Alumni Rev Susan Brown becomes Church of Scotland Moderator

On the 50th anniversary of the historic decision by the Church of Scotland to ordain women as ministers, our alumna Rev Susan Brown becomes Moderator. In this interview, we talk about her experiences at New College and her hopes for the year ahead.

The theme of your year as moderator is ‘Walking with’ could you tell us more about that? 

Walking is good for us in so many ways – physically, mentally and spiritually. It has long been associated with journeying and discovery, through pilgrimage, hospitality and encounter. It’s also good from an environmental perspective as it encourages people to slow down, to appreciate the world around them and to care for it.


What do you hope to achieve during your tenure as moderator?

I would love people to walk and talk in a way that breaks down barriers and builds up trust. This would not be an academic exercise, but one that seeks to be personal - in the hope that people might have the chance to get to know one another and, in that process, find their own experience deepened.  I would also hope that those with no Christian or church contact might gain some insight into the richness of the Christian response to many ethical, moral, political, economic, environmental and spiritual issues.


How have you been using the skills developed during your time at New College

New College bridged a lot of divides for me.  As someone who came from a very working-class background – I was the first in my family ever to go to University –  the mix of students and their willingness to befriend and to engage with one another nurtured in me a readiness and an ability to talk to anyone and to ensure they feel both valued and respected.  The academic rigour encouraged a love of robust debate after lectures and seminars, over coffees, pints and food. These debates also taught me to acknowledge the superior knowledge of others. It is always good to talk.... and to know when not to!


What experience do you feel helped you get you where you are now?

As a candidate for Ministry, New College encouraged practical placements; each one added its own layer of learning.  Coupled with that, sports offered me an important and balancing distraction – from walking to swimming, badminton to Tae Kwon Do!  A period on the local lifeboat was brilliant for expanding teamwork skills whilst doing something incredibly useful.


Reflecting back on your learning path what decisions did you make and how?)

I have been asked to go to my secondary school’s prize-giving this year. I confess I won’t find it easy since I was told by my careers’ teacher she didn’t think I’d make University.  “No way” were her exact words. What she didn’t count on was a strong sense of calling. If someone really, wants to pursue a career, then nothing will get in the way.  I feel so fortunate that I have been able to do what I love and what I feel makes just the tiniest bit of difference.


What advice would you offer to students who want to get into ministry?

Talk things through with those who are ministers.  Chat to those who work in the Church offices in George Street in Edinburgh. Explore the variety of ministries that exist: parishes, hospitals, to armed forces, workplaces, prisons, universities - and go for it! 


What general advice would you offer students making career decisions today?

Simple: follow your heart.


What are  your best memories of your time at New College?

Supportive friends. Table tennis and coffee between lectures. Lecturers who went the extra mile.