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International network for

the study of spirituality


The nature of our conferences

INSS conferences are interdisciplinary and inter-professional, bringing together a broad range of researchers, scholars and practitioners from around the world who have interests in the theory and practice of spirituality. They are specifically designed to provide opportunities for hospitable conversations and the creation of syntheses across the international, academic and professional boundaries that often pose a challenge to the development of a 'joined-up' field of spirituality studies.

Photo: Melanie Hawes - BASS  Conference, Highgate House, Northampton, UK

In his Opening Address at the launch of the British Association for the Study of Spirituality (BASS, now INSS) in January 2010, the then President, John Swinton, asked:

Why is it that everyone talks about spirituality in such different terms? Why is it that everyone seems to know what it is, yet no one seems to be able to offer a definitive description? Sometimes it is perceived as the manifestation of love; sometimes it is the search for hope, meaning and purpose; for some people it is about religion and God; others clearly and self-consciously want to exclude God and religion. How can we claim to have a coherent field of enquiry if those who are participating in the field appear to have no coherent understanding of what the central concept is?

Part of the ‘problem’ of spirituality is that it straddles different cultures, academic disciplines and professional contexts. Studies in and of the field draw on scientific and literary concepts, on quantitative and qualitative data, and on objective measures as well as subjective experiences. BASS came into being with the expressed intention of providing a forum where studies shaped by the diverse approaches and priorities of different cultures, perspectives and professional obligations might be brought together in the context of what Swinton referred to as ‘hospitable conversation’ in both ‘physical and conceptual’ spaces.

Previous conferences

It is never possible to capture properly in words or retrospect the 'buzz' that arises from the intermingling at conferences of people, personal insights, professional experiences, social concerns and global issues. The creative processes, questions, support and encouragement that all arise from such a mix are the very stuff of what it means to 'confer': 'to bring together'; 'to compare; examine by comparison'; and 'to bestow as a permanent gift' (1). Some aspects of the 'gifts' bestowed by previous conferences are encapsulated in articles in special issues of the Journal for the Study of Spirituality. Links to relevant issues of the journal and to other information about previous conferences are provided in the panels below.

(1) http://www.finedictionary.com/confer.html  [17/09/2020]



FIRST International Conference

of the British Association for the Study of Spirituality,

 in association with the National Spirituality and Mental Health Forum

Tuesday 4 May – Thursday 6 May 2010

Cumberland Lodge, The Great Park, Windsor, UK

A two day conference exploring the relevance of spirituality for the socio-economic, political and cultural challenges of contemporary society

Keynote speakers

Linda Woodhead: Religion and spirituality: Never the twain shall meet?

Bob Neimeyer: Loss of meaning, crisis of faith

Rebecca Nye: Children and spirituality: everything to play for

 Josie Gregory: Maintaining the spirit in the world of work

Harold Koenig: Healthy lives? The spiritual challenge of 21st century health care

 Ursula King: Can spirituality transform our world?

Further information: 

Ursula King paper 

Conference report 


Keynote speakers 




SECOND International Conference

of the British Association for the Study of Spirituality

Tuesday 15 May – Thursday 17 May 2012

Highgate House, Northampton, UK

Keynote speakers

Spirituality & Politics:  Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin

(Chaplain to the House of Commons)

Spirituality & Health:  Chris Cook

 (Professor of Psychiatry, Durham University; Chair, Spirituality Special Interest Group, Royal College of Psychiatrists)

Spirituality & Religion:  Grace Davie

(Emeritus Professor of the Sociology of Religion - University of Exeter)

Spirituality & Ecology:  Sister Jayanti

  (European Director of Brahma Kumaris, World Spirituality University,

Spirituality, Humanity & Social Justice:  Paul Gilbert 

 (Professor of Psychology, University of Derby; Founder of ‘The Compassionate Mind Foundation’)

Further information:

Conference issue of JSS, with keynotes 

Conference report 

Higher Education SIG report 


Keynote speakers 



THIRD International Conference of the

British Association for the Study of Spirituality

Monday 19 May – Wednesday 21 May 2014

Ashridge House, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, UK

Keynote speakers

Roger Gill (Durham University)

Spirituality at Work and the Leadership Challenge

Carole Hillenbrand (University of Edinburgh)

 Mystical Dimensions of Islam, Past and Present

Margaret Holloway (University of Hull) 

Spirituality at the Sharp End

Michael King (University College London)

 The Challenge of Research into Religion and Spirituality

John Swinton (University of Aberdeen)

Spirituality-in-Healthcare: Just because it may be 'made up' does not mean that it is not real and does not matter

Further information:

Conference issue of JSS, with keynotes 

Conference report 


Keynote speakers