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 sé 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 also the Director of the Winchester Institute for Contemplative Education and Practice: an emerging network of academic and professional staff working to embed contemplative practices into the curriculum, classroom and community at Winchester.