This past month, I traveled to Northern England for the annual retreat of the Society of Ordained Scientists – one of my favorite events of the year. As the name seems to amuse (do you sit around in dark robes and talk about the mysteries of the universe in dark wood paneled rooms?) or puzzle (I didn’t know there was ordination for scientists; isn’t it usually priests?), I thought I’d say a few words about this wonderful organization.
First, the membership. In brief the SOSc is exactly what it sounds like. We are comprised of ordained priests and deacons who are also scientists. Generally members have a science PhD or have worked in science or engineering. Most of us are in the Church of England or the Episcopal Church (Anglicans in the United States), but we accept people from all ordaining branches of the church. I can think of Lutheran, Methodist, and Roman Catholic members off the top of my head.
Second, what we do. We are devoted to advancing science and faith in the world and in the church. Specifically, the aims of the society are to:
1) Offer to God in our ordained role the work of science and technology in the exploration and stewardship of creation [Note the emphasis on curiosity about and proactive care of the world]
2) Express both the commitment of the Church to the scientific and technological enterprise and our concern for its impact on the world [evangelism and ethics]
3) Develop a fellowship of prayer for ordained scientists by following a common rule [common life and common action]
4) Support each other in our vocation [Note many people, one call (“vocation”) to serve the world and the Lord]
5) Serve the church in its relation to science and technology [This includes bringing the good news of science to the church in a way that the gifts of memory, reason, and skill may inform our prayer, worship, and service.]
In short, we bring science to the church, our faith to science, and both to the world. For us it is not about two parts of our life living together at arms length. It is about a common belief that God calls us to use all that we have – including the best reason, the truest faith, and the fullest love – in all that we do. We see science and the church as two overlapping communities each of which brings something important, even essential to the well lived life.
One of the things that impresses me most about the society is the strong emphasis on prayer and worship. Our rule (the vows we take when joining) admonishes us to:
1) Pray daily for the aims of the society and its members
2) Remember the Society and its members regularly at public worship
3) Endeavor to attend the annual gathering and retreat of the Society.
The society recognizes that the integration of faith and reason involves more than an intellectual exercise. It is a public (and private) discipline to be explored in community. We have around 150 members and meet annually in Northern England and biennially in the United States. There may even be an ordained scientist near you. We’re always happy to come talk to congregations about what we do, who we are, and the possibilities for a fuller understanding of the possibilities of faith, the possibilities of science, and the surprisingly fruitful combination of the two.
If you yourself have at least 2 years in science and have been ordained, please send me a message. We always welcome new contacts and new members.
[And yes, for the record, we do sit around in dark robes and talk about the mysteries of the universe in dark wood paneled rooms. More often though, the retreat is an informal chance for fun community discussion and silent meditation.]