Viral Science & Public Theology: Talking about nature and neighbour in a post-Covid world

1-2 December 2020

Resources from this conference are now available here. 

The stories we tell shape us, especially as we face challenges. Covid-19 has challenged and changed the stories on which we pattern our lives, stories of self and society, science and theology, and God with us.  

Viral Science and Public Theology brought together bishops and senior church leaders from around the world to share their experience and to think creatively about new and faithful narratives, well-grounded in science and theology and engaging a wide audience.These sessions were an opportunity for personal engagement with other senior leaders struggling to make theological sense of the pandemic, not only for themselves, but for the communities they serve.  

The online discussion involved three 2-hour sessions. Each began in conversation with an opinion leader asking how they have changed and been changed by stories of the virus. A short theological reflection highlighted themes in narrative analysis, issues for theology of science, and long-term implications for mission and ministry. The bulk of the time was devoted to small group discussions with colleagues.  

Session 1: 1st December 1-3pm 

Kamal AhmedKamal Ahmed gave us an overview of Covid-19 from a media perspective. Kamal is the Editorial Director at BBC News. He has an extensive background in journalism, working as an editor for the Guardian, the Observer, and the Telegraph before joining the BBC. From 2007 to 2009 he was Group Director, Communications, at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the regulator charged with upholding and enforcing equality and human rights legislation in Britain. His first book, The Life and Times of a Very British Man, was published by Bloomsbury in 2018.

Session 2: 1st December 4-6pm 

Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP
Credit: DEFRA
The Rt Hon Hilary Benn, MP is the principal speaker for our second session. He is the former Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and current MP for Leeds Central, and has direct experience in public health policy.






Session 3: 2nd December 9-11am  

Credit: Sainsbury Laboratory

Our keynote speaker is Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser DBE FRS, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation, Professor of Plant Development and former Director of the Sainsbury Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society, an International Member of the US National Academy of Sciences and a Member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation and the Leopoldina. She currently serves on the Council for Science and Technology.