(Dis)abilities? Wellness, children and young people, and the church

(Dis)abilities? Wellness, children and young people, and the church


In April, SSCM held its first training day conference for children’s and youth workers. It focused on issues faced by children and young people with physical and mental health needs and disabilities.

The day gave insight into Scottish government policy, particularly GIRFEC (Getting It Right For Every Child) and how this applies to church activity, and considered how to offer a more welcoming, connected and inclusive church.

Educational psychologist Fiona Williams explored the wellbeing of young people in Scotland, focusing on external factors which contribute to their exclusion from society. Fiona then considered the psychological issues which face young people, discussing the importance of developing resilience. The church has clear opportunities to contribute to friendships, positive values, and other factors that improve the mental wellbeing of young people by taking an interest in their lives.

Later, we were led in worship by Matthew Goode, a blind teenager with cerebral palsy. With the help of his family, Matthew demonstrated multi-sensory worship in a truly unique way.

The day was very informative and encouraging for leaders who were looking to improve the accessibility and acceptance of young people and children with additional support needs.

Find out more about our courses for children’s and youth workers.

Experience the new Community Work taster course, in Perth in autumn 2017

Experience the new Community Work taster course, in Perth in autumn 2017


What is it?
An entire course on Community Capacity-Building that is being delivered as a taster unit.

Who is it for?
Ideal for anyone in a voluntary or employed role in church or community-based work, this HNC taster course allows you to learn with less travel.

What will it do?
It will guide and develop your practice in a variety of church and community-based settings.  It also counts as one of the 9 units of the HNC in Working with Communities.

How long does it take?
The taster course takes 7 weeks, on Tuesday evenings from the end of August to October 2017.

How much does it cost?
The cost for the taster unit is £225. There may be a small bursary available to cover part of the cost.

Where will it take place?
The course will take place at Perth North Church of Scotland, 209 High Street, Perth, PH1 5PB.

Contact Brodie McGregor to find out more.

Brodie McGregor appointed as Academic Dean

Brodie McGregor appointed as Academic Dean


We are pleased to announce that Brodie McGregor has been appointed as the new Academic Dean of Scottish School of Christian Mission. As the successor to Graeme McMeekin, Brodie will be responsible for the leadership, oversight and management of all the college’s courses in Scotland, whether the undergraduate and postgraduate courses offered through our collaboration with Nazarene Theological College or the SQA-accredited courses like the HNC Working with Communities.

Originally from the East End of Glasgow, where the college is now located, Brodie has a first-class BA(Hons) in Theology from International Christian College and an MTh and PhD from the University of Edinburgh. His PhD research in political theology gave consideration to the propriety of suffering as a category in political thought. A former quantity surveyor and youth pastor at Queens Park Baptist Church in Glasgow, Brodie also served as a visiting lecturer in theology at ICC. We are delighted that he is now able to join the college’s leadership team on a permanent basis, starting in early April.

Brodie commented, “I am delighted to be joining the team at SSCM as Academic Dean and am excited about the opportunity to shape the academic programmes of the school and to work with the students, lecturers and staff. I am looking forward to being part of a great team that will help train and equip people as they seek to serve God faithfully and be a blessing to the church and their communities”.

SSCM Principal Richard Tiplady added, “Brodie’s intelligence, acumen and commitment to creative theological education are a great addition to the leadership of the college. We look forward very much to the contribution he will make to the future shape of SSCM and its role in serving and equipping Christians to make the good news of Jesus Christ known in Scotland today”.

Judy White appointed as Director of Development

Judy White appointed as Director of Development


We are delighted to announce that Rev Judy White will take on the newly-created role of Director of Development.  In recent years Judy has been responsible for helping churches discern their mission at home and abroad for the Baptist Union of Scotland and BMS World Mission.  In her work for SSCM she will be using her extensive skills, experience and knowledge to engage with church leaders and help to foster the College’s partnerships across denominations.

Judy said, “Life is an adventure and at the moment we are in fairly turbulent times. We need each other, to listen, to share, and to act humbly as we face a changing world. I’m excited, as I think that SSCM offers an opportunity to wrestle together with what this means as we minister to a waiting world”.

Richard Tiplady, SCCM’s Principal added, “To have someone of Judy’s calibre working alongside me to explore and create opportunities for growth is fantastic.  We are reminded of God’s faithfulness and grateful for His provision.”

Judy’s post is a 12-month part-time appointment and starts with immediate effect.

Shaped by Mission – Journeying from SSCM to Tearfund

Shaped by Mission – Journeying from SSCM to Tearfund


We are shaped by mission!  This is a bold statement that has set me thinking bringing with it a litany of questions including:
– Are we really shaped by mission?
– Are we shaped by particular types of mission?
– What happens if we are not being missional?

I recently read a book[1] where it describes mission as a two-way conversion process[2].  Sometimes when we carry out mission, we expect to go out with our message of good news, encounter those in material or spiritual poverty, and expect them to be ‘converted’ and then walk away ourselves unchanged.  The premise of this book, however is that as we encounter those that we are reaching, both parties walk away changed.

For the last 17 years, I have been involved in mission work on a full-time basis (although not always working for Christian organisations), primarily in the UK and each one of those encounters have changed me.  With each role I have learned new things, but more importantly every person I have encountered has made an impact on my very identity.

As a church-based youth worker, I can name many young people (some of which are in their thirties now!) who impacted upon who I am. Two of them are Gareth and Reece[3], two brothers who lived in a council estate just outside Glasgow suffering absolute poverty.  Both parents were addicts and life for them was a constant struggle to bring order into the chaotic lives of their parents.  As we carried out healthy cookery courses with them, they learned how to provide meals for their families, whereas I learned so much about resilience and the need to listen to those whose lives were much harsher than my own.

Working in Restorative Justice (victim-offender mediation), I had the opportunity to enter into the lives of many young people who had come to the attention of the legal system.  For some of these young people, it was apparent that they had resorted to offending because of damaged relationships.  For others, the offence itself damaged the relationship.  I clearly remember one particular day when a teenage Indian girl was meeting with myself and the manager of a local shop, from which she had stolen some make-up.  The meeting itself was somewhat unremarkable and was typical of a meeting involving a ‘corporate victim’, such as a retail chain.

At the end of the meeting, the girl’s father, who had not been part of the mediation, arrived and wanted to have a word with me.  In that small room, with just two of us, he weeped.  It is not often that I have sat with someone in their fifties, from a completely different cultural background, as they wept tears of mourning for their daughter who was in the next room.

This father owned a shop.  The means of provision for his family was through his shop.  This father had tried to instil values in his daughter about how livelihoods depended on shops.  For that father, stealing cosmetics was not just theft, it was the daughter turning her back on their family values and all that was important to them.  That day I carried out a second mediation, between father and daughter.  The father opened up to his daughter for the first time and the daughter experienced the raw emotional response that her otherwise proud father had.

Even as a supposedly impartial mediator, I was changed that day.  I learned something incredible about being a vulnerable father and the importance of communicating with those closest to us.  Likewise, I learned something about the pain that our creator must have every time we treat others wrongly or are unjust in our actions.

For the last 12 years or so, I have been called to the unusual mission field of a Christian college.  In a college, you are not in the business of the conversion of non-believers, but rather believers.  This conversion is not about convincing them of the existence of God, but rather about trying to enable them to see God for who God really is, rather than our own perception of God.  My particular calling has also been to enable students to understand what mission is within the Scottish context and how this can be done in an empowering, humanising and God-honouring way.  As I have carried out this role, I have been changed by my encounters with staff, students, young people in placements, and many others.

When I arrived at ICC in 2004, originally taking on a part-time post supporting students on placement, I was a very different person from who I am in 2017.  I started as a very naïve Christian with virtually no understanding of theology and having a piecemeal understanding of what a theology of mission is.  Leaving in 2017, I certainly have a more rounded understanding of who God is and his purposes and a passion for the Bible and what we can learn about ourselves and God through it.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at the college and have learned a great deal.  I also hope that I have had an impact in enabling students, staff and supporters to think through how think theologically about youth work and community development.  However I believe that I am now called to a new mission field in which I will both have an impact and be impacted.

In March, I will be taking on a new role as the Head of Church Development (Scotland) with Tearfund.  Those who know me well will know that I have been a supporter of Tearfund for the last 7 years or so and been involved in many levels, whether this be as a volunteer speaker, community fundraiser or on their Scottish Advisory Group.  In this role, I am hoping to continue to inspire the local Church to be missional, whether this be at a local or international level.

In this new role, I believe that I am called to listen.  Called to listen to the local Church in Scotland and respond to what is important to them in mission.  Likewise I believe I am called to listen to the Church beyond Scotland, and particularly in the global south, to learn lessons from them on mission and development that can be shared with the Church in Scotland.

Please pray for me as I step into this new role and as I continue to be changed by mission that as I continue to be transformed by mission, that that transformation will have an impact on the wider Church.

God who sets us on a journey
to discover, dream and grow,
lead us as you led your people
in the desert long ago;
journey inward, journey outward,
stir the spirit, stretch the mind,
love for God and self and neighbour
marks the way that Christ defined.

Exploration brings new insights,
changes, choices we must face;
give us wisdom in deciding,
mindful always of your grace;
should we stumble, lose our bearings,
find it hard to know what’s right,
we regain our true direction
focused on the Jesus light.

End our longing for the old days,
grant the vision that we lack –
once we’ve started on this journey
there can be no turning back;
let us travel light, discarding
excess baggage from our past,
cherish only what’s essential,
choosing treasure that will last.

When we set up camp and settle
to avoid love’s risk and pain,
you disturb complacent comfort,
pull the tent pegs up again;
keep us travelling in the knowledge
you are always at our side;
give us courage for the journey,
Christ our goal and Christ our guide.

Graeme McMeekin

[1] Collier, J & Esteban, 1998, From Complicity to Encounter: The Church and the Culture of Economism, Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Publishing
[2] “Through this encounter [as mission] others are invited to share in the Christian faith experience in such a way that their religious and cultural past is reformed around that experience.  At the same time, this encounter challenges the cultural presuppositions of the missionaries themselves.  The model of conversion implied by this understanding of mission therefore implies both a symmetry and mutuality” (p83) – I am still processing to what extent I would hold to the radical claims of these authors, but I do think that we are at least changed in mission.
[3] All the names mentioned in this blog are pseudonyms other than my own.


SSCM appoints new team members

SSCM appoints new team members


2017 will see some changes to the team at the Scottish School of Christian Mission.

Graeme McMeekin, Vice-Principal, is leaving in March to take up the newly-created post of Head of Church Development at Tearfund Scotland.  Graeme has made a significant contribution to our work over the last 13 years, both in our new form as SSCM and previously as ICC.  It goes without saying that we are sad to see Graeme go, but we are also pleased for him and the opportunities that this new role brings.

Graeme said, “I am passionate about community development as part of the work of the local church.  In moving to Tearfund, I believe that God wants to use me to help inspire Christians in their mission both at home and abroad”.

We are pleased that Graeme will stay involved with us as a visiting lecturer. He added, “The work of SSCM is invaluable as they continue to train men and women for mission in an ever-changing and complex world”.

Graeme’s departure means we will be appointing a successor, although there will be some alterations to the job reflecting other changes to our staffing structure.  We are now recruiting for the position of Vice-Principal.

Pam Mellstrom, Youth and Community Work Programme Manager, is taking over Graeme’s responsibilities as Course Coordinator for the BA(Hons) in Theology (Youth and Community). Pam has a wealth of experience from 15 years spent with an innovative youth work project in Linlithgow, and we are delighted that she will now be part of the school’s leadership team.

Pam commented, “The ways in which we live, work, raise families and worship are being significantly redefined in the UK. SSCM trains qualified youth and community workers who not only understand this context but can respond to the needs and opportunities within our churches and communities”.

Finally, we are creating a new post to enhance our work.  The Director of Development will work alongside Richard Tiplady, SSCM’s Principal, building training partnerships to attract new students and funding for the vital work done by the school. Further information will follow in due course.

A new year brings new things and the work of SSCM is no different.  Whilst always grateful for what God as done and the people he has sent to do His work, we are excited about what God is doing.  Do pray for us as we seek to equip students to share the Good News creatively, intelligently and in a range of challenging circumstances and communities.

Pam Mellstrom appointed as Youth and Community Work Programme Manager

Pam Mellstrom appointed as Youth and Community Work Programme Manager


In response to high levels of student demand for our new courses, SSCM has appointed Pam Mellstrom as Youth and Community Work Programme Manager. Working alongside the school’s Vice-Principal Graeme McMeekin, Pam will be responsible for the oversight and management of all student placements and tutoring for the new BA(Hons) in Theology (Youth and Community). She will also oversee and manage our SQA-accredited courses, which currently include an HNC in Working with Communities, an HNC in Childhood Practice (which is suitable for those involved in children’s and family ministry in churches), and a PDA in Youth Work.

Pam currently works as Project Manager for Linlithgow Young People’s Project, a community based youth project in Linlithgow. She has a BA in Educational Studies from Strathclyde University and a BA in Informal and Community Education from YMCA George Williams College. She has previously worked as a placement mentor / supervisor on the BA(Hons) in Youth and Community Work in Applied Theology offered by International Christian College, and as a tutor for SSCM on our HNC Working with Communities course and for YMCA George Williams College.

Pam lives with her husband Phill and two children in Falkirk and has been an active part of St John’s Church in Linlithgow for the past 15 years, where she is part of the wider teaching team.

Pam said “The youth work sector in Scotland has seen many changes in the past decade and needs youth work practitioners who are well trained, experienced and have the skills to work with young people in both church and community settings. The Youth and Community work degree and SQA qualifications are designed to equip students to meet all of these demands and I am delighted to be joining the team.”

Graeme McMeekin, the college’s Vice-Principal, said “Pam’s appointment is a great addition to the Youth and Community work staff team and adds a wealth of experience and knowledge to the programme. Her experience as a practitioner, manager and leader in youth work in Scotland provides a rich resource for students to learn from.”

Richard Tiplady, SSCM Principal, added “We are delighted that the levels of demand for and applications to the Youth and Community work degree, which is delivered on behalf of Nazarene Theological College in Manchester, have required us to create this new post. Pam’s experience in managing and overseeing youth and community work practice in a Christian context will be invaluable in helping us to provide a first-class educational and training experience for all our students”.

Why ‘Out Of The Darkness’ probably means more to me than any book (except the one I wrote)

Why ‘Out Of The Darkness’ probably means more to me than any book (except the one I wrote)


As a Commissioning Editor, I have been involved with a lot of books over the past 17 years. Yet Anthony’s story has stood out and moved me in a way that none of the others, however good, have done. I think this is for two reasons. The first is, I have never worked with someone whose transformation was so radical. Tony, the attempted murderer, whom we meet in the first pages of the book, was frightening. He wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill criminal; he was so out of control that the Scottish Prison Service didn’t know what to do with him. Neither the prison staff nor his fellow convicts were safe around him, and he was gripped by a nihilism so strong, nothing could reach him.

Until a prison chaplain did. And then God got hold of Tony, and transformed him in Anthony – a man I first met on a ‘fishing’ visit to International Christian College (now Scottish School of Christian Mission), looking for people with books to write and stories to tell. From our very first conversation, I was struck by the change in him, from the man he told me he had been. Only when I read his actual book, did I discover what he had been like. The person I had met was dedicated to his faith, and dedicated also to telling the truth. And that brings me to the other reason that Out of the Darkness matters so much to me. Because Anthony didn’t get converted in a conventional Protestant evangelical manner. Nor did he just revert to the Catholic faith of his childhood. Instead, hungry, even desperate, for anything and everything that God had for him, he seized on the whole lot. So reading the Bible changed him, praying changed him, fasting changed him, and saying the Rosary both calmed him down and changed the life of another prisoner.

I’m a Prod. I expect God to act along my denominational lines. But He doesn’t. He’s not interested in my denominational lines, nor yours, nor anyone else’s. What He is interested in is the lives of individuals, and bringing them out of darkness into the light. Anthony was concerned that any publisher would want to downplay one side of his experience, or the other – but I promised that Lion Hudson would not. We would put it all in, everything that God had used. I thought of Gamaliel, advising the Sanhedrin after they had seized Peter and John for preaching in the Name of Jesus: “If their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop (this man), you will only find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:38b-39). God had so clearly changed this man – who was I to argue with His methods? Years ago, God showed me how much He grieved over the way Protestants have treated Catholics, and vice versa, down the centuries. Anthony’s book was one way of saying, our divisions and suspicions do not reflect the heart of God.

Alison Hull
Commissioning Editor
Lion Hudson

Buy Out of The Darkness: The Transformation of One of Scotland’s Most Violent Prisoners, by Anthony Gielty, at Amazon.

A Conversation with Greg Boyd, Glasgow, Saturday 23rd July

A Conversation with Greg Boyd, Glasgow, Saturday 23rd July


Neopolis and the Scottish Network Churches are sponsoring A Conversation with Greg Boyd on Saturday 23rd July 2016, from 10am-1pm, at Bishopbriggs Community Church, Glasgow, G64 2SN.

Greg Boyd (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is an internationally recognized theologian, preacher, teacher, apologist and author.  He is the co-founder of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota where he serves as Senior Pastor, and has authored or co-authored 20 books and numerous academic articles, including his best-selling and award-winning Letters From a Skeptic and his recent books Repenting of Religion and God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of GodGreg’s apologetic writings and public debates on the historical Jesus and the problem of evil have helped many skeptics embrace faith, and his writings and seminars on spiritual transformation have had a revolutionary, freeing impact on many.

In our conversation with Greg, we will highlight issues that are pertinent to urban mission and ministry.  In particular, we will explore the biblical theme of shalom and what difference it makes in our approach to ministry in the cities of our world. How are we to understand the identity of Messiah as the ‘prince of peace’ and how does it impact us at a street level?  Why does the apostle Paul offer a midrashic treatment of Isaiah when he suggests that Christ ‘came preaching peace’ and how does this shape the contours of the Gospel for the city?

Furthermore, we will explore with Greg all of the nuances of what he means by an open view of God.  How are we to understand the Bible as narrative as it impinges upon the freedom of God?  How are we to approach the centrality of the Gospel is it relates to human freedom?  Greg will give special attention to how our theological frameworks shape the manner in which we pray—for ourselves, our contexts, our ministries and our missional mandate in the world.

Our time with Greg Boyd will be entirely given to questions, debate, and roundtable discussions.  Come along with the questions you would like to pose to Greg.

Book now via Eventbrite. The charge of £10 per person includes lunch.