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Friday, 23rd November 2018UPCOMING Seminar Thursday 6 December 2018:
Memory, Narrative and Ageing

This seminar will take place on Thursday 6 December 2018, 4.30-6pm in Seminar Room C
(D/TH107, Dept. of Theology & Religion, Abbey House, DH1 3RS, Durham).

Dr Jocelyn Bryan, Academic Dean and Cranmer Hall Tutor at St John’s College, Durham

The storied nature of our lives and experience receives considerable attention in the study of the later stages of human life. During these stages of life, the pace of experience and its content changes, allowing more time for reflection and processing. Drawing on psychological research into autobiographical memory, hindsight and the content of narrative in later life, the seminar will outline the implications of this research for spirituality and pastoral care for later life.


Dr Jocelyn Bryan is Academic Dean and Cranmer Hall Tutor at St John’s College, Durham. She is also Director of the Doctor in Theology and Ministry programme and teaches Pastoral and Practical Theology, Human Sexuality, Gender and Christian Ministry and Psychology and Christian Ministry. She has worked in Ministerial Formation for over a decade, before which she worked in management for a large computer company. Her PhD is in psychology. Jocelyn’s main research interest is in the interdisciplinary field of psychology, theology and ministry. She has recently published Human Being: Insights from Psychology and the Christian Faith and co-edited The Christian Handbook of Abuse, Addiction and Difficult Behaviour. She has also contributed two chapters to a book on Sexual Issues and published a number of reflections on pastoral challenges in the volume Facing The Issues. She is the editor of the St John’s College Online Journal Theology and Ministry.


Monday, 12th November 2018Seminar Thursday 22 November 2018:
The Rainbow Bridge: Intimations of Immortality

This seminar took place on Thursday 22 November 2018, 4.30-6pm in Seminar Room C
(D/TH107, Dept. of Theology & Religion, Abbey House, DH1 3RS, Durham).

Revd Dr Susan Gabriel Talbot, Writer, worker for the Gettalife Project charity, Spiritual Director and Anglican sister (profilewebsite)

To download the presentation’s Handout click here.

To watch the Lecture, please click on the video below:


This seminar will cover a consideration of aspects of human experience that are suggestive of the possibility of a transcendent realm; centring on visionary dream or altered states of consciousness that church history and historical theology might term as prophetic, i.e. a ‘living, numinous ‘word’ for the moment of particular significance to the individual or community. From the case-histories collected or studied, emerge powerful, evocative material suggestive of a many-layered world in which there are, as Peter Berger might affirm, ‘signals of transcendence’. These experiences of a numinous intensity and quality are also indicative of interconnections across time and space between human beings linked by kinship, compassion and at times a profound desire for wisdom and truth.

Of the contemporary accounts, some core material was drawn from primary data research collected in the first instance for a stand-alone documentary for a BBC radio 4 programme and was later added to in a doctoral research initiative at Manchester University. The Doctoral programme research drew material from qualitative ‘face to face’ interviews with a hidden population of those who had experienced such phenomena. They describe experiences felt by most interviewees to be an encounter with the numinous. These were not only visionary-dreams but included other modes of consciousness linked to prophecy, visionary dream and healing-in the spiritual sense- as well as some occasions of being shown or ‘called’ to a particular life. This core material has been added to as and when appropriate. Qualitative Interviews were also conducted with Vocations Advisors and Spiritual Directors. The final strand was a quantitative survey of the theological colleges within the UK, asking how they felt they had dealt with and were dealing with such material.


Revd. Dr Susan Gabriel Talbot, after a portfolio career, spanning the different but related disciplines of teaching, BBC radio 4 research and presentation for Woman’s Hour and the Religious Department as well as research at Manchester Victoria University in religion, ethnicity and Education, became one of the first tranche of women to become priested in the Anglican Church in 1994.

Her professional involvement within the Anglican Church included Parish Ministry in a the large Housing Estate as well pioneering, unexpectedly, a major renewal project in one of the most deprived areas of the inner city in Manchester. Later, in the Chester Diocese, she was asked to be Healing advisor for a period, as well leading a Supervision Group for those working in Spiritual Direction in the Chester Diocese.

Sue Talbot is Chair of Trustees and field-worker of the Gettalife project as well as being a writer and Spiritual Director. Sue trained in Spiritual Direction through the Loyola Hall Jesuit Retreat House and the Spidir system at Manchester Cathedral.

The work of which this presentation is a part, was granted a bursary by Gladstone’s library to enable the primary data from the doctoral research and material from other sources to be transmuted into book-form prior to the next step of moving it into the public realm, hopefully, via an intrigued Agent or publisher!


Monday, 1st October 2018Seminar Thursday 25 October 2018:
Shape of Water: ‘Medicine of Mortality’ in Patristic Pastoral Healthcare

This seminar took place on Thursday 25 October 2018, 4.30-6pm in Seminar Room C
(D/TH107, Dept. of Theology & Religion, Abbey House, DH1 3RS, Durham).

Dr Susan R. Holman, Academic editor & writer in medicine & global health, Harvard University (2007-2018); John R. Eckrich Chair & Professor of Religion & the Healing Arts, Valparaiso University (2019); Senior Fellow of the Harvard University Initiative on Health, Religion, and Spirituality

To download the presentation’s Handout click here.

To watch the Lecture, please click on the video below:


Water takes many shapes in early Christian texts on healing and need: in baptism, healing springs, the therapeutic drink of fasting, merciful nurture, filth-prevention, and the civic or public service of funding baths. Water was a human entitlement based on theological ethics; Gregory of Nyssa, for instance, condemned those who forbade the sick poor from drinking from public fountains as if they poisoned them; and in the Egyptian desert, Abba Shenoute funded (and likely designed on sanctuary patterns) a massive well during a refugee crisis. Yet even when it is regarded as essential, water can kill: mixed in wine of the “wrong” group’s eucharist, infested with mysterious forces that trigger life-threatening vomiting and diarrhea, or simply by its absence, for example in drought that some, like Basil of Caesarea, blamed on sin and greed. Water’s connection with illness and death may seem to flow in provocative eddies with Ignatius of Antioch’s famous appeal to eucharist as the “medicine of immortality.”

Water is often the forgotten cipher in health care. Yet safe drinking water and basic sanitation remain key to global goals today in both health and development. As the late Steve de Gruchy reminded us in his 2009 essay on “Water and Spirit: Theology in the Time of Cholera,” “There is only one stream of water” in this world, “[t]here is no life outside this cycle and theology has to get real about it.” Isabel Apawo Phiri, in her 2018 Steve de Gruchy Memorial Lecture, called for the church to take a serious role in realizing the vision for comprehensive water justice. While such messages most directly speak to faith-based concerns about the global environment, they are also deeply rooted in both therapeutic and eschatological imagery relevant to pastoral engagement in health care. This paper will consider and tease at these cross-time and cross-disciplinary connections, asking: how might Christian constructions of water in late antiquity potentially inform scholarship, action, and community-based thinking about how we address medicine, mortality, and ministry today?


Susan R. Holman is a writer and scholar whose research explores the intersections of faith-based responses to disease and poverty in late antiquity with related issues in modern global health. Dr. Holman’s early studies in clinical and public health nutrition shape the narrative of her books on Christian history, including The Hungry are Dying: Beggars and Bishops in Roman Cappadocia (Oxford 2001), God Knows There’s Need: Christian Responses to Poverty (Oxford 2009), and Beholden: Religion, Global Health, and Human Rights (Oxford 2015, which received the 2016 Grawemeyer Award in Religion). She is also editor of Wealth and Poverty in Early Church and Society (BakerAcademic 2008), author and co-translator of Basil of Caesarea: On Fasting and Feasts (SVS Press 2013), and co-editor of The Garb of Being: Embodiment and the Pursuit of Holiness in Late Ancient Christianity (Fordham 2019).


Monday, 1st October 2018SEMINAR PROGRAMME
Michaelmas Term 2018

SEMINAR PROGRAMME – Michaelmas Term 2018

These seminars are open to all staff and students of Durham University and to the general public. However, please be aware that they are aimed at a postgraduate level and are therefore especially suitable for MA, PhD and DThM students, as well as for others engaged in postgraduate study in relevant areas of enquiry.


If you would like to attend any of these seminars, please send an e-mail to Charidimos Koutris ( in order to ensure that a place will be available for you.


Also feel free to visit the Durham University website to Subscribe to these seminars, download future seminars as an iCal calendar file or download the seminar programme in pdf format.


Thursday 25 October 2018 (4.30-6pm)
Shape of Water: ‘Medicine of Mortality’ in Patristic Pastoral Healthcare
Seminar Room C (D/TH107)Dept. of Theology & Religion, Abbey House, DH1 3RS, Durham
by Dr Susan R. Holman,
Academic editor & writer in medicine & global health, Harvard University (2007-2018);
John R. Eckrich Chair & Professor of Religion & the Healing Arts, Valparaiso University (2019);
Senior Fellow of the Harvard University Initiative on Health, Religion, and Spirituality


Thursday 22 November 2018 (4.30-6pm)
The Rainbow Bridge: Intimations of Immortality
Seminar Room C (D/TH107)Dept. of Theology & Religion, Abbey House, DH1 3RS, Durham
by Revd Dr Susan Gabriel Talbot,
Writer, worker for the Gettalife Project charity, Spiritual Director and Anglican sister


Thursday 6 December 2018 (4.30-6pm)
Memory, Narrative and Ageing
Seminar Room C (D/TH107)Dept. of Theology & Religion, Abbey House, DH1 3RS, Durham
by Dr Jocelyn Bryan,
Academic Dean and Cranmer Hall Tutor at St John’s College, Durham



Durham University logo (transparent)


Tuesday, 24th July 2018Spiritually Significant Voices project

As Co-Investigators on the Hearing the Voice Project, funded by Wellcome Trust, we would like to request that any readers who have had experiences of spiritually significant voices (or voice-like experiences) would consider completing a survey which may be found online at this URL:

Spiritually significant voices take a variety of forms. Some people find the term “hearing voices” a useful way to describe their experience, others refer more specifically to hearing God, angels, saints, demons, or other spiritual beings. Others hear sounds but not speech, describe loud thoughts, or feel the presence of God, angels, demons, or other beings. For some people such experiences have been rare – perhaps once in a lifetime – and for others they are ongoing. Our aim is to develop a better understanding of all of these experiences. Anyone can take part who has had first-hand experience of hearing a spiritually significant voice, as long as they are 16 years of age or over.


Thursday, 7th June 2018Hearing Voices, Demonic and Divine: Scientific and Theological Perspectives, 1st Edition
by Christopher C. H. Cook

The book is available as open access – by virtue of the Wellcome Trust funding.

A hardback copy can be bought from the publisher’s website here.



Experiences of hearing the voice of God (or angels, demons, or other spiritual beings) have generally been understood either as religious experiences or else as a feature of mental illness. Some critics of traditional religious faith have dismissed the visions and voices attributed to biblical characters and saints as evidence of mental disorder. However, it is now known that many ordinary people, with no other evidence of mental disorder, also hear voices and that these voices not infrequently include spiritual or religious content. Psychological and interdisciplinary research has shed a revealing light on these experiences in recent years, so that we now know much more about the phenomenon of “hearing voices” than ever before.

The present work considers biblical, historical, and scientific accounts of spiritual and mystical experiences of voice hearing in the Christian tradition in order to explore how some voices may be understood theologically as revelatory. It is proposed that in the incarnation, Christian faith finds both an understanding of what it is to be fully human (a theological anthropology), and God’s perfect self-disclosure (revelation). Within such an understanding, revelatory voices represent a key point of interpersonal encounter between human beings and God.



‘With expertise in both theology and psychiatry, Professor Chris Cook is ideally placed to examine the complexities around the hearing of voices in spiritual and religious contexts. His book is an authoritative and comprehensive guide to the scientific and theological research in the area. It is also a delightfully engaging read.’ — Charles Fernyhough, Director and Principle Investigator, Hearing the Voice, Durham University, UK

‘Hearing Voices, Demonic and Divine, is a careful and comprehensive account of the voice-hearing phenomenon. Unlike other such surveys, Cook takes seriously the possibility that voices communicate divine intention. Cook explores the vexed problem of discerning whether and when spirit speaks with thoughtfulness, empathy and wise caution.’ — Tanya Marie Luhrmann, Howard H. and Jessie T. Watkins University Professor of Anthropology, Stanford University, USA

‘The experience of hearing voices is something that is common to religious experiences and to those experiences that some determine as unusual or pathological. Untangling the complex origins and meanings of voice hearing is not an easy task, especially if we take into consideration issues around religion and theology. The dual temptation to under or over spiritualise voice hearing is alluring and difficult to avoid. Chris Cook recognises this difficult tension, but also realises that it is not enough simply to partition voices with some assumed to be the responsibility of psychiatrists and others open to the discernment of religion and theology. The phenomenon of voice hearing requires an integrated approach that takes seriously the insights that can be gleaned from disciplines such as psychiatry, psychology, biology and neurology, whilst at the same time taking equally as seriously the insights that theology and Christian tradition brings to the conversation. All of these perspectives in turn require to take cognisance of the profound importance of listening to the personal narratives of voice hearers. Voices do not occur apart from people. If we forget that we risk losing the soul of our therapeutic and scientific endeavours. It is within this crucial hospitable conversation that new insights and fresh possibilities emerge. This powerful and well-argued interdisciplinary reflection on hearing voices opens up vital space for re-thinking the phenomenon of voice hearing and opening up new possibilities for understanding and responding. This is a helpful and important book.’ — John Swinton, Professor in Practical Theology and Pastoral Care and Chair in Divinity and Religious Studies, University of Aberdeen, UK


Thursday, 24th May 2018Centre for Spirituality, Theology & Health – Data Protection & Privacy Policy

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All data we collect about you is protected against unauthorized access by third parties. We do our utmost to protect your privacy through the appropriate use of security technologies and physical safeguards.

Be aware that the Spirituality, Theology and Health website contains links to other websites of interest operated by third parties. We do not accept any liability for the privacy practices of such third-party websites.

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Sunday, 15th May 2016Spirituality, Theology and Mental Health
edited by Christopher Cook

Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Editor: Christopher Cook

ISBN-13: 9780334046264

ISBN-10: 0334046262

Publisher: SCM Press

Format: Paperback

RRP: WAS £45.00 / NOW ONLY £36.00 (order now by clicking here)

Publish date: 31/05/2013

Flyer: You can view the book’s flyer by clicking here


A few words about the book:

In 2010 a Durham conference on Spirituality, Theology & Mental Health was made possible by support from the Guild of Health. The conference was attended by more than one hundred delegates, from a variety of different professional and academic backgrounds including those working in university departments of theology, anthropology and philosophy, as well as chaplains, clergy and healthcare professionals. The present publication comprises a series of chapters by authors, all of whom presented papers at the conference. It is thus informed by the debate that took place at the conference, but it is more than simply a set of conference proceedings. The aim has been to create a book with multi-disciplinary and multi-professional contributions which show the relevance of theology to healthcare today, and which will provide a resource for postgraduate teaching, research and professional practice.


This book provides reflections from leading international scholars and practitioners in theology, anthropology, philosophy and psychiatry as to the nature of spirituality and its relevance to constructions of mental disorder and mental healthcare. Key issues are explored in depth, including the nature of spirituality and recent debates concerning its importance in contemporary psychiatric practice, relationship between demons and wellbeing in ancient religious texts and contemporary practice, religious conversion, and the nature and importance of myth and theology in shaping human self understanding. These are used as a basis for exploring some of the overarching intellectual and practical issues that arise when different disciplines engage together with an attempt to better understand the relationship between spirituality and mental health and translate their findings into mental healthcare practice.


Are you still unsure why buy this book?

Here are two Commendations by Professors Harold G. Koenig and Sheila the Baroness Hollins


Professors Harold G. Koenig:

Scientists and clinicians will find in this book contributions from theology, philosophy and pastoral practice that will give them new insights into the importance of spirituality in mental healthcare. Theological and inter-disciplinary perspectives offered here help all of us to see things differently. This book is commended to all mental health professionals, chaplains and pastoral carers, and academics wanting a broader perspective on spirituality and mental health.


Professor Sheila the Baroness Hollins:

Theology and Mental health will be essential reading for clergy, health professionals and academics from different disciplines who are learning, talking and working together in the hope of better addressing the place of spirituality in mental health care. It’s a fascinating book that’s integrative of spiritual and theological perspectives with clinical and pastoral care, importantly introducing theology into a debate that has largely ignored a contribution from this discipline. Many of the writers explore the boundaries that sometimes separate different domains of expertise and differing values and assumptions in diverse settings.


Order the book here:


Spirituality, Theology and Mental Health by C.Cook

Thursday, 21st April 2016Spirituality and Narrative in Psychiatric Practice
by C.Cook, A.Powell & A.Sims

For mental health service users, spirituality and faith are closely connected with questions of relationship, transcendence, and finding meaning and purpose in life – questions best approached by way of narrative (or story).

In clinical practice, narrative can provide a means of exploring the ethical and professional dilemmas that are encountered when spiritual and/or religious concerns are in evidence. Narrative has been recognised as important in both medicine and theology, and now it can be employed as a framework for addressing spirituality and religion in clinical psychiatric practice, encompassing addictions, liaison and forensic psychiatry, and spanning all ages and cultures.

  • Breaks new ground in using a narrative to explore the importance and challenge of spirituality in clinical psychiatric practice.
  • Includes narrative excerpts and case illustrations to show how spiritual concerns can be included in a range of psychiatric treatment options.
  • Provides a tool for exploring the ethical and professional dilemmas spirituality still raises in mental healthcare.
  • Presents contributions from patients, chaplains, and leading psychiatrists and clinical psychologists.


Click on the links below to:



All psychiatrists and mental health professionals. Plus of interest to anyone interested in the effect of religion/spirituality upon mental health, e.g. hospital chaplains.



Prof. Christopher C.H. Cook – Professor of Spirituality, Theology & Health, Durham University; Honorary Minor Canon at Durham Cathedral; and Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist at Tees, Esk & Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust.

Dr Andrew Powell – Formerly: Consultant Psychotherapist and Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry, St. George’s Hospital and University of London and Consultant Psychotherapist and Honorary Senior Lecturer, the Warneford Hospital and University of Oxford.

Prof. Andrew Sims – Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, University of Leeds and former President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (1990-93).





  1. Narrative in psychiatry, theology and spirituality
  2. Spirituality and transcultural narratives
  3. Psychopathology and the clinical story
  4. Helping patients tell their story: narratives of body, mind and soul
  5. Gods lost and found: spiritual coping in clinical practice
  6. Stories of joy and sorrow: spirituality and affective disorder
  7. Stories of fear: spirituality and anxiety disorders
  8. Stories of transgression: narrative therapy with offenders
  9. Narratives of transformation in psychosis
  10. My story: a spiritual narrative
  11. God’s story revealed in the human story
  12. Meaning without ‘believing’: attachment theory, mentalisation and the spiritual dimension of analytical psychotherapy
  13. Stories of living with loss: spirituality and ageing
  14. Beginnings and endings


Spirituality & Narrative in Psychiatric Practice (Cover)


Monday, 15th June 2009Spirituality & Psychiatry

Eds. Chris Cook, Andrew Powell, Andrew Sims, Royal College of Psychiatrists Press, London, 2009

Spirituality and PsychiatrySpirituality & Psychiatry is a new book published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Emerging from the work of the Spirituality and Psychiatry Special Interest Group at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, it considers the relevance of spirituality to clinical practice in psychiatry. It is edited by Chris Cook (current Chair of the Special Interest Group and Director of the Project for Spirituality, Theology & Health at Durham University) along with two past Chairs of the Special Interest Group (Dr Andrew Powell and Professor Andrew Sims). Further information, and the opportunity to purchase the book, is available from the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ website.