Theology Summer School 2018

Course details

Residential - £1,295 per week; Non-residential - £955 per week

Sun 29 Jul 2018 - Sat 11 Aug 2018

Theology Summer School 2018



A residential summer school for members of the clergy, theologians and teachers of religious education.

  • Exploring the theme 'Renewing the Sacred Centre'.
  • Offering one-week seminars taught by members of Oxford's Theology Faculty, distinguished theologians and prominent church leaders.
  • Providing the opportunity to study and live in Christ Church, one of Oxford University's largest and most beautiful colleges.

The academic programme consists of

  • study in small interactive seminar groups with specialist tutors; and
  • an evening lecture each week given by a leading scholar in the field.


Applicants choose one morning seminar and one afternoon seminar per week from:

Week 1: 29 July-4 August - Morning Seminars

  • Becoming less through the new asceticism
  • Holiness in the psalms of Israel - COUSE FULL
  • What happens when we pray - COURSE FULL

Week 1: 29 July-4 August - Afternoon Seminars

  • New explorations in natural theology
  • Reclaiming the sacred in Paul - COURSE FULL
  • Towards a history of holiness

Week 2: 5-11 August - Morning Seminars

  • Ageing: blessing or burden?
  • Recovering Baptism for the church and the world
  • Renewing creation: believing in the Creator today - COURSE FULL

Week 2: 5-11 August - Afternoon Seminars

  • The case for God
  • Conversations with the Fathers
  • Seeing the sacred: place, space and art

Each seminar has five two-and-a-half hour meetings, and classes will usually contain no more than 18 participants.

Please note that most applicants choose to attend both weeks of the summer school; however, it is possible to attend one week only.


In addition to the daily seminar programme, there will be an evening lecture each week:

  • Week 1 - The Revd Professor Alister McGrath on 'Christian Apologetics in Oxford: reflections on C S Lewis, J R R Tolkien and Austin Farrer'
    Professor McGrath is Andrea Idreas Professor of Science and Religion at Oxford University. He has also specialised in Christian Apologetics, and has written a biography of C S Lewis.
  • Week 2 - Professor Frances Young on 'Sacred bodies: how the physical and material becomes sacramental in Christian thought'
    Professor Young taught theology, specialising in patristic study, at the University of Birmingham from 1971. Now retired she is still active in research and as a Methodist minister.

Contact hours

The programme provides a minimum of 26.5 contact hours per week, comprising

  • 25 hours of seminar meetings (12.5 hours per seminar); and
  • a lecture lasting 1.5 hours.


Participants are welcome to attend services at Christ Church Cathedral, and there will be a conference worship each week during the summer school.

Oxford is a diverse city, rich in places of worship for people of many faiths and denominations.

Social programme

A number of social activities will be arranged during the summer school. These may include informal tours of the college and the city of Oxford.

Programme details

Seminar options

Applicants take one morning course and one afternoon course per week. Classes run from 09.00-12.00 and 13.30-16.30, Monday-Friday.

Most applicants choose to attend both weeks of the summer school; however, it is possible to attend one week only.

Week 1: Morning seminars

Becoming less through the new asceticism

Christian notions of ascetic self-denial (from the Greek ascesis) meaning exercise or training) have both energised and challenged faith since the first century. In this course we shall consider the theological and philosophical origins of asceticism, the key figures, the kind of communities it has inspired and its contemporary resonance. The 21st century has already seen a resurgence of interest in monastic ideals and associated forms of asceticism. Our explorations will lead to an attempt to evaluate ascetic practices for life and work today.

Tutor: The Revd Dr Shaun Henson teaches in Oxford University’s Faculty of Theology and Religion and is Chaplain to St Hugh’s College, Oxford.

Holiness in the psalms of Israel - COURSE FULL

The psalms form the prayer book of Israel. From them we learn about moral holiness and what constitutes the good life for God’s people. We also learn about the qualities of the faithful in Israel; how they regarded themselves with their successes and failures as they came before God. We shall consider what were the causes of their confidence, their happiness, their worries and their shame and discuss whether these were the same as ours.

Tutor: Fr Henry Wansbrough OSB is a well-known Biblical scholar who taught for many years in Oxford. He is also an editor of the New Jerusalem Bible. He is a monk of Ampleforth Abbey.

What happens when we pray - COURSE FULL

A theological and philosophical inquiry into the practice, purpose and plausibility of prayer. While praise, thanksgiving, penitence and absolution will feature prominently, the emphasis will be on intercession and petitionary prayer. How can we square God’s omniscience, omnipotence and impassibility with human freewill; and come to an understanding of God’s providential action in response to our prayers? This course will aim to help people engage with prayer with greater integrity and renewed commitment.

Tutor: The Rt Revd Dr John Saxbee is a former Bishop of Lincoln who writes and teaches on theology and philosophy.

Week 1: Afternoon seminars

New explorations in natural theology

In this course we shall consider the development of natural theology, particularly in relation to the environment. This will focus particularly on our planet’s water-cycle and will include examining references to the sea, rivers, lakes and clouds in the Bible; the impact of scientific knowledge on natural theology; and the significance of the sea and its associated imagery on religious experience. During the course we will look at the work of, amongst others, William Paley, Rudolf Otto, William James and Alister Hardy. 

Tutor: The Revd Dr Edmund Newell is Principal of Cumberland Lodge and an honorary canon of Christ Church, Oxford.

Reclaiming the sacred in Paul - COURSE FULL

The writings attributed to St Paul are a source of doctrine, debate and division. In this course we shall explore the fascination surrounding the Pauline epistles alongside the irritation he (and they) have sometimes caused. By engaging in depth with a number of his New Testament letters, this course will draw out their distinctive characteristics with regard to the sacred, looking at themes of Christian teaching and practice; attempting to assess his legacy, including the idea that he is the ‘second founder’ of Christianity.

Tutor: The Revd Dr Jennifer Strawbridge is Associate Professor of New Testament Studies at Oxford University and Caird Fellow in Theology at Mansfield College, Oxford.

Towards a history of holiness

Holiness as both concept and practice; personal and collective, has a history within (and beyond) Christianity. The emphasis in this course will be on pre and post-Reformation approaches including 19th-century Holiness movements springing from Wesley’s idea of Christian perfection, and modern eclecticism, pressured by contemporary attitudes to power and to sexuality.

Tutor: Dr Roger Pooley is Honorary Research Fellow in Humanities at Keele University where he taught English for many years. He is also a Reader in the Diocese of Lichfield.

Week 2: Morning seminars

Ageing: blessing or burden?

Life expectancy continues to offer us longevity. In this course we shall explore the nature of ageing with particular attention to the spiritual, cultural and religious dimensions of our experience. We shall consider what it means to age well and how Christian theology might enable us to think more imaginatively about how age takes its shape in self and others. We shall listen to a number of narratives that explore both the possibilities and the limitations of growing older. Students will be encouraged to explore their own experience of aging and together we shall aim to resource both thinking and practice in this area of pastoral and practical theology.

Tutor: The Revd Canon Professor James Woodward is the Principal of Sarum College, Salisbury.

Recovering Baptism for the church and the world

In this course we shall explore the origin and meanings of Christian Baptism and the ways in which it has been and is celebrated in the churches. We shall consider the role of Confirmation and the Eucharist in the life of the baptised and the role of the ministry of reconciliation. Throughout we shall consider what part the baptised individual has in the corporate life of the Church and how this might contribute to the transformation of communities and society.

Tutor: The Revd Dr Keith Riglin is Chaplain and Assistant Dean at King’s College, London, and a visiting lecturer in its Department of Theology and Religious Studies.

Renewing creation: believing in the Creator today - COURSE FULL

No article of the creed is more misunderstood today than that God is the creator of heaven and earth. In this course we shall look at the theme of God as creator in the Bible; how the doctrine of creation out of nothing arose in the early church; the meaning of being human, and at some of the broader implications of belief that God is the creator, including the problem of suffering in a world created by a good God.

Tutor: The Revd Dr Andrew Moore is a Member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at Oxford University and an honorary assistant priest in the Diocese of Oxford.

Week 2: Afternoon seminars

The case for God

This course will consist of an exposition and critical discussion of ideas put forward by Keith Ward in ‘The Christian Idea of God’. It will take philosophical idealism as a philosophical foundation of faith, and explore the idea of God as an eternal mind of supreme value, who actively relates to, and is affected by the created cosmos.

Tutor: Professor Keith Ward is a British philosopher, theologian, priest and scholar who was Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University from 1991 until his retirement in 2003.

Conversations with the Fathers

An exploration of early Christian belief showing how the holistic insights of the first Christian theologians can refresh and reinvigorate the Christian faith today. The course will explore patristic approaches to scripture, the cosmos, the person of Christ, spiritual growth and, finally, human destiny. Not only can the Fathers illuminate our current dilemmas; their insistence on the unity of head and heart can help us to a fuller integration of our beliefs with our true selves.

Tutor: The Revd Canon Angela Tilby is a canon emeritus of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. She is a writer, broadcaster and teacher of early church history and Christian spirituality.  

Seeing the sacred: place, space and art

Human beings have always found sacred places that mean much to them. Some are natural spaces, others are built, such as churches and cathedrals, or specific shrines where a holy person lived or died. Although the Judeo-Christian tradition understands that ‘the holy’ is everywhere, people need specific locations and religious imagery to capture moments of encounter or to help them pray and worship. We shall explore these areas in terms of pilgrimage, building, art and specific sacred places.

Tutor: The Revd Canon Dr Robin Gibbons is Director of Studies for Theology and Religious Studies at Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education and a member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion. He is also an ecumenical canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.

Recommended reading

Each seminar has its own requirements for preparatory reading.


All participants who complete the programme will receive an `attendance certificate`.



Founded in the 16th century, Christ Church is one of Oxford University's largest and most beautiful colleges.

Bedrooms and meals

Participants who choose to attend the summer school on a residential basis will have a single study bedroom.

Bedrooms are located on the four floors of the modern (1960s) Blue Boar Quad; all rooms have private bathroom facilities (shower and toilet).

Participants cannot be accommodated at Christ Church either prior to or beyond their programme dates. Family members and/or friends who are not enrolled on this summer school cannot be accommodated in college.

Residential participants will take meals (breakfast Monday-Saturday and dinner Sunday-Friday) in the college's dining hall. Participants make their own arrangements for lunch. Should participants have any dietary requirements (eg vegetarian, gluten-free) they are required to complete the relevant section on the application form.

Please be aware that accommodation at Christ Church is limited and may not be available for those who submit their applications towards the end of the admissions period.

Non-residential participants

Participants who choose to attend the summer school on a non-residential basis are responsible for finding their own accommodation. Information on accommodation in Oxford is available at:

Please note that dinner will be provided for non-residential participants at Christ Church from Sunday-Friday.

IT facilities

Please be aware that there are no computers provided for participants' use at Christ Church. However, for those who bring their own devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc) with them to Oxford, wireless internet access is available throughout the college, including the residential accommodation. Public internet access is available at Oxfordshire County Library, c. 10 minutes' walk from Christ Church (opening hours are 09.00-20.00, Monday-Thursday; 09.00-17.30, Friday and Saturday).


Residential - £1,295 per week; Non-residential - £955 per week


Programme fees

  • Residential - £1,295 per week
    Fees include tuition (2 seminars and the weekly lecture); access to IT facilities; accommodation in a single room with private shower and toilet for the nights of Sunday 29 July to Friday 3 August 2018 inclusive (Week 1) or Sunday 5 August to Friday 10 August 2018 inclusive (Week 2); meals in hall - breakfast Monday-Saturday and dinner Sunday-Friday (no lunch).

Participants attending both weeks of the summer school will be provided with complimentary bed and breakfast accommodation on the night of Saturday 4 August and the morning of Sunday 5 August 2018.

  • Non-residential - £955 per week
    Fees include tuition (2 seminars and the weekly lecture); access to IT facilities; no accommodation; dinner at Christ Church from Sunday-Friday.

There are no sources of funding (scholarships, bursaries, etc) available for applicants.

Invoicing and payment

Successful applicants who accept their offer of a place on the summer school will be invoiced for the appropriate programme fee once they have been formally enrolled on the programme.

Invoices will be emailed to participants together with full instructions for payment. Fees may be paid online with a credit or debit card, or by bank transfer.

Participants are required to pay the full fee within 30 days of the date on which their invoice was issued.

Please note that:

  • participants are expected to take out vacation cancellation insurance to cover the programme fee and travel costs (see 'Cancellations', below);
  • a participant's place on the summer school is not confirmed until their fees have been paid in full;
  • places will not be held for participants whose fees are not paid in full by the due date; and
  • in no circumstances will participants be admitted to the summer school unless all fees have been paid in full.

When you have paid your fees

Your place on the summer school is confirmed as soon as your payment is received by OUDCE.

You will receive a receipt for your payment: by email if paid online, or by post if paid by bank transfer.

If you are a non-EEA participant you will receive a letter confirming your enrolment and course details which may be used to support your application for a short-term study visa: this letter will be sent by post (see 'Level and demands', above).


All enrolments are subject to OUDCE's 'Short Selective Course Terms and Conditions'.

A contract between OUDCE and a participant comes into being when a participant accepts an offer of a place on the summer school.

You have the right to cancel this contract at any time within 14 days, beginning on the day you accepted the offer.

Please be aware that if you cancel your place at any time after the expiry of the 14-day period you will not be entitled to a refund of the price paid for the summer school.

If you wish to cancel your place on the summer school you must inform the Programme Administrator by email at

You are expected to take out vacation cancellation insurance to cover the programme fee and travel costs, and you should consult your travel agent and/or insurer for information and advice. OUDCE does not provide any insurance cover.

OUDCE reserves the right to alter details of any course should illness or any other emergency prevent a tutor from teaching, and to cancel a course or seminar if exceptionally low enrolment would make it educationally unviable.

The status of this course will be reviewed on 15 May 2018 If it is likely that individual seminars or the course may be cancelled, all those affected will be notified by email within 7 days, and possible options clearly explained.

If you have not heard from OUDCE by 22 May 2018, you should assume that the course and your seminars will be running; there is no need to contact us to confirm. You may wish to delay finalising your travel arrangements until after this date.

Teaching methods

Elements of seminar teaching will normally include:

  • mini lectures by tutors; and
  • tutor-led class discussions.

Assessment methods

There is no assessment for this course.


Before you submit your application

  • ensure you meet the admissions requirements (see 'Selection criteria', below);
  • make sure you have all the required supporting documents listed below;
  • ensure you are familiar with the terms and conditions of enrolment on the summer school, especially those relating to payment of fees and cancellations (see 'Payment', above); and
  • read the 'Important information regarding immigration and visa requirements' (see 'Level and demands', below).

The application process

Download, print and complete the application form.

Please ensure all sections are completed fully, clearly, and in BLOCK CAPITALS.

The form must be accompanied by:

  • A brief statement of purpose (350-400 words) detailing your reasons for wishing to attend the summer school. This should include what you hope to get out of the programme, and what you are likely to contribute to the intellectual life of the summer school. This may include the relevance of the summer school to your current employment, professional or personal development, or present course of study. It is essential that you clearly state your reasons for wishing to enrol on specific seminars.
  • In the case of non-native speakers of English, official evidence of English language competency.
  • A letter of recommendation from a person who is well placed to comment on your suitability of the programme - eg a member of the clergy, a religious leader, or an academic in the field of theology and religious studies. A reference from a family member is not acceptable. Please note that the letter of recommendation must refer specifically to your application to the Oxford University Theology Summer School.
  • Photographs (UK passport-sized - ie 4.5cm high x 3.5cm wide), with your full name printed on the back of each: please provide four photographs if you are applying for one week of the summer school; six if you are applying for both weeks.

Incomplete applications will not be considered.

Applications should be posted to: Theology Summer School, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, OXFORD, OX1 2JA, UK

You may wish to send your application by a courier service or registered post for speed and/or security of delivery.

We are currently unable to receive applications by email.

After you have submitted your application

You will receive an email from confirming receipt of your application materials, and informing you when your application will be reviewed by the Programme Director.

Application deadline

Applications will be reviewed on a first come, first served basis or rolling basis until 1 May 2018.

There is a limited number of places available on every seminar, and in assigning successful applicants to classes the Programme Director will pay particular attention to applicants' personal statements.

Notification of the Programme Director's decision

Applicants will normally be notified of the Programme Director's decision by email from within 14 days of their application having been received.

Applicants who are offered a place on the summer school must respond in writing within 14 days to accept or decline the offer. In accepting an offer of a place applicants are committing to paying their programme fees in full by the due date.


Participants will be formally enrolled on the summer school once they have accepted their offer of a place.

The enrolment process includes the issuing of invoices, which will be emailed to participants together with full instructions for payment (see 'Payment', above).

Further course information

Participants will receive the following information by email from prior to the summer school:

  • In March 2018 - course information, including detailed course content and required preparatory reading*
  • In March - joining instructions, containing a wealth of practical information to assist students as they prepare to travel to the summer school (eg how to get to Oxford, arrangements at Christ Church)*
  • In June 2018 - confirmation of arrival day arrangements.

*Successful applicants who accept their offer of a place from March 2018 onwards will receive this information on enrolment.

Any queries?

Please contact the Programme Administrator by email at

Level and demands

Participants are expected to

  • undertake preparatory reading in advance of the programme;
  • attend all seminar sessions and plenary keynote lectures; and
  • be actively engaged with their seminar topics.

Important information regarding immigration and visa requirements

If you are an European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss national you do not need a visa to enter the UK to participate in the summer school. You are free to enter the UK as long as you show your EEA or Swiss passport on arrival.

If you are not an EEA or Swiss national, you may need to apply for a visa to enter the UK depending on which passport you hold.

If the system shows that you require a visa: you should apply for a short-term study visa, which allows students over the age of 18 to study either part-time or full-time for up to 6 months in the UK.

If the system shows that you do not require a visa: you will still need to bring certain documents to show at the border in order to be admitted as a short-term student.

If you are not an EEA or Swiss national we strongly recommend that you establish whether you will require a visa before submitting your application. Please check current visa processing times to find out how long getting a visa might take in the country you are applying from. You should ensure your summer school application is submitted as early as possible to allow yourself sufficient time to complete the visa application process.

The Programme Administrator will provide all non-EEA students with a standard format letter confirming enrolment and course details once their fees have been paid in full.

For legal reasons the Programme Administrator is not permitted to provide any visa advice to applicants: all such enquiries should be submitted to Oxford University’s student visa and immigration advisers via email at

Disabled students (including those with mobility difficulties)

The aim of Oxford University Department for Continuing Education (OUDCE) is to treat all students equally and welcomes applications from people with disabilities. Individuals` needs are taken into account as far as possible, providing reasonable adaptations and assistance within the resources available. We ask that people let us know of any disability or special need (confidentially if required) so that we can help them participate as fully as possible.

When applying for OUDCE`s college-based summer schools, prospective students with mobility difficulties or visual or hearing impairments may want to make preliminary enquiries to the Programme Administrator, as the age and layout of these colleges often makes them user-unfriendly (although adaptations are often possible). Oxford, as an ancient city, tends to be difficult to navigate for people with disabilities. The number of very old buildings, designed in an age less sensitive to issues of disability, makes access to much of the city centre difficult. However, OUDCE will do as much as it is able to make study with the department possible.

Applicants should contact us if they will have problems gaining access to a bedroom or a teaching room that is located on upper or basement floors, or to the college dining hall (which is reached via a flight of stairs).

Selection criteria

This is an intensive programme of study taught to an informed international audience.

Applicants should be confident that they are academically and linguistically prepared for such a programme.

Academic requirements

Applications are welcomed from:

  • members of the clergy, especially as part of their continuing ministerial development;
  • theologians;
  • teachers of religious education; and
  • lay people with an interest in theological study at university level.

Although the direction of the summer school is essentially Christian, religious leaders and members of other faiths will be warmly welcomed as participants.

English language requirements

As students are expected to participate fully in seminar discussions and may be required to produce written work it is important that applicants can demonstrate an appropriate level of proficiency in the four language skills - listening, reading, writing and speaking.

Applicants for whom English is not their first language must provide evidence of their competency in the form of an original certificate or a certified copy that is not more than two years old on the date the summer school starts. These applicants must satisfy one of the following requirements:

  • IELTS Academic - minimum overall score of 6.5, with not less than 6.5 in each of the four components
  • TOEFL iBT - minimum overall score of 100, with not less than 25 in each of the four components
  • Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) - grade C or above.

For further information on English language qualifications:

However, non-native speakers of English who have successfully completed a full-time degree-level programme at a university where English is the language of instruction or who have significant business and professional experience in an English-speaking environment may not need to provide a certificate of English language qualification. Please contact the Programme Administrator for further details.