Dr Peter Kevern


Health, Education, Policing and Sciences

My academic background is in religious studies and my early academic activity focussed on the way religious ideas and practices interact with social practices and public perspectives. About ten years ago I started to work on issues raised in the dialogue between religion and dementia studies, a project which has formed the basis for my subsequent academic development.

My first career was as a community member for a church-based NGO, a role which eventually took me to Papua New Guinea for a 6-year stint in two remote rural communities. After returning to the UK and academic study for my BD and PhD, I spent 10 years teaching Theology at University level before joining the School of Health and Social Care in 2010. I remain intrigued by the potential of faith-based organisations to promote wellbeing and resilience in health and social care, particularly in cross-cultural contexts. 

As well as continuing to work on the relationship between religion and dementia, I am now working on a range of projects which concern human spirituality, the interface between religion and health, ageing and/or death. I am particularly interested in the potential role of religious communities in helping to deliver public health gains.

More generally, I believe that a concern for ‘wellbeing’ requires us to wrestle with questions about meaning, value, identity and belonging as well as being concerned for physical health. I am passionate about bringing together statutory providers, businesses, third sector organisations, and religious and faith communities to work together on shared goals. Therefore, in addition to my university duties, I seek to develop links with a wide range of potential collaborators in the UK and internationally in order to build a richer discourse on health and wellbeing.

Professional memberships and activities

  • British Association for the Study of Spirituality

  • Trustee of Age Concern (Birmingham)

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

  • External Examiner for Research degrees, University of Bedfordshire

  • Honorary Research Fellow with the Queen's Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education, Birmingham

  • Editorial Board member for Journal for the Study of Spirituality

Academic qualifications

BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences (UEA 1980)

BD Distinction (Birmingham 1996)

PhD (Birmingham 1999)

PGCertFHE (Gloucestershire 2001)


  • Religious communities and their role in health promotion

  • Spiritual care and spiritual assessment, particularly in relation to End of Life Care

  • Ageing and religion

  • Dementia studies

  • Cognitive psychology of religious coping

  • Evolutionary psychology of religion

Research interests

My research centres on the intersection of dementia or ageing with religion or spirituality. At the moment, this is being expressed through four major research projects:

  • Developing and evaluating initiatives to build ‘dementia-friendly’ religious communities in the United Kingdom
  • Working with the Catholic Church to develop a theology of ageing and apply it to the Church’s provision of social care
  • Collaborating with colleagues in Brazil to measure the impact of a national network of volunteers on the wellbeing of isolated older people, in particular in supporting them during the Covid-19 pandemic

Leading the University’s contribution to a European project researching and developing resources to train informal carers of older people at home in 6 different countries

Enterprise and commercial interests

The social return on investment in the social and health provision of voluntary societies.


My main teaching responsibility is for PhD students, Master’s Dissertations and undergraduate final-year projects. I also teach research ethics across a range of programmes

Postgraduate supervision

I am currently supervising four PhD students working on:

  • Negotiating the needs of South Asian People With Dementia in Residential Care
  • The Effectiveness of tools for custodial risk assessment in Police Custody Suites
  • The Roles and Responsibilities of Mongolian Medical-Surgical Nurses

Determinants of engagement and outcomes of participants in church-based healthy living interventions


Under review: Kevern, P and Primrose, D (2020) “Changes in Measures of Dementia Awareness in UK Church Congregations Following a ‘Dementia Friendly’ Intervention: a Pre-Post Cohort Study”. Religions

Kevern, P (2020) “It’s beautiful to be old.” In search of emergent Catholic Social Teaching on Old Age New Blackfriars 101 (1093) 266-285

Kevern, P (2019) Chapter on ‘Spirituality and Dementia’ for Zsolnai, L and Flanagan, B (eds), The Routledge International Handbook of Spirituality and Society, London: Palgrave

Kevern, P and Stifoss-Hanssen, H (2018) The Challenges of Dementia and the (un)making of meaning: analysis of an online forum on carer spirituality Dementia https://doi.org/10.1177/1471301218797248

Kevern, P (2018) Chapter14 on ‘Religion, Ageing and Equality’ for Westwood, S (ed) Ageing, Diversity and Equality: social justice perspectives (Open Access) London: Routledge

Kevern, P (2018) “It’s beautiful to be old.” In search of emergent Catholic Social Teaching on Old Age New Blackfriars (In press: accepted 12.11.18)

Lewinson L., McSherry, W. and Kevern, P. (2018) “Enablement”—Spirituality Engagement in Pre-Registration Nurse Education and Practice: A Grounded Theory Investigation. Religions 9, doi:10.3390/rel9110356

Kevern, P and Stiffoss-Hanssen, H (2018) The Challenges of Dementia and the (un)making of meaning: analysis of an online forum on carer spirituality Dementiahttps://doi.org/10.1177/1471301218797248

Kevern, P (2019) Chapter14 on ‘Religion, Ageing and Equality’ for Westwood, S (ed) Ageing, Diversity and Equality: social justice perspectives (Open Access) London: Routledge

Kevern, P (2018) Chapter on ‘Spirituality and Dementia’ for Zsolnai, L and Flanagan, B (eds), Handbook of Spirituality and Society, London: Palgrave (in press)

Kevern, P (2017) Is there a ‘spirituality across faiths’? Insights from evolutionary and developmental science Interreligious Insight 15(2) 30-39

Kevern, P (2016) Spiritual Care as a response to an exaptation: how evolutionary psychology informs the debate. Nursing Philosophy 18 (2)

McSherry, W; Boughey, A; and Kevern, P (2016) Chaplains for wellbeing in primary care: A qualitative investigation of their perceived impact for patients’ health and wellbeing. Journal of Healthcare Chaplaincy 22(4) 151-170

Kevern, P and McSherry, W (2015) Chapter 3: ‘The Study of Chaplaincy: methods and materials’ in Christopher Swift, Mark Cobb and Andrew Todd (ed) Handbook of Chaplaincy Studies: understanding spiritual care in public places London: Ashgate

Kevern, P. (2015). The spirituality of people with late-stage dementia: a review of the research literature, a critical analysis and some implications for person-centred spirituality and dementia care. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 18(9), 765-776.

Kevern, P and Sanders, J (2015) ‘Death-confident congregations’? Lessons from the GraveTalk Pilot. New Writing in Health and Social Care 1:2, 21-30

Lewinson, L, Kevern, P and McSherry, W (2015) Spirituality in pre-registration nurse education and practice: A literature review Nurse Education Today 35(6), 806-814

Kevern, P and Hill, L (2014) ‘Chaplains for Wellbeing’ in Primary Care: results of a retrospective study. Primary Healthcare Research and Development 16 (1) 87-99.

Regan, J.L.; Bhattacharyya, S.; Kevern, P. & Rana, T. (2013) A Systematic Review of Religion and Pathways to Dementia Care in Black and Minority Ethnic Populations. Journal of Mental Health, Religion and Culture 16 (1), 1-15

Kevern, P and Walker, M (2013) Religious Communities: what can they offer? Journal of Dementia Care 21(4) 26-28

Kevern, P (2013) Can Cognitive Science Rescue Spiritual Care from a Metaphysical Backwater? An Argument for More Theory Journal for the Study of Spirituality 3(1) 8-17

Walsh, J., Kevern, P., & McSherry, W. (2013). The representation of service users’ religious and spiritual concerns in care plans. Journal of Public Mental Health, 12(3), 153-164.

Barber, C, and Kevern, P (2012) Spirituality and the needs of those with Autistic Spectrum Conditions: some implications for ‘Spiritual Care’ policies Journal for the Study of Spirituality 1(2) 203-14

Kevern, P (2012a) Who can give spiritual care? A consideration of the ethics of discussing spiritual values with patients. Journal of Nursing Management 20(8):981-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2834.2012.01428.x. Epub 2012 Jul 10.

Kevern, P (2012b) Community without memory. In search of an ecclesiology of liberation in the company of people with dementia International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church 12(1) 44-54

Kevern, P (2012c) In search of a theoretical basis for understanding religious coping: initial testing of an explanatory model Journal of Mental Health, Religion and Culture 15(1) 23-37

Kevern, P (2011) “I pray that I will not fall over the edge” What is left of faith after dementia? Practical Theology 4(3) 283-94

Kevern, P (2010a) What sort of God is to be found in dementia? A survey of theological responses and an agenda for their development Theology CXVIII (873) 174-82

Kevern, P (2010b) Can reductionists be chaplains too? Reflections on the emptiness of ‘spirituality’ Scottish Journal of Healthcare Chaplaincy 13(2) 2-6

Kevern, P (2010c) Sharing the mind of Christ: preliminary thoughts on dementia and the cross New Blackfriars 91(1034) 408-22

Kevern, P (2010d) Alzheimer’s and the dementia of God International Journal of Public Theology 4(2) 237-53

Kevern, P (2009) The grace of foolishness: what dementing Christians bring to the churches Practical Theology 2(2) 205-18

Keeping the Faith - Prof. Peter Kevern

Keeping the Faith - Prof. Peter Kevern


Peter Kevern, Professor of Values and Social Care, shares advice on keeping connected while places of worship are closed.

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