to play here. As Bishop Holtam said yesterday, ‘don’t waste a crisis …’

Following below is the text of the outdoor ritual at The Maltings:

We seek this day to reclaim our city for the common good.

That Salisbury may once more be a byword – around the world – for the values we cherish.

Here in the Maltings we name all that has been visited upon us

* violation of our peace and prosperity

* injury inflicted on individuals

* fear and anxiety

* disruption of normal lives

* economic and financial uncertainty

With this water of new life, I symbolically cleanse our city…

May it be vibrant, lively, alert, prosperous.

May our businesses prosper,

our visitors be welcomed,

our art and culture flourish,

our vulnerable be cared for,

our past valued,

our future embraced,

and may all be people be treated alike

            with dignity, respect and generosity.

May God bless this fine city of Salisbury

today and always.



Salisbury Observance

The team is glad to have been in contact with the Revd Kelvin Inglis who will be leading ‘A Celebration of the Community Life of the City of Salisbury’ tomorrow afternoon at St. Thomas’s Church, Salisbury, following the recent chemical attack there. The service will be recorded and reported on by media, and you will find reflection upon it on this site after the event. The service begins at 3 pm and both Revd Inglis and Bishop Nicholas Holtam, the Bishop of Salisbury, will give addresses.

Common Awards Seedcorn Grants – Applications Open Now


Common Awards Research Network

Seedcorn Grants in Liturgy in response to Trauma

Call for Applications – Closing Date: March 1st, 2018


In association with the broader Common Awards Seedcorn Grants, the project ‘How can Congregations be Helped in Times of Tragedy’ ( invites applications for four seedcorn grants of £2000 each.

The purpose is to generate liturgies, with theological commentary, that will enrich the TEI sector, and through it the wider Church, in its response to sudden tragedies.  These grants will be managed by the Project Leader, Professor Christopher Southgate, at the University of Exeter. The funding for the project comes from the Templeton World Charities Foundation Inc.


The deadline for applications is March 1st, 2018.

Applicants will be informed about the outcome of their applications by April 1st, 2018.

Two of the four pieces of liturgy with commentary resulting from the grant must be sent to the Project Leader by September 30th, 2018 and the remaining two by November 30th, 2018.

These deadlines are set because of the publishing schedule for the edited book to be published from the project, Tragedies in Christian Congregations: The Practical Theology of Trauma (working title) (Routledge, 2019).

Application to the project implies consent to the use of the material submitted, with acknowledgement, in the edited book above, on the project website, and on the Common Awards website.

Essential Criteria

Projects must:

  • have the potential to shape the Common Awards – in terms of enriching the liturgical teaching and learning at participating TEIs.
  • be led by a member of staff employed by a TEI, Ministry Division, the Discipleship and Ministries cluster of the Methodist Church, or the United Reformed Church; and
  • provide novel insights into good liturgical practice following a sudden shock to a congregation, through both liturgical materials and commentary that shows clear awareness of the importance of context, and a nuanced theological approach to the encounter with unexpected harms.

All projects are also expected to involve a brief presentation by members of the project team during the Common Awards staff conference in July 2019 – so attendance by at least one representative of the project will be required.

Desirable Criteria

We will look in particular for projects that are ecumenically diverse.


Where possible, the project team will work closely with the successful TEIs to optimize the results of the grants. Once the successful projects have been chosen, we will discuss with applicants the forms of support that might be most appropriate.

Application Process

Applications should comprise all the elements listed below. Please aim to be concise and clear. Ask yourself whether someone reading your application will end up with a clear idea of exactly what you plan to do, and why you plan to do it.

1. Title (no more than 20 words)

This will be the only information about your grant that will appear in some forms of publicity. Please make sure that it clearly conveys the main idea of your project.

 2. Information about the Principal Investigator

Name, institutional affiliation, and full contact details for one person who will be the coordinator for the project, and our key contact. This person must be a member of staff employed by a TEI, by Ministry Division, by the Discipleship and Ministries cluster of the Methodist Church, or by the United Reformed Church.

3. Brief overview (no more than 500 words)

A short paragraph describing your project. This text should be suitable for use in any publicity we send out about the outcome of this round of awards. It should summarise your approach to the topic, what you hope to do, and why it is important.

4. Proposed project timetable

Please note that projects may begin as soon as the award has been made (Easter 2018) and must be completed by Nov 30 2018.

5. A full description (no more than 2500 words)

The full description must include the following elements:

  • An account of the approach taken
  • What is liturgy in time of tragedy seeking to do?
  • How might that be achieved?
  • What existing published resources will be drawn upon?
  • What theological approach to tragedy will the liturgies reflect?
  • In outline, what type of liturgies will be generated?

The final outputs will consist of four pieces of liturgy, each of at least two pages of A4, and a 2000-word commentary on each. The commentary should make clear for what context the liturgy has been designed, and why, pastorally, liturgically and theologically, the liturgy might be expected to be effective.

6. Project Management

How will the Principal Investigator ensure that the project stays on track, and achieves its objectives within the time available? How will members of the team communicate? How will the main activities be organised?

7. Project personnel

Who, beyond the Principal Investigator, will be involved in delivering this project, and what will they do? Will students be involved, and if so, how? We encourage the inclusion of at least one currently serving minister in the team.

Please supply names, cvs, and full contact details for the core team.

8. A budget

This should include:  a breakdown of costs (totalling no more than £2,000); and a brief explanation of how these costs have been arrived at.

9. Up-to-date CVs for the project team (at least three team members must be involved)

Applications should be sent to Christopher Southgate at to arrive no later than midnight on March 1st 2018.

Applications will be assessed by at least two members of the project team, including the project leader. Details of the team can be found at www. tragedy and

Any queries about the grants or the application process should be sent to Christopher Southgate at

Further information about the Common Awards Research Network can be found at