Where’s the Minister from? Part 2 – University Years

Going to university was a key time in my spiritual development.  Being away from home forces you to make lots of choices for yourself and tests the reality of your faith.  I left for Edinburgh University very conscious of my need to depend on God for everything and rejoiced in finding that He answered my prayers from the very outset.  Having found a seat on the ferry I said a few silent words of prayer asking God to be with me and within minutes someone from the Christian Union at Edinburgh was introducing himself to me.

Within a short time of arriving at my halls of residence God provided me with two good friends who were living in the same block as me and during my first week I met many other fellow students who would be friends throughout my university days.  I was also blessed in finding a church where I was immediately at home and benefitted much from the fellowship at Buccleuch & Greyfriars Free Church.

Those happy days at the start of university life were soon to be shaken when word came to me of the sudden death of a good friend from school.  He had been killed in a tractor accident back home and it brought home to me most powerfully the urgency and seriousness of the gospel message. 

Shortly before beginning my second year of studies I had another unsettling experience.  While attending our church’s Youth Conference, the minister in the Newtownards church where we were worshipping issued a challenge about God’s call to the ministry.  It was something I couldn’t get out of my head after that.  My own minister had earlier asked me to consider it, but now I became more aware of an inner call that didn’t seem to be going away.  That became a year when I lost my previous sense of direction for the future.  I became aware that I enjoyed the work I was doing in the Christian Union and in the Church Youth Fellowship much more than I did the subjects I was studying for my degree.  Having always sailed through exams before, I found myself struggling and required a couple of re-sits to get through.

At some stage during that year I decided that it might be wise to take a year out from my course and explore some other options.  Therefore in October 1984, instead of heading back to Edinburgh, I found myself embarking on a new venture doing what our church would now call short term service.  Arrangements had been made by the Mission Committee for me to go to Cork to work alongside Rev. Drew Gregg in the small congregation there.  For eight months I did a variety of things.  I led a girls youth club, taught a Sunday School class, worked in the YMCA helping to operate a drop in centre for juvenile delinquents, attended classes at the Irish Bible School in Thurles and had my first few attempts at preaching.  It was a challenging time but at the end of it I went home believing that God was calling me to some form of Christian work.

Next it was back to Edinburgh where I spent my final year studying New Testament Language and Literature, Ecclesiastical History and Metaphysics yet somehow came out of it with a science degree.  It was during this year that I encountered the Bible being taught by unbelievers and it opened my eyes to so much that I had been sheltered from previously.  I became exceedingly thankful for being part of a church culture where the Bible is believed rather than being ripped to shreds by people who see themselves as wiser than God.

After finishing at Edinburgh I was accepted by my Presbytery as a student to train for the ministry of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland.  At that time I was not sure that God was calling me down that particular road, but my Presbytery assured me that with time things would become clear.  As it turned out they were shown to be right.   To be continued ……