Princeton Seminary and Church of Scotland Unify Under Common Purpose

Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) and the Church of Scotland joined together for their fifth Joint Institute of Theology in St. Andrews, Scotland last week.

The biennial event, hosted by St. Mary’s College of the University of St. Andrews June 12-17, unified 48 Scottish and American pastors under the theme “Communicating in Today’s Challenging Times.”

The institute, cosponsored by the Board of Ministry of the Church of Scotland and Princeton Seminary’s Center of Continuing Education, began its operation in 1997 when the Church of Scotland discovered its need for “continuing education.”

“We particularly went to Scotland because the Church of Scotland didn’t have a history of their pastors having continuing education, time, and money to be used every year for their lifelong learning,” explained Joyce Tucker, the Dean of Continuing Education at Princeton Seminary.

“As much tradition as the Church of Scotland had in history, far more we had, when their pastors finished their formal university education, they did not have a pattern of continuing education,” said Tucker, who had just returned from Scotland to attend the local annual Institute of Theology that began Monday on Princeton’s New Jersey campus.

“These pastors just went to work in churches and continued their ministries based on the knowledge they already had,” said Tucker. “So they asked if we would start making such experiences, similar to the ones we had in the U.S., available for their pastors.”

Upon this request, the seminary took a group of American pastors to Scotland to organize a “bicultural experience,” Tucker said, that would provide continuing education for pastors and other church leaders.

“This year is the first year when we succeeded in Scotland of having a significant number of Scots present as well as a significant number of American pastors,” said Tucker, reflecting on the institute that featured a week of lectures and seminars designed to cover “topics that were of significant interest to the pastors.”

Tucker, whose retirement is slated for July 31 of this year, also gave her comments on the 64th annual Institute of Theology currently taking place at Princeton Seminary.

“This year, people are expected to really learn as we have some educational component from the lectures and also the elective courses,” she said, adding that another important aspect of the event is to worship and to rest.

To engage in Bible studies, to worship, to rest, and to share with other pastors, she said, are the reasons why a lot of pastors have been coming to the institute for at least twenty years.

“That’s our purpose every year. It’s a combination of a solid education, but also for a relaxed time,” she said. “There is one pastor who joined this time this is his 39th year to come to this.”

According to the ten-year veteran of PTS Center of Continuing Education, many pastors report the churches see a difference in them when they come back because of their opportunity to relax.

“As much as there is learning is the renewal,” said Tucker. “People go home refreshed with a new vision and new excitement about their ministries.”