The Abbey School 2017 faced the present predicament of individualism, and the ways in which it has made itself comfortable in the church. By following the lives of two men who started off as hermits - and then went on to found Eastern and Western monasticism - we watched their personal and theological transformation from isolation to community. 

Communion at St. Anthony's

Matt and Julie serve the bread and wine
as they have often done,
as they will do again nearer sea level.
Sacraments explain
themselves, they offer us a holy sign
of how in Christ we’re one
with him. So throw your mobile at the devil,
this is God’s domain,
and God is real, not virtual love; he knows
our joy and pain, his name is friend, not fate,
think poetry, not prose;
for in his Son he occupied our state,
he wore our dusty, ordinary clothes
to make us somehow great.

- Jock Stein, July 2017

Amidst growing questions about human personhood, The Abbey 2016 explored the Christian vision of being a human being ‘fully alive’, addressing the richness of our being embodied creatures in light of particular challenges to that way of living in the 21st century – challenges as ‘simple’ as how we live with technology, and what we eat. 

Abbey Summer School 2016 Video

Faith Walking

Today we travel subliminal walkways
through the stone history of Edinburgh.
Releasing stress from two great talk days,
now we journey off piste. First, Matt
shares a four-faced blessing at Steadfast
Gate. We follow, follow the path
as it folds us gently into the past,
leading upstream to St Bernard’s Well.
Across the Water of Leith the Colony,
artisan houses, built, inspired
by Begg and Chalmers’ testimony.
We emerge in the Village of Dean,
find Gallery Two, the scene
set for the Lord’s green table,
al fresco, where we are able
to cock a contemporary snook
at the militant atheist hook,
“There will be no miracles here.”
Such artwork seems austere
and even dramatically odd
in the light of the presence of God.

In our era where "freedom" means freedom from, we examined the beauty and mystery of the Trinity as prophetic for our time.  Dr. Jeremy Begbie examined the doctrine of the Trinity as a model for freedom within the triune Godhead, freedom between God and the world, and between God and humanity. Using musical metaphors and Scripture, he helped us "sound" out musical ways of understanding freedom and the Trinity (where visual models often fall short).

Abbey Summer School 2015 Video

Dryburgh Abbey

Seeking the mystery and ministry of stones
we sit in silence, carried by our expectations
through St Boswells, round and down to Dryburgh.
The whole earth is the Lord’s – but here
the claim was staked with living stones
who entered the Novitiate Room, as we do now,
remembering their varied risks and reasons.
Pass to the Warming House, that single blaze
which fired their hands and hearts against the chill
of Border winters, climate little changed today.
Imagine the Refectory, meeting place for eating,
listening to the lectio, food for soul and body.

Build again the Cloister in your mind,
and take your annual book from off the shelf
to walk, reflect, absorb and maybe share
a quiet whisper with your priestly colleagues.
Down the steps they meet in Chapter, think of
white-robed canons firing comments and complaints,
working through the discipline of life together,
while the abbot rakes in all those living stakes,
God’s croupier making risk a daily offering.
Above, they sleep on simple mats of straw,
and hurry down the stairs for nightly prayers,
their worship central to the abbey life.

Now the lights are empty and the walls are bare;
Historic Scotland shares a secular watch
with beeches, walnuts, hollowed punch trees,

Lebanon cedars, high limbs lost against the sky
in glorious puzzlement; young yews shoot
from ancient stumps, and we tread on surfaces
forgiving to our feet. No wonder Scott and Haig
chose Dryburgh as their final resting place,
for here the ruins hold their secret testimony,
that peace will win out over lust for war,
the pen is still more powerful than the sword,
and you and I are living letters from the Lord.

-Jock Stein, July 2015

In the context of a high degree of incomprehension in contemporary church and society about the meaning and importance of "Sabbath," The Abbey 2014 asked why God had to rest (Genesis 2:1-3) and why it matters; why Exodus 20:8 tells us to keep the Sabbath holy (your work is not your life!); and what Sabbath has to do, not only with the present, but also the future.

Abbey Summer School 2014 Video


Join the cacophony of gulls, teenagers,
plumage whitening round the neck,
dressing for the dance their elders
choreograph a thousand thousand times
until they drop and join the litter
which infests this trampled island.

Ride the humming wave of tourists
breaking in multi-coloured foam
with a flotilla of footwear, thin
to bear this weight of curiosity;
dark and light-skinned, with a titter
of tongues to probe this listening island.

See through the raggle of styles,
roofs rough stoned and stepped;
a peppering of plaques among the ruins,
an iron ship with sail set for the wind
above the chapter house; a glitter
of sun to fleck this sombre island.

And then:
a genesis of quiet,
an exodus of tourists,
a leviticus of simple ritual,
numbers of unseen guests,
a deuteronomy of something rediscovered:
this pentateuch of earth and angels,
with somewhere
a memory of holiness.

-Jock Stein, July 2014