In this series, I speak to University of Chester staff members about their life, faith and research. They all come from a variety of religious backgrounds, and work in several different departments, but what they all share in common is a willingness to talk about how their faith or worldview - something that is often seen as private in a secularised society - shapes their public careers and research. Throughout this series we hear of exciting travels, and funny moments, as well as discuss serious questions, like what we should eat and the boundaries we might need at the forefront of scientific research. We hear of personal challenges and convoluted career paths. We learn of the insights we can gain from film and literature, the importance of learning about each other people’s faiths and the “power of community.”
Produced and Presented by Ruth Holden
Music by Reece Roughley
Episode 1 - Professor David Clough (Professor of Theological Ethics)
In this episode, David talks about his Christian faith, his choice to be vegan, and his research on animal ethics, which encourages Christians to recognise a God that is concerned with the “flourishing” of all animals, not just humans. He discusses the conditions within industrial agriculture and animal production (including the treatment of baby chicks in egg production) and how he is encouraging churches to think more about farmed animal welfare, as part of the Creature Kind project.
Episode 2 - Dr James Holt (Associate Professor of Religious Education)
In this episode, James talks about his faith, of being Christian and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more often known as Mormons), as well as sharing his experiences of being a missionary in Glasgow (where he was once mistaken by police as a drug dealer on account of wearing a suit). He talks about his career as an RE Teacher, and his current research, which explores how minority voices can be included in the RE classroom.
Episode 3 - Dr Alana Vincent (Associate Professor of Jewish Philosophy, Religion and Imagination)
In this episode, Alana, who practices in the Jewish Reform community, tells us how she went from studying computer science, to sculpture, to religion and literature. We hear of her current project on Holocaust representation in disaster movies, her work on J.R.R. Tolkien and discuss the Golem “one of the great Jewish mythological monsters” and how its presence in English popular literature has greatly been influenced by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Episode 4 - Dhivan Jones (lecturer in Philosophical and Religious Studies)
In this episode, Dhivan tells us how he went from a Roman Catholic upbringing in Somerset to being ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Order. He talks of his travels across Asia, including being an attendant to a Buddhist Monk, which involved shaving off his eyebrows, how his PhD thesis ended up as a novel and discusses his research interest in “original Buddhism”.
Episode 5 – Ato Erzan-Essien (Senior Lecturer in Journalism)
In this episode Ato, talks honestly about a Christian faith that is “all about grappling” as well as his varied career. He discusses his time at Bible School, working in mental health/social work and his time as a journalist, where one of the biggest personal challenges was speaking to those recently bereaved. He also recounts being editor of the Big Issue in the North, describing it as a time when his “journalism mattered and made a difference”.
Episode 6 - Liz Johnson (Assistant Subject Librarian for Media and Study Skills Advisor)
In this episode, Liz, talks about being a “multipotentialite” a person who is interested in many things! This not only manifests in her current job, but in how she merges different religious insights into her own worldview. Liz talks about her Methodist upbringing and how the values of equality, fairness and belonging are still very important to her, even if she does not believe in God. Instead she strongly believes “in the power of community” and the “spirituality of sharing experiences with people you have a connection with” whether this be in a church or in a library.
Episode 7 - Dr Christopher Jones (lecturer in Biomedical Science at Chester Medical School)
In this episode, Christopher talks about being a Christian and a scientist, seeing no conflict between the two, and discusses his research on HIV and immunology. We also discuss whether science plays God sometimes, and the importance of asking questions like ‘what are the boundaries?’.
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