sof conferences

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Speakers at our annual conferences have included:

Don Cupitt
Jack Spong
Lloyd Geering
Daphne Hampson
Thomas JJ Altizer
Mary Warnock
Diarmuid O’Murchu
Stephen Batchelor
David Boulton
Philip Pullman
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
James O’Connell
Keith Ward
Peter Selby
Richard Holloway
Mary Midgley
Jonathon Porritt
Tim Jackson
Stephanie Dowrick
Michael Reiss
Jocelyn Bell Burnell
Tom Shakespeare
Maryam Namazie
Kumi Naidoo
Julian Baggini
Colin Blakemore
Gwen Griffiths-Dickson
Alan Allport
Femi Oyebode
Harriet Bradley
Martin Morgan
Tony Windross
Chris Howson
Alom Shaha
Derek McAuley
Pippa Evans
Keith Porteous Wood
Andy Pakula
Denise Cush
Andrew Brown
John Breadon
Abby Day
Dilwar Hussain
Richy Thompson
Richard Norman
Tony Carroll
Ernie Rea
Avril Robarts
Peter Francis
Brian Mountford
Anastasia Somerville-Wong

Sea of Faith Conferences

This page is a summary of present and past conferences.

Sea of Faith Summer Conference 2023

The National summer residential conference was replaced with a day conference in London this year – the first physical face-to-face confernce since the pandemic lockdown.

Day Conference, Monday 24 July 2023

In the Beginning was Music?

Music and Religion

St John’s Church, Waterloo Road, London SE1 8TY



Patti Whaley, BA, MA Musicology

A chartered accountant, IT specialist and Charity manager (formerly Chair, ActionAid UK; Treasurer, Food Ethics Council; Deputy Secretary General, Amnesty International), Patti is a local church organist. She has a B.A. & M.A. in Musicology and an ABRSM Diploma in organ performance (distinction).
She is a former Chair of the Sea of Faith Network.

The Revd Stephen Mitchell

Published author (including “God in the Bath” and “Past Perfect”) and former Rural Dean & Canon, Stephen has always been a musical vicar. He has a degree in Music and taught music in a secondary school before reading Theology at Cambridge.
Stephen is also a former Chair of the Sea of Faith Network.

Elaine Henson

Elaine is a music graduate of the Universities of Exeter and Durham and a singing licentiate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Katie Hainbach, Head of Music and Arts, Alyth Synagogue

A mezzo-soprano, Katie is an experienced opera singer, teacher and choral conductor.
She has a BA (hons) in Music Studies (including a distinction in Music Pedagogy) and a MMus in Vocal Performance.
Katie has performed on radio and television in the UK and Ireland.
She has travelled around the country doing music for people with dementia and other community music.
At the Alyth Synagogue, Katie is responsible for the choirs, musical and acting groups.

Alyth Synagogue website:

(For more Conference details and a booking form, download this PDF brochure)

Paying the £20 fee reserves your place.

Click this link to pay by Credit Card or PayPal


In the Beginning was Music?: Monday, July 24, 2023: Click this Link for extra conference details!

Sea of Faith Summer Conference 2022

This successful virtual Conference was held last Summer, with attendees from as far as Austria, Australia and California, USA

The dates were: Monday July 25 to Thursday July 28, 2022.

Speakers were: Peter Francis, Warden, Gladstone’s Library, Harwarden;


Brian Mountford, Canon Emeritus of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford;

Anastasia Somerville-Wong, first Humanist Chaplain, Exeter University.


Here is a link for more details:


Edited transcripts and Zoom recordings of the Speakers’ presentations are now available:

1. In the following issue of Sofia magazine: no.145, September 2022

2. Sofia magazine, no. 145, table of contents. Click this link.

2. As viewable Zoom recordings on this link.

Sea of Faith Summer Conference 2021

This Conference was virtual, replacing our annual conference at Leicester University.


As a free online Zoom event, it attracted more attendees (from Australia to California) than our last physical conference!


We expect to be able to post links to some of our talks and discussions soon.

Monday July 19th to Friday July 23rd

“Talking Allowed”

God and Non-Realism

What is God?

The Death of God

The Future of God and Organised Religion


Click this Dedicated Conference Link for Full Detailed Programme.

To download a programme pdf:

Click this link

No UK National Conference was held in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.


Sea of Faith National Conference 2019

This took place from Tuesday to Thursday, 23 – 25 July, 2019 at Leicester University



“Is That All There is?”




Speakers included:


Guest speaker: the rev. Ernie Rea, presenter of Radio 4’s discussion series “Beyond Belief”.

A transcript of his talk: “From Exclusive to Inclusive: a Journey of Faith”.

Guest speaker: Avril Robarts. Her presentation was entitled “This and That: A life of perplexed practice with emphasis on Indian tradition”.

In-house speaker: A past SOFN Chairman and current Treasurer, Stephen Williams, former Deputy Chief Probation Officer for the West Midlands.

A transcript of his talk: “Justice Through the Looking Glass”.

Click on this link for further details


Sea of Faith National Conference 2018

The last UK National Sea of Faith Conference was on 24 – 26 July 2018 at Leicester University



“The Necessity of Hope”


Speakers included:

1. Professor Richard Norman
2. Doctor Anthony Carroll.


The title of their talk was “Hope, Faith and Redemption”

They are co-editors of “Religion and Atheism: Beyond the Divide”, a book described as “all about dialogue”.

Richard Norman is Emeritus Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Kent, UK

His publications include On Humanism (2nd edition 2012). He is a founder-member of the Humanist Philosophers’ Group and a Vice-President of Humanists UK

Anthony Carroll was (until recently) Senior Lecturer in Philosophy and Theology at Heythrop College, University of London, UK

His publications include Protestant Modernity: Weber, Secularization, and Protestantism (2007), and he is an Anglican priest.

3. Dinah Livingstone’s talk was entitled “Hope for Humanity – A Theology of Liberation and the Beautiful City”.

Dinah is a poet, translator and editor of Sofia.

Her most recent publication is “The Making of Humanity – Poetic Vision and Kindness”.

Click on this link for further details

Transcripts of these presentations are now available in the September 2018 issue no 129, of ‘Sofia’, our network magazine.


Sea of Faith National Conference 2017

Tuesday 25th July to Thursday 27th July 2017, Leicester University





The speakers were: Abby Day, Dilwar Hussain and Richy Thompson

Can our feelings of compassion, empathy, ethics, mortality, survive in the face of the increasing and seemingly dehumanising pressures and demands of the IT age?

Transcripts of the main talks have been published in the September issue (no. 125) of our ‘sofia’ magazine

Sea of Faith London Conference 2017

‘In the Beginning was the Word’ – Religion as Poetry and Story?

Saturday 25th March 2017

St John’s Church, Waterloo Road, London SE1 8TY

Main Speakers were:


Mark Oakley: Canon-Chancellor, St Paul’s Cathedral

“Believing in Poetry”

Dinah Livingstone: editor, ‘sofia’ magazine

“Shining – Poetry and Theology as Sister Arts”

Salley Vickers: novelist and poet

“Connections between Art, Literature, Psychology and Religion.”

Salley Vicker’s talk was repeated at Westminster Abbey, Thursday 11 May 6.30pm as the 32nd Eric Symes Abbott Memorial Lecture: “Faith and Imagination”

A Conference DVD recording is now available from Chris Avis. For details on how to purchase, click on this link.

Transcripts of Mark Oakley’s and Dinah Livingstone’s talks were published in issue no. 124 of ‘sofia’ magazine
Salley Vicker’s talk was published in ‘sofia’ issue no 126

National UK Conference 2016

Thursday 21st July – 23rd July 2016, Leicester University

‘Religion – Where Next?’

Speakers included:


Doctor John Breadon, Assistant Chaplain at Eton College

“I was religious but now I’m…”

Professor Denise Cush, Professor of Religion and Education, Bath Spa University

“I’m not religious but…”

The Reverend Andrew Brown, Minister of the Unitarian Memorial Church, Cambridge

“The freedom to be tomorrow what we are not today”

Conference Transcripts Now Available

Professor Cush’s transcript is now available in the September Sofia magazine

Andrew Brown’s transcript is on his personal blog

SoFiC Day Conference 2015

Sea of Faith in the Churches (SoFiC) is a special interest group within the Sea of Faith Network that explores the interface between church and SoF, and is open to anyone who is interested.
It provides a meeting place for those SOF members (and their friends) who find themselves in the midst, or hovering on the edge, of the Christian Church

This was held on Saturday 10 October 10 2015 Kensington Unitarians’ Essex Church, London W8 4RT

‘Church Going Forward’

The main speaker was the Revd Meg Burton

(Hospital chaplaincy has changed beyond recognition since last century. Revd Meg Burton, long-time hospital chaplain and co-editor of the international Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy has been in the vanguard of these developments and will describe for us the current model. Meg was the chaplain member of the working group that, in response to concerns about the Liverpool Care Pathway, devised new protocols for end-of-life care, and she will tell us about the considerations underlying these.)

Click this link for full Conference details




Venue: the University of Leicester

Subject: ‘Out of Our Minds. What Can We Offer Towards a Healthier World?’

Speakers included (click the following link for more detail):

David Boulton, author, journalist and broadcaster; and Andy Pakula, non-theistic Unitarian minister.

A recording of this Conference (CDs and a DVD of highlights) is now available from Chris Avis. Chris’s contact details.

Gretta Vosper weekend conference: With or Without God

A joint ‘PCN Britain’ and ‘Sea of Faith’ Event

This conference was held Friday 26 September 2014 – Sunday 28 September 2014, Oxford

What do we mean by God and is the word past its use-by date? What would a post-theistic church be for?

These are the questions that Gretta Vosper will be considering at this conference. She will be assisted by her husband, Scott Kearns, whose speciality is post-theist words and songs.

Click this link for full details of the Conference





Venue: the University of Leicester



A recording of this Conference (CDs and a DVD of highlights) is now available from Chris Avis

The keynote speakers were:

Derek McAuley, Chief Officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.

He takes the view that “Unitarianism and Free Christianity, from its position on the boundary, can be a bridge between people of different faiths and none”

Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society (NSS).

Keith has been described as “a radical activist in a business suit”. He has raised the campaigning profile of the NSS both nationally and internationally. Keith has a great deal to contribute on “making connections” because he moves on a daily basis from intervening against the Christian Institute in the European Court of Human Rights to campaigning with them against measures restricting free speech.

Pippa Evans, comedian and co-founder of the Sunday Assemblies.

Pippa worked with us to develop a “Sunday Assembly” to conclude the 2014 Conference.

Sea of Faith London Conference 2013

“Secular Religion?”

Saturday 21st September 2013

Main Speakers were: Stephen Batchelor; Don Cupitt; Richard Holloway

4 DVD Video Recordings of this Conference are now available: £12 by PayPal, credit card or cheque (payable to Chris Avis, not Sea of Faith).

See ordering details

Transcripts of all talks from this sell-out Conference

A personal view from Dinah Livingstone, our Sofia magazine editor (Christmas no.110); see her editorial

Click this link for full details of the London UK 2013: Secular Religion? Conference.

United Kingdom Sea of Faith National Conference 2013

A recording of the Conference is now available from Chris Avis. See ordering details

23 – 25 July 2013 at the University of Leicester

“For the Common Good”

The title ‘For the Common Good’ invited us to look beyond humanly created religions and ideologies to shared ethics and action.

Professor Tim Jackson, a British ecological economist and Professor of Sustainable Development, University of Surrey

Alom Shaha, author of ‘The Young Atheist’s Handbook’

Chris Howson, author of ‘A Just Church’ and Anglican Chaplain to the University of Sunderland

Edited transcripts of these talks can be found in Sofia magazine (September no.109)

Sea of Faith Oxford Conference 2012

Saturday 10 November 2012
“Education in Good Faith?”
Friends’ Meeting House, Oxford

Do Free Schools, Academies and Faith Schools offer to help, or to hinder the development of children’s life-skills for a just, open and free society?

To read a comprehensive report of the conference, click this link:



To download this Report in PDF form, click the following link:



United Kingdom Sea of Faith National Conference 2012

Friday 13 – Sunday 15 July 2012 at the University of Leicester

“Work and Worth”

The subject of this year’s conference was ‘Work and Worth’.

Conference Speakers:

Don Cupitt, Emmanuel College, Cambridge

Professor Femi Oyebode
(Professor of Psychiatry , University of Birmingham)

Professor Harriet Bradley (Professor of Sociology, University of Bristol)

Martin Morgan , Consultant Occupational Therapist

Tony Windross, Vicar, Hythe, Kent; author of The Thoughtful Guide to Faith

Edited transcripts of these talks can be found in Sofia magazine (September no.105)

SoFiC Day Conference 2012

Sea of Faith in the Churches (SoFiC) is a special interest group within the Sea of Faith Network that explores the interface between church and SoF, and is open to anyone who is interested.
It provides a meeting place for those SOF members (and their friends) who find themselves in the midst of, or hovering on the edge of, the Christian Church

This was held on Saturday 10 March 2012 Kensington Unitarians’ Essex Church, London W8 4RT

BEING CHURCH – on a rising tide?

Brian Mountford, Vicar, University Church, Oxford; Fellow, St Hilda’s College; author of Christian Atheist: Belonging without Believing

Tony Windross, Vicar, Hythe, Kent; author of The Thoughtful Guide to Faith

Richard Hall, former Curate, Holy Trinity, Eastbourne; emeritus Head of Religion, King Edward VI School, Southampton.

Click this link for full Conference details

Edited transcripts of these talks can be found in Sofia magazine (June no. 104)

2011 Conference Audio Recordings

Audio Recordings of the 2011 Annual Conference (‘Brain, Belief and Behaviour’) and the 2011 London Conference (‘Lust for Certainty’) are now available from Chris Avis. Purchasing details

Edited transcripts of three talks can be downloaded from the following links:

Sea of Faith Banbury Day Conference 2011

Saturday 26 November 2011
“In Conversation with Tony Windross” Making Religion Accessible

This one-day seminar was led by Tony Windross, author of the book The Thoughtful Guide to Faith and the Why Bother? leaflets. It was organised by the North Oxfordshire local Sea of Faith group

Sea of Faith Oxford Conference 2011

Saturday 19 November 2011
“Reinventing Religion”
Friends’ Meeting House, 43 St Giles, Oxford OX1 3LW

Our principal speakers were Don Cupitt, Katy Jennison and Mohammad Talib

Read a short piece by Katy Jennison ‘Invented Gods’

Then read Katy’s talk at the Conference ‘Reinventing Religion: the Neo-Pagan Experience’

Sea of Faith National Conference 2011

Friday 22 – Sunday 24 July 2011
University of Leicester
“Brain, Belief and Behaviour”

The subject of this year’s conference was religion and psychology, getting to the heart of our understanding and appreciation of religion as a human creation, the evolution of our brains, and our behaviour as the earth’s most intelligent species.

Our principal speakers were:

    • Colin Blakemore:  Professor of Neuroscience at the Universities of Oxford and Warwick, Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society, and writer and presenter of “God and the Scientists”, part of the 2009 Channel 4 Series “Christianity: A History”
    • Gwen Griffith-Dickson:  Director of the Lokahi Foundation research institute, Professor Emeritus of Divinity at Gresham College and Visiting Professor at Kings College, London.
    • Alan Allport:  former Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford, currently reinventing himself as a field naturalist. He is passionately concerned about the future of humanity in a warmer world.

2011 Conference Audio Recordings

Audio Recordings of the 2011 Annual Conference (‘Brain, Belief and Behaviour’) are now available from Chris Avis. Purchasing details

Edited transcripts of three talks can be downloaded from the following links:

Sea of Faith London Conference 2011

Saturday 26 March 2011
‘The Lust for Certainty’
St John’s Church, Waterloo Road, London SE1 8TY
10.30 – 5.00pm

Speakers: Kenan Malik, David Boulton, Julian Baggini, Mark Vernon

Full speakers’ details can be found on the conference website.

A transcript of Kenan Malik’s talk is now available on the following link

A 4-disc audio CD set of the conference is now available. Cost per set of 4 discs including P&P is £11 from:

Chris Avis, 37 Clifton Road, Exeter EX1 2BN

Please make your cheque payable to C. Avis, not SoF.

2010 National Conference

The 2010 conference was held in July at Leicester University and was on the topic of Religion and Justice

Speakers were:

      • Maryam Namazie:  Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
      • Kumi Naidoo:  Executive, Director of Greenpeace International
      • Julian Baggini:  Philosopher and Journalist
      • Don Cupitt:  Reflecting on each day’s activities

You can listen to the podcast of Maryam Namazie’s talk, No Sharia Law in Britain or download the transcript

You can also listen to the podcast of Kumi Naidoo’s talk, Witness, Wisdom and Justice or download the transcript

2009 UK National Conference

Science and Religion

The Sea of Faith’s 2009 UK annual conference, 21 – 23 July, held at Leicester University, explored the The Sea of Faith’s message that both religion and science are human creations which enable us to value religion and science as insights for which humanity is totally responsible, both for their content and for the use we make of them.

    • Speakers were:
    • Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, visiting Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Oxford and President of the Institute of Physics.
    • Professor Michael Reiss, Assistant Director and Professor of Science Education at the Institute of Education, University of London. He did his PhD on evolutionary biology and is a priest in the Church of England.
    • Doctor Tom Shakespeare, Research Fellow at Newcastle University. His publications include Disability Rights and Wrongs (Routledge, London 2006).

2008 London Conference



‘Living with Difference’
If multiculturalism is a balancing act between diversity and intergration, have we lost our footing and slipped off the tight-rope?


Mohammed Aziz
Simon Barrow
Sir Bernard Crick (due to illness, Sir Bernard did not attend)



SOFN 6th London Open Conference, Saturday 22 November 2008, Friends House, Euston Rd, London


2008 UK National Conference

Creativity in Religion and the Arts

Held at Liverpool Hope University, 25-27 July 2008

Speakers were:

      • George Pattison:  Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity, University of Oxford
      • Patrick Sandford:  Artistic Director of the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton
      • Don Cupitt:  Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and Honorary Life President of Sea of Faith (UK)

2007 UK National Conference

The Good life

The Sea of Faith UK annual conference, 24-26 July at Leicester University, explored the relationship between spirituality, sustainability and the good life. Speakers included:


Jonathon Porritt, co-founder of Forum for the Future and chair of the UK Sustainable Development Commission;


Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey, and Director of a new research group on Lifestyles, Values and the Environment”;


Stephanie Dowrick, author of Forgiveness and other acts of love.

2006 UK National Conference

Taking each other seriously: exploring the Otherness of the Other

    • You can listen to audio versions of these talks on our


2005 UK National Conference

Beyond Good and Evil: the challenge of reconciliation

The Sea of Faith welcomed Richard Holloway and Mary Midgley to join Don Cupitt in discussing the nature of good, evil, forgiveness and reconciliation in a post-realist context. Here are some of the conference materials:

2004 UK National Conference

Sea of Faith: the first twenty years

The Sea of Faith conference celebrated twenty years since the original Sea of Faith TV broadcasts with a conference featuring Don Cupitt, Keith Ward and Nigel Leaves. Some highlights:

2003 UK National Conference

Taking a stand: Radical theology as social and cultural critique

The Sea of Faith UK annual conference and AGM was held at Leicester University, on 22-24 July. Featured speakers included Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, writer for The Independent; James O’Connell, Professor Emeritus of Peace Studies at University of Bradford and President of the Partnership for Theological Education; and our own Don Cupitt.

2003 London Conference

    • The Sea of Faith London Group held its fourth open conference, titled “A World of Difference: Diversity and Division within Religious Traditions”, featuring speakers Peter Clarke, Don Cupitt, Dan Cohn-Sherbok, and Merryl Wyn Davies. Here’s a

report of the day

    • .

2002 UK National Conference

Faith and Fantasy

Oct 2001 One Day Conference

I’m Talking about Jerusalem

SOF Magazine and the journal Political Theology held a one-day conference featuring Tony Benn, Leslie Griffiths, former president of the Methodist Conference, and Christine Evans, Executive Director, Catholic Institute of International Relations. David Boulton provided a report on the conference.

2001 UK National Conference

A Faith Odyssey

Sept 2000 One Day Conference

Religious Humanism

David Boulton and SOF magazine hosted a one-day conference on Religious Humanism in September 2000. Here are the main papers from that conference:

2000 UK National Conference

Faith in the future?

1999 UK National Conference

What is religion for?

1998 UK National Conference

What on earth is spirituality?

1997 UK National Conference

1996 UK National Conference

1995 UK National Conference

And from earlier conferences:

Brain, Belief & Behaviour