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St John's College

News and events

Calendar of events for September 2019
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Events for October 2019


A podcast conversation with the Principal

The Principal David Wilkinson has recently featured in a theology podcast named Homebrewed Christianity. Topics in the episode range from awe, evil and piety to the laws of physics and extraterrestrial life.

You can listen to the podcast here.

(6 Sep 2019)

Visiting Fellow releases new book

Professor Rae Earnshaw, one of our Visiting Fellows has released a book called “Data Science and Visual Computing”. This book presents a review of big data and an analysis of the fields of data visualisation and visual analytics. It also explains the key elements and drivers in these fields.

(4 Sep 2019)

Space: God, the Universe and Everything at Lichfield Cathedral

The Principal was delighted to be invited to take part in Lichfield Cathedral’s The Great Exhibition 2019 Space: God, the Universe and Everything – a stunning visual spectacle inspired by the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing. 

Professor Wilkinson gave one of the opening lectures to a packed hall and then went into the Cathedral to see the exhibition. He comments: ‘One of the most beautiful exhibitions that I have seen – imaginative and awe inspiring. The Cathedral makes a wonderful and ideal space for exploring science, art and faith.’

Very Revd Adrian Dorber, the Dean of Lichfield, is a John’s alumnus.

The Principal will return to Lichfield on the 24th September to take part in a lecture series on science and religion.

(12 Aug 2019)

The Principal and Apollo 11

On Saturday 20th July, the Principal will be in the US taking part in a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. He will be sharing the stage with Paul Lembo who was coordinator of the Lunar Module ascent stage construction for Grumman Aircraft Corp.

(18 Jul 2019)

Name a seat in the LRC

Would you like to name a seat in the Learning Resource Centre? This is a unique opportunity for froiends and alumni of St John's to make their mark on this special building, all the while supporting St John’s financially and commemorating their student days here or honouring a loved one.

The chairs with an integral writing tablet, pictured, are a design classic by David Rowland, and are located in the lecture room and seminar room in the LRC. 

You can name your seat here

(12 Jul 2019)

Assistant Senior Tutor (maternity cover)

Jasmine Baker-Sones has been appointed as Assistant Senior Tutor (maternity cover) for the period August 2019 until January 2020. During this time Becca Hasler will be Acting Senior Tutor. 

Jasmine started working in Durham University in 2014, joining the Department of History as Undergraduate Co-ordinator. This role gave her a passion for student support and the wider student experience and she is excited to be working within the college environment. She graduated in 2012 from Northumbria University with a BA in History. Following her degree she did a fundraising internship with Macmillan Cancer Support and worked in customer support in the private sector. In her spare time she is a keen reader and documentary watcher, and loves spending time with friends, family and her two rescue cats.

(10 Jul 2019)

The Principal talking about time and relativity

The Principal, Revd Professor David Wilkinson speaks time travel, black holes and the remits of science in this podcast conversation exploring the question: can we ever fully understand time through science, or does it open up more mystery?

The podcast is available to watch and listen to here. 


(5 Jul 2019)

Merchandise Available Online

The St John's College merchandise collection is now available to purchase online via the Durham University Shop. Items are purchased online and delivered to your desired address. In addition to our classic items such as scarves, pins, cufflinks and mugs, we have recently expanded the collection to include teddy bears, pens and umbrellas.

Click here to view the merchandise.

(2 Jul 2019)

Learning Resource Centre

We are delighted to announce that on Friday 28th June the official handover of the Learning Resource Centre from the contractors took place. Richard Leech chairman of the Sir William Leech Charity, the founding benefactor, received the keys on behalf of the College. 

The building will be officially opened at the end of September and will be in full use for the next acadmic year. 

(1 Jul 2019)

This Week for the Principal

The Principal was invited to a book club in Durham to speak on ‘Hawking, Dawkins and God: The legacy of new atheism for the dialogue of science and religion’. This was so popular that it was moved from its usual venue to a lecture room and then to a larger lecture room when so many people turned up! It filled one of the largest lecture rooms in the Physics Department.

The Principal will speak on ‘Science, Religion and SETI’ at Liverpool Cathedral on Thursday evening and at Jesmond Methodist Church on Friday evening and then will take part in the science festival at Ely Cathedral on Sunday morning.

(21 May 2019)

Visiting Fellow's new book

Current Visiting Fellow the Revd Dr Jason Byassee has written a new book, Surprised by Jesus Again

Drawing on the early church’s theological giants—Origen, Augustine, Gregory the Great, and more from the historical cloud of witnesses—author Jason Byassee models how we can recover ancient Christians’ multiple ways of reading the Bible to our benefit. As Byassee says, God himself is Jewish, Catholic, and Pentecostal—so much larger than our own little corner on the truth—and this book offers readers a refreshingly enhanced vision of the Bible and of Jesus himself.

During his time at St John's, Jason is studying church growth in the North East of England, and helping with a new joint program between VST and the Durham University Department of Theology and Religion to offer PhD’s in western Canada.

(21 May 2019)

Statement from the Principal

It is with great sadness that we learnt over Easter of the death of Milly Savill (nee Coulson) with her husband Toby. They were killed in a buggy crash on the Greek island of Santorini.

Milly was a student here at John’s and graduated in 2015. She was an outstanding theologian and was taught by the Principal in his course on science and theology where she excelled. She led the College CU and was captain of the Netball B team.

She taught at St Anne's Catholic primary school in Vauxhall. With her husband Toby, a graduate of Hild Bede in the same year, she had a strong Christian faith. 


(24 Apr 2019) » Read more here: Statement from the Principal

Revd Professor David Wilkinson in Jerusalem

Last week the Principal took part in a conference held in Jerusalem on the legacy of Stephen Hawking with theologians, philosophers and leading cosmologists such as Avi Loeb and Bernard Carr.

(27 Mar 2019)

All Years Reunion

This September St John's College will be hosting a reunion for graduates of all ages. In addition to the usual activities of a reunion, such as formal dinner, a quiz in the bar and brunch, this reunion will feature many extra events for old Johnians to enjoy. From a guided tour of Durham Cathedral and an exclusive viewing of the University Art Collection to a walking tour of Durham, the reunion will give you the chance to relive the Durham days you remember so well and experience Durham anew. 

Find out more about the reunion and sign up here. 

(25 Mar 2019)

Vice-Chancellor of University attends Festival Dinner

On Wednesday 20th March we were delighted to have the Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, Professor Stuart Corbridge, be our guest to Festival Dinner. Festival Dinner is an annual formal dinner at which the outgoing student executive committee are commended for their hard-work and the College celebrates the end of Epiphany Term. Many thanks to all the students who work tirelessly for student common room affairs. 

(22 Mar 2019)

Scientists in Congregations

The Principal David Wilkinson leads the Scientists in Congregations project, which works with churches and cathedrals across the UK to foster greater understanding about science and faith. This summer they'll be marking the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing at Ely Cathedral as part of a science festival on space exploration, Artificial Intelligence and future technologies.

Find out more about the exhibitions and where you can find them in this Telegraph article or this Church of England press release


(20 Mar 2019)

Appointment of a new College Chaplain

St John's College is delighted to announce the appointment of Revd Anna Brooker as part-time Chaplain.

Anna grew up in Liverpool, studied in York and Cambridge and spent many years as a primary teacher in London, alongside lay ministry in her local Anglican church. Her vocation to ordained ministry arose from her work with families and those seeking baptism, and she trained at Ridley Hall, later followed by a masters degree in practical theology at York St John.

(20 Feb 2019) » Read more here: Appointment of a new College Chaplain

Principal on Donald Tusk and Hell

On Sunday the Principal discussed Donald Tusk’s remark about there being a special place in Hell for those who promoted Brexit without a plan to carry it out safely in interviews with BBC Radio Devon, Lancashire, Bristol, Oxford, York London, Newcastle, Surrey/Sussex, Tees and Sheffield. He explored why the language of hell is still used and how Christians understand its place in the tradition and current belief.

(11 Feb 2019)

The Revd Joel Edwards CBE

Visiting Fellow Joel Edwards has been awarded a CBE in the Queen's Honour list 2019 for services to tackling poverty and injustice. 

(9 Jan 2019)

Principal on Soyuz and Cathedral

At the start of November, the Principal spoke at Peterborough Cathedral, which has been hosting Tim Peake’s Soyuz TMA-19M space capsule.

In this beautiful 900-year-old Cathedral, the spacecraft has been a vast visitor attraction. Before returning to the earth it endured temperatures of more than 1500 degrees Celsius and has travelled at 17000 miles an hour during its from the International Space Station.

The Principal spoke of the different religious responses of astronauts and cosmologists as they encountered the universe, and explored the question of ‘The Search for God – can science help’?

(14 Nov 2018)

Chapel with Royal connection open to visitors

St John's College was in the local news this week with a story covering the opening of the College Chapel to visitors. Our thanks to the volunteer stewards who make this possible. If you are interested in becoming a chapel steward please contact Liz Forbes at


(8 Nov 2018) » Read more here: Chapel with Royal connection open to visitors

MCR publishes Postgraduate Wellbeing Handbook

The MCR (Middle Common Room) is publishing a brand-new Postgraduate Wellbeing Handbook. This collaborative effort between St John's and Ustinov College contains advice, submitted by students, for taking care of wellbeing and mental health while studying for a postgraduate degree. It also contains signposts to further sources of support and advice. Being a postgraduate comes with its challenges, but it is hoped this handbook will help to break the silence around postgraduate mental health and wellbeing, encouraging readers to care for themselves and one another in tangible, practical ways. 

(17 Oct 2018)

The Revd Deborah Hopkinson (née Robertson)

Revd Deborah Hopkinson (née Robertson) - The Wesley Study Centre (2000-2003)

It was with deep sadness that College received the news of Deborah’s death on 26 September 2018.

Deborah came to the WSC as a Foundation Training Student in 2000 and studied the MA in Theology and Ministry as part of her ministerial training. Her first appointment was in the Chesterfield Methodist Circuit. Our prayers are with Andy her husband and her three small children as well as with all of her family at this very sad time.

(10 Oct 2018)

Physics Department Awards for Excellence

PhD Researcher Miro Cafolla has been awarded a Physics Department Award for Excellence 2018. The motivation for the award reads: “For his outstanding commitment to teaching demonstrated through his exemplary approach to helping students understand complicated concepts in the Advanced Physics workshops over the past three years.” 

(26 Sep 2018) » Read more here: Physics Department Awards for Excellence

Video about St Mary the Less

Have you ever visited the Chapel of St Mary the Less? We're extremely fortunate that this beautiful little chapel on the Bailey is part of St John's College. If you've ever walked past and wondered what's inside, or been inside and wondered about its history, you can watch our brand new video to find out more.

St Mary the Less will be open to the public during term time on Mondays to Fridays between Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. We also look forward to welcoming visitors as part of Heritage Open Days (6th-9th and 13th-16th September 2018). Further stewarded open days throughout the year are to be announced.

(20 Jul 2018)

Peter Wake

We are sad to announce the death of Pete Wake, who was admitted to Kingston Hospital on the 14th June with pneumonia and complications. After his long and brave fight he died on Thursday at 11.30pm. 

Over a decade ago Pete was found in Durham city with severe brain trauma. At the time he was a third year historian at Johns. Since then, with the amazing care and support of his mum and dad, Phil and Anne, his brother Chris and a wide network of family and friends Pete showed unique courage and love of life to battle his disabilities and illness.

In recognition of this remarkable person the University awarded his history degree and the John’s Boat Club named one of our boats in his honour. Indeed it was only recently at the Head of the River that the boat was named in the presence of Pete and his family.

(27 Jun 2018)

SCR member receives Chancellor's Medal

Warmest congratulations to Dr Margaret Harvey, a long-standing member of the Senior Common Room of St John's College, who is one of three recipients this year of the Chancellor's Medal, presented at the Celebrating Excellence Dinner in the Great Hall of the Castle on 30 April 2018. Chancellor's Medals are awarded to former members of academic staff whose achievements in and around Durham are such that they have earned this prestigious honour.


Dr Harvey, who frequently attends the Wednesday SCR buffet lunch in St John's, is an Honorary Fellow (Late Medieval History) in the University of Durham's Department of History and a member of the University's Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies. Among her publications is Lay Religious Life in Late Medieval Durham (Boydell Press, 2006), described by one reviewer as a 'meticulously researched and detailed book'. She is currently working with Dr Lynda Rollason on a new edition of The Rites of Durham, which describes aspects of the late medieval monastery at Durham.

(3 May 2018)

Student success

Seven St John's students presented at the Josephine Butler Research Forum last week on topics ranging from machine learning to the God of contemporary British worship. The multi-disciplinary forum was spread over two days and showcased both undergraduate and postgraduate speakers from Colleges and Departments across the University.

Many congratulations to all Johnians who presented their research at the event, especially to Joseph Bullock and Alexander Hibberts who won awards for their contributions. Joseph (pictured, below) won the long presentation award with his talk 'Hey Google: Show Me a Llama'. Alexander (pictured, above) gave a talk on 'English Cathedral Architecture, 1660-1669', which earned him the short presentation award. This is a wonderful achievement.

Speaking on his experience, Alex said, "it was a great experience to be exposed to research from a range of disciplines across the university and meet like-minded individuals with whom I could share my own ideas."

(24 Apr 2018)

HRH The Prince of Wales to visit St John's

We are delighted to announce the visit of HRH The Prince of Wales on Thursday 15 February. While Prince Charles is coming to visit Durham Cathedral and the University he has asked especially to come and visit St John’s College. This is to reflect how highly Cranmer Hall is viewed nationally but also to unveil a new blue plaque on Bowes House which commemorates Dame Elizabeth Bowes his 7 times great grandmother. Elizabeth Bowes is buried in our College Chapel and was a pioneer and entrepreneur in the coal mining industry of the North-East.

(6 Feb 2018) » Read more here: HRH The Prince of Wales to visit St John's

Cranmer Hall Diamond Jubilee!

October 2018 sees the 60th anniversary of the founding of Cranmer Hall as part of St John’s College Durham.

To launch a year of special events we are having a Diamond Jubilee Service at Durham Cathedral on Saturday 29 September 2018 at 11am, followed by a Celebration Buffet Lunch in College.

All Cranmer Hall alumni and friends are warmly invited and it promises to be a wonderful occasion to thank God for his many blessings and meet up with those who have been part of the special story of Cranmer Hall, Durham. 

Please save the date in your diaries and watch out for more details in the New Year.

(31 Oct 2017) » Read more here: Cranmer Hall Diamond Jubilee!

David Wilkinson comments on the value of BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day

David Wilkinson comments on the value of BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day in the Radio Times.

Read what he has to say here: 

(31 Oct 2017)

Local Giving

This year in John's our focus is on the positive impact we may have on the community. Led primarily by the student run St John's Common Room, several Community Outreach projects will be launched in the coming weeks, aiming to aid those is local schools and offer support to a local charity 'RT Projects', which in turns seeks to offer refuge to those coping with mental health issues. It is important that as members of the St John's community we recognise the relatively privileged position in which we find ourselves and the responsibly which this carries. St John's students have the opportunity to really affect the lives of those in the local community - be that offering exam advice to Sixth Form students or engaging with arts and crafts classes. The impact of even the smallest amount of volunteering should not be underestimated. 

While the Community Outreach scheme is in its infancy at the moment, we are looking to expand our reach so to help numerous sectors in society. However, as it is a volunteering project, it is unlikely that it will be able sustain its self and therefore we look to our Alumni and friends and any financial support which they may be able to offer. 

As you are most likely aware, we are also still in the process of raising funds for the new Learning Resource Centre. This project is in an exciting stage as number 17 South Bailey has been demolished and archaeologists are currently excavating the site before the building commences. We are still short of our target for this project and would gratefully receive any further donations. Of course, the generosity already given to this project has been outstanding so we understand that many may not be able to sacrifice any more.

In order to facilitate any contributions you may be kindly willing to offer, we have set up a 'local giving' page.  All donations will help support both of these ongoing projects, and any contribution you would be able to make would be very much appreciated.

(30 Oct 2017)

St John's hosts strategic world leading conference on robotics and artificial intelligence

Last week the College's project funded by the Templeton World Charitable Foundation, 'Equipping Christian Leaders in an Age of Science' hosted over 40 senior church leaders, scientists and theologians exploring the theme of 'What does it mean to be human' in the light of advances in robotics, artificial intelligence and the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence.

(10 Jan 2017) » Read more here: St John's hosts strategic world leading conference on robotics and artificial intelligence

Dr Calvin Samuel appointed Principal of London School of Theology

St John's College is delighted to announce that our Academic Dean & WSC Director, Calvin Samuel, has been appointed to be the next Principal of London School of Theology.

Calvin has been part of the College community since 2010, initially as Director of the Wesley Study Centre and latterly as Academic Dean. Under Calvin's oversight recent initiatives such as the Free Church Track and our innovative partnership with Northern Baptist College for the training of Baptist Ministers have come to fruition and we have seen growth in the number of Cranmer Undergraduates who have joined the College community.

Calvin has been an outstanding colleague and good friend over the last 6 years and whilst we will be sad to lose him we are also thrilled at this new appointment for his life and ministry.


(10 Oct 2016)

Leading thinkers in science and technology contribute to new book

Written for general readers of all religious backgrounds, Reason and Wondera new book published by SPCK, introduces some of the most fruitful discussions now taking place between leading thinkers in science and theology. As Professor Priest writes in his Preface: ‘In this integrated approach, the notion of science as a monolithic concept is shattered. Instead, the sciences and humanities represent a rainbow tapestry, linked by a common search for understanding, using reason and imagination.’

(5 Sep 2016) » Read more here: Leading thinkers in science and technology contribute to new book

Aegrotat degree for Pete Wake

In the autumn term, a special ceremony was held at Kings School in Wimbledon. Pete Wake experienced head injuries in Durham City during the time that he was a third year undergraduate at St Johns. A top historian and outstanding rower, Pete's academic and sporting career was cut short. However on the basis of his work up to this point, the University took the unusual step of awarding him an Aegrotat Degree. It was conferred in his absence in summer 2015 but the Principal led a ceremony in Pete's old school close to the hospital that he now resides in. Pete's father Phil, his mother Anne and brother Chris were joined by a large group of family and friends in this celebration of his achievements.

You can visit the Pete Wake Trust website here

(22 Dec 2015)

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