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Meet the Dean

The Revd Dr Ellen Clark-King


Revd Dr Ellen Clark-King 249The Revd Dr Ellen Clark-King is the first female Dean in King's 191 year history.

The Dean is responsible for fostering and promoting the spiritual development and welfare of King’s diverse international multi-faith community and oversees the worship and provision of pastoral care to all students and staff. The role of Dean is highlighted in the original 1829 royal charter for the university, which has the explicit aim of ensuring that students are provided with an education that considers carefully the spiritual dimension to life.

Other key parts of her role include liaising with external religious and faith organisations and groups, overseeing the delivery of the successful Associateship of King College London (AKC) programme, promoting equality, diversity and inclusion within King’s and providing pastoral, moral and welfare support to those that need it. Although founded in the tradition of the Church of England, present day King’s is home to a diverse community of students and staff from the across the world with a wide array of backgrounds, cultures and religions.

The Revd Dr Ellen Clark-King has degrees in History (University of Cambridge) and Christian Spirituality (University of London), and specialised in Practical Theology and Feminist Spirituality for her PhD (Lancaster University) with a thesis on Feminist Theology interrogated by the voices of white working class women. 

She trained for the Anglican priesthood in Oxford; following her ordination in 1992 and a curacy in the Diocese of Hereford, Dr Clark-King’s next role was as Chaplain and Fellow at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge (1995-2000).  She then spent time in parish, cathedral and higher education settings in the UK, Canada, and the US, before starting as Dean of King’s in December 2020.

Meet the Dean Q&A

When did you first realise that you were being called to the Priesthood?

"I first felt attracted to the idea of being a priest when I was in my early teens, in the mid to late 70’s. At the time women were not ordained within the Church of England so it seemed like a fantasy job and I put the idea of it aside. However, it didn’t put me aside. After my history degree I went on to do a postgraduate course in Vocational Guidance, and it was while considering how to help others discern their own calling that I felt I had to explore my own. I was honoured to be part of the first cohort of women priests ordained in the Church of England in 1994."

What attracted you to the role of Dean of King’s?

"So many things! Part of it was to do with the nature of King’s itself, and especially the way that it includes service along with education and research as part of its core mission. It felt like the role of Dean brought together many of the strands of my ministry up to that point: the pastoral and academic, the Anglican and multi-faith, the opportunity to continue to work towards social justice and a more inclusive way of being church. I am honoured and fortunate to be part of the leadership of this great university, and to have great colleagues to work with."

You are the first female Dean of King’s. What does this mean to you?

"It’s good to hear another glass ceiling crack and fall! I hope that seeing a woman in this position will be another reminder to any who need it that leadership work is women’s work just as much as it is men’s, and may encourage other women and girls, cis and trans, to take the risk of aiming high."

What is your vision for the role of Dean and work of the Dean’s Office at King’s?

"One of the students at my interview talked about the Dean’s Office and Chaplaincy as a ‘soft space’ at the heart of King’s. I love the idea that we can be a space for support, encouragement, consolation and help for students and staff across King’s, whatever their faith or their choice to be secular. The Dean has oversight of the spiritual flourishing of the university as a whole – which means working for its institutional well-being by addressing any institutional examples of bias or bullying as well as working for the spiritual flourishing of its staff and students as individuals. I hope to help the AKC continue to be relevant, thoughtful and inspiring and to see it increase its engagement numbers. I would also hope to be a voice for the Christlike values of inclusivity and justice in the wider church and world – values I believe are held dear at King’s."

What are your scholarly interests?

"My doctorate was in feminist theology and spirituality and these areas remain key to my scholarly interests. Most recently I have begun to think about what a spirituality of leadership might look like."

You are returning to the UK after many years abroad in Canada and the USA – what are you most looking forward to, and what are you most sad to leave behind?

"People are the first in both categories – I’m delighted to be closer to my family and long-time British friends but miss my excellent friends and colleagues in Canada and the US. I’m also looking forward to the sense of being ‘home’ and somewhere I may be able to make a positive difference. I’m going to enjoy exploring local pubs, walking among buildings that are centuries old, wandering country footpaths, shorter journeys to Italy and Greece, better TV, the occasional full English breakfast, a shared dry sense of humour and a less individualistic culture. I will miss the openness, both of landscape and sense of possibility, the ocean and mountains, the choice for enthusiasm over cynicism, the readiness to embrace the new, and the best buttermilk pancakes!"

What do you love most about London?

"I love the way London is rooted in history and yet multiculturally buoyant. Post-Covid I will delight in the world class museums, galleries, theatre and dance on my doorstep, as well as the multitude of pubs and restaurants to explore. I love the small squares with their trees and birdsong, the Thames, the variety of built landscape, the variety of languages and accents you hear, and the ability to walk for miles and find things of interest and/or beauty everywhere."

What do you love most about the Church, and what would you most like to change about it?

 "I love most about the Church that it is one of the primary sites where I encounter God, through sacrament and word and in the people who make up its community. I love it when it challenges me to think, feel, and live my faith in a way that is true to God’s incarnate and compelling love. I love the rich variety of worship in the Church of England and its commitment to the welfare of neglected and marginalised communities. I would change the institutional racism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia that still haunt parts of the Church and limit its ability to live out God’s love in the world."


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