20 June 2011

‘The Challenge of a Secular Age’ in Cambridge

Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge in the sunshine this morning ... the venue for this year’s summer school of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Patrick Comerford

I was in Cambridge this morning, on my way to a conference, and called into both Sidney Sussex College, where I have stayed and studied each summer since 2008, and the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, which is the Orthodox house of theological studies in Cambridge.

The institute is based at Wesley House, around the corner from Sidney Sussex in Jesus Lane, and is a full member of the Cambridge Theological Federation as well as being a designated Allied Institution of the University of Cambridge and a Regional Partner of Anglia Ruskin University.

The IOCS was founded in 1999 with the blessing of all the Orthodox hierarchs in Western Europe. Guest lecturers and supporters have included Metropolitan Kallistos of Diocleia, Metropolitan John Zizioulas, Father Thomas Hopko, Father Professor Andrew Louth, Archimandrite Symeon and Archimandrite Zacharias of Saint John the Baptist Monastery in Essex, and the late Metropolitan Antony of Sourozh.

I hope to be back in Cambridge again next month for the 12th Summer School of the institute, which takes place from 24 to 29 July in Sidney Sussex College.

Wesley House, Cambridge and the offices of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

The theme of the summer school this year is ‘The Challenge of a Secular Age.’

This year’s Summer School promises to investigate the genesis and nature of secularism and to reflect on the role of the Christian faith in the contemporary world. Recent debates have shown that secularism is a complex and multi-layered phenomenon that defies easy analysis. An undifferentiated rejection of secularism is as unconvincing as its uncritical embrace.

The questions to be addressed at the summer school next month include:

● When and why did modern secularism come into being?
●In what way does secular thought influence our way of perceiving the world, and how is this influence manifest in the different spheres of public and private life?
●How are Christians to meet the ‘Challenge of a Secular Age’?

The speakers and topics include:

● Metropolitan Kallistos Ware: ‘Our Orthodox Answer to Secularism I: The Transfiguration of Christ’; ‘Our Orthodox Answer to Secularism II: Pray without Ceasing.’
● Dr Jonathan Chaplin, the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics, Tyndale House, Cambridge, and a member of the Divinity Faculty at Cambridge University: ‘Between Theocracy and Secularism: Religion and the State in Britain Today.’
● Dr Brandon Gallaher of the University of Oxford and Stipendiary Lecturer in Theology at Keble College: ‘An Alternate Modernity? Orthodox and Roman Catholic Engagements with Secularism and (Post-)Modernity, and the Nature of Episcopal Authority.’
● Dr Mihail Neamtu, the Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and for the Memory of Romanian Exile: ‘Communism: a Secularised Eschatology?’
● Revd Professor Nikolaos Loudovikos, Professor of Dogmatics and Philosophy at the Superior Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki: ‘Psychology and Secularism,’
●Dr Irina Kirillova, of Newnham College, Cambridge, and the Department of Slavonic Studies: ‘“If there is no God, then all is permitted!” (FM Dostoevsky).’
● Dr Andreas Andreopoulos, Senior Lecturer in Orthodox Christianity at the University of Winchester: ‘Art: from Ritual to Voyeurism.’
● Revd Dr John Hughes, chaplain and tutorial adviser, Jesus College, and the Faculty of Divinity, Cambridge: ‘Beyond the Secular Market: Christian Social Teaching and the Economic Crisis.’
● Dragos Herescu, graduate secretary, IOCS, and Durham University: ‘Secularisation and the Curious Case of the Orthodox Church.’

Another speaker, Alexander Ogorodnikov, is yet to be confirmed. He is a former chair of the Russian Orthodox Argentov Seminar, a peace activist, a Gulag survivor and the founder of several Russian humanitarian organisations.

The programme also includes a pilgrimage to the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Tolleshunt Knights, Essex, for the Divine Liturgy, followed by a tour of the monastery.

King’s College and King’s Parade in the morning sunshine in Cambridge today (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

After my visit to Cambridge this morning, I headed south to Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire, where the annual conference of USPG (Anglicans in World Mission) begins this afternoon. I’m looking forward to my return visit to Cambridge next month.

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