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Durham University

Department of Theology and Religion


Each year, starting in 2017/18, we begin work on a new theme, as a focus for Common Awards research. We begin a three-year programme of activity surrounding that theme. (We will eventually, therefore, have three overlapping programmes running at once.)

Our first theme is 'receptivity'. A lot of interesting work is being done at the moment in this area: that is, on moving away from models of theology, ministry, mission, and education which focus on the flow outward – the flow from the 'centre' and out into the world – and which instead think about what the church receives at and beyond the edges of its current life.

If you want to get involved, please watch the videos below to get a sense of our initial exploration of the theme, and then consider submitting a proposal for a seedcorn grant. If you have any other questions or suggestions about the theme, please get in touch with Mike Higton on

Screenshot of video of Al Barrett; links to vimeo page for videos.


For each theme, we gather an initial small symposium to do some initial exploration, and so in the Spring and Summer of 2018 two small groups met to share existing work on receptivity, and to discuss some of the challenges that we saw the themeposing to the life of the church and the work of theological education. Several of the participants have produced short videos to express some of the ideas and questions that the symposium generated for them. (We also have a video from Ben Quash, who was unable to attend.)

You can head over to our Vimeo page to watch the following videos:

  • Al Barrett, talking about ‘radical receptivity’, and the renewal of the church from the urban margins;
  • Gabby Thomas, talking about the challenge of ‘receptive ecumenism’;
  • Ben Quash, talking about ‘found theology’, and the way experience in the world can open up more of the faith the church has inherited;
  • Shemil Mathew on the lessons we can learn from members of the Anglican diaspora;
  • Sanjee Perera on recepitivity - and the lack of it - in our liturgy;
  • Cathy Ross on receptivity in missiology – and about receptive placements;
  • Ken Farrimond on receptive mission, and the receptive Jesus;
  • Lynne Cullens asking how the church can embrace a broader range of people, including in its leadership;
  • Guli Francis-Dehqani on what receptive episcopacy might look like;
  • Liz Kent on deep listening and transformational learning;
  • Mike Higton on receiving more of our faith through inter-faith engagement;
  • Keith Beech-Gruneberg on discernment and responsibility; and
  • Mike Pears on receptive conversation.

Other Resources

You can find more of Al Barrett's reflections on his blog, and in an article 'Interrupting the church’s flow: hearing "other" voices on an outer urban estate’ from Practical Theology 11:1 (2018), 79-92.

You can find out more about ‘Receptive Ecumenism’, and specifically about Gabby Thomas's project.

You can visit the webpage for ‘Creative Conversations’, Mike Pears' and Cathy Ross’s project 'helping Christians to foster careful and thoughtful listening to voices of those who experience marginalisation, exlcusion and deprivation through open-hearted attentiveness in order to become more aware of what’s happening in our communities’.

Ben Quash explores the themes touched on in his video much more fully in his book Found Theology.