When Sammy Robinson was asked to replant a Nazarene church in Dunfermline, Scotland, the congregation had dwindled down to just a handful. Over recent years, district leadership felt the church had lost its holiness identity, but instead of closing the church, gave it a second chance. Starting in August 2015, Robinson has worked to help the church find itself again.
I was told to go and instil that identity of prayer and identity of mission back into the church.
An application of holiness
Choosing to study for his Master’s in Aspects of Christian Holiness at Nazarene Theological College, Manchester, part-time around his ministry is equipping the young pastor to do just that. “[Holiness] is the heartbeat of the denomination. I would even argue it’s the heartbeat of Christianity,” he said. “How was I supposed to communicate a Nazarene identity if I didn’t understand that which I felt led to communicate? How could I do it justice?”
In May 2017, Sammy came to NTC for a week to take his first MA intensive module, Christian Holiness from a Biblical Perspective. “The biblical module really helped for preaching and deepened the preaching and my understanding – how to use the correct terminology in a way that wasn’t over people’s heads.” An important skill, as many in his congregation had not had opportunity to develop their thinking in this area and were unfamiliar with certain words or phrases.
This message of holiness has the potential to break those chains, to actually set people free from religion, take them from religion into relationship with God
John Wesley’s theology of holiness, a central teaching in the Nazarene denomination, has direct, practical implications for both Sammy’s congregation and its surrounding community – a mostly un-churched area that is home to people recently released from prison, elderly shut-ins, working class families, and people addicted to drugs and their dealers.
“This message of holiness has the potential to break those chains, to actually set people free from religion, take them from religion into relationship with God,” he said. “It’s a community that just needs Jesus. Some of these people are living in their own personal hell right now: From the people who have been released from prison who don’t know what to do, to shut-ins who can’t get out, who had once been so mobile and so social, and now the only company they have is themselves; for some of them that is a personal hell.”
Studying as a pastor
As he approaches the content of the courses, Sammy is also reflecting on his own ministry context, and how Headwell Church of the Nazarene can truly love the people who live around their church in a way that brings transformation.
“How can we live out the message of holiness in such a way these people are liberated in the power of the Spirit?,” he asked. “[The Apostle] Peter was so filled with the Spirit of God that when he walked by people and his shadow touched them, they were healed. How can we foster a culture of Jesus when we go and see these people they feel refreshed and renewed and healed just by being with us?”
Not everyone in his classes are from the Nazarene denomination, and Sammy felt that added richness to the material and discussion. As a part-time, distance MA student, Sammy fits his studies around his part-time pastoral duties at Headwell, as well as another part-time post at Perth Church of the Nazarene, 30 minutes away from Dunfermline, also in Scotland.