Rev Jen Brown, science missioner, Diocese of Oxford

It is not uncommon to find stories in the media that, in one way or another, makes reference to the ways in which science and religious faith engage with each other.

Whether we recognise it or not, science is central to our day-to-day lives – from the technology inside our phones and computers to the food we eat.

While there are some areas of science we hear very little about, others are bound to make the headlines.

As I am writing, for example, it has been reported that the Francis Crick Institute has been given permission to genetically modify human embryos (although such embryos will have to be destroyed at 14 days and will not be implanted into a woman).

This research can greatly advance our knowledge about an embryo’s development shortly after conception and may lead to important discoveries that could help prevent miscarriages.

Even so, there are serious ethical issues surrounding this type of work that must be considered.

The world’s religious traditions, not least the Christian tradition, have centuries of experience of thinking through ethical problems, and can bring a valuable perspective to ethical discussions in bio-medical research and other branches of science.

But if we are to engage meaningfully, Christians need to have at least a basic familiarity with science, and scientists need to be able to trust that they will be heard when they talk about their work and its value.

To help facilitate engagement between the church community and the science and technology community in South Oxfordshire, the Science Missioner Project was set up in 2014, and I have been in post as Science Missioner from its beginning.

Initially funded through private donations and small grants, and further supported by the Diocese of Oxford, additional funding has now been secured for the project to continue.

The Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion at Oxford University has been awarded a grant of £128,042 from the Templeton World Charity Foundation to allow my work as science missioner to be continued and extended.

The three-year grant is intended to develop links between the church, Oxford University’s faculty of theology, and the growing science and technology community in Science Vale UK.

As the work has developed over the past two years, I have begun to develop links with individuals working locally at some of the area's major science and technology centres, and have sponsored events designed to engage with the wider public on issues of science and theology.

As well as finding ways to introduce science into the Church, I have also had the opportunity to speak to pupils at a local Church of England school about science and religion.

A series of public lectures on different issues in the area of science and religion have been run in partnership with Dorchester Abbey and Ripon College Cuddesdon.

The resources provided in the current grant will provide for the development of future projects like these, as well as some larger events, such as an event on science, art and spirituality planned for May of this year.

Science is set to become ever more important in modern life, and advances in science and technology will continue to push boundaries and touch on areas that raise ethical concerns.

The grant awarded for the continuation of the Science Missioner Project will help to enable good and fruitful engagement between the church and the science and technology community in South Oxfordshire.