November 2016

The Song Snatchers: Songs for rallies and marches.

St Andrew’s on the Terrace

Tuesday 8 November 2016, 12.15pm - 1.15pm

Song SnatchersAnyone who’s sung in a choir, at a ceremony or service, or even in an informal group at a party will know there is a power in people singing together, whether for pleasure, performance or some other purpose. Street demonstrations, pickets and marches often use singing - as well as the more pervasive chanting - to convey a message, buoy the demonstrators and build solidarity.

This session is a kind of musical essay, using talk, singing and composition to explore a few well-known songs for marches, but also introducing less-familiar numbers from New Zealand history, and the stories behind them. You will have the option of joining in on some of the songs, and with your help, the Song Snatchers will also create one or two new songs suitable for rallies and marches, on the spot. A guest singer will perform one of his own compositions.

The Song Snatchers are Anne Russell, David Johnstone, Jane Shallcrass, Marie Russell and Robin Brew. This group of old friends has been performing together in different combinations (mostly as ‘The Magpies’) over the past two decades, singing acapella folk songs, madrigals and anything else that took their fancy. More recently we have researched and presented performances of ‘musical essays’, such as “Songs of work and workers”, “Parodies and borrowed tunes” and “Singing from the same song sheet: ‘Music to schools’ broadcasts in New Zealand 1931–1979”.







October 2016


The Off-Label Benefits of Religion

Tuesday 11 October, 12:15 to 1pm, St Andrew's on The Terrace

Gretta Vosper


Synopsis: The recent work of scientists, anthropologists and sociologists is compiled in this lecture to bring to the fore the exact things that a community needs to be good at in order to do the work of transforming the relationships individuals have with themselves, those around them, the world and the future.

Bio: Gretta Vosper has served West Hill United, a congregation of The United Church of Canada located in Scarborough, Ontario, for over nineteen years.

With the leadership of the congregation, she has transitioned West Hill beyond dogma and created a theologically barrier-free community known around the world for its ground-breaking work. West Hill is featured in the documentary Godless and the upcoming film, Losing My Religion, by Zoot Media.

In an act of solidarity with secular Bangladeshi bloggers identified as atheists, arrested and threatened with execution, Gretta identified as an atheist in 2013. Recently, the United Church has initiated a review of Gretta’s effectiveness as a minister
based on her atheistic beliefs.

Gretta is the author of the national bestseller, With or Without God: Why the Way We Live is More Important that What We Believe, and Amen: What Prayer Can Mean in a World Beyond Belief, an exploration of prayer stripped of supernatural expectations. Additionally, she has published three collections of poetry and continues to write new lyrics to traditional hymns. She is working on a lectionary based worship resource for clergy seeking post-theistic resources. Non-exclusive inspirational liturgical and music resources prepared for use at West Hill - where those who hold traditional beliefs share the pews with others who don’t - are used internationally.

Gretta founded the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity in 2004. She serves on the Board of The Oasis Network, a growing network of secular communities. In the past she has served as a Director and Officer of The Clergy Project, an international network for clergy who no longer believe. Gretta also serves as a Governor of Centennial College.

You can visit her at



September 2016

Consistency's Curse

Tuesday 27 Septem

ber, 12:15 to 1pm, St Andrew's on The Terrace

Bernard Beckett

Bernard BecketttSynopsis:

As a great admirer of modern science, and as a passionate agnostic, I have alwaysstruggled to define a personal philosophy that might provide a grounding for ourexpanding understanding of the physical world, while underpinning my reluctance tocommit to particular cultural mythologies. Although at first blush the two appear to leadeasily into some form of naturalism, I've never been convinced by this approach. My talkwill be an attempt to outline my current position, with regard to both the philosophy ofscience and those beliefs that sit necessarily beyond its influence. My tentativeconclusion is one of what I shall call collective objectivism, and I will attempt to explorethe relative merits and pitfalls of my evolving stance.


I was born in New Zealand, in 1967. The fifth child of seven, I grew up amongst farmland five kilometres south of the nearest small town (Featherston, pop. 3000).

I attended a Catholic primary school, St Teresa’s and later Chanel College in Masterton. At the end of the school years I moved to Wellington, and completed a degree in Economics, then trained to become a high school teacher.

The teaching career kicked off at Otaki College in 1990. It was there I first learned to love the classroom. An added bonus was the wide range of extra-curricular activities on offer; I developed a love of hiking and mountain biking, and first began directing plays.

In 1993 I moved to Tokyo, and spent six months working part time as an English language tutor. It was this lifestyle, with its long empty days, that gave me the chance to try my hand at writing novels. Over the next three years I wrote five books, none of which were publishable. In 1997 the clumsy phase of the apprenticeship drew to a close, and the novel Lester was accepted for publication by Longacre Press, a truly wonderful place to land.

By then I was working at Onslow College, a school with a particularly strong drama programme. I made use of the talent available and began writing and directing my own plays. The first of these was Terence, in 1995. Two stand outs for me are Malcolm and Juliet, which was first performed just after the death of my youngest brother, John, and Double Exposure, written with ex-student Duncan Small.

My first three published novels (Lester, Redcliff and No Alarms) were all written in the gaps while I was teaching. That changed in 1999, when I spent the year traveling in Europe and spent many a sun soaked afternoon with pen in hand. Jolt and the novel adaptation of Malcolm and Juliet were both completed during this time.

Home Boys and Deep Fried (written with my now-wife Clare) rounded out the first decade of my writing career. With seven teenage novels to my name, and a couple of national awards, I felt solidly established as part of the local YA scene. With Clare I experienced my first, rather inglorious, entry into international publishing, when Deep Fried was released in Australia, and largely ignored.

About this time Jolt was turned into a radio play for Radio New Zealand, featuring a group of my students from Onslow college. The broadcasting of the play in England led to an opportunity to develop a screenplay of Jolt, working with an Australian producer and British director. Although the film was never made, it gave me my first taste of writing in this medium.

An opportunity to try something different presented itself in 2005, when I was awarded a Royal Society teaching fellowship, which meant spending a year at The Allan Wilson Centre, an international leader in the field of molecular biology. Initially I intended to use the opportunity as the foundation for my first adult novel, Acid Song. When this project foundered, I turned to an idea I’d been playing with for a few years, a teen sci-fi/metaphysical thriller, and so Genesis was written.

Despite being intended as side project, Genesis became the book that introduced me to the international market. It was sold first to Text Publishing in Australia (my current, superb, publisher, following the sale of Longacre to Random House) who onsold world rights to Quercus in the UK. It’s now gone into 30 territories and has been translated into more than 20 languages.

Meanwhile, I completed Acid Song, along with a work of non-fiction, Falling for Science, an examination of the philosophy of science, and particularly the relationship between story telling and scientific modelling.

I married Clare in 2008, and in January 2010 became a father, with the birth of twins, Sebastian and Alexander. Writing, which I’d always considered more of a hobby than a career, slipped another notch down his list of priorities. I moved to part-time teaching in order to give as much time as possible to Clare and the boys.


August 2016

Science, Spirituality and the Importance of Not Knowing 

Tuesday 16 August, 12:15 to 1pm, St Andrew's on The Terrace

Elizabeth Connor

1504 by the sea 2015Precis: Science and spirituality are usually pegged on opposite sides of a great divide. There are the debates of creationism versus evolution; traditional healing versus mainstream medicine; the ‘evils’ of genetic modification versus the ‘sacredness’ of nature. Elizabeth thinks these polarised debates cause more damage than good. In this talk she will present her vision, in which scientists, artists and mystics join forces as rebel explorers to tackle the biggest baddest issues facing humanity.
“The unknown is the most important part of science and spirituality,” she says. “. Let’s face it. There is so much more that we don’t know than what we do. Unless we find a way to feel comfortable in the unknown and work with it, we have no chance of tackling major issues like climate change, social collapse, war, hunger, overpopulation.
Both science and spirituality give us tools to face the unknown and discover meaning in it.”
In her talk Elizabeth will tackle such questions as:
- what is the essense of science?
- is science living up to its role in society?
- Is religion still important in this increasingly secular and globalised world?

Bio: When Elizabeth Connor was fourteen she had a dream of starting a renaissance that would reunite science, spirituality and the arts and spread across the world reconciling conflicts. Now, almost twenty years later, her plan is roughly the same.

She now directs The KinShip, a Wellington-based consultancy, which uses storytelling and other creative tools to help scientists, council staff and other groups to collaborate across sectors and communities. She has worked with regional council staff working in freshwater management, helped postgraduate scientists connect with industry, directed Magnificent Science Variety Shows combining science with dance, theatre and music, run storytelling competitions for scientists and produced reports, podcasts, publications and performances.

Elizabeth has a Masters in Science Communication from Imperial College in London and an Honours degree in Physics and Maths from Victoria University of Wellington. Her mentor was the late great kiwi scientist, Sir Paul Callaghan, who has been a great inspiration and kicked off her career. With Paul's support she was awarded the inaugural NZ Prime Minister's Science Communication Prize.


Watch my TEDx talk

July 2016

Thursday 14 July - 12:15 to 1pm, St Andrew's on The Terrace

Prof Peter James Lineham

Is the future of Christianity a sectarian one?

Peter LinehamAbstract: The types of Christianity which flourish in New Zealand in some respects seem very sectarian. They take a very narrow approach to faith and they are exclusive in their membership and they are not particularly interested in interacting with wider social and political issues. Is this an indication of the future of Christianity, increasingly locked into a narrow cultural backwater? There is another side of the argument that certainly the religious landscape is becoming much more pluralist, but at the same time even the most sectarian of faiths – Pentecostal, Mormon, even Jehovah Witnesses and Exclusive Brethren – are being reshaped so that sectarian is not as narrow as it used to be.

Bio: Peter Lineham is Professor of History at Massey University and a respected scholar whose interests cover a range of subject areas that can loosely be categorised under history and religion. He teaches history at Massey’s Albany campus, having previously taught at Massey’s Palmerston North campus, and he has served as Head of the School of Social and Cultural Studies, Regional Director of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences on Massey’s Albany campus, Chair of the College Board and is currently Chair of the University’s Library Committee. He has written articles on many aspects of English and New Zealand religious history and his books include There we found Brethren, No Ordinary Union and Bible and Society and he co-edited the standard text on New Zealand’s religious history, Transplanted Christianity. His latest book, published by Penguin, is Destiny. His interpretations of trends in religion in New Zealand are also frequently reported by the media. He has long been active in a range of churches, Christian organisations and in Tertiary Chaplaincy co-ordination and prisoner support. His MA is from the University of Canterbury, his B.D. from the University of Otago and his D.Phil. from the University of Sussex.





June 2016

The C-Word and Secularisation in New Zealand

Tuesday June 14, 12:15 - 1pm

Dr Geoff Troughton


AbstrGeoff Troughtonact:
New Zealand Christianity underwent a series of remarkable transformations during the twentieth century. Notably, and perhaps most visibly, support for the historic “mainline” shrunk and these churches waned in influence. The public reputation of Christianity also took a battering. This talk seeks to understand these changes to the social role of Christianity in New Zealand in the context of wider debates about secularisation. It focuses on certain patterns within early twentieth century discourse and piety that may help to explain at least some contemporary attitudes.


Geoff Troughton is a Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, where he teaches courses in religion and politics, religion in New Zealand and the Pacific, Christianity, and secularisation. His current research focuses on missionary Christianity and peace activism in New Zealand, and contemporary religious change in connection with the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study. Main publications include New Zealand Jesus (2011) and The Spirit of the Past (2011), edited with Hugh Morrison. Another volume edited with Stuart Lange, Sacred Histories in Secular New Zealand, will be published by Victoria University Press in 2016. See:




May 2016

Thursday 12 May 10am - Noon: Beauty in Islam


Dr. Christopher E. Longhurst

This SATRS lecture by Dr. Christopher Longhurst looks at Islam, and how Islam represents itself aesthetically through the arts, particularly in letters and sounds, and in architecture and other ways. The lecture introduces “the rich philosophical and theological framework that has given rise to the Islamic sense of beauty, a combination of the Arab–Islamic mind with classical and local traditions worldwide.”

Specific topics explore Islam’s most significant modules: The Masjid (mosque) and the Qur’an; and how these are considered beautiful to Muslims, and how they can be understood as beautiful to anyone outside the Islamic tradition. Other topics look at Islamic mysticism, the Ninety-nine Beautiful Names of Allah, and the meaning of connections between Islam and Christianity regarding important personalities shared between the Christian and Islamic traditions.

The lecture is a précis of an upcoming lecture-series hosted by Victoria University and titled: “Beauty in Islam: Philosophical, theological and practical explorations.”

For further information see:

Bio. Dr. Christopher Longhurst is an academic theologian with a research interest in Islamic art and architecture. He holds a doctorate in fundamental theology from the Angelicum University, Rome. He worked as professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco, and is a lecturer at the Vatican Museums, Rome, Italy.


April 2016

Tuesday 12 April  12:15pm - 1:00pm: The West and the Middle East.

Dr Christopher van der Krogt
In Conversation with Noel Cheer

Chris van der KrogtIn many ways it can be shown that the Middle East is a Western construct. The involvement of Western powers (in which we must include the League of Nations and the United Nations) in the demarcation of states within that area accounts for much of today’s tensions. These tensions are frequently expressed in religiously defined enmities as well as the territorial ambitions of jihadists, chief of which is ISIS.

In an attempt to offer a balanced view, we have invited Dr. Christopher van der Krogt from Massey University to discuss this subject.
Dr. van der Krogt’s academic interests are primarily in the western religious traditions, especially Christianity and Islam, both historically and in the present. He has tended to focus on the interaction of religious communities, such as the theory and practice of jihad and the place of the Catholic community in interwar New Zealand society. While continuing to explore these topics, his recent research has addressed religious fundamentalism, freedom of speech in Islam, Islam in Western universities, the crusades, biblical themes in Islamic thought, religion and government in contemporary New Zealand, and the Coptic Orthodox Church.

The interviewer, Noel Cheer, is a long-term member of the Board of The St Andrew’s Trust for the Study of Religion and Society. He has recently completed a seven-year series of half-hour interview on the Auckland’s Triangle Television. For enquiries about this event call him on 0274 483 805.

Tuesday 8 March : Post-Holocaust: Continued Persecutions of Sexual Dissidents since World War II

William J Spurlin, Brunel University London, UK


WJS Hi Res for NZ 2HeadThis lecture provides a contextual overview of the experiences of gay men and lesbians under National Socialism, especially the ways in which the nazi regime targeted homosexual men and the varying degrees of tolerance and actual persecution directed by the regime toward lesbians. Operating on the premise that nazi homophobia must not be reduced to a momentary aberration in history, the main focus of the lecture addresses the ways in which homophobia continued to find expression in the post-war criminalisation of homosexuality in both the former West and East Germany, and the failure to recognise more broadly across Europe the crimes perpetrated against gay and lesbian victims of nazi atrocities. The postwar medicalisation of homosexuality, evident in the diagnostic history of homosexuality in the various editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), whereby homosexuality was pathologised initially as a sociopathic disturbance in DSM-I (1952), and then as a psychopathology in DSM-II (1968), aligned psychiatry and biomedicine with the social and cultural perpetuation of gender and sexual norms throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Even after the historic 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from the DSM, pathologisation continued with the entry of a new diagnostic category ‘Gender Identity Disorder in Children’ (DSM-III, 1980), which remained in the DSM until 2013 and is aimed at gender-atypical children and the fear of gay outcome, the traces of which remain in the current DSM-V in the revised diagnostic category ‘Gender Dysphoria in Children.’
The lecture also examines medical and social discourses about homosexuality that repathologised it in the early days of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the West whilst examining continued pathologisations and stigmas in the postcolonial and developing world around HIV/AIDS. The lecture concludes by addressing gender and sexual rights as human rights and addressing violent crimes that continue to be perpetuated against gender-atypical children, gay men, the transgendered, and lesbians in the present day, as well as the continued criminalisation of homosexuality in many parts of the world. By illuminating the ways in which homophobia intersects with other forms of domination and continues to shape contemporary society and culture, and by approaching historical sources on the Holocaust and National Socialism with new questions about sexuality and gender, we deepen the meaning of the Holocaust and help shape its ongoing significance. 

Prof. Spurlin has given invited lectures throughout the world, most recently in China, South Africa, and the United States on his work in comparative queer studies. He enjoys speaking with people of all ages and backgrounds, and has spoken specifically on his work on gay and lesbian victims and survivors of the Holocaust at the Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust & Genocide in London.  His visit is an opportunity to raise awareness about survival under regimes of violence, gender identity, and how gay and lesbian survivors and activist groups pursued recognition of their discrimination under the Nazis, understood their wartime injustices and addressed their neglect in postwar commemorative cultures. Challenging normative assumptions about gender and sexual identity experiences is critical in today's society and especially amid ongoing discrimination of GLBTI youth and adults.
William J Spurlin, Ph.D., FHEA is Professor of English and Director of Teaching and Learning at Brunel University London (Arts and Humanities); Chair of the Committee on Comparative Gender Studies at the International Comparative Literature Association (ICLA) and Section Editor of the journal Postcolonial Text.  Before teaching at Brunel University London, William was Professor of English at the University of Sussex, where he directed the Centre for the Study of Sexual Dissidence and Cultural Change for five years. Prior to his appointment at Sussex, he taught at Cardiff University, Columbia University, and Illinois State University.
Situated at the nexus of queer studies, postcolonial studies, and critical and cultural theory, William’s interdisciplinary research encompasses the analysis of a broad range of literary, cultural, and critical texts spanning from the fin de siècle to the 20th and 21st centuries.
The texts with which he works cross national, geographic, and linguistic boundaries and include British and American texts, and those located within francophone and Germanic cultures, southern Africa, and the wider African diaspora. His recent work has contributed to the formulation of new theoretical thinking at the conjunction of postcolonial and queer enquiry.

Research area(s)

Queer studies
Gender studies
Postcolonial studies (with an emphasis on gender, queer, and/or Africa)
Critical theory
African or African-American studies
Comparative literature or translation (with an emphasis on gender or queer)
Diaspora/migration/border studies (with in an emphasis on gender or queer)
20th century/modernist/postmodernist literatures/cultures