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International Network for the Study of Spirituality

Conference 2023:

Key Lectures and Speakers 

KEYNOTE 1: Tuesday 16 May 2023, 13:20-14:20

'Doing’ Reflective Practice and Understanding Spirituality as a Way of Being: Implications for Professional and Transformative Practice.

Dr Cheryl Hunt, University of Exeter, UK

ABSTRACT: Reflective practice has been described as a means of ‘having 20 years’ experience rather than one year’s experience twenty times over’ and is often understood as a means of exploring the ‘What?’, ‘How?’ and (less often) ‘Why?’ questions that drive professional practices. ‘Doing’ reflective practice in this way can undoubtedly provide insights and new perspectives with which to develop and enhance professional practice - but it can also be seen simply as a ‘chore’, another requirement of an institutional audit culture and/or of the assessment of professional education and training. In this lecture I will illustrate from personal experience how including the ’Who?’ question – ‘Who is the self that practices?’ -in one’s reflective practices can change the nature of the inquiry.

I will also address the question of what makes reflection ‘critical’. This is generally regarded as reflection resulting in action in order to effect change in personal, social and/or political circumstances, particularly in relation to social justice. Drawing on the work of Parker Palmer on what constitutes ‘vocation’ and John Heron on different forms of knowledge, I will suggest that to ask ‘Who am I?’ can shed light on the relationship between spirituality and the material world of everyday practice, including what it means to be a professional. It is a light which can help us not only to see better how our own innate sense of ‘beingness’ and ongoing experiences and ideas feed directly into our roles as professionals, but to consider the transformative potential of those roles.

Cheryl Hunt is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Exeter UK where she was formerly the Director of Professional Doctorates in the Graduate School of Education. She has designed, directed and facilitated numerous academic and professional programmes involving reflective practices. A Director and Trustee of the International Network for the Study of Spirituality since its inception, she is also the Founding and current Chief Editor of the Journal for the Study of Spirituality; and the author of Critical Reflection, Spirituality and Professional Practice (Palgrave Macmillan 2021).

PUBLIC LECTURE: Tuesday 16 May 2023, 19:30-20:30

Seeking God at the World’s Edge: The Contemporary Appeal of ‘Celtic’ Spirituality.

Prof. Jonathan Wooding, University of Sydney, Australia

ABSTRACT: Over the last half-century, but especially since the 1980s, people have turned to the early churches of the Celtic-speaking nations as a source of inspiration for spirituality. For some this has been an historical search for alternative models of ‘church’ to those of the present day. Others are inspired by the monastic culture of the Celtic churches, which exhibits on the one hand an appealingly ascetic spirituality, and on the other a richness of artistic as well as literary expression.

This lecture will explore themes in ‘Celtic Christianity’, particularly with reference to the story of St Brendan, whose feast-day coincides with this opening day of the INSS 2023 conference.* This is a tale that has had an enduring appeal for its narrative of monks who seek God in the ocean. Thomas Merton saw in it a ‘a symbolic tract on the monastic life’, but lay readers also find in it a reflection on earthly existence and life in community. It has inspired many modern writers on spirituality, for example Cynthia Bourgeault and Ray Simpson, as well as novelists who have mediated religious narratives for a wider reading public, such as C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Frederick Beuchner.

Jonathan Wooding is an Australian-born church historian. He was director of the programmes in Celtic Christianity at the University of Wales Lampeter/Trinity Saint David from 1998-2013. He held the Sir Warwick Fairfax Chair of Celtic Studies at the University of Sydney from 2013-21. He has written or edited sixteen books and has written over 60 articles or chapters in books concerning topics in church history, monasticism, and the cult of saints in the Celtic world—including several studies of the cult of St Brendan.

* Read more about St Brendan, his Voyage, and music and places associated with him

KEYNOTE 2: Wednesday 17 May 2023, 09:00-10:00