Rev Dr Ken Jeffrey is a Senior Lecturer in modern Church History at the University of Aberdeen and coordinator of the Centre for Ministry Studies.
It was my privilege to study at Stirling University in the late 80s and early 90s and to meet two men who have had a very significant effect upon my formation and my history studies. The first was Prof David Bebbington. I was asked to interview him during one of our CU missions during my first year at Stirling, but it was in my third and fourth years at the University that I got to know him better when I took his courses on Religion, Politics and Society in the Nineteenth Century and Gladstone Studies. The second was the late Rev Jim Taylor, pastor of Stirling Baptist Church. In 1990, Jim spoke at one of our CU meetings on the subject of Revival and ignited in my heart a passion for this subject that has remained with me now for more than thirty years. David supervised my undergraduate History dissertation that examined the 1859 Revival in Ulster. Later, after two years teaching at Livingstonia Secondary School in Malawi and having completed my BD at Aberdeen University, I received the opportunity to undertake postgraduate study. Then, I returned to Stirling where, under David’s supervision, I studied the 1859 Revival as it appeared in the north east of Scotland, and graduated with a PhD in 2000. It so happens that my first conference paper was delivered at the EHS summer annual conference at Cambridge in 1999 when I spoke about the integration of the 1859 Revival into the working and social lives of the townsfolk, farmfolk and fisherfolk of Aberdeenshire. The subsequent publication of the article in The Use and Abuse of Time in Christian History. Studies in Church History, vol. 37 was only the second time my work found its way to a wider audience.
Upon the completion of my doctoral studies, I became a parish minister in the Church of Scotland. After serving a two year probationary period at Rubislaw Parish Church in Aberdeen, I came to Cupar in Fife where I served as minister of the Old Parish Church for almost twelve years. In 2014, I was invited to return to the University of Aberdeen to create a new Centre for Ministry Studies. Meanwhile, I was encouraged to return to my history studies. I have contributed to courses on Scottish Church History and Theology and more recently I have written a new Honours course on Scottish Revivals. I have also returned to Malawi to teach ministers and this led me to undertake a short research project on the work or Rev Dr Robert Laws, a graduate of Aberdeen University and the pioneer missionary who created the first Mission in Nyasaland in 1875. Writing the aforementioned Scottish Revivals course has provided an opportunity to visit the 1921 Moray Firth Revival and I hope to produce some work to mark the centenary of this movement next year. However, my main research interest has become the All Scotland Crusade and the visit of the American evangelist, Billy Graham, to Scotland in 1955. Presently, I am working on the sermons he preached during this religious movement.
I remain fascinated and curious about God’s story as it is revealed and unfolds itself across time and space, and not least in the events among the lives of people in common and ordinary, local places through the succeeding generations. My original contribution to knowledge, arising from my 1859 Revival studies, was to discover that far from being a uniform, monolithic movement this religious movement was richly diverse. The manifestations of revivals have been richly conditioned and influenced by the local circumstances within which they have appeared. Therefore, I find pleasure in uncovering the significance of seemingly small and ordinary local events within the larger story of our lives and of our world.