Ministry Candidates

about our candidates

Candidates are being trained at Edinburgh Theological Seminary (ETS) to go into ministry in the Free Church of Scotland. 

Find out more about the candidates here, including their intended date of completion of studies at ETS. 

We hope this page is helpful for churches looking to call a minister.

If you have any questions, please do get in touch with Donald Macleod, Clerk to the Board of Ministry.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Colossians 3:23-24

Intended Date of Completion:

May 2024

PHIL PICKETT

Phil was born in Nepal where his parents were missionaries. While studying Chemistry at St. Andrews University he grew in his love of God’s word and sharing the gospel. Phil began training for ministry in St. Andrews Free Church while studying first at Cornhill and then ETS. Here he developed a passion for discipleship and teaching others. He is completing his training in Carloway Free Church and will graduate in 2024. Phil is married to Helen, and they have one son, Lachlan. In his free time Phil enjoys running, climbing, singing, board games, and time with family and friends.

DAVI DE PAULA

Davi de Paula, Minister-in-Training at Burghead Free Church, has shared his story. He said: ‘I grew up in a Christian home. Whilst at university I was quite involved in the CU, so I went on to work as a relay worker with UCCF. I enjoyed my time in this ministry and, through conversation with others, discovered that long-term ministry was on the cards. As a result, I spent the next 5 years at Chalmers Church Edinburgh. During the first two years I worked as a ministry apprentice whilst completing training with Cornhill. In the three years following I was the student worker whilst studying part time at ETS. An opportunity for further ministry experience Free Church opened up in Burghead so we moved there. Since we have had a wee baby (Benjamin). Studies and training continue there currently.”

DAVID FERGUSON

My name is David Ferguson. I’m married to Catherine and we have a son, Duncan.  I grew up in Invergordon in the Highlands and started attending the Free Church in Rosskeen about 30 years ago.  After many years as an elder there and some time working as the church administrator, both Catherine and I became convinced that God was calling us as a family to go into full time pastoral ministry.  

As part of my training I spent two years attached to Tain and Fearn congregation, where I learned a lot from Alasdair MacAulay as my preaching mentor. In summer 2022 we moved as a family to Dunfermline to work alongside Jeremy Ross as a minister in training. We don’t know what God has planned for us in terms of ministry, but we are excited to find out.  We are keeping an open mind with regard to the type of congregation or the area we might end up in and looking forward to putting what we are learning to use in God’s service as we share the good news of Jesus Christ wherever he sends us.

DAVID TRIMBLE

I was born in Belfast and moved to Scotland to study English Literature at the University of St Andrews. It was here that I met my wife, Ashton, and it was the place where I first felt a desire and call to serve God as a minister. I have since moved away from the east coast to Glasgow and am currently training at Christ Church Glasgow. Being in Glasgow has given me a heart for this city and the people in it; for, whilst it is a vibrant and wonderful place to be, it is also a city full of lost people in need of Jesus. When I’m not studying you’re likely to find me lost in a good book, watching old movies, or, when the weather is nice, swimming in our nearby loch. 

NEIL LONGWE

My name is Neil Longwe, I am married to Jillian, and we are blessed with two wonderful children Naomi (3 years old) and Israel (2 years old). I am of dual heritage born to a Scottish mother and a Malawian father. I am thankful to God to be training for ministry with the Free Church of Scotland. It is a real privilege to be able to study God’s word, in deepening my knowledge of God, and learning how to correctly handle the word.  My heart’s desire is to be involved in urban ministry; I am hoping to be involved in church planting in the city of Glasgow. 

I studied and worked in Glasgow as a Building Surveyor before training for ministry, and I have always been struck at how many old church buildings have closed and turned into pubs, theatres, or homes, which is indicative of the spiritual temperature of Glasgow. My heart’s prayer is to see the people of our great city being reached with the good news of Jesus Christ. That the historic motto of our great city would come to fruition, “Lord let Glasgow Flourish by the preaching of Thy word and the praising of Thy name.”

Please send any emails to Donald Macleod which will be passed on.

Intended Date of Completion:

May 2025

JOHN MACPHERSON

I was born in Peru but I’m also a proud Scot who spent 12 years living in Aberdeen before marrying Hilary and moving to St Andrews. We’re both big sports fans who love Peruvian coffee, organising holidays around food, and dog-sitting for friends. 

After studying law at university, I managed a mentoring programme for young offenders and vulnerable young people. Shortly after, I worked as a youth and student worker at Bon Accord Free Church where I was given my first opportunities to teach from God’s word. 

Since beginning my ministry training in St Andrews Free Church and ETS, my conviction that the Bible is the only thing I have to offer anyone has grown. Consequently, I have a passion for God’s word as the means God uses to grow his church and save people. Moreover, Hilary and I have a passion for young people being discipled and taught well to prepare them for a lifetime of love and faithfulness to Jesus. 

JAMES BURNETT

I became a Christian in my early 20s and my life has been completely transformed through coming to know the Lord Jesus as my personal saviour. Having experienced the transforming power of the gospel, God has now given me a passion and a desire to make Jesus known to others and to proclaim the hope he offers in order that many might be presented mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28). 

I’m married to Katherine and we live in Prestonpans, where I grew up. I enjoy spending time with people, whether that is going for coffee, out for dinner or for a pint to watch sport. As well as watching sport I also try to play some sports including rugby, lawn bowls and badminton. 

SCOTT HAMILTON

I grew up in the south side of Glasgow before moving to Edinburgh after graduation to begin ministry training. I did an excellent two-year apprenticeship at Chalmers Church Edinburgh, partnering with Cornhill in Glasgow to help me grow rapidly in my Bible handling, preaching & teaching. I then worked for UCCF for four brilliant years, helping students to share the gospel with their friends at the Universities of Edinburgh & Heriot Watt, and then continued my ministry training at St Andrews Free Church where I am now. I’m serving as an elder here, preaching once or twice a month, and helping to train some of the small group leaders.

I’m passionate about God’s name being glorified in our land, passionate about God’s people growing to be more like Jesus as they study His Word, and passionate about those who don’t yet know Jesus hearing the gospel and responding in repentance, obedience & love for the the God who made them, the God who has not abandoned them to their sins. I’ll often be spotted listening to live music, cheering on the Scottish national football & rugby team, and trying to find the best coffee shop in town. 

Intended Date of Completion:

May 2026

STEPHEN STRONG

I was brought up in Bishopbriggs and moved to the Free Church from the Church of Scotland in 2011. I am married to Hannah, who is a Secondary School Music Teacher and father to Noah. We currently live in the South side of Glasgow. I am a big football fan (but a very average player) and a running enthusiast. 

After working in social care, the prison service and foster care, a common theme developed of a longing to serve people whilst being frustrated at being restricted in sharing the only thing that all people truly need – the gospel of Jesus Christ. I started investigating a call to ministry, and at every stage, doors opened and did not close. 

My own gratitude to my Saviour spurs me on in my desire to spend the rest of my days proclaiming the truths of the gospel to the people of Scotland, bringing hope from a loving Father to a lost world. I am excited to share in the mission for a healthy gospel church for every community in Scotland and trust God with the future.

SCOTT MACLEOD

My name is Scott Macleod and I am currently a minister in training with Stornoway Free Church. I live in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis with my wife Fiona and our two daughters. Since leaving school I have worked as an electrician and in car body repair, so it’s safe to say I have an interest in fixing anything that’s broken! After becoming a Christian in 2009 I had growing convictions and assurances directing me toward full time ministry. 


Over time this led to an application to the Free Church and the commencement of my studies at ETS in September 2022. It is a daunting prospect preparing to become a minister of God’s Word and a servant to His people, nevertheless, we are prepared and strengthened by His grace to undertake this weighty responsibility. 


There is a need for our nation to hear the hope of the Gospel because sin has left us broken, in need of repair and restoration. I pray that I will learn to transfer my desire to ‘fix’ into ministry, by commending and directing people to the person of Christ as the only one who is able to fix, repair and restore us.

Intended Date of Completion:

May 2027

KEITH NICOLSON

Keith is currently a Minister in Training with Rosskeen Free Church of Scotland, Invergordon, where he and his wife, Elizabeth, live. Looking back, Keith can see how pivotal the testimonies of his leaders were for him coming to know and follow Jesus whilst attending the Free Church Youth Camps.

Before commencing his studies with ETS, Keith worked in various sectors, from leisure to retail, in the Free Church central office and local churches in Inverness and Cardiff.
 
Keith points to the vision statement of the Free Church as one which shapes his life for how he speaks about and lives for Jesus – even influencing his involvement in local running clubs.

Elizabeth and Keith shared that they love sharing life with others, from having people over to stay/eat and celebrating with friends and family. They both look forward to getting to know and be part of their local community to live for Jesus.

CHRISTOPHER MCLEAN

I was born in Northern Ireland and brought up in a loving Christian family before moving to Dundee in 2015. Here I met my wife, Sarah, while studying medicine together at the University of Dundee. While completing my studies, I developed a desire to serve God and His people as I became involved in church life and the Christian Union. After graduating, I have completed two years working as a doctor. During this time, with the support of friends and elders, this desire to serve has led to me applying for ETS and candidacy within the Free Church. In my spare time, I enjoy hiking, camping, good coffee, and spending time with friends.

I am looking forward to growing in knowledge and grace whilst studying at ETS and serving at St Peter’s Free Church as a minister in training. My prayer is to see men, women, and children come to know Jesus, and for His church to love him more by the power of His Word.

Lewis MACDONALD

My name is Lewis and I’m currently training for ministry at St Columba’s Free Church. I’m from the Isle of Skye but I’ve been in Edinburgh the past year doing a church apprenticeship, and I’m excited to be beginning the Minister in Training course this year, while also studying at ETS. 

For the last couple of years I have had a strong desire to go into ministry, and through other people’s encouragement, my own growing convictions and each door opening, I have become more and more certain about this calling. The thought of ministry is daunting in many ways but knowing Jesus for myself and seeing how great His love is increasingly spurs me on to share it with the people around me. 

In my free time I enjoy hiking, playing guitar and watching or playing football.

CHRIS LAMONT

Hi, I’m Chris. I’m married to Emma and we have been blessed with two wonderful girls, Sophia (9) and Darcey (4).  

Despite being raised by Christian parents, I spent more than a decade trying to run away from the Lord. But in his kindness, God drew me to himself. Almost from the moment I surrendered my life to God I felt a need to restructure my work life so I could share the good news of the gospel in a more deliberate way. I investigated ways of doing that while remaining in my current vocation but felt increasing called out of that. I am incredibly humbled and no little daunted that the Lord has called me to full-time ministry.  

I begin study at ETS in Sept 2023 and I’m thrilled to have the privilege of being in God’s word every day. I am minster-in-training at Esk Valley Church in Midlothian, and really excited to serve the congregation and learn from the inspiring leadership team.  

Previously, I was a writer and strategist in the creative industries in London and Sydney, before returning to Scotland and co-founding my own agency. 

Our family loves having a house full of people sharing good food and conversation.