Chaplains

The Ecumenical Christian and Muslim Chaplaincy Team

The Chaplains are a team of Christian and Muslim ministers drawn from different denominations. As chaplains, we're here for all students and staff to offer personal, confidential support on any issue. You don't have to be religious to come and talk to one of us and we'll be very pleased to see you anytime for just a cup of coffee and a chat. We can also provide you with information about local places of worship or put you in touch with other lines of support within the University.

Who we are

Rev Adam Dickens

Christian, Anglican

Adam has been co-ordinating the team of Chaplains and Faith Consultants at the University of Derby since April 2014. It is a role he combines with his work as Chaplain at Derby Cathedral. Prior to arriving in the East Midlands, he was a member of and latterly Warden of The Pilsdon Community in Dorset, which offers hospitality to those who need refuge at a crisis point in their life. He has also worked in parishes in inner-city Portsmouth and Worcestershire. His return to the world of higher education represents a reluctance to stop being a student, having studied in Manchester, Nottingham and London.

You can email Adam at a.dickens@derby.ac.uk

Rev Adam Dickens

I enjoy being married to Teresa and find many aspects of life interesting, including all things rural, the arts and various sports (I am a poor-quality cricketer and an angst-ridden West Bromwich Albion supporter).

Rev Adam Dickens
Anglican Chaplain

Ingrid Keith

Christian, Ecumenical 

Ingrid is a Lay Chaplain with a previous background of twenty years on the staff of Christian Aid, working with churches to harness their strengths in campaigning for justice and helping to establish the Fairtrade Foundation. Now she worships at Wellspring Church, Wirksworth, a Baptist/Methodist Local Ecumenical Partnership where she's a Trustee. Before Derby, Ingrid had the opportunity to live and work in Latvia and Japan, and she's studied at the Universities of Cambridge, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Sheffield and Leicester. She's now Derby based but also co-ordinates the Chaplaincies at the Buxton, Leek and Chesterfield Campuses. 

You can email Ingrid at i.keith@derby.ac.uk 

Ingrid Keith from Derby Chaplains

I appreciate the opportunity that working with international students at Derby has given me in continuing my exploration of Christianity as a world religion.

Ingrid Keith
Christian, Ecumenical

Ali Akbar

Muslim

Dr Ali is a Muslim Chaplain and passionate academic, with an extensive background in education and Islamic theology. Holding a doctorate in education and a degree in Islamic theology, he brings a unique perspective to supporting staff and students. 

Prior to joining the university, Dr Ali dedicated ten years of his career as a director of a charity organisation. This experience has nurtured his deep commitment to understanding and respecting different faiths and beliefs. 

Additionally, Dr Ali serves as the chair for the People of Faith and Belief Network. In this role, he actively promotes dialogue and collaboration among individuals from various religious and spiritual backgrounds.

Dr Ali's dedication to his field, extensive knowledge, and genuine passion for supporting others make him an invaluable asset to the University of Derby community. 

Imam Ali Akbar

I am very keen on building strong community relations across faiths. I am married to Aleena and have three beautiful kids. I love playing cricket and watching football.

Ali Akbar
Muslim Chaplain

Father Jonathan Whitby-Smith

Christian, Roman Catholic

Fr Jonathon joined the Chaplaincy team in 2020 and is a Catholic Chaplain to the University of Derby as well as Parish Priest to the Parishes of Our Lady of Lourdes, Mickleover, with St. Joseph's, Derby. He is also the university's Coordinating Chaplain for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nottingham. He organises various events for Catholic students and staff including weekly Mass in the Multi-Faith Centre, a monthly gathering of young adults in the city, and other student get-togethers, pilgrimages and retreats. 

He was ordained priest in 2018 and served as assistant priest in the Mansfield area before moving to Derby in September 2020. He found his faith while studying at the University of Nottingham, and his vocation while working as a lay chaplain in the same institution. No stranger to higher education, he has undertaken studies in theology, philosophy and psychology across the universities of Nottingham, London and Westminster.

You can email Father Jonathan at J.Whitby-Smith@derby.ac.uk

Image of Fr Jonathan stood in front of a tree

It is a joy and a privilege to walk with others on their journeys of faith during such an important and exciting time in their lives.

Father Jonathan Whitby-Smith
Roman Catholic Chaplain

Sr Sneha Jose UMI 

Assistant Roman Catholic Chaplain

Sister Sneha Jose UMI, a native of Kerala state in India, belongs to the pontifical congregation of the Ursulines of Mary Immaculate (UMI). By profession, she is a teacher, with a degree in TTC, a BA and MA in history and English, and a professional B-ed degree as well. 

Sr Sneha has worked as a teacher, Vice Principal and Principal of UMI schools in northern India. It was a pleasure and privilege for her to work with young students and help to bring out the best in them. She spent five years ministering in Kenya as deputy principal of a UMI school. Having recently moved to the UK Sr Sneha is here with a new mission, working as a Catholic University Chaplain. She enjoys visiting families in the parish, and patients in hospital, and getting involved in all manner of parish, school, and university activities - all aimed at helping others grow in the spiritual life, and deepening her own faith, day by day. 

Sr Sneha stood outside the Multi Faith Centre

My desire to help others in spiritual growth strengthens and deepens my faith day by day.

Sr Sneha Jose UMI
Assistant Roman Catholic Chaplain

Rev Richard Walsh

Christian, Roman Catholic

Richard joined the University in November 2002 as Catholic Chaplain. He also lectures on the Foundation Pathways Programme. The programme enables people without the requisite qualifications which would enable them study for a degree immediately to undertake studies that qualify them to gain a place on their chosen degree programme. Richard finds the work very fulfilling, especially when seeing students who have been through the programme graduate and go on to their career.

Richard is also a director of the St Ralph Sherwin Catholic Multi Academy Trust, which runs 25 schools, mainly situated in Derbyshire. He is the Chaplain to the Civil Defence Association and Provincial Chaplain to Province 9 of the Order of the Knights of St Columba.

Although he now lectures in Business, he has also lectured in Chemistry. This stems from his original career as a chemist and bacteriologist in the public water supply industry. Richard says that part of the job involved him visiting various water treatment sites and installations which enabled him to see the whole of the Peak District of Derbyshire - and get paid for it!

You can email Richard at r.walsh@derby.ac.uk.

Roman Catholic Chaplain Rev Richard Walsh

Away from ‘church’ activities, I am a director of Rural Action Derbyshire, which exists to provide services for, and champion the cause of, people living in the rural areas of the county - pretty much everywhere except the city of Derby!

Rev Richard Walsh
Roman Catholic Chaplain

Rev David Owen

Christian, Methodist

I was born and educated in South Africa, where I studied History, Philosophy of History and Historiography, Biblical Studies, and Theology, and qualified as a secondary school teacher. After a short period of teaching, I felt compelled to leave the profession as the syllabus was Eurocentric and discriminatory because it excluded the majority.

In January 1992, I entered the Methodist ministry. On moving to the UK, circumstances allowed me to return to teaching. I was a chaplain and head of Religion and Philosophy for over 20 years before returning to pastoral ministry in Derby in 2019. I have pastoral charge of the Mickleover Methodist Church, and I am very pleased to have the opportunity to return to chaplaincy work once more. 

You can email David at d.owen@derby.ac.uk.

Chaplain David Owen smiling gently

I am an inclusive Christian, open to being enriched through my encounters with those of different understandings.

David Owen
Methodist Chaplain

Revd Jilly Hancock

Chaplain (Anglican) - Chesterfield Campus

The Revd Jilly Hancock is Rector of Holy Trinity (just over the road from the campus) and Christ Church and spent a few years as an auxiliary nurse. She enjoys meeting all kinds of people of all faiths and none. Jilly has a terrier dog called Maizie and enjoys weekends away in 'Nibs', her old but faithful campervan. 

You can email Jilly at j.hancock2@derby.ac.uk 

Jilly stood outside smiling

"I'm always happy to chat about things which are important to students and staff, and to celebrate with you too!"

Revd Jilly Hancock
Chaplain (Anglican) - Chesterfield Campus

Dr John Thurstan

Assistant Chaplain - Chesterfield Campus

John is a retired GP, who worked in Hospital and General Practice for many years and, as a GP trainer, taught and supervised young doctors. John is a Reader to the Benefice of Holy Trinity and Christ Church Chesterfield. He is an outdoor person who enjoys flying, motorcycling, swimming and choral music. 

You can email John at j.thurstan@derby.ac.uk 

John stood smiling in a blue t shirt with a motorcycle on it

"I am always happy to talk or be of assistance if required to staff and students."

Dr John Thurstan
Assistant Chaplain - Chesterfield Campus