Having committed himself to stuy for the ministry, MacEwen took himself off to Germany for some study, as had become the custom among Scottish theological students of the period. He spent a month attending lectures at the University of Gottingen in Hanover. While he enjoyed his time in Germany, there is little evidence that he imbibed deeply the sort of German theology that was to work such devastation in the Evangelical Churches of Britain. Still, this was a period in which Germany was greatly in favour in Scotland, and it is rather amusing reading of the Scottish theologians trying to deny their love of all things German as soon as the Great War broke out!
After the semester ended at Gottingen, MacEwen travelled back to Scotland via Denmark, arriving home in time to begin his time at the United Presbyterian Hall in Edinburgh. He took a full part in all the extra-curricular activities of the Hall, the Missionary Society in particular. Church History was a particular love of his even then, and he did not confine himself to Scotland, or to the more recent past. He was excused for some of the lectures when he was asked to take some of Professor Jebb's Greek classes at Glasgow University when the Professor was unwell. In May he took a holiday in the little Borders town of Moffat - a place that would be more important in his life than he knew at that time. He described it in a letter to a friend as "a mot delightful place".
He was kept busy, and an essay of his on Jerome, translator of the Vulgate, was published in the British and Foreign Evangelical Review. More importantly, in March, 1879 the Edinburgh Presbytery of the Church opened a new mission work in Leith Walk. MacEwen was put in temporary charge of the mission, with Principal Cairns as his supervisor. By the 7th of October his labours had been used to gather a congregation of eighty members, and the Colston Street Mission was constituted. This was his first real ministerial post, though at this point he had not yet been ordained. The United Presbyterians had no assistant pastors at the time, so UP students had to get their ministerial experience while still at college.
It has been asked by some "what use is Church History?" MacEwen's response is "much every way". To him the life of the local church has to be set in the larger context of the universal Church, and that is where Church History comes in. It tells us where we come from, and how we got here.
He finished his training in 1880, and was licenced by the Presbytery of Glasgow. The Colston Street Mission sought to call him as their pastor, but he did not see his way to accept the call. A visit to the English Presbterian Church at Cambridge led to his being called to the pastorate of Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church, London, where he had preached once. The Church at Moffat, where he had been placed by the Church as a probationer, also called him, and finally he received a call from a new Congregation in Pollockshilds, Glasgow. All of which was encouraging, but left him faced with a serious question - which of these places was the one God wanted him to labour in?
God willing, next time we shall see where MacEwen went.
Labels: Alexander Robertson MacEwen