Tag Archives: IQ

The Church of Scotland Ministry Selection School (1970)

imageOK – I had changed my mind and didn’t want to join the ranks of the clergy; ministry was not for me

I had applied (after my MA) to attend Leicester University with a view to taking a year’s course in “Museum Studies” – was going to work in a Museum specialising in old artefacts……….

I guess that’s how it did turn out!  Here we are all these years later – working in a museum with a load of old artefarts!    🙂

The Church of Scotland runs a three day residential inquisition to weed out the wheat from the tares.  The pass rate isn’t too impressive for those being accepted for the ministry the first time round.

My venue for interrogation/participation/evaluation  was the former St Colms International College in Edinburgh.  It had been specifically designed as the United Free Church training Institute for the Lady Missionaries.  Dating back to the early 1900’s and designed by Gordon Lorimer Wright, an architect of great importance of this era, St Colms  was a remarkable example of an Edwardian building, with touches of the Beaux-Arts style

Let battle commence!  IQ tests, General Knowledge massively long tests (question: “Who wrote ‘The Group’? answer below… “Who was the Ettrick Shepherd?”  again see below)


Interviews with churchmen/women: (question: “If you didn’t wish to become a minister, what would you like to do?” 

 Answer: “go on a world wide cruise and, apart from fine wining and dining, would entertain passengers with my rock and roll band”

 “So you have private means?” 

 “No, not a bean!”

 “And you sing and play – what? – guitar?”

“No, I’m tone deaf and can’t even play a harmonica”

“but you just said what you’d like to do, if we didn’t accept you as a candidate for training?

“No, you asked what I’d LIKE TO DO – not if I could!)

{a similar answer to such a question was a friend saying that he’d like to play for Hibs…..  He’d LIKE TO; but when pressed, said that he had little co-ordination and couldn’t kick a ball in a straight line down a hallway!  I would have been tempted to answer that I couldn’t even score in a knocking-shop….. but that would have been a trifle de trop!} 


Also a couple of sessions with a  psychiatrist and industrial psychologist.

Psychologist:  “Come in! and take a seat”

Me: “which one?”

Him:” Why do you ask that?”

Me: “I’d prefer yours as it’s a swivel one – but you’re already sitting in it….. and you’re behind a desk which would put a barrier between us” 

Him: “Tell me about yourself”

Me: “Where do you want me to start?

Him: “Wherever you like”  (clever 0ne this – the answer you give shows what is most important to you – be it trivial or profound)

Me: “The beginning or the end?  The Alpha or the Omega?”

Him: “Why that last phrase?”

Me: “It’s Biblical – Greek for Beginning and End – I thought that I’d throw in some religion, since that’s what we’re here for”

Him: “And in between the beginning and the end?”

Me: “studying, socialising, snooker – not necessarily in that order”

Him: “Women?”

Me: “Off and on”

Suddenly – swivelling round on his chairHim“Do you masturbate?”

Me, noncommittally  “um”

Him:  “You should try it – it’s great!”   (actually, I made that up)

And there endeth the interview – sort of


We also had to chair and participate in a discussion round a table in a group of six (my topic – “Are the Arts more important than Science?”)  Had to chair and let everyone else have their fair share of input keeping them in order if need by; then summing up.  Onto another candidate (with another topic)  who chaired and the rest of us participated – as you can guess, it was a long afternoon.


Isaiah wrote “For the bed is too short to stretch out on, and the covering so narrow that one cannot wrap himself in it”   (Isaiah 28:20).

The bed in my room was like that.

Very narrow (presumably to prevent a previous generation of Lady Missionaries desiring to share with a gentleman caller – mind you, there are other ways, as well as the “Missionary Position”   😦   (not funny).

But this was bad – uncomfortable and a mattress manufactured from breeze blocks

Oh, and the half-opened window wouldn’t close – at night an Arctic blast of Embra air shivered me timbers.

The bed cover was so thin that one could – should one have wished to participate in such an idiosyncratic deviance – have shot peas through it.

So, I ended up in this fridge of a room, wearing my raincoat on top of my PJs, and socks on BOTH my hands AND feet!

Cauld! Cauld! Cauld!

Oh, and I got through and started some months later to study at the University of St.Andrews, graduating in the summer of 1973 – Bachelor of Divinity in Ecclesiastical History with Honours (Second Class, upper)

“The Group” was written by Mary McCarthy and the Ettrick Shepherd was a borderer who shagged sheep and wrote poems – James Hogg

McCarthy’s debut novel, The Company She Keeps, received critical acclaim as a succès de scandale, depicting the social milieu of New York intellectuals of the late 1930s with unreserved frankness. After building a reputation as a satirist and critic, McCarthy enjoyed popular success when her 1963 novel The Group remained on the New York Times Best Seller list for almost two years. Her work is noted for its precise prose and its complex mixture of autobiography and fiction.

James Hogg (1770 – 21 November 1835) was a Scottish poet and novelist who wrote in both Scots and English. As a young man he worked as a shepherd and farmhand, and was largely self-educated through reading. He was a friend of many of the great writers of his day, including Sir Walter Scott, of whom he later wrote an unauthorized biography. He became widely known as the “Ettrick Shepherd”, a nickname under which some of his works were published, and the character name he was given in the widely read series Noctes Ambrosianae, published in Blackwood’s Magazine. He is best known today for his novel The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. His other works include the long poem The Queen’s Wake (1813), his collection of songs Jacobite Reliques (1819), and his two novels The Three Perils of Man (1822), and The Three Perils of Woman (1823).

Strangely, having completed the very long General Knowledge test in less than two thirds of the time, sometime later one of the mentors said to me “do you think that your knowledge of culture could be a disadvantage when working with a congregation?”  Strange thing to say!

I replied that my concept of ‘kultyer’ was standing on the terraces at Tynecastle Park on a Saturday afternoon – there were no stands in those days – and having a half-time pie and Bovril at 3.45 p.m. (games were played on a Saturday with a three o’clock kick-off….. none of this pandering to TV schedules in those days!)

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