Jean Porter’s experiences studying Divinity at Edinburgh have inspired her to go on to seek appointments where she is not only needed, but needed the most.
Bachelor of Divinity
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Your time at the University
For the Bachelor of Divinity course, there were 4 choices of university but I chose Edinburgh because the courses were excellent and the lecturers world class. There were also additional benefits in terms of Speech and Communication training and Homiletics (the art of preparing sermons and preaching) which were not available elsewhere.
One of my favourite memories is of standing outside Adam House waiting to go in for a History of Christianity exam and wondering aloud whether I might just go home instead. One of my classmates immediately asked if I really wanted to return to working in a restaurant. I decided on the spot that the exam was much preferable!
Placements are very much part of a deacon’s training and include one summer, one term-time and a year-long probation period. Within three weeks of arriving at my summer placement, one of the church leaders was heard to say in my direction, “Here comes Trouble!” By the time I was due to leave, one of the ladies said to me, “Oh you’re our lovely wee Deaconess”. You should always leave on a high.
Within three weeks of arriving at my summer placement, one of the church leaders was heard to say in my direction, “Here comes Trouble!”
Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University
I am currently working in a Priority Area parish in Stirling. It is an area of real need. My role as Parish Deaconess is wide-ranging. I work as a Chaplain to two primary schools, one of which is a Special Needs school and also a Nursery. Working ecumenically is very much a diaconal role and so I spend time engaging with the local churches of other denominations and encouraging the congregations to work together for the benefit of the community. The local community has come to realise that the church is interested in working alongside them mainly through my persistence in turning up at meetings and volunteering the church and myself for all sorts of community activities. I visit people in their homes, nursing homes and hospital to offer pastoral care. Leading worship, preaching and funeral work form part of the work I do on behalf of the congregation.
After Probation and prior to working in Stirling, I was appointed to a New Charge Development congregation in Glasgow. This was a new church which had been planted in the area. Those who come were primarily young families who had no prior experience of church. It was an exciting time; there were opportunities to try out new things. If these failed, it was another learning experience and gave the impetus for improvements or moving on to something else. My role there was similar to my current one but the outworking was quite different, partly because of the community in which we were set, partly because of the newness of the congregation and partly because the needs of the people were different.
I now have additional responsibilities in terms of committee work in the wider church. I am Vice-Convener of an Education Committee; Secretary for the Scottish Association for Pastoral Care and Counselling & Presbytery Prayer Coordinator.
The experience of being at Edinburgh and the opportunities to theologically reflect on my role as a Deacon within the church has meant that the appointments I have sought have been very much pioneering or working at the margins of society. It has been said of deacons and deaconesses like me that we go not where we are needed but where we are needed most.
The things of which I am most proud to have been involved in are: forming the 1st Robroyston Company of the Girls Brigade, which also meant I was their first Captain and building an Ark for our Sunday School – transforming a small hall into a child-friendly area with colourful murals and up to date equipment.
Develop a circle of your peers: friends who will support and encourage you. On the days when you are finding things hard they will keep you going – and you can do the same for them.
New College Summer Party
Join fellow New College alumni for the 2016 Alumni Reunion to share food, entertainment and good memories at the New College Summer Party on 4th June 2016.
For more information see the event page here.