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About Russell Jefford

Enthroned on an Ephesian Toilet

After studying for a degree in Chemistry, I taught for a while before side-stepping into IT training which was the start of a career in IT.

Whilst I’ve had a number of different roles, the common thread is my ability to get a handle on a subject often perceived as difficult (Chemistry, IT, etc) and then communicate it (with enthusiasm) to a non-specialist audience.

Along the way I developed interests in the two subjects which underpin this website – the history and theology of the Early Church, and the Psychology of Religion. As my interest in these subjects gained momentum I acquired an MA in Patristics from King’s College London followed by another MA in the Psychology of Religion from Heythrop College London.

Importantly, my studies have not been merely academic pursuits but also (trans)formative, and it’s this experience that generates the energy that powers my teaching efforts and this website.

Especially with regard to the writings of the Early (Eastern) Church Fathers I find much that’s inspirational and of relevance to the contemporary Western Church and am mystified as to why these figures and their thought are not more widely known.

Similarly, I believe the psychological study of religion provides important insights into a person’s own spirituality (or lack of it) and I’m keen to share what I’ve come to understand in this domain too. Besides, teaching ensures you keep learning yourself, as Clement of Alexandria says… “For by teaching, one learns more; and in speaking, one is often a hearer along with his audience” (Stromateis 1).

For a taster of the kind of things that I like to talk about, see this conversation with psychotherapist, philosopher & writer Mark Vernon, in which we muse on the iconography of the Nativity, assisted by some of the early Eastern Fathers of the Church.

I also appear to have a thing for Anglican Religious Communities (yes there are Anglican monks & nuns!) and am a Friend of Mucknell Abbey, to where I retreat on a regular basis. Ever been to a Convent or Monastery? Ever spent a day in silence? The experience can teach you a lot about yourself.

About the icon

The icon used as a banner image for this website (“Hidden Life in Nazareth”) is a cropped version of the original and has been used by kind permission of Ukrainian artist & iconographer Ivanka Demchuk. The full original image highlights the undocumented ordinary domesticity of the Holy Family (including washing drying on the line) and puts me in mind of a passage from St Irenaeus…

“[Jesus] neither rejected nor went beyond the human condition and did not abolish in his person the law of human growth, but he sanctified every age by the resemblance we have with him… Therefore he passed through every age, and among the infants was an infant, sanctifying infants; among children a child, sanctifying those who have this age and likewise becoming for them a model of piety and justice and submission; among young men a young man, becoming a model to young men and sanctifying them for the Lord.”

Irenaeus, Against Heresies 2.22.4

Theologians refer to this concept as “Recapitulation” (by becoming human and experiencing all the fullness of human life, growth and death, Christ as the second Adam has recapped and undone the work of the first Adam).

It’s one of several theories/models/metaphors of salvation found in the early Church, and contrasts strongly with transactional models of salvation, featuring punishing atonement demanded by a wrathful and/or offended God, that have come to dominate Western Christianity over the last 1,000 years.

“Other models”, as they say, “are available” (and they might also be psychologically much more healthy too).