Roots in the Reformation

Continuing Education Nurtures Scottish and American Clergy

by Barbara A. Chaapel

e ministers in the Church of Scotland have been living on very thin gruel," says PTS alumnus Nigel Robb ('79M, '89M), referring to the lack of serious continuing education for pastors in his denomination. "Other professions in Britain have been much more aware than the church of the need for people to be updated and supported in their professions." As the first director of educational services for the Church of Scotland's Board of Ministry, Robb is in a position to help change that. Beginning in 1998, the Church of Scotland will provide every parish minister (1200 of the denomination's 1300 clergy) who has served for five or more years a total of two weeks and up to 250 pounds (about $425 U.S. dollars) annually for continuing education. Or, as Board of Ministry convenor George Whyte (who spent several weeks doing his own continuing education at Princeton last summer) calls it, "ministry development."

This is the first time ministers in the Church of Scotland have been guaranteed continuing education as a part of their calls. The Board of Ministry will administer the new policy, which includes the option of banking some or all of the time for up to seven years so that a minister may take a sabbatical of fourteen weeks, with the General Assembly paying to supply his or her pulpit. Where will these pastors find continu-ing education events to attend? Princeton Seminary intends to provide part of the answer.

This past summer Princeton and St. Mary's College of St. Andrews University held their first Joint Institute of Theology for pastors from both sides of the Atlantic. Robb was the Institute's Scottish director; PTS's Dean of Continuing Education Joyce Tucker was the American director.

"I got on the plane to Scotland in June as a sort of leap of faith," says Tucker. "There were a lot of administrative snafus in planning this Institute across an ocean, and I wasn't sure just how it would all work out." She need not have worried. For two weeks, sixty-six Americans, thirty-three Scots, and two Irish pastors enjoyed lectures by faculty from both sponsoring institutions (Nora Tubbs Tisdale and Patrick Miller were PTS's contributions), worshipped together in St. Salvator's Chapel (dating from 1410), and discussed theology each evening in the pubs of St. Andrews.

"The Institute was a spiritual experience for me," says Tucker, "as if we had antennae alert to God's presence there. We were in St. Andrews during the 1400th anniversary of the death of St. Columba, and the spirit of that anniversary was woven through the Institute. [Columba brought Christianity to Scotland in 563 when he left his native Ireland to build a mission on the island of Iona that became the center of Celtic Christianity]. We had a historian from Aberdeen who talked about Columba's story, a story filled with both myth and history, as one of the evening programs. We sang songs from the liturgy of the Iona community. We worshipped one afternoon in the ruins of the old St. Andrews cathedral, demolished by Knox's followers during the Reformation."

John Knox
It was in St. Andrews that Scottish
reformer John Knox purportedly
received the call to preach the
Gospel as a Protestant.

Knox is, of course, one of the reasons Princeton has ties with Scotland.

Born near Edinburgh and educated at St. Andrews, the reformer was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1536. The year 1547 found him at St. Andrews, where he purportedly received the call to preach the Gospel as a Protestant. He spent the next decade in Geneva studying under John Calvin and imported the Presbyterian form of government to his native Scotland.

A century later, settlers in the middle colonies in America, some of whom had immigrated as the result of English persecution of Scots Presbyterians under Charles II, requested a Presbyterian minister from the homeland. In the late 1600s, a Scots-Irish minister named Francis Makemie answered the call and established a Presbyterian church in Accomack County, Maryland, and later the first presbytery in America.

These same first- and second-generation Scots founded Princeton University and later Princeton Seminary.

As the Church of Scotland's roots run through Geneva, the roots of the Presbyter-ian Church in the United States run through Edinburgh and St. Andrews. Knox's Book of Discipline is the foundation for the PC(USA)'s constitution, and the Scots Confession, which he authored, is one of the confessions by which American Presbyterians are guided.

Now the "mother church" is turning to the "daughter" to continue a theological conversation that began centuries ago.

"Scotland has accepted a fairly static model of church," says Robb. "I think this is because a big part of our mission is to provide the ordinances of religion for every inch of Scotland." Whyte, who is the pastor of Colinton Parish Church in Edinburgh (where PTS alumna Easter Smart is a full-time assistant pastor), explains: "In Scotland we have parishes, not congregations. A minister serves as a sort of chaplain to the community. For example, parish ministers do all of the funerals and weddings in the parish, whether or not the people are members of the church. That can mean as many as 120 funerals a year, or six or seven a week."

The expectations of this model of ministry means Scottish pastors have had little time to develop their skills in preaching, ministry with youth, urban ministry, media and computer technology, team-building and leadership development, and other areas of practical theology. In addition, the four schools where Scottish pastors get their education for ministry (St. Andrews, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Glasgow) are not seminaries. They are divinity faculties of secular universities. The temptation, according to Whyte, is for those schools to recruit students for academic work, not for parish ministry. For example, he says, "Biblical classes would tend not to teach students how a particular text might be exegeted for a sermon. The teaching of applied and practical theology is weak."

For help in practical theology, Scotland's Board of Ministry is looking to the church in the United States and to Princeton, where the value and breadth of continuing education for ministers has been realized for decades. At last summer's Joint Institute at St. Andrews, lectures were given on preaching in a congregational context, hermeneutics for preachers, and prayer and the psalms. Robb hopes to bring Princeton faculty in the areas of youth ministry and confirmation and catechesis to lead future programs for pastors and lay leaders.

The sharing is not one way, though. The Church of Scotland offers American pastors the rich liturgies of the Celtic expression of the Christian faith. "There is a growing interest in Scotland in reclaiming our Celtic heritage," says Whyte. "Our new Book of Common Order includes Celtic forms of prayer, and the third communion service is in the Celtic format. We are including in our worship and devotions prayers for the earth, and music and prayers from the Iona community, with an emphasis on nature and on simplicity. We're teaching our people to sing the psalms to Scottish tunes. We're trying to offer a fresh approach to worship, which is also a very old approach."

The parish model of ministry may be another gift to American pastors according to Whyte. He believes that Scotland has something to teach about community as ministry. "Who is the church's community?" he asks. "Just its members? Or also the local schools, the local authorities, the local businesses? The pastor can be common ground for these people, and the church building can be a community meeting place, as it were, the heart and soul of the parish.

"Calvin was always aware of where he lived, in the midst of the public world," Whyte explains. "In Scotland we try to blur the edges between the church and the world, and to offer a common ground for a community that is often quite fragmented."

These discussions about the future shape and form of ministry will continue as Princeton and the Church of Scotland weave closer ties. A second Joint Institute of Theology is slated for June 3-17, 1999, at St. Mary's, and a third envisioned for the year 2000 in Princeton. The goal, according to Tucker and Robb, is an annual joint continuing education event in one country or the other.

"We've already received many inquiries for 1999," says Tucker. "Registration is limited to seventy-five North Americans and seventy-five Scots, plus spouses and children as non-participants." She says there will also be an option for Americans who want to travel to Scotland a few days early to get over jet lag, do some touring in the highlands, or play golf on St. Andrews' Old Course. The Princeton-St. Mary's Institute is only one of what Robb hopes will be many opportunities for continuing education for Scottish pastors. "We want to develop relationships with other American seminaries and to encourage our own universities to offer ministers more practical courses," he says. "But we looked first to Princeton because it has such a strong program of continuing education and because President Gillespie is deeply committed to our partnership."

For PTS, the partnership with Scotland will continue in other ways. Princeton students now do summer placements in churches in Ayrshire and in Strathaven Lanarkshire, a market town near Glasgow. Students from Scotland come yearly to Princeton to matriculate in many of PTS's degree programs, and the Seminary has admitted one class of Scottish D.Min. candidates, two of whose three workshops were conducted at St. Andrews. Faculty from PTS and from Scottish universities regularly ply the skies above the Atlantic to lecture and do research in each others' classrooms and libraries, as Jim Kay did on his recent sabbatical, lecturing at St. Andrews on preaching and at Glasgow on issues surrounding the quest for the historical Jesus.

The entrance way to St. Mary's College
of St. Andrews University, site of
PTS's Joint Institute of Theology.
(Photo by Mary Grace Royal)

So when "the clan" comes to Princeton in the summer of 2000 to begin the new century in study and worship, they will bring more than bagpipes and tartans. They will bring hopes for ministry and a commitment to partnership in the continuing conversation about reaching the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

For more information about this summer's Institute of Theology, in Princeton, New Jersey, please visit

To receive more information about the Joint Institute of Theology in St. Andrews in the summer of 1999, including a form for pre-registration, call Princeton's Center of Continuing Education at 1-800-622-6767 ext. 7990, or visit them at

Copyright 1998 Princeton Theological Seminary
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