Space suits, meteorite fragments and a giant sculpture of the moon are to be displayed in one of the Church of England’s ancient cathedrals as part of celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, it was announced today.
Museum of the Moon at University of Bristol. Picture credit: Simon Galloway, Picture Editor, SWNS Museum of the Moon at University of Bristol. Picture credit: Simon Galloway, Picture Editor, SWNS

A lit art installation, Museum of the Moon, by artist Luke Jerram, with detailed NASA imagery of the moon’s surface, will be suspended from the nave of Ely Cathedral for a science festival on space exploration, Artificial Intelligence and future technologies.

The festival at the cathedral will include science-themed worship such as Night Prayer, Evensong and a Communion service. There will also be lectures from high-profile figures including the Astronomer Royal Lord Rees and lunar expert and broadcaster Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock as well as exhibits on show loaned from the Science Museum and the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge.

Ely Cathedral Canon Vicky Johnson, a former research scientist, who is overseeing the festival, said: “Ely Cathedral was itself a feat of medieval engineering and now, nearly a thousand years after it was built, serves one of the most dynamic science and technology communities in the world.

“We hope by staging this spectacular event we can highlight the long tradition of scientific thought as part of our Christian heritage and build on our reputation as a ‘cathedral for science’ – encouraging greater understanding between science and faith.

“Cathedrals have long been centres for learning and education particularly in monastic foundations where medicine, engineering and astronomy were common disciplines among medieval religious communities”

Ely Cathedral joins Lichfield Cathedral in mounting a spectacular display to mark the anniversary of the lunar landing with Lichfield’s nave floor due to be transformed into a huge visual reproduction of the Moon’s surface.

The cathedrals are among 14 church projects receiving a total of £70,000 in grants from the Scientists in Congregations scheme to foster greater understanding about science and faith.

The funding has been allocated for projects in churches in Bristol, Cambridgeshire, Canterbury, Devon, Exeter, Hertfordshire and Oldham.

Other planned work includes a project exploring the science of prayer, while Artificial Intelligence is the focus for sessions building robots, based at a Hertfordshire Baptist Church and aimed at families with 10-13 years-olds.

Project leader David Gregory, Senior Minister at Croxley Green Baptist Church in Hertfordshire, former meteorologist and current President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, who is leading the workshops to build robots, said: “Artificial Intelligence is going to have a big impact on our lives in the next 10 to 20 years and the world that our children and grandchildren will grow up in. Our aim is to help families in local communities explore the science, ethical issues and faith questions that arise from this and have some fun along the way.”

The funding is from the Scientists in Congregations scheme, aimed at helping churchgoers engage confidently with science, raising the profile of Christians whose vocation is science-related, and changing the debate about science and faith in churches and communities.

Scientists in Congregations is part of Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science, a project run by the Universities of Durham and York in collaboration with the Church of England. The project is funded by Templeton World Charity Foundation.

The Bishop of Kingston, Dr Richard Cheetham, who is one of the directors of Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science, said: “These varied and imaginative projects bring fresh and exciting ways of engaging with contemporary science and technology, and the questions raised about the place and purpose of humankind in the cosmos.

“They explore how it really is possible to have a deep and intelligent faith in God, which fully engages with our 21st-century scientific age.

“The grants made available through the Scientists in Congregations scheme have made it abundantly clear that there is innovative and deep engagement with these issues in many contexts across the UK.”

The 14 church projects

Our Fragile Earth – Churches in Sidmouth, Devon

Lectures and discussion groups associated with the Sidmouth Science Festival, raising awareness of the science about how we are changing our world, in relation to our moral choices as individuals and as church communities.

The sky’s the limit! Science Festival – Ely Cathedral

Funding towards the Ely Cathedral Science Festival in the 50th anniversary year of the Moon landings. The festival will take place between May 18 and June 9.

Abington Church with Granta Park, Cambridgeshire

Building the relationship between Abington Church and the local science, technology and biopharmaceutical park with a series of quarterly science-faith related lectures.

Connect@Tiviot Dale - Stockport, Manchester

A bi-lingual – Portuguese- English project: big science-faith related questions to be addressed with a number of resources including a book aimed at young adults and live streamed talks during Sunday services and Wednesday evening sessions.

Science and Sacraments St Thomas - Exeter, Devon

Funding for visits to local centres of scientific research - including the Met Office– followed by seminars.

MES-AI Church - Croxley Green, Hertfordshire

Project to help local church groups explore Artificial Intelligence and consider the technological and theological issues raised.

Genesis for the 21st Century – Chester Cathedral

Consideration of Genesis and a scientific view of creation within the liturgy including a piece of music to be written to a text called ’Genesis for 21st century’

Science and the Language of Prayer - Bramhall, Manchester

Five sessions exploring a modern understanding of the science of the way people pray, in order to deepen prayer lives both as individuals and a congregation.

Amberley Road - Bristol

Four science-faith themed videos for the café church on the themes of creation, suffering, existence of God and the Universe.

One small step – Lichfield Cathedral

Transformation of the Cathedral’s nave floor into a visual reproduction of the moon’s surface and other events to mark the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing.

St Thomas Church - Saddleworth, Oldham

Science-faith engagement with Saddleworth churches.

Messy Church does Science - After School Club

Existing materials will be used to create a Messy Church after school club for the whole family rather than just for young children.

Religion and robots – Manchester

Funding to film and edit three short films to be screened at Manchester Cathedral offering a Christian perspective on robots in society. There will be an accompanying resource pack.

Christians and Science Interactive - Canterbury

A series of hour long events talks that give an overview of contemporary science in relation to Christian faith.  Working with churches in Canterbury.

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