National, Regional and Local Conferences organised by the Sea of Faith Network (UK)

Sea of Faith is a registered charity, no. 1113177

The Sea of Faith Network

SOF 2018

We alone create our religion and our faith


Listed below are descriptions of the workshops, seminars and discussion groups that are available in the Forum sessions at this year’s conference.

Please choose your 1st, 2nd & 3rd preferences for each session and then complete this online form, or this printable PDF form without delay.

You may also simply send an email, clearly listing your three choices for each session to Please be sure to include your name in the body of the email.

Numbers are limited, usually to a maximum of about 15. Places will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis, so please select three workshops in order of preference.


The title is self-explanatory, so come and share your ideas and experiences.

7   CRIME AND PUNISHMENT               John Gamlin

My concern is with the state of the present system of crime and punishment, which I believe is much in need of improvement.  Dostoievsky may come into the discussion.

8   "DEEDS NOT WORDS" - THE CAMPAIGN FOR EQUALITY              Carol Palfrey

The Suffragettes, under the leadership of Emmeline Pankhurst adopted the colours purple, white and green symbolising loyalty, purity and hope - the theme of this year's conference.   This year the nation is celebrating the passing of the Representation of the People Act of which allowed a limited number of women to vote.  This workshop will review the campaign for equality, assess what has been achieved since and look to the future.

The workshop is intended is to promote lively and wide ranging discussion and it is hoped that there will be a good number of men interested in attending.   

9    HOPE WITHOUT OPTIMISM                Martin Spence

In his book Hope without Optimism Terry Eagleton dismisses optimism as shallow and smug and counterpoises it to the difficult, fractured, often tragic quality of hope. Controversial as ever, his argument draws on St Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, King Lear and Karl Marx. Read the book if you can but come to the workshop anyway.   

10   IDEAS OF HOPE IN MODERN POPULAR MUSIC             Andrew Teverson

Using recorded examples, the workshop will discuss how hope is thought about and expressed in popular music.


I come to the SoF from the other direction.  My religious upbringing was both intensive and a total failure.  Are there others, like me, who admire Jesus, Mohammed, Gandhi and Bishop Michael Curry (if he replaced God with Jesus), yet cannot bear singing Victorian hymns or understand the need for the repetition of the same prayers week after week, when Jesus’s message of love is needed outside?

Religions could benefit (money, care, skills, fellowship) from a “non-playing” membership.  Physically handicapped children are excused games at school; we, the spiritually handicapped, could be excused worship.  Come and discuss.

12   AS-IF            David Lambourn

Five years ago, at our annual conference, a small group of us worked together thinking about the use of this two-word phrase.  Last August, Harvard published a book by a recent BBC Reith lecturer, Kwame Appiah, with the title: As-if: idealizations and ideals, an event which gives me further encouragement.

Now, I am hoping to learn of others' experience of its use, so this workshop is very largely a plea for your help in my attempts to explore the use(s) of 'as-if', and perhaps take a tentative step …

If you are curious about the uses of 'as-if' or if you have wondered about those practices we call 'language', or have questioned what it is that we can say we know, AND if you believe that conversation for an hour or so with others who are also uncertain, might be useful and are prepared to take that risk, you are just the person I would like to join this workshop.

Following introductions, there will be a short exercise to kick-start a conversation.  Conversation will be the main method of this workshop and I am looking forward to it.

13   QUESTIONS ON THE BEACH             Jane Howarth

This Forum is for those who would like to look at some of the questions that are left on the beach when the tide of Christian doctrine ebbs away. What is prayer about? How do we provide hope for ourselves and others in the face of illness, calamity and death without faith in a real God? What does forgiveness mean? What supports our altruism (or why bother?)

Some in SoF find it possible to rework their faith by changing Christian doctrine into metaphor.  For me loss of belief in a real God meant avoiding the tangles and snares of Christianity for years until I could build a new framework of beliefs. Christianity is deeply embedded in our culture. So relating comfortably to our Christian heritage from the perspective of our own beliefs matters. If you would like an opportunity to explore with others some of the questions left on the beach do come along.  (If you come from another religious tradition most of the questions will be the same, so do come. Your insights will undoubtedly be valuable.)

14   CANST THOU MINISTER TO A MIND DISEASED?          Janet Seargeant

A workshop on Psychiatry and religion. After a short introduction about psychiatric concepts over time and how religious ideas and beliefs fit in, we will discuss the links between mental illness, psychiatry and religious beliefs and practice.

15   A WAR TO END WAR             Stephen Williams

2018 will mark the centenary of the end of conflict on the western front, a moment that was experienced with optimism, at least for those on the winning side. I will share some recent family research to explore the hopes ordinary people brought to the war (and to later wars) and what happened to them.

1   HOPE WITHOUT RESURRECTION           Anna Lockley-Scott

Simone Weil - a short introduction to her life and ideas, then an opportunity  for discussion around the notions it raises.

2  HOPE FOR HUMANITY           Dinah Livingstone

To follow up talk on 'Hope for Humanity: A Theology of Liberation and The Beautiful City'.

We will look closely at some poems and other short texts on three linked New Testament poetic visions of hope for humanity on Earth:

1. the Reign of God

2. the Christ Epic/Body of Christ

3. the Beautiful City.

Copies will be distributed with all invited - and hoped - to join in the discussion.

3   BARRIERS TO HOPE           Penny Mawdsley

A craft session which will HOPEfully lead to a conference-closing activity.

4   RELIGIONS FOR PEACE              David Paterson

“They cry ‘Peace, peace’, where there is no peace”

Our secular leaders want security, but also the profits of an arms trade. Our religious leaders proclaim peace but too often mean victory for their own beliefs. But deep down there’s another insight and yearning, expressed in Hinduism as “May peace fill our hearts, our lives, our universe”, in Christianity as “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God”, in Judaism by the concept of Shalom, and in Islam Salaam. Any hope for the world must include peacemaking, and peacemaking starts with listening to those in conflict and enabling them to listen to each other.

We shall explore how we – as religious non-theists – may find our own inner peace and learn to listen. The context will be the work of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and the United Nations Treaty that they brokered, and for which they won the Nobel Peace Prize.

5   WORDS OF HOPE             John Pearson

An opportunity to study poems and prose and to create your own.

During this year’s conference we shall be discussing hope; causes for hope, manifestations of hope; hope at a personal level, a national level and an international level. Come along to this workshop to talk and write about hope.

We shall look at some selected literary images of hope, and you are invited to bring along poems or short prose pieces of your choice that talk of hope.. If you wish to write your own piece(s) before or at the workshop we can read and discuss these and maybe present some on the public notice boards if you are happy with this …