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…
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.