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News article

A new vision for the Ebor Lectures in 2020

Published: 18 August 2020

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The coronavirus pandemic has completely changed our ways of living, prompting people in Britain and around the world to adjust to new realities. At this unique point in history, the Ebor Lectures in Theology and Public Life are for the first time, seeking insights from members of the public. The organising committee is inviting people from a wide range of backgrounds to contribute a short reflection on how the world now looks to you. 

Each year The Ebor Lectures follow a general theme, which for this year is “2020 Vision: Sharpening our Focus”. Because of Covid-19, the lectures are digital this year. They are being published online and shared across social media as audio or video recordings.  

Outgoing Chair of the Ebor Committee, the Reverend Canon Dr Christopher Collingwood, said: “The year 2020, and the situation we are going through, presents a significant opportunity for us to sharpen our focus, to look again and see what and who we might have overlooked, and to gaze towards the horizon of the future. 

"We believe the ‘new normal’ of life in lockdown and what follows as we emerge from it also presents people with a unique opportunity to reassess the world around them. The ‘Public Life’ which the Ebor Lectures ponder may never be the same again, and this prompts theological, philosophical, and ethical questions. The Ebor Lectures is renowned for attracting speakers who are leading figures from many fields of academia and public life. Alongside such figures, this year we want to make an opportunity for a broader range of people to have their voice heard, to show others their vision." 

Canon Victoria Johnson, Precentor, York Minster said: "he Ebor Lectures have always provided a space for faith in the public square. We’re delighted to be able to support this initiative and share the reflections of the wider community as we navigate this global crisis. At a time like this, it’s important to be open to learning from the world around us and from one another, as well as from the faith traditions which sustain us."

Hannah Bernstein, Partnership Events Manager at York St John University says it’s simple for people to take part: "The organising committee is extending an invitation for people to share their reflections on the broad theme of ‘2020 Vision’. We are not looking for long lectures, rather reflections of about 5 to 10 minutes maximum. Anyone with access to a telephone, tablet, or computer can get involved, you don’t need to be an IT specialist or sound engineer. You can either record audio or video yourself and email the file/link to or contact us at that address and we will arrange to record you via a Zoom web chat." 

Each reflection should look at some aspect of ‘public life’ through the ‘lens’ of the pandemic situation and offer some kind of theological or philosophical perspective. Contributors are encouraged to reflect on anything they consider to be important or about which they are passionate in relation to the overall theme. People of all faiths and none are invited to contribute. The following suggestions are not intended to be prescriptive in the least, but rather to stimulate ideas and possible avenues of thought: 

  • Climate change in the light of the pandemic
  • Racial (in)justice
  • Changing patterns of work and leisure
  • The opportunities and pitfalls of new technologies
  • The place of risk in our lives
  • The politics of the future: what we need and what we don’t need
  • Disease, death and healthcare
  • The (re)discovery of community
  • Wealth and poverty
  • Education in the 21st century
  • Information and misinformation
  • The priorities of faith, spirituality and religious institutions

The Ebor Lectures in Theology and Public Life were established in 2006. It is an ecumenical project jointly sponsored and organised by York Minster, York St John University, The Order of Carmelites, The Yorkshire North and East District of the Methodist Church, and The C. & J. B. Morrell Trust. The series, offered free-of-charge to the general public, promotes a conversation between public issues and theology. Over the last fourteen years some one hundred speakers have encouraged thousands of people to engage with current issues.  

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