Professor Nicola Slee

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Job Title Director of Research
Telephone 0121-452-2662
Room no. Room 36, New Building

Born and raised in a remote corner of North Devon, I grew up on a farm and could see the sea from my bedroom window; despite living most of my adult life in cities, this is still the landscape to which I naturally revert and am drawn.  After 7 years of full-time study in Cambridge, I moved to London in 1984 to lecture at what was then the Roehampton Institute of Higher Education and then to Birmingham as Director of Studies for the Aston Training Scheme in 1993.  I have worked in theological education for the past 30 years, both in higher education and ministerial formation contexts, combining this for a while with a freelance portfolio of writing, retreat work, spiritual direction and consultancy. I came to Queen’s in 1997 for a term to finish my doctorate – and I’m still here!  

I have had a wide variety of roles in that time, encompassing teaching, personal tutorial work, acting as Programme Leader for the MA, Research Fellow and, since 2014, Director of Research. My main focus now is on leading and supporting research across the Foundation. This includes administering our doctoral programme with the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU Amsterdam), supporting and encouraging our 30 or so doctoral students, supervising my own research students, running supervisor training events, organising and facilitating regular research seminars, and supporting and encouraging staff in their research and writing.  

I convene the Symposium on the Faith Lives of Women and Girls which meets twice annually at Queen’s: a vibrant network of women researchers who are using qualitative research to investigate women’s and girls’ faith lives.  I live in Stirchley (home of Jack Woolley, for Archers’ fans) with my partner and our two cats (affectionately known as ‘the face of the divine’).  I enjoy walking, swimming, gardening, music of many kinds, theatre, cooking and anything connected to poetry.    

1980 BA Hons Theology University of Cambridge
1981 PGCE Secondary Religious Education   (Homerton College, Cambridge)
1984 1984, MA   University of Cambridge
1999 PhD The University of Birmingham
Roles at Queen's

I am the Director of Research at Queen's.

I have taught courses in a wide range of areas of Christian theology, spirituality and practice over my career, from New Testament Christology to the Philosophy of Religious Language and Christian Spirituality, but I have developed particular expertise in Feminist and Practical theologies and most of my teaching now relates to these areas.  My teaching these days focuses primarily on postgraduate courses, including Research Methods, Transformative Theologies of Gender and Gender and Spirituality.  Beyond formal theology, I have taught courses on poetry, with a special focus on spirituality in contemporary women’s poetry, and occasional creative writing workshops and courses. The process of learning is important to me, as well as its content, and I try to teach in an imaginative and collaborative fashion that engages the whole person in the community of learning.  As teachers often say, I learn as much from teaching as the people I teach.    

External roles and responsibilities

I am a lay Anglican, glad to be a member of my local church (All Saints, Kings Heath – a shining example of liberal Anglicanism with a passion for justice and an intelligent, inclusive theology).  I am regularly invited to preach, lead worship and conduct retreats around the country (and, on occasion, abroad).  

I am an honorary Vice-President of WATCH (Women and the Church) and actively involved in Changing Attitude and LGCM (Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement). I belong to the West Midlands Ecumenical Forum of Spiritual Directors. Until recently, I edited IBRA’s series of daily Bible reading notes, Words for Today, and sat on the working group overseeing the Bible readings. I am a regular speaker at theological societies and Christian gatherings such as Greenbelt, as well as academic conferences and symposia.  

Research interests

My research interests range around Christian feminist practical theology but also encompass poetry and theology and other aspects of practical theology such as spirituality, liturgy, education and faith development. A contributor to one of the earliest readers in feminist theology in the UK (Ann Loades’ Feminist Theology: A Reader SPCK, 1990), I was also a participant in the seminal dialogue-text, Swallowing a Fishbone: Feminist Theologians Debate Christianity (edited by Daphne Hampson, SPCK, 1996). I have a chapter in the Cambridge Companion to Feminist Theology (edited by Susan Frank Parsons, Cambridge University Press, 2002) and my book Faith and Feminism: An Introduction to Christian Feminist Theology (DLT, 2003) is widely regarded as an authoritative introductory text in the field. My doctoral research on women’s faith development, published as Women’s Faith Development: Patterns and Processes (Ashgate, 2004) broke new ground in the qualitative study of women’s faith lives, and has helped to stimulate a range of other research studies on the faith lives of women and girls.  The co-edited collection,The Faith Lives of Women and Girls (Ashgate, 2013) brings together some of this work, and a second collection (focused particularly on research methodology) is currently in preparation. 

Alongside my academic writing, I have written more popular texts in feminist liturgy and poetry, regarding the bridging and integration of academic and popular forms of discourse as part of my vocation. I am particularly interested in employing poetry as a means of theological exploration and reflection, and do a lot of my own theology in and through the medium of poetry.  I have contributed to anthologies such as Human Rites: Worship Resources for an Age of Change (edited by Hannah Ward and Jennifer Wild, DLT, 1995), Celebrating Women: The New Edition (SPCK, 1995) and Courage to Love (edited by Geoffrey Duncan, DLT, 2002), as well as co-editing with Rosie Miles Doing December Differently: An Alternative Christmas Handbook (Wild Goose, 2006). The Edge of God: New Liturgical Texts and Contexts, co-edited with Stephen Burns and Michael N Jagessar (Epworth, 2008) brought together a range of creative essays and reflections by students, staff and governors at Queen’s, whilst Presiding Like a Woman, co-edited with Stephen Burns (SPCK, 2010) represents an interesting Anglo-Antipodean conversation around female presidency, both liturgical and of other kinds. 

I have published three volumes of my own poetry and liturgical material, with some prose reflection: Praying Like a Woman (SPCK, 2004) (which remains one of the few feminist explorations of prayer, interestingly); The Book of Mary
(SPCK, 2007) and Seeking the Risen Christa (SPCK, 2011) – a sustained theological and poetic meditation on the symbol of the female Christ figure. 

I belong to two writing groups, one of which is a group of poet-theologians, calling ourselves the Diviners.  Our collaborative book, Making Nothing Happen: Five Poets Reflect on Faith and Spirituality (Ashgate, 2014) is an expression of the ongoing conversation we enjoy as poet theologians and friends for whom the connections between poetry and faith are deeply significant. 

For many years, Leslie J Francis and I collaborated on the Teddy Horsley and Betsy Bear series of books for young children: amazingly, they are still going strong! Based on empirical research into children’s religious development, these books attempt to relate the stories, practices and themes of Christian life to the everyday world and experience of the young child through the medium of the teddy bear.    

Supervision areas

I have considerable experience of supervising at Masters and doctoral level (with 7 successful doctoral completions), and am regularly invited to examine at phd level in the UK and further afield. I am currently supervising or have recently supervised students working on the following research topics:

  • Young Christian women’s transition from home to university
  • Young women’s experience of the eucharist
  • Mary as a figure of empowerment for women with HIV/AIDS
  • Women’s chosen practices of silence
  • The faith experiences and perceptions of transgender Christians
  • Black Christian gay men’s faith and experience
  • Korean women missionaries’ psychological and theological identity formation
  • The metaphor of midwife as a model for ministry
  • Korean migrant women
  • Natality in the theology of death and dying and pastoral care
  • Patterns of women’s religious attachments
  • The faith of girls in a Baptist context  

I am always happy to hear from prospective research students who may be interested in working with me and/or coming to Queen’s to pursue research. 

Key publications
  • In Search of the Risen Christa (SPCK, 2011) 
  • The Book of Mary (SPCK, 2007)
  • Praying Like a Woman (SPCK, 2004) 
  • Women’s Faith Development: Patterns and Processes (Ashgate, 2004) 
  • Faith and Feminism: An Introduction to Christian Feminist Theology (Darton, Longman & Todd, 2003)
  • With Gavin D’Costa, Eleanor Nesbitt, Mark Pryce and Ruth   Shelton, Making Nothing Happen: Five Poets Explore Faith and Spirituality (Ashgate: 2014)
  • With Fran Porter and Anne Phillips, The Faith Lives of Women and Girls: Qualitative Research Perspectives (Ashgate, 2013) 
  • With Stephen Burns, Presiding Like a Woman (SPCK, 2010) With Stephen Burns & Michael N. Jagessar, The Edge of God: New Liturgical Texts and Contexts in Conversation (Epworth, October 2008) 
  • With Rosie Miles, Doing December Differently: An Alternative Christmas Handbook (Wild Goose Publications, 2006) 
  • Frequent reviews in Theology, Practical Theology, Modern Believing, Feminist Theology,etc. 
  • Poems in many anthologies, poetry journals and so on.   

See here for a full list of publications.