The Reverend Doctor Will See You Now

The Church of England’s Shaftesbury Team Rector has a new title from, today. The Reverend Helen Dawes is now also a ‘Doctor’.

“As of this morning, I have just heard that my part-time doctorate has been conferred and I am now officially the Reverend Doctor Dawes,” Helen said.

A letter from Kings College London, notifying Helen, arrived today. She says that her new title is the result of many years of work. “A PhD takes a very long time,” Helen explained. “I did my research part-time over seven years, always doing a full-time job,”

Reverend Doctor Helen Dawes

Helen’s PhD thesis covered theology and economics. “I worked in business consulting before I trained to be a vicar so I have always been curious about how we think theologically about the way our economy works and what it means to people for their lives. That was something I was able to explore in quite a lot of detail in my PhD research.”

Helen’s research centred on our interaction with utility providers. “I looked at the introduction of competition into the household gas and electricity markets. We all buy our gas and electricity from different competitive suppliers. We get lots of adverts sent to us or on email. I looked at how setting up that process and the market had gone, and what was assumed about how people thought and acted. I looked at that from the way Christians understand how people work and what’s important to our society. I looked at loyalty and what our connections are,” said Helen. “For me, it is really important that the church does think about some of our abstract ideas in ways that really connect into the day-to-day.”

Through her research, Helen analysed the links between the economy, faith and community. “It’s something that I find really interesting. Doing some theology and thinking about how faith connects with issues in life and issues in the economy.”

Helen has had to fit her studies around her team ministry work. “It’s not easy. I am definitely a morning person so I did a lot of work early in the mornings. For quite a few years, I did policy work for the church so I was in a more ‘9-to-5’ role and I used to do my research on the train into work in the mornings.”

So, why did Helen want to gain a PhD? “Why does anybody want to climb Everest?” Helen smiled. “It’s there. It’s interesting. It’s a challenge and it has been fascinating. Although it took such a long time to do, I really enjoyed doing it. I enjoyed the mental gymnastics that is involved in doing research to doctorate level.”

So how do we need to address Helen from today? Is she ‘Doctor’ or ‘Reverend’ or both? And if so, which title comes first? Officially, Helen is Reverend Doctor Dawes, although she has her own views on that. “Still keep calling me Helen,” she replied. Helen says she’s doubtful that she’ll order stationery featuring her new title, but she says she might update her Twitter handle.