We recently caught up with Rev. Innes Macsween, assistant minister at Smithton Free Church and an Edinburgh Theological Seminary (ETS) graduate. We asked him about his time at ETS and how it prepared him for future ministry.
• Why did you decide to study at ETS?
If I'm honest, initially it was because I grew up in the Free Church! I was converted in my early teens, felt called to the ministry at 17, and was accepted as a candidate for ministry at 19. I didn't enter ETS until I was 24, however, and having garnered more experience outside of the Free Church I was increasingly convinced that ETS was the best available place for me to study for ministry in Scotland. It was a large, but not the whole, part of my preparation and my training.
• Which aspects of your studies did you find particularly useful for future ministry?
3 things: getting enough of a grip with the original languages of Greek and Hebrew; the intense period of study, analysis, investigation, and fellowship that gave time to shape my soul and discipline; and the opportunity to be equipped through practical teaching, placements, and lessons from our past!
• What would you say to someone who was thinking about applying to ETS?
Remember that no one 'thing' is sufficiently comprehensive to prepare us for a life of ministry: Take the time necessary to gain experience first - to see things from outwith our natural perspectives; be part of a church context desiring to disciple and equip you clearly in the areas not covered by ETS, like our character; if you wish to become a pastor-preacher then surround yourself with clear preaching, clear feedback, and clear accountability; and make the most of it - you may not have a time like this again!
• After graduating you began serving the Smithton congregation in September last year as an Assistant Minister, what have you learned from your experiences so far?
I've learned how little I know. I've learned that there is a lot more I need to learn. I've learned how invaluable a committed senior minister is, who gives invaluable, robust feedback in all areas - preaching, pastoring, time-keeping, rest, etc. I've learned that humility and teachability are absolutely necessary when you start out in ministry - I need to listen to other ministers, elders, experienced people, and so on. I've learned how wonderful a church family can be - how they envelop you in their hopes and their warmth and their fears, and it becomes a long-term process of walking side by side to try and give God the glory in knowing Jesus and making him known.
• What prayer points would you ask the Church to keep in mind when they pray for you?
"It's not about us!" is our personal ministry motto here in Smithton. It's about Him. Please pray that this would increasingly be reflected in my preaching, wisdom, humility, discipline, and so on. Please pray for the youth work and young adult Bible Studies I'm involved in - something I'm constantly challenged on to try and do better and better - and for my continuing voluntary work with UCCF, helping UHI students when I can and speaking at different Universities. Most of all, please do pray for Smithton - that God would be glorified in how we all live, witness, work, parent, worship, plant new churches, fellowship and pastor each other. Basically, that more and more we would know Jesus and make him known!
Innes is originally from Ness in the Isle of Lewis. Converted during a particularly fruitful time among young people on the island, he felt called to the ministry at 17. Inness studied Scottish Literature at Glasgow University and spent a year working with UCCF as a Relay Worker in Cambridge then studied for the ministry at ETS until 2017 when he was ordained as the Assistant Minister at Smithton-Culloden Free Church, Inverness.
For more information on ETS please visit: https://www.ets.ac.uk/