2018 Annual Conference of Modern Church

Ritual, Worship & Culture

Monday 16th to Wednesday 18th July 2018

at High Leigh Conference Centre, Hoddesdon, Herts

- See photos of the event

- Audio of conference papers now available

Chair: Revd Canon Dr Jo Spreadbury - Hear Conference Chair Jo Spreadbury introduce the 2018 conference.

Chaplain: Revd Ian Mobsby

Download the conference programme

Is there a basic instinct to worship?

Church attendance is declining, but more and more people express an interest in what is spiritual. Everywhere we see evidence of people needing to ritualise their allegiance to something greater than themselves, whether in celebrity culture, politics or group identity. Enthusiasm (en-theos) appears to be one of the most important drivers of human happiness and fulfilment.

We all have our rituals, whether private and domestic, or public and shared. The Christian faith does not endorse this uncritically: ‘thou shalt have none other gods before me’ is scored into Christian memory. Yet Christians too have produced many different kinds of worship and ritual, reflecting the churches’ engagement with different cultures and contexts.

In this conference, with its timely and relevant theme, we will explore new age rituals and traditional practices alike. What can we learn from the secular instinct to ritualise and memorialise? Which forms of ritual are shared and which are distinct between different approaches to faith and different cultural contexts? Can there ever be truly ‘common worship’ or should we rejoice in the variety of expressions across all cultures and incarnations that can never be controlled fully by ecclesiastical prescription?

With workshops and discussion groups, as well as plenary sessions and keynote addresses, this conference will enable us all to reflect on the habits and traditions we hold dear in our own faith practice, and gain some new insights into the common, if not universal, instinct for worship that we share with others.

Speakers (with audio where available):

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Welcome and Introduction

Conference Secretary Jan van der Lely and Chair Jo Spreadbury

audio Listen / download mp3 (4.5 mins)

01 Jan Van Der Lely Welcome Jo Spreadbury Intro



Ritual, Worship & Culture

Prof Douglas Davies [Keynote]

audio Listen / download mp3 (63 mins)


Ritual in new spirituality - Looking at New Age and Pagan practice as a window onto post-religious spirituality

Revd Steve Hollinghurst

audio Listen / download mp3 (60 mins)


Life rituals and spiritual journeys

Canon Dr Sandra Millar

Audio unavailable


Different cultures, different rituals: the influence of other traditions

Revd Canon Dr Jo Spreadbury

audio Listen / download mp3 (44 mins)


Ancient future worship: What's emerging from the new monastic movement

Revd Ian Mobsby

audio Listen / download mp3 53 mins)


Ritual and culture: A biblical perspective

Dr Meg Warner

audio Listen / download mp3 (51.5 mins)


Refreshing the Christian tradition: a liturgist's point of view

Canon Angela Tilby

audio Listen / download mp3 (48 mins)