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Twenty-two churches in England and Wales have been awarded funding totalling £400,000 to explore the relationship between science and faith through the church engagement programme Scientists in Congregations, which is run by Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science (ECLAS). ECLAS is a project led by St John’s College, with the University of York and Mission and Public Affairs at the Church of England.

The successful churches have each received grants of up to £20,000 to spend over the next 18 months. Building on the expertise of scientists in their congregations, the churches will host a range of outreach activities focusing on topics from climate change to mental health, with the aim of showing how engaging with science can lead to a deeper experience of faith.

Churches are encouraged to disseminate their activities or resources with other congregations in their parish or local area through follow-on projects, with up to half of the total funding made available for that purpose. This is the first year that funding for follow-on projects is available, which will greatly increase the programme’s reach and impact.

One successful project is St Mark’s Church, based in Caia Park in Wrexham, which has been awarded a grant of £19,965. St Mark’s and the local science activity centre Xplore! will jointly run Sunday afternoon activity sessions and a holiday club for local children, giving them the opportunity to encounter key science and faith concepts. Teaching materials and programme content will be made available to churches of any denomination across North East Wales.

Elaine Smith, the project co-director at St Mark’s, said: “This funding is enormously appreciated, and will greatly support St Mark’s and other churches as we seek to re-invigorate our provision for children following the period of the pandemic. We hope to reach over 40 families linked to St Mark’s Church, and anticipate that the follow-on project will reach many more families in churches across North East Wales. We hope that the interactive science-faith activities we are developing will inspire children and young people to see both science and faith as important dimensions in their lives.”

Scientists in Congregations is a programme run by the research project Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science (ECLAS). The ECLAS project is led from St John’s College, Durham University in partnership with the University of York and the Church of England. Its directors include the Revd Prof David Wilkinson and physicist Prof Tom McLeish. ECLAS and the Scientists in Congregations grants are funded by the Templeton Religion Trust. ECLAS has distributed £665,000 to over 70 churches through its Scientists in Congregations programme since 2014.

The Revd Prof David Wilkinson, Project Director of ECLAS and Principal of St John’s College, said: “We are delighted to be working with churches on such promising projects, and look forward to seeing how congregations and the communities they serve engage with science and faith in fresh and exciting ways. We are proud to offer additional funding for follow-on projects for the first time this year, which will help churches reach even more people with the message that science is a gift from God.”

The Rt Revd Dr David Thomson, former Bishop of Huntingdon, who was on the panel assessing the applications, said: “It’s really important to bring science and faith together as friends not foes, and I was delighted to see so many high-quality applications for grants to help do this, despite these COVID times.”

The full list of churches and organisations receiving funding to participate in Scientists in Congregations 2021-22 is:

· ChaplaincyPlus, Birmingham

· Chester Cathedral

· Cornerstone Methodist Church, Wadebridge

· Exeter Cathedral

· Great Yarmouth Minster

· Holy Trinity and Christchurch, Stalybridge

· Hull Minster

· Lichfield Cathedral

· Liverpool Cathedral

· New Hope Baptist Church, Coseley

· Radio Maria England

· Redeemed Christian Church of God, Sevenoaks

· Riding Lights Theatre Company

· St Andrew's Church, Great Yeldham

· St George's Church, Leeds

· St German’s Cathedral

· St Lawrence Church, Gloucester

· St Mark's Church/Xplore!, Wrexham

· St Mary and St Eanswythe, Folkestone

· St Peter Mancroft, Norwich

· The Bible Reading Fellowship

· Wembley Family Church


Media contact

Helen Billam, ECLAS Communications Manager