An area of increasing interest for me is the way a spiritual tradition grows out of its native soil, and takes on the characteristics of its environment. The question of what is distinctive, even unique, in a spiritual tradition depends on the particularities of context - historical, political, cultural, religious - perhaps even geographical.
The term "Scottish piety" (not sure about the continuing usefulness of the ubiquitous descriptor "spirituality") needs some clarifying.
Is there a uniquely Scottish stream of Christian faith as it has been experienced, thought and lived? If so what gives Scottish piety its distinctive flavour?
What in the Scottish context, over centuries, shaped and gave specific Scottish content to Christianity in Scotland, as through processes of revolution and evolution, it developed and changed?
And what is meant by piety? In Scotland, amongst other things the impact of religious experience, doctrinal developments and doctrinal fixity, the role of the Kirk in discipline, worship, liturgy and community and people's experience of all of these. But also the relation of people to Bible, prayer, preaching and the hard to measure extent that such piety and faith exerted on and influenced daily life.
All of this - but even then, "Scottish piety" remains unsatisfactory as a catch-all. For Scotland itself has a religious history and representation as varied as its own georgraphical landscape - Prebyterian and Catholic, Episcopal and Dissenting, Highland and Lowland, West and East - and in all this variety a gift of fractiousness that made fragmentation inevitable, bringing both blessing and loss.
The research part of my current sabbatical is focusing on how to explore all this in a way that will help Scottish Christians to 'look to the rock from which we are hewn". Such an exercise involves a long ponder about what in our tradition, our way of following Christ, is of lasting significance and value, what can be appropriated and what now needs to be relinquished, in order to clarify what faithful following of Christ means in contemporary Scotland. If context is decisive in how a tradition is formed, it is also decisive in how that tradition changes, adapts and stays healthy. Quite straightforward really - not!
A subsidiary interest is the way Scottish Baptist communities have emerged, developed, declined and yet continue to feature within the Scottish ecclesial landscape. Again, the focus of my personal interest is the way Scottish Baptists have experienced, thought and lived out their way of following Christ. The suggestion there is such a disctinctive thing as "Scottish Baptist piety" might be even more contentious. And for that very reason even more interesting, as a route to self-understanding and renewal for communities sharing in the experience of decline, and badly needing to recover confidence in a Gospel which never promised us a rose garden - or an assured place at any table, political or religious, other than the one where bread is broken and broken hearts are healed.
Anyway, that's what I'm about these days.