Impact and participation
The School hosts or participates in numerous initiatives that widen public participation in scholarship and deliver impact to society.
- St Andrews Encyclopaedia of Theology
- James Gregory Lectures
- Bible Odyssey
- the PaleoJudaica blog
- the award-winning Transpositions blog.
The School also sponsors the journal Theology in Scotland.
Most staff are also involved in consultancy to government, charities, or communities of practice.
Established impact initiatives:
The Declaration for a Shared Humanity, written by Professor Mario Aguilar, incorporates the teachings of different faiths and embraces the basic principles of humanity, equality, diversity and freedom. The document has been widely adopted by religious and political leaders around the world, and it has been used in schools, and by community and faith groups, to form discussion and foster the idea of a common humanity as a tool against radicalisation, and as the basis for inter-faith cooperation. A signing ceremony held in St Andrews on 23 September 2016 was attended by a delegation of 130 religious leaders from 19 countries, joined by 32 school pupils from Fife and Canada, and was accompanied by a conference entitled Silence, Texts and Service: Towards a Christian, Hindu and Buddhist Dialogue.
The impact of the Declaration can be observed in a variety of ways. The Declaration was put forward as a ‘parliamentary motion’ by a group of MPs in the House of Commons in September 2016. Signatories have organized educational activities based on the Declaration for primary school children in Quebec, Santiago (Chile), New Delhi, Varanasi, Dharamsala, Amritsar, and Ottawa. Members of PRISM (an international consortium of organization standing against radicalization) have taken the Declaration as a manifesto and will push for the discussion on the Declaration and the revision of EU educational provisions on the world religions.
What if we could read the Incas' own accounts of their gods and history instead of relying on biased Spanish chroniclers? The Inca writing system of knotted cords – khipus – recorded religious devotion, sacrifice, royal biographies and other information, yet has remained undeciphered until now. Professor Sabine Hyland's research has uncovered remote Peruvian villages where khipus – once thought extinct – were used until the 20th century, allowing her to decipher crucial aspects of this unique 3D writing system. In the communities that have preserved this ancient writing, khipus serve as sacred scriptures that literally entwine native Andean notions of divinity with the Christian faith.
Hyland's discoveries have been featured in National Geographic, Scientific American, Discover Magazine, New Scientist Magazine, and many other media outlets. She has appeared in documentaries for National Geographic, the History Channel, and the Discovery Channel. You can also listen to an interview she gave in 2018 to the BBC World Service.
Professor Tom Wright’s research on the history and thought of early Christianity, and its relevance to today’s world and church, has been highly valued far outside his own field. His books, both academic and popular, have sold widely, being translated into over 20 languages, and his online courses now have students in over 120 countries. He has been a consultant to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.
The context of his ‘impact’ is the multitude of recent cultural changes which have shattered the post-Enlightenment consensus that ‘religion’ and ‘public life’ have nothing to do with one another. His academic historical investigations of how Jesus and his first followers impacted the widely different spheres of culture, philosophy, economics and social life, as well as ‘theology’ and ‘religion’ itself, have enabled him to address the new mood in western churches and also in the old ‘Eastern bloc’ (including Slovakia, Serbia, Romania, and Russia), sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia.
Professor Ian Bradley’s research on the history and practice of pilgrimage in Scotland has had an impact on public understanding of cultural heritage, on the tourist industry, on rambling societies, and on the development of new practices by local authorities, churches and the military. Professor Bradley has devised and led pilgrimages in Scotland and beyond, which have yielded quantifiable economic benefits.
His research has contributed to the conservation of cultural heritage through a range of consultancy work, with impacts including the establishment of the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum in 2012 and enhancements to the visitor experience at Iona Abbey. It is continuing to shape pilgrim route infrastructure development by national and local agencies, church groups and the army. Find out more from the Fife Coast and Countryside Trust.
Scientists in Congregations Scotland explores the interface of contemporary faith and science, and seeks to foster a deeper and better-informed conversation between scientists, clergy and congregations. So far, it has helped 25 churches across Scotland, from a range of denominations, develop projects that excite and facilitate constructive engagement between the church and the scientific world.
The Scientists in Congregations programme calls for sustained, creative collaboration between practitioners in the fields of science and pastoral leaders who are already engaged with one another through shared participation in the life of a congregation. The purposes of this effort include:
- to identify existing resources of congregations in Scotland and to stimulate conditions for rich, generative engagement between science and faith.
- to provide ministers with the means to call scientists into an ongoing collaboration that enriches a scientist’s engagement with theology and a theologian’s engagement with science, and their shared participation in church life and leadership.
- to develop a range of locally grown models of how Scottish congregations can engage questions of science and faith in ways that are spiritually enriching and intellectually stimulating, and to find ways of encouraging other congregations to implement and improve on these models.
- to introduce into congregational life existing and new resources intended to cultivate a generative encounter between science and faith in the life of congregations.
- to help overcome the wider social issues which grow out of the troubling ways in which some Christian communities relate to science.
TheoArtistry impacts the practice, performance, curatorship, and reception of Christian art, and the public perception of the arts in theology and church practice. The TheoArtistry Composers Scheme brought together theologians and ‘new generation’ composers, leading to six new works of sacred music (2017); ITIA researchers also pioneered theologically informed programming and performance (TIPP), leading to the CD recording Annunciations: Sacred Music for the 21st Century (2018).These are two tangible impacts on British musical culture, contributing directly to the ‘only unbroken musical tradition in this country, stretching back to the middle ages’ (Kenneth Leighton).
Through workshops, a festival, performances, and associated articles in the national and international press, TheoArtistry has arguably effected a paradigm shift in the public understanding, reception of, and engagement with sacred music, and stimulated and informed a wider public discourse about the relationship between theology, faith and the arts.
TheoArtistry has provided training and expertise directly benefitting practitioners, and – aside from the ‘new generation’ composers and poets trained on the TheoArtistry Composer and Poet schemes – the book and video-documentary of the project provide a new model for further collaborations between theologians and artists and, more widely, between researchers and practitioners.
TheoArtistry has also had economic and institutional impact, leading to longer-term collaborations within and outwith academia, including a new collaborative MLitt in Sacred Music (beginning in the academic year 2019-2020), a collaboration with StAnza (Scotland’s International Poetry Festival), and collaborations with churches and Christian communities.