Walk past the imposing Scott Monument, along the side of the National Gallery, then up the several stone flights of the Playfair steps – you are met with a building that is viewed by many as some sort of a mysterious (and ever-so-slightly sacred) place. Where young men go in, and out come ministers, suited and booted – ready to go.
Edinburgh Theological Seminary, no doubt, is imposing – it just seems to grow greyly out of the ground.
So what is this mysterious place really like?
I’ll happily admit the first time I walked up to this door I little real idea what I was going to face – possibly a line of men in dark suits, staring unblinkingly as they assess my theological weak points? Or maybe even a 50 page questionnaire as to my defence on infant baptism?
What I actually found as I walked in was a room full of smiling faces, a mix of current students welcoming us and new students just as nervous as myself.
In no particular order, here’s what I’ve seen in my first few weeks of ETS, bearing in mind that it’s still very much early days:
One thing you immediately realise is that the college is made up of a diverse group of students (and indeed lecturers). There are several nations, colours, languages and cultures to be found in the building.
When you look to the history of the Free Church, you will quickly see that diversity (as long as it has no impact on the message or spread of the Gospel) is accepted and in some cases promoted. This diversity has allowed the college to help train and send out different people back to their own nations – ready to share a solid and firm biblical faith.
This diversity can be seen wonderfully in the fact that in my small class there are at least 2 guys planning (Gw.) to become Reformed Baptist ministers.
We have our differences, but the reality is – time is short, Scotland grows ever darker, and we need to work together for the Gospel.
That’s not to say there’s not a good amount of banter between us. I’d show you the group chats – but perhaps it’s safer not to…
Banter & Fellowship
That brings me on the next point, and I say this with utmost respect – there is fun in the college *cue collective gasp & hushed whispers*.
It’s true, I have not yet seen a day where there has not been some a joke shared or comment made that has not resulted in one of the lectures breaking into, at least, a smile. In the dining room (more on that later) at break and lunch there is often plenty of banter and laughter. This is not the result of a laid-back attitude to the work or even to the massive reality of our calling, instead this flows from the fact that we are all family together. Just as we work together, and wrestle with all the many difficulties, we also join together to have a laugh – almost always at our own expense. We grow together.
Prayer & Worship
Every class is bookended in prayer, all that is taught – all that we attempt to learn and put into practice, has been wrapped in prayer. It’s a simple thing, but it is also a wonderful thing. It brings to mind that we are not training to be dry academics, we are training to work for the glory of God and to be useful servants in his service. The class prayers also help to ease the pressure and stress of the work. In a class where you’re tackling ‘Masculine, 3rd declension, Greek Nouns’ you are really thankful for the reminder that we are to work hard, but to ultimately place our worries onto our Saviour.
We sing a few verses together from a Psalm after our morning break, and then after lunch we gather together for a time of student-led worship. Again, just cementing the fact that we are here to serve the God that saved us, all glory must ultimately go to Him.
Nothing else quite soothes the mind like butter melting on a warm scone (or bacon roll on Fridays). Our 10.50 scone & coffee break along with sharing lunch together after classes offers even more time to fellowship and to get to know each other as fellow servants.
The work is hard, it’s rigorous, it covers ground at a seemingly breakneck pace. But not one day has passed without the reminder that we are all one family, both lecturers and students, we are all there to seek to do the will of God. Seeking to serve him, seeking to see Him glorified in all that is done.