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From Messines Ridge to Moltmann: Studdert Kennedy and a Suffering God after a century

Professor Thomas O’Loughlin and Dr Stuart Bell outline the theology of Reverend Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy and discuss how religion was transformed by the First World War.

The Reverend Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy is famous as ‘Woodbine Willie’, an Army chaplain who handed cigarettes to soldiers while dispensing pastoral care. He had a great influence on those who met him during the war or heard him speak afterwards, when he was a much loved and respected preacher until his early death in 1929. However, in the midst of the war, he forged a new theology which anticipated many developments in the later 20th century. This has led to an on-going fame and influence – and now he is probably better known in Germany (in the work of Jurgen Moltmannn) than in Britain.

This lecture will both outline the theology he forged in an around Messines Ridge in June 1917, and locate that development within his work as a padre and the situation he saw himself and his fellow soldiers during 1917. Exactly a century after its first publication – when the work was greeted with anger and derision –‘A Suffering God’, shows that religion was one more aspect of British culture that was transformed by the war.

In 2018 there have been many attempts to re-evaluate the impact of the war on society and culture. This lecture will bring out an important, but little known aspect of that impact and allow us to re-evaluate ‘Woodbine Willie’ as not only a much-loved padre. but now a respected thinker about war and religion.


Professor Thomas O'Loughlin | talks
Dr Stuart Bell | talks


Date and Time:

21 September 2018 at 11:30 am


1 hour



National Army Museum
Royal Hospital Road


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Free, Booking is recommended

Available from:

020 7730 0717

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