Fin – 2018

At the beginning of 2016, I arrived at St Andrews for the first time, an engineer and business executive, seeking to gain some theological understanding towards an intended priesthood ministry. The two years that would follow would turn out to be a journey of both world class intellectual discipline and personal awareness of our relationship with God and one another. In particular, this programme provided a platform for reflecting on key theological themes and the realities of today’s world through major voices and opinions. As diverse as the topics and views covered were the diversity of the programme’s attendants and their backgrounds that span different professions, age and geographical origins.

At the end of those two years, I leave St Andrews with the fondest of experiences and a body of knowledge that could only be a strong foundation and a planted seed of desire for life-long learning. I reflect back on the journey that brought me some 5,000 miles from Accra to St Andrews and remain convinced that it was worth every single mile of it.

– Fin (Ghana)

Whitney – 2014

Whitney, a 2014 student on the Bible and the Contemporary World programmeThe University of St Andrews had always been the “dream school” since I was an undergraduate. When I discovered the Bible and Contemporary World distance program, I was excited to have found a way to continue my education at a world-renowned institution both abroad and at home.

The experience at St Mary’s is unparalleled. The balance between the residence week and the at-home work made it possible to succeed in an exceptional program while maintaining my busy schedule of full time work and parenting a young child. The residence weeks are the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the academic work, meet colleagues from all around the world, and really get to know the module instructors and support staff.

My time in the program was truly invaluable – it has influenced my personal and professional life, and I am fully prepared to continue my work at the PhD level.

– Whitney (USA)

Sean – 2013

Sean, a 2013 student on the Bible and the Contemporary World programme.My experience at St Mary’s in the Bible and Contemporary World MLitt exceeded all of my expectations. Being able to study at such a world-renowned university from a distance is unparalleled. The carefully crafted residency weeks with the intensive taught portion combined with the ongoing cohort friendships among the students created a fantastic balance of an academically rigorous community both while in person and at a distance.

The entire program enhanced my ongoing work with ministry in Young Life, my occasional work as an adjunct at a local university, as well as serving as a catalyst for my current PhD research in theology.

– Sean (USA)

Ron and David

Ron (left) and David (right) – both UK

Ron (UK)

I had always planned to step into the waters of postgraduate study, even when I was at school, as I have always enjoyed learning and find mental exertions to be extremely gratifying. I will admit too, that study has been the primary way I have developed my own faith and relationship with God. Having completed my per-accredited ministerial training I could say that university study wasn’t foreign to me; I have three undergraduate degrees at varying levels – as much a commentary of my search for a “calling” as anything else.

I knew instinctively that for my own growth as a minister and as a professional, that further study would be required as I needed the structure of a “course” in order to motivate and allow me to manage my time. I actually had a false start at another University before coming to St Andrews, but this time really emphasized the importance of being in an institution that took both its responsibility to students and management of its degrees seriously.

In applying for this course I was cautious then; I visited the university who were more than happy to work with me and answer all my questions as well as getting reviews from other previous students who are also Baptist ministers. In the end, it was like a jigsaw piece fitting in place. The staff, the atmosphere and the location were all exactly what I needed, and the units that were presented were all ideal for those wishing to extend their own knowledge of Applied Theology. The structure allows me to continue to be a pastor of my local Church, whilst demanding that I give nothing but my best to the work I have chosen.

I loved stepping into the residential week and being blown away with the knowledge and expertise of those leading us – who all maintained a dignity and enthusiasm for their subject what was just downright infectious. There is absolutely no indication that this degree could be seen as anything less than a vital and included part of the research and education in Divinity which has spanned centuries in this corner of Scotland; I worried it would maybe seem like a course held at arms length by a University that had bigger fish to fry: nothing of the sort. I have only recently completed the unit on the Book of Revelation, it has already affected my preaching, my passion, my relationship with Christ and indeed, my on going ministry with my Church. I believe wholeheartedly that even if I stopped now, I would be both a better Pastor, and a better man. I look forward to what the future holds – who knows, maybe I will even try for that PhD when I get done…

David (UK)

My interest in the course stems initially from my role as Authorised Local Preacher and Director of Music at my Parish Church. My academic background is in languages, and I had never previously studied theology at university level. The course at St Andrews was particularly attractive to me, since I had got to know this wonderful university while attending the Summer Organ Week on several occasions. Distance learning was at first a daunting prospect, but suited my current lifestyle.

As soon as I attended the residential for my first module (The Bible and Contemporary Issues), I knew that this was the right course for me. The topics of study were totally relevant to my preaching, and the lectures and discussions were thoroughly stimulating. I have gained so much from interaction with my fellow students, whose opinions and backgrounds are inspiringly diverse. The reading to be done at home is demanding, but I have enjoyed doing it, and have fitted it in to my life without too much difficulty. The essay titles have been thought-provoking, and I have managed to meet all the deadlines. The feedback from the essays has been very positive and helpful, and I feel a real sense of progress since I began the course.

I have now completed my second module (The Book of Revelation), which is perhaps even more challenging than the first, but equally motivating. Support and critical feedback from the tutors have been excellent, and I look forward to each unit with great interest. I initially anticipated that the course would broaden my horizons considerably, give me a disciplined opportunity to read and study the Bible, and be of practical use at church. It is certainly doing all of that.

Rachel – 2018

After teaching high school English in the States for a nearly a decade, I decided I wanted to be a student again. I had a job and strong support system where I lived in California and didn’t want to uproot myself in order to attend university. However, I didn’t like the idea of completing my degree purely online without any real-life interaction with classmates or professors. When I looked into the distance learning option from St. Andrews, I realized that maybe I could have the best of both worlds.

My goal in pursuing this degree (the distance learning MLitt. in Bible and the Contemporary World) has been to grow as a thinker, teacher, and writer. This program has far surpassed my expectations. During the brief but full study weeks in St. Andrews at the beginning of each module, I’ve made connections with classmates and professors that have kept me motivated and sane as I’ve worked from home, at my kitchen table, in the States. There is no “busy work” involved. Every lecture, assigned reading, and essay has been thoughtful and has required that I dig deeply into the ideas and texts. Whether I go on to teach at a university or write books, I know that this program has equipped me to do both. I have zero regrets about the investment of time and money I’ve made because attending St. Andrews has given me an excuse to travel, meet a diverse group of people, and challenge the small box of my own thinking. I have grown as a student and as a person.

I am currently at the dissertation stage of my MLitt., and for the next few months I will be surrounded by stacks of books and cups of coffee. I love getting to explore a subject that I’m passionate about on such a deep level, with the guidance of the professors at St. Andrews. Attending this program has been, hands down, one of the best decisions I have ever made.

[Ed. Rachel has since graduated, in June 2018.]

– Rachel (USA)

Quentin – 2015

Quentin, a 2015 student from the Bible and Contemporary World programmeI cannot begin to say enough by way of adequately expressing my appreciation for the Bible and the Contemporary World MLitt at St Andrews. I came to the programne as a Canadian medical student seeking to think carefully and theologically about specific issues in medical ethics as well as other relevant issues that are manifestly relevant to the contemporary world. It is fair to say that these expectations were exceeded in many ways: the opportunity to study at St Mary’s was deeply enriching not only academically but also professionally and personally.

I left St Andrews with much more than a Masters Degree. Through the Bible and the Contemporary World program, I met fascinating people from all over the world, obtained vital resources that continue to enrich my medical practice, and found a deeper passion for theology and for engaging with questions of paramount importance to the world of today. (Quentin was on the full-time version of this programme.

– Quentin (Canada)

Martina – 2016

Martina from the 2016 Bible and the Contemporary World distance learning programmeThe Bible and Contemporary World programme gave me an opportunity to explore in depth some of the pressing issues of today from a Christian perspective. I joined the programme with a lot of questions and completed it with having some answers and even more questions, but much better equipped to grapple with them.

The possibility to study with flexibility at a distance without compromising the quality, being taught and guided by some of the most excellent scholars in the field and being part of one of the most diverse group of students I have ever encountered made it a unique and wonderfully enriching experience I thoroughly enjoyed.

– Martina (Slovakia)

Marcello, Miles, Chris and Gray

Left to right: Marcello, Miles, Chris, Gray

Marcello (Italy)

After completing a degree at the end of last year, I was trying to understand my next step and I’m happy I found this course after much searching. From what I’ve seen I would say that the MLitt degree in ‘Bible and the Contemporary World’ at St Andrews is probably one of the best distance learning courses in Theology available. The possibility of studying from home was also particularly important for me as I run a guesthouse near La Spezia, Italy, and I’m also involved in teaching in my area. In addition, I like the way the course is quite interdisciplinary and seeks to understand how to apply the Bible in today’s world. Moreover, even though I come from a Pentecostal background (AoG), I appreciate the theology and work of Richard Bauckham — who helped establish the course. In these two years I’m hoping to improve my writing skills, but also my critical thinking; I also believe that the programme will teach me how to research topics at a more advanced level.

So far I’ve found the course to be excellent; the organisation is great, we had lectures from top-level professors during the study week, and the group discussions have been intellectually stimulating. Additionally, there has been a nice positive atmosphere during the course, and professors and staff are always willing to help. Even though it’s part-time I would say that the course is fairly demanding and quite a high level of coursework is required.

Miles (UK)

I chose the Bible and the Contemporary World MLitt at St Andrews because I was looking for a course that combined academic rigour, interaction with the biblical texts and real-world application. I also knew that any study I embarked upon would have to be flexible, to fit around family and work, so the distance learning option was ideal.

I’ve just finished my first module and so far the course has ticked every box. The residential study week in St Andrews was superb. It laid an excellent foundation and included lectures from leading scholars in their fields. The interaction with other students is also incredibly valuable and sets this course apart from other distance learning options that are 100% online.

The assignments have been thought-provoking and academically stretching and the reading has exposed me to scholars and viewpoints I’d never encountered before. However, the essays always push you to anchor your conclusions in the contemporary world, and this is a real strength of the course.

Already, I’ve begun to notice how the themes we’ve been studying have enriched my preaching and I’m certain that I’ll continue to see the course’s value in my ongoing ministry. I would wholeheartedly recommend the Bible and the Contemporary MLitt to anyone looking for a flexible course, that strikes the right balance between academic excellence and contemporary relevance.”

Chris (UK)

I recently moved into full-time church leadership after many years of working in education. During my first year in my new year role I explored a variety of potential options which would allow me to study theology whilst maintaining a demanding full-time leadership position. The MLitt at St. Andrews came highly recommended by a variety of different people, including past students on the course. As I explored the course in greater depth, the content and approach appealed to me, especially the emphasis on the connection between the Bible and contemporary issues.

My experience of the course to date has been excellent. My initial week in St. Andrews for my first module on the Book of Revelation was hard work but also highly enjoyable. The quality of the core teaching was excellent and the variety of guest lecturers organised added a great deal to the learning experience. The cohort of students was also looked after extremely well, with clear guidance and information given and social get-togethers organised to build friendships. The variety of students on the course, both in terms of geography and theology, made conversations more interesting, stimulating and challenging.

The distance-learning aspect of the course is also very well-organised and well delivered. The work is extremely challenging but the support and feedback on coursework has been very detailed, insightful and helpful in leading to improvement. I am thoroughly enjoying the challenge of the course so far and looking forward to my future visits to St. Andrews!

Gray (USA)

As a pastor, I am very concerned to show the relevance of Scripture and theology on issues of ethics and morality in our rapidly changing culture. The MLitt Bible and the Contemporary World program has strengthened my ability to think theologically about a wide range of topics, enhancing my ministry to the church while preparing me for future academic endeavors. In addition, the program has afforded me the opportunity of studying abroad at one of the foremost divinity schools in the world in beautiful St Andrews. I am grateful to be a part of this program!

Jamie – 2011

I studied for the MLitt in Bible and Contemporary World in 2009–2011, and it was a very special experience for me. I completed the course over two years while working full-time as a church pastor in Glasgow. My course of studies covered the book of Revelation, the Bible and diversity, and the question of suffering. I then wrote my dissertation on the political theology of the book of Revelation, a project which I thoroughly enjoyed. Success in this research component of my MLitt led to an offer of full-time PhD study at St Mary’s. I moved to St Andrews with my family, and after three and a half years, I successfully defended (and subsequently published) my doctoral dissertation on ‘apocalyptic’ theology in Paul’s letters. I now have the great privilege of combining my academic and church experience in my present role as Tutor of New Testament at Trinity College in Bristol, training candidates for ordained and lay ministry in the church and elsewhere.

Staying in beautiful St Andrews twice a year for the Residential Study Weeks was a real highlight, adding an excellent collegial experience to the pattern of largely self-directed distance learning. The shared experiences and stimulating conversations of those weeks extended beyond the classroom, and after several years I still remain in contact with fellow students who came to Fife from all around the world. This September, I had the wonderful experience of returning to St Mary’s College for a Residential Study Week, to deliver a guest lecture on the Book of Revelation — the very same course that kicked it off for me eight years ago (even staying in the same hotel!) As someone who was not in a position to give up a full-time job in order to study, the distance learning format of the MLitt opened doors which would otherwise have remained closed to me. For that I remain very grateful. In around three years time, I hope to be submitting another research project, which will take me back to my first week on the MLitt: my own published commentary on the book of Revelation.

– Jamie (UK)

Betty

I had been looking for a Masters course in theology, by distance learning, for some time. This course covered material that interested me, in a way that allowed for in-depth study and not just a superficial overview. I wanted to deepen my understanding of God’s Word and its application to contemporary ethical and political issues.

As an Anglican lay reader and leader of two regular Bible studies, I find that people to whom I minister are hungry for greater understanding of the Bible. In ministry, people often ask me, “What does the Bible say about XYZ?”, or “Does this verse mean that PQR practice is wrong?” I was seeking to learn rigorous approaches to hermeneutics: ways in which the Bible can be interpreted and soundly applied to contemporary social and political issues.

I appreciated the fact that there is a short attendance requirement but that most of the actual learning takes place at home, with four major essays per semester. I knew the university by reputation and believed that it would provide a worthwhile learning experience.

From participating in the course, I have had the opportunity to wrestle with a variety of social and political viewpoints. Digging deeply into a range of texts has led to much time spent in contemplation of the Scriptures, which has often led me to meditative prayer and to some very difficult but very rewarding “dialogues” with God. The in-depth essays have helped me to hone my writing skills and to express theological and ethical ideas in structured and (hopefully) convincing arguments.

– Betty (France)