Cath Kennedy

Department of History

Research student

Photo of PhD student Cath Kennedy
Profile picture of Photo of PhD student Cath Kennedy

Thesis title: Are you ready? The cognitive worlds of Jerome Berryman’s Godly Play 



Non-period specific

Thesis abstract:

Children’s biblical reception, or the ways the Bible is read with children, has a far-reaching influence on the adults we become. Narratives presented as authoritative or foundational such as “Noah’s Ark” and “Joshua and the Battle of Jericho” encode many ideological layers which may or may not be present in the biblical text.

My research explores this embedded ideology and its reception.

The project uses Geocritical reading approaches and Text World Theory, a cognitive theory of discourse processing, to investigate how the receiving communities of this faith formation resource negotiate their own Text-worlds.

How do they interpret and respond to “Godly Play’s” presentation of the Biblical corpus and the Christian tradition? And how does Jerome Berryman interact with the biblical text as discourse? 


I came to Sheffield as a mature undergraduate in 2015 and was able to develop my research interests almost immediately, investigating the cognitive dissonance between the progressive Christian values of faith communities in Sheffield and the implicit social conservatism of the resources they use with children, such as “Godly Play”.

My undergraduate and Master’s research explored this using narratology, psychology, reception theory, and interview data. My PhD extends this work and takes it in a new direction using Text World Theory.

  • PhD Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies, University of Sheffield, 2019 - present
  • MRes Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies Research, SIIBS, University of Sheffield, 2019
  • BA Hons Religion, Theology and the Bible, University of Sheffield, 2018


  • SURE (Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience) award, 2017
  • Petrie Watson award for attendance of Faith in Research conference, 2018
  • “Think Ahead” award for Sheffield Gender History Group (co-applicant), funding for reading group and journal publication 2017, and for the Wimmin, Wxmyn, Wom(b)an … Shifting Boundaries Changing Roles conference, 2018
  • University of Sheffield Faculty of Arts and Humanities Doctoral Academy Research Preparation Scholarship, 2018
  • Minor awards from the St Luke’s Educational Foundation and the St Christopher’s Educational Foundation, 2018
  • PhD scholarship: WRoCAH
  • “Think Ahead” award for trackchanges journal (co-applicant), 2018, 2019
Teaching activities
  • Beginner’s Hebrew and Latin for the Dead Languages Society, University of Sheffield, 2016–18
  • Revised and taught: GSC 620 Academic Publishing and Peer Review.
Professional activities and memberships
  • Member of the Children’s History Society
  • Member of the Victorian Popular Fiction Association
  • Member of the Oral History Society
  • Joint General Editor of trackchanges, post-graduate journal of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Sheffield

Public engagement:

  • “Thecla: Dangerous Chick-Lit” public engagement article for the Dangerous Women Project, University of Edinburgh, 2016  Available here:
  • Co-ordinator of the “Sacred Texts, Child Readers” project, a knowledge exchange and co-production project promoting discussion of children’s reception of sacred texts within and beyond the Academy:
Publications and conferences

Conference and seminar papers:

  • Taystee is the New Ruth” at the Orange is the New Bible conference, University of Sheffield, 2016.
  • “Dead Men Walking: Lepers, Zombies, and other Revenants in the Biblical Imagination” at the Gothic Bible conference, University of Sheffield, 2017
  • “Consenting Adults? Faith Formation’s Less-Than-Immaculate Conception of Consent” at the Undergraduate Philosophy conference, University of Sheffield, 2018.
  • “Images of Entitlement: Faith formation’s Less-Than-Immaculate Conception of Consent” Poster presentation at the Shiloh conference, University of Sheffield, 2018.
  • “Family Values? A Case Study from Godly Play” Poster presentation at the British Conference for Undergraduate Research, University of Sheffield, 2018.
  • “Family Values? A Narratological Investigation of Sunday school and Ideology. The Abraham Cycle in Godly Play: A Case Study” Poster presentation with Jo Henderson-Merrygold at the Church of England Faith in Research Conference, Birmingham, 2018.

Journal articles:

  • So Abraham took Hagar”: A Children’s Retelling of the Abraham Cycle” in Sheffield Gender History Journal, 2018. 
  • “‘A Lucky Girl’: How children’s Bible materials erode Women’s and Girls’ Personhood, and why that matters.” (Forthcoming) trackchanges, 2020.
  • “Forced Marriage as a Recurring Trope in Jerome Berryman’s Complete Guide to Godly Play” (Forthcoming) in In the Crosshairs: Bible and Violence. Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2021.

Blog posts: