Marie-Elsa Roche Bragg
Marie-Elsa Roche Bragg is half French, half Cumbrian and was brought up in London. Her first novel ‘Towards Mellbreak’ was published by Chatto & Windus in April 2017 and her second, ‘Sleeping Letters’ in November 2019. Her chapters in compilations on feminist Theology will be published 2022 and 2023. She writes for Radio 4, Church Times, Tablet and other papers, journals and magazines. She is a Priest in the diocese of London and gives courses and lectures on mysticism.
College & University
Marie-Elsa trained to be an Ignatian (Jesuit) Spiritual Director and retreat leader in London and Loyola Hall, Liverpool. She studied Jewish Mysticism, Midrash and Jewish festivals at Leo Baeck Rabbinical College, Karl Barth and systematic doctrine at Kings College, University of London, Philosophy and Theology at Oxford University, and trained for the Priesthood at Ripon College Cuddesdon, Oxford University. Later, she did an MA in Prose Fiction at the University of East Anglia.
Workshops & Retreats
Marie-Elsa has been a Spiritual Director for over 20 years and an Ignatian (Jesuit) Spiritual Director for over 18 of those years. As a Spiritual Director, she works with individuals and groups in daily life and leads workshops and retreats. Her work is with people from different walks of life, traditions, religions and experiences of faith whilst also dedicating part of her work to those in religious orders such as monastic orders, clergy and the Padre’s of the Royal Navy. She also lectures on subjects around theology, Jewish and Christian mysticism, tradition, ritual, interfaith and spirituality. Her personal spirituality includes a continual interest in different traditions alongside a life long connection with Senanque, the Cistercian monastery local to her family in Provence and with the local christianity and literary tradition of the Lake District.
Since 2006 Marie-Elsa has worked in London parishes. She spent many years as a curate in Lisson Green and in Kilburn and now works in the diocese as a visiting priest. Her work with the local parishioners has been profoundly life-giving and formative.
In 2018 a photograph of Marie-Elsa was in an exhibition by Tania Diaz on Women Spiritual Leaders.
House of Commons
In 2007-2009, alongside working in a parish in Kilburn, she was part time assistant to the Speakers Chaplain for the House of Commons and has been a part of the assisting team ever since. Recently, in the 5 month interregnum between Rev Rose Huddson-Wilkins who left to become Bishop of Dover, and Rev Trish, Marie-Elsa stepped into the role more fully including the 19.12.19 state opening.
Marie-Elsa was Duty Chaplain at Westminster Abbey 2009-2019. The duties were to live there a week at a time and be available for Spiritual Direction on the floor whilst also taking various services during the day. These included prayers I the Chapel of Edward the Confessor and the mid-day Eucharist. In the evenings she also joined the Abbey team in services such as those in Holy Week or Christmas. Serving with the marshals, vergers and clergy within a building that stands as a custodian for centuries of culture was an honour.
Lecturer & Programme Director
In 2009, Marie-Elsa was invited to Oxford University Said Business School to develop and direct international leadership development programmes as well as lecturer and coach on authentic leadership development. Her programmes included premier-level coaching with an unusually high-qualified team and trainings on systemic insight into subjects such as ‘political intelligence,’ ‘personal intuition,’ ‘group dynamics,’ ‘the systemic impact of institutional networks,’ and ‘cultural collaboration, change and legacy.’ Through her programmes, lectures and coaching, she worked with businesses and governments from around the world. She has also collaborated with Olivier Mythodrama, a company which uses Shakespeare plays such as Henry V, Julius Caesar and As You Like It for leadership development. Not only did she bring them onto her programmes at Said Business School but she was also involved in their programme development, coaching and lead their Tempest programme.
A large focus of Marie-Elsa’s work is with women; 1-1, groups and on retreats. In 2015-2016 develop an interfaith project with women from Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Christian and Hindu religions. The focus was on both the values and the difficulties of religious life. Other projects have looked at subjects such as domestic violence within orthodox communities and a handbook on women’s religious practices for midwives.
Marie-Elsa is patron of Suicide Bereavement Support Cumbria, a charity working with local groups across Cumbria and she is an ambassador for Power2 a charity that supports children in their time of need and helps them become mentors to younger children themselves. Both charities focus on building a compassionate community we can believe in. She writes for the Church Times as well as other papers and is a member of WATCH Parliament, a small group who work alongside parliament on women’s issues within the Church. She is also a member of The Fawcett Society, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, PEN working for freedom for international writers, Exiled Writers Ink and she supports the Women’s Refugee Commission.
Writer & Teacher
For many years Marie-Elsa has written articles, pieces for BBC Radio 4 and taught Mysticism, inner development and Theology. She is also co-president of ‘Words By The Water’ Keswick Literary festival.
Marie-Elsa’s first novel ‘Towards Mellbreak’ was published by Chatto and Windus. Her second book ‘Sleeping Letters’ was also published by Chatto and Windus. She has broadcast many ‘Thought For The Day’ monologues for BBC Radio 4, one of which is in a book ‘Thought For The Day’ by Christine Morgan.
Marie-Elsa has also contributed to projects on Feminist Theology. Her chapter Veil of Mother, a response to Dr Christina Lled Gomez, ‘How does the Christian community Imagine the Earth as a Mother?’ is chapter 6 of Feminist Theologies: Interstices and Fractures (Lexington Books / Fortress Academic 2023). There are further contributions on Theology to other compilations due to be published later this year
Theology in Art & Prose
Marie-Elsa’s second book ‘Sleeping Letters’ is based on a deep exploration of the Eucharist. Her sculptures as well as charcoal and wax paintings are placed alongside her theology in a compilation of feminist theologians. A collection of chapters exploring Christ through sculpture and charcoal and wax paintings alongside a theological dialogue with mysticism will be published this year and a prose only chapter on Grace will be in a compilation of theologians in discussion is due to be published next year.