Research


Prayer and Sacred Place Project


About the project

The Prayer and Sacred Place Project (previously known as the Sacred Space and Prayer Project) is jointly led by the Revd Dr Tania ap Sin and the Revd Canon Dr Randolph Ellis.

The Project is concerned with approaching ‘place’ and ‘prayer’ in new ways through exploratory and speculative research studies, which draw on the disciplines of philosophy, theology, phenomenology, speculative realism, social sciences, and education.

Central to the ethos of the Project is:
  • the advancement of a praxis that does not assume the critical stance to be the default pathway to rigour and understanding;
  • the emphasis on exploration, speculation, adventure within the uncertainty of human-decentralised worlds.

Some examples of areas being studied within the Prayer and Sacred Place Project include:
  • developing a phenomenology of prayer and sacred place through immersement and direct engagement;
  • developing a discourse that unfolds the complexity of place;
  • approaching place as existing in its own right;
  • repositioning and de-amplifying human centrality in relation to place and things;
  • undermining the position of ‘if things exist, they do so only for us’;
  • discovering relationships between place and prayer;
  • exploring who occupies sacred place and in what ways they inhabit and define it;
  • investigating ‘invisible communities’ engaging with sacred place and prayer, and what may be learnt from them;
  • questioning what ‘sacred space’ is and how it is recognised;
  • exploring whether sacred space is a public or private affair.
           

Project history

The seeds of the Prayer and Sacred Place Project were sown in 2007, when Randolph and Tania first met to share their common interest in the prayer requests left in the Lady Chapel of Bangor Cathedral. Tania was in the early stages of exploring the characteristics of prayer requests left in church-related contexts, while Randolph was exploring the distinctiveness of the cathedral as “a broad place” and the significance of this for ministry.

Some years later, in 2014, the Prayer and Sacred Place Project formally came into being in partnership with the St Mary’s Centre. Rather fittingly, the first commissioned activity of the Project was to develop a proposal for a ‘shrinal-focus’ in the Lady Chapel of Bangor Cathedral (a commission given by the former Dean of the Cathedral, the Very Revd Dr Sue Jones, now Dean of Liverpool Cathedral). Although the final report and proposal for this commission was not taken forward at the time because of a change in Cathedral leadership at Bangor, the resulting document, The Report: Developing a shrinal-focus in the Lady Chapel of Bangor Cathedral (2015, revised 2016) is seminal to the shaping and development of the wider Prayer and Sacred Place Project.
           
       

A meeting of disciplines

From its inception, the Prayer and Sacred Place Project has approached the exploration of prayer, sacred place, and sacred space through a variety of disciplines. Randolph brings to the Project expertise in the disciplines of philosophy, phenomenology, and speculative realism. Tania brings to the Project expertise in theology, education, and social sciences.

       

Research initiatives

The Project has a number of on-going research initiatives, which include the creation and development of:
  • a National Prayer Archive, containing thousands of prayers from participating cathedrals, churches, and shrines in England and Wales;
  • original and exploratory empirical studies of prayer and sacred place, drawing on material from the National Prayer Archive, as well as working within sacred place and space itself (publications can be accessed on this webpage);
  • original and speculative philosophical and phenomenological studies of prayer and sacred place, drawing on material from the National Prayer Archive, as well as working within sacred place and space itself (publications can be accessed on this webpage);
  • the imprint Spring-Source (which includes The Spring-Source Seminar Series, making a number of publications easily accessible);  
  • specific research projects with cathedrals, churches, and shrines, as well as other relevant organisations.
               

Research publication downloads


Publication download

Download the full list of empirical studies of prayer and sacred place publications from this project (including abstracts) here. If you would like to read more about any of these publications, please contact the St Mary's Centre.

Download the full list of philosophical and phenomenological studies of prayer and sacred place publications from this project here. If you would like to know more about any of these publications, please contact the St Mary's Centre.

Publications in The Spring-Source Seminar Series are available here





Research into practice

As immersement and direct engagement with place are significant positions taken in the Prayer and Sacred Place Project, there is a close relationship between research and practice. Research from the Prayer and Sacred Place Project informs and shapes practice in a number of contexts. Examples of this include developing:
  • new liturgies for specific sacred places (including three new liturgies devised for sacred places on Anglesey: Pilgrim Service for Healing and Wholeness; Blessing and Thanksgiving for Dogs; and the St Tysilio Festival Service 2019 The Tree of Life: A service of blessing);
  • the original storybook series for schools, Randalph’s Spiritual Quest and Search for Meaning.
           
           

Tree of Life Service

The original liturgy for the St Tysilio’s Festival Service 2019 was inspired by research insights emerging from the Prayer and Sacred Place Project.


     

     




         Lady Chapel 1                            


       
Lady Chapel at Bangor Cathedral (Lent 2014- May 2015) - A re-ordering of the Lady Chapel in response to research conducted by the Prayer and Sacred Place Study.

       


     
Lady Chapel 2