Life and Work - May Issue

May's edition of Life and Work is out now. In this month's magazine:

Supporting student ministers

As the Church of Scotland prepares for its annual General Assembly, a leading academic highlights the hardship now faced by ministry students and appeals to congregations to help.

The Rev Professor David Fergusson, Principal of New College in Edinburgh, writes that when he was a ministerial candidate in the 1970s, most students were younger and received a grant which essentially covered costs. Today, the average candidate is in their 30s and may have families and homes to fund.

Professor Fergusson writes: "Recent evidence from the Presbytery of Edinburgh Bursaries Committee suggests that around two thirds of Church of Scotland candidates are now borrowing from the Student Loans Company up to the maximum of £6K per annum. In some cases, this is resulting in debts of almost £20K at graduation; these will require to be repaid from ministerial stipends. I do not believe that it is acceptable for our Church to place this financial burden upon candidates and their families."

Appealing to churches to help, perhaps by fundraising or congregational sponsorship, he adds: "I ask the membership of the Church of Scotland to consider this urgently and I would be glad to speak to any individuals or congregations who have a particular interest in the matter. And I know that my colleagues in other universities will be equally receptive to offers of support."

Someone to talk to

The work of a Scottish chaplain working with women in Kenya's prisons is profiled this month.

The Rev Sheena Orr, who is supported by Falkirk Presbytery in her work, felt called to her work after moving to Kenya in 2010 with her family. She works with the prison services in Nairobi and is helping to set up a prison chaplaincy system in Kenyan jails.

Sheena works mainly in Lang'ata, the main women's prison in Nairobi.

"The women there come from all over Africa; from South Africa, Liberia, Uganada, Tanzania and Zambia, through there are also a few there from Pakistan and even China. Many of them admit that they did try to smuggle, knowingly, in an effort to get some much-needed money for their families, but others say they were duped and didn't realise there were any drugs in their baggage…. Most of them don't have any visitors due to the distance between them and their families and the poverty they come from. Most of them don't have any money – so they are unable to call home and ask for some to be sent."