Symposium ethos and working practice

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The Symposium usually meets twice a year, for a 2-day residential in the Autumn and for a working day in the Spring. 

Our programme largely consists of papers presented and chaired by members, followed by feedback and discussion, and occasional workshops focusing on some practical aspect of research.  Papers are often clustered together in ways which enhance the connections between different research projects.  Brief acts of worship or meditation are offered as optional spaces of quiet reflection, and crafted in such a way as to be as inclusive as possible.  Meals and social time offer opportunities for relaxing and conversation. 

Papers may be shorter (20 minutes), which tends to be the norm for masters level work and for ‘work in progress’ papers, or longer (40 minutes) for more substantial research (often at doctoral and postdoctoral level).  Workshops of around an hour offer an opportunity for more participatory styles of working. 

Many members have given their first papers in the context of the Symposium, and feedback suggests they have found this an affirming and supportive experience.  The Symposium Planning Group offers mentorship to new researchers planning their papers, usually through one-to-one email, phone or skype conversation.  Written guidelines are available for paper givers, session chairs and workshop facilitators. Feedback to paper givers seeks to combine affirmation, encouragement and support with critical rigour and challenge. 

The Symposium is both a public space, open to suitably qualified researchers, and a space valued by participants for its strong ties of friendship, colleagueship and empathy. It is an academic space whose primary function is to nurture and disseminate research, but it is also a space in which members’ personal lives, faith commitments and experience have a valued place within a holistic feminist ethos.  We seek not only to research about women’s faith lives, but to model an open, respectful, committed and critically engaged spirituality and ethics.  Our meetings aim to create a safe and secure holding environment in which we are free to challenge and engage each other in critical discourse.