THE FALL LUNCHTIME LECTURE SERIES at Christ Church Cathedral (CCC) is promising to be a compelling opportunity for those interested in building community, grappling with controversial subjects, and receiving edification through thoughtful dialogue.
CCC’s new-Vicar-on-the-block Reverend Ross Bliss says that the five-week series, entitled “Science, Religion and Mistrust of Institutions,” will bring in scientists and other experts to offer facts and information about hot topics like genetic engineering and medically assisted suicide. “Churches are viewed as the antithesis of intellectual activity,” Reverend Bliss remarks. “There is this idea of ‘blind faith’…that religion is some kind of primitive, fear-based response to the unknown.” He says this ignores the genesis of higher education in the West. “Universities’ first establishment was in the institutional church.”
My refreshingly lively conversation with Reverend Bliss covers many vexing and complex aspects of modern life, revealing a man enormously dedicated to intellectual discourse and thoughtful research. No surprise, then, when he says he had a long career as a secular librarian before undertaking his path to become a vicar. Both the religious and academic aspects of his experience clearly inform this series, which is being curated and organized by retired CCC parishioner Alan Batten, formerly of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, National Research Council of Canada (Batten is also presenting the fifth and final lecture, “Whom can we believe and what can we believe?” on October 10).
Each scientific discovery about the mundane workings of our physical world seems to point toward more and more interconnection, yet ideological discord burns hot throughout the world. With so many new findings taking us into “areas that people haven’t understood,” the vicar says, “the scientists [in the series] are doing the research, and will have the opportunity to have their say, so people can understand. We’re not taking a position on these things, that’s not our role. Offering information is the philosophical impetus for pulling the series together.”
The comfortable “chapter room” at CCC, which seats about 80, is where the lunch-hour lectures will convene at noon each week, and bringing your own food and drinks is not just allowed, it’s encouraged. First up, on September 12, is speaker Paul Bramadat, director of UVic’s Centre for Studies in Religion and Society, speaking on Conscience, Compassion, and Community in a Post-truth, Post-trust World.
“Science, Religion and Mistrust of Institutions,” free admission, Thursdays Sept 12-Oct 10, noon-1pm, Christ Church Cathedral, 930 Burdett. https://www.christchurchcathedral.bc.ca.