My name is Kenneth Wilkinson-Roberts, and I'm a postgraduate student at Lancaster University, studying the effects of emerging technologies on the priesthood, personhood and warfare. I also work as an LGBTI+ activist, especially working on issues surrounding the church and peacekeeping.
After attending last year’s conference as a student volunteer, I was really keen to get involved again this year, especially as I knew more people and knew what to expect, so could get more stuck in. I’ve even joined the Modern Church Council!
For me, the highlight of this year’s conference was the workshops. They were really varied, helping to ground some of the content from the conference talks - they really seemed to enrich people's thinking about the topics.
The speakers gave a whole range of different ways of thinking about ritual, worship and culture, from thinking about new age spiritualities, how people encounter worship at life events, and some of the key aspects of our engagement with ritual - like light and space. Each talk was very different, unpacking the topic in interesting and sometimes unexpected ways.
I would like to see more time for discussions, like panels and workshops, to offer more time for group reflection and 'audience participation', as it felt there was not enough time left for this.
I would like to say a really big thank you to Modern Church members who gave extra with their conference bookings to enable student volunteers to attend. Without their generosity, I wouldn’t be here. It’s such a long way from where I live, and a lot of money that I don’t have, that students don’t tend to have to give to conferences.
It’s also a good way to get really involved really quickly, because you’re not just another member of conference, you’re helping out, you’re getting involved in the forming of the space, and talking to people because you’re helping. It’s a great way to meet lots of people and to get into the community which has already been built by the members that have been coming for a long time.
Through my connections at university, I will recommend the conference to more students who might also want to volunteer. A few of my friends saw my social media posts about the conference and wanted to learn more about what I was doing - some seem keen to get involved next year!