Oct 26 2007

The Dalai Lama on Peacebuilding

What do President Jimmy Carter, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama have in common? Knowing the source of this blog, you can probably guess that these three distinguished individuals were recently on campus at Emory University, but how often can you experience three dialogue partners of this caliber in one week? While every week at Emory does not draw world renowned speakers, theologians, and politicians, this is an exciting time to be at Candler School of Theology at Emory University. In fact, both President Carter and the Dalai Lama spoke in Cannon Chapel this week, focusing on what it means to be a religious person in this day and age.

The week of great speakers began when President Jimmy Carter gave a talk about being a Christian in the 21st Century to an engaged and intimate audience of Candler students, members of the religious life community in the college, faculty, staff, and guests in Cannon Chapel on Thursday afternoon. Less than 24-hours later, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor visited Emory Law School on Friday morning, for a conference on “A Fair and Impartial Judiciary,” where she gave the keynote address. The national and local news began to take notice of Emory when the Dalai Lama arrived on campus for a visit, just days after receiving the Congressional Gold Medal in Washington D.C. What great resources we have at our fingertips by being situated within Emory University. Candler is one of very few seminaries connected to a major research university, and Candler students are invited to take full advantage of every opportunity at Emory, from concerts to community service and from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was the Cannon Visiting Distinguished Professor of Theology at Candler from 1998-2000 to Salman Rushdie, whose archives are in the University’s Woodruff Library and began a five-year appointment as Distinguished Writer in Residence this year.

Emory’s invitation to the Dalai Lama to join the faculty is the only academic appointment the Dalai Lama has ever accepted. His visit was marked by a conference on “Mindfulness, Compassion, and the Treatment of Depression,” several performances including Tibetan music and dance, the creation of a Mandala sand painting, a lecture and summit, and concluded with his installation as a Presidential Distinguished Professor and a public talk on Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta. After standing in line with my Emory ID and entering a lottery (please forgive me, The United Methodist Church), I received a ticket for one of the many events featuring His Holiness. I had the privilege of attending Emory’s first Summit on Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding, on Sunday, October 21, 2007, which was right up my ally, as I have an interest in conflict transformation and interfaith dialogue.

Simply hearing the Dalai Lama speak on this topic would have satisfied me, but he was joined by four other panelists from the Hindu, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faith traditions, which added such rich dialogue to his sage comments. His Holiness the Dalai Lama began with a statement, which was followed by responses from Rabbi David Rosen, Sister Joan Chittister, Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of Mohandas Gandhi, and Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im. Gandhi offered a high compliment to His Holiness at the beginning by saying, “People of all kinds are at home with this homeless man,” for the Dalai Lama has been in exile in India and away from his home of Tibet since 1959.

I really appreciated that various times during the dialogue, panelists and the moderator, Dr. Lauri Patton, reminded participants that we can create peacebuilding moments in our local context. In fact, Professor Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im suggested that we stop to using “we” language and start using “I” language. Having been raised in The United Methodist Church, in the west, and being from a large family, I often feel most comfortable using “we” language, as a way to be more inclusive. However, he made a compelling point that individuals should not wait for others to join them, rather “individuals have the ability within themselves to create change.” He suggested we focus on our own human agency rather than relying on others to enlist in the movement for change, dialogue, or peacebuilding. In that same spirit, Sister Joan Chittister ended her time by stating, “If the people will lead, eventually the leaders will follow.”

Some of the questions that emerged out of the summit, and that I offer here for further reflection and dialogue is:
What are the best local peacemaking practices in places affected by religious violence?
How are people addressing these issues of religious violence “on the ground” in cities, communities, and neighborhoods?
For that matter, what is the role of religion in creating suffering in the world?

The Dalai Lama’s message was a message of love and affection. He said, “We really need a closer understanding of each other. It’s essential.” The Gospel message, which is my faith tradition, is to Love, and I believe is also the basic function of all religions and faith traditions. Sister Joan Chittister responded to the Dalai Lama by asking, directly to western Christians, “What do we have to contribute to the history of love?” What will we, as seminarians and discerners, future denominational leaders, community organizers, Christian educators, and global citizens, have to contribute to the history of love?

Sister Chittister told a story of a young man asking an older, religious sage, “Is there life after death?” and the sage asked back to the young, “Is there life before death?” Change can start in the here and now, for we all hold the possibilities for change and reconciliation. One of the final words from the Dalai Lama was in response to a question about Human Rights, in which he said, “If certain traditions don’t go well with current conditions, we have to change those traditions.” What hope for the future he offers!

Each panelist at the summit painted a beautiful image of change, transformation and dialogue, which Rabbi Rosen reminded us, is a powerful thing and can often be more affective than action. If you would like to be a part of a seminary within a university that offers outlets for dialogue about religion, conflict, and peacebuilding, Candler is the place for you. Pease contact us in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at candleradmissions@emory.edu, call us at 404.727.6326, find us online at www.candler.emory.edu/admissions/ and look for my profile on Facebook (Candler Intern-Theology) and the Candler School of Theology Group at www.facebook.com.

By Lane Cotton Winn 07T
Candler School of Theology
Emory University
Office of Admissions and Financial Aid Intern

Oct 19 2007

Sacred Conversation

One of the strengths I admire about the Candler School of Theology’s community is its openness to dialogue and converse about anything that may be on one’s mind. Walking through Brooks Commons, our gathering commons area, I hear conversations ranging from theodicy to Tillich, from the weather to weekend plans, and sharing about family and favorite faculty. What is even more impressive is that these conversations are happening all over campus—in the classroom, at lunch or over coffee, in the hallways and across bathroom stalls. In fact, I had a great conversation about Wesleyan theology with a Jewish Master of Arts student, who has a United Methodist minister in her family, on the Emory Shuttle on the way to school last week. We are a community of talkers. Wait; let me clarify. We are a community of dialoguers. Sure, every now and then it seems like we talk just to hear our own ideas but, for the most part, the Candler community is welcoming and open to dialogue with whatever is on your mind.

One conversation that I had the privilege to be a participant in this week was hosted by Sacred Worth, which is a group comprised of straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) students at Candler. Their mission statement says that, “Sacred Worth seeks to be a place of support and safety to those members of the Candler community who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered and those who are supportive heterosexual allies of LGBT justice issues. The group also serves as a prophetic voice, promoting and provoking conversation about sexuality and gender orientation, especially as it relates to ministry, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identification.” This is Sacred Worth Week, therefore, they are hosting a number of events including a silent auction and coffeehouse, several panels and conversations, a faculty and staff appreciation dinner, as well as planning and leading all the chapel services for the week.

The main speaker and preacher they have for the week is Dr. Harry Knox, who is the Director of the Religion and Faith Program at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). The conversation I attended was with Harry Knox and Rev. Beverly F. Ostrowski as well as those of us in attendance. The conversation was about the HRC’s resource Out in Scripture, which is a weekly commentary by theologians, scholars, and LGBTQ writers that coincides with the Revised Common Lectionary. Their website says, “This Human Rights Campaign resource places comments about the Bible alongside the real life experiences and concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of faith and our allies. With the help of skilled scholars, you will discover a fresh approach to Scripture.” During the conversation, Harry Knox commented, “Let’s let the church be ahead of something, for once,” in reference to the conversations going on in both secular and sacred arenas about LGBTQ issues and concerns. Indeed, there are dialogues, debates, and down right fights happening around many divisive issues within the church and world. I am grateful that we are encouraged at Candler to talk openly and with compassioned spirit and passion about issues that touch us at the core of our beliefs and ideals.

Rev. Ostrowski offered the following comment about the Out in Scripture resource: “It encourages us to listen to the voice we might not otherwise hear.” And I would argue, or dialogue with you, that the Candler community, as a whole, pushes itself to be in dialogue with the voiceless, the marginalized, the mainstream, the right winged, the leftest liberal, the traditional orthodox, and all the other beautiful loud and quiet voices that make up the conversations of the world.

Sometimes the conversations are hard and push us to look beyond what we know and believe, but at least we are conversing. There will be other student-led weeks throughout the year, such as Heritage Week, hosted by Black Student Caucus, and Women’s Week, coordinated by Candler Women. Student groups, professors, and even our chapel services are constantly asking us to be in dialogue, and those of us who matriculate at Candler are more well-rounded dialoguers and citizens of the kingdom of God for having been invited to the conversation.

If you want to be in dialogue with others about deep theological issues as well as pressing debates of today, maybe Candler is the place for you. Please contact us in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at candleradmissions@emory.edu, call us at 404.727.6326, learn more about the Admissions Process online at www.candler.emory.edu/admissions/ and look for my profile on Facebook, named Candler Intern-Theology, and the Candler School of Theology Group at www.facebook.com.

Oct 12 2007

Call and Vocation

“The place where God calls you is the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger.”

-Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking

I believe that vocation and call go hand-in-hand, and in fact, that we are all called and presented vocations in the whispers and nudges given by God. One of the blessings of being in ministry is that we are paid to live out our vocation. We are allowed the space to grow into our calling. We are encouraged to be in constant discernment about vocation and God’s call upon both our own life, as well as the lives of those with whom we are in ministry.

Discernment is a lifelong process, and we hope that seminary is yet another place where we can dialogue and discern our vocation and call in a community of other discerners. One of the hallmarks of the new Master of Divinity curriculum at Candler School of Theology at Emory University is the attention it gives to the first year experience of MDiv students. A key part of the first year experience is Candler’s revised advising program, designed to create regular occasions for faculty and student conversations about a student’s vocational and educational goals. The idea behind this change in structure is that the faculty/student conversations that begin in advising groups the first semester will model faculty involvement with students throughout one’s time at Candler.

One of the aims of the advising groups is to provide a place for collective conversation on vocation. As one means of fostering this collective conversation, all entering MDiv students and their faculty advisers read the same book, Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Pulitzer-prize winning author Tracy Kidder. Right around the time that bills were due in the university bursar’s office, entering first year MDiv students were sent a free copy of the book. Who doesn’t love to get mail and surprise presents?!

The book tells the story of Dr. Paul Farmer and his pioneering work in health care with the poor of Haiti. Paul Farmer’s story of vocational discernment and service provided the advising groups with a beginning place for conversations about vocation, religious leadership, and theological education. Is Paul Farmer an ordained minister? No. But is he in ministry? Certainly! Ministry happens in many forms and in a variety of vocations. Dr. Farmer received an honorary degree from Emory University at the May 2007 commencement exercises and gave the commencement speech, which pushed graduates to live their lives to the fullest by answering the call that theologian Frederick Buechner names above as the union between the world’s brokenness and where we find wholeness.

This week, Tracy Kidder, the author of the book that has all the Candler first year MDiv students talking about vocation, was at Candler this week for a conversation with students, faculty and staff. His visit represents the finale of a 6-week study on vocation here at Candler. Kidder is a regular contributor to the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and the New York Times Book Review, and he has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Award, among other literary prizes. We were delighted with anecdotes from his travels with Paul Farmer as well as the world’s brokenness as he perceives it. Though the advising groups focused on Kidder’s book about Paul Farmer, it was clear from his presentation that we could do a case study on the vocation and call in Tracy Kidder’s own life as he invites readers into new possibilities for living through the words he writes.

What books have you read and found helpful that offer thoughts on vocation and service?

What changes do you hope to effect in the world? What mountains, as the title of the book suggest, or new vocational adventures, do you see on your horizon?

Kidder ended his presentation by saying, “I often feel like I’m jumping out a window and I don’t know what floor I’m on.” Isn’t that a great visual image for what answering God’s call is all about? Living out one’s vocation can bring such joy, but it can also be a leap of faith. We are not meant to do this work of discernment alone in isolation, which is why Candler is providing intentional space for students to talk about vocation, call, and discernment. Perhaps this is the community to continue your discernment process within.

If you are interested in exploring your call and dialoguing about vocation in the Candler context, please contact us in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at candleradmissions@emory.edu, call us at 404.727.6326, find us online at http://www.candler.emory.edu/admissions/index.cfm and look for my profile on Facebook (Candler Intern-Theology) and the Candler School of Theology group at www.facebook.com.

By Lane Cotton Winn 07T
Candler School of Theology
Emory University
Office of Admissions and Financial Aid Intern

Oct 5 2007

Life is a Journey

One of the long term, lifelong goals I set for myself a few years ago is to fill all the pages of my passport with stamps from various travel destinations before the passport expires. I received my current passport in the spring of 2001, before a six-week trip through Southeast Asia. While I did get a number of stamps and visas from that trip alone, I still had many pages to fill and countries to visit before attaining that goal. Luckily, passports are issued for ten years; therefore, I knew that as I entered my 20’s, there would likely be other travel opportunities in my future.

After college, I collected a few more passport stamps and memories as a photographer on a trip to South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo (STAMP). However, it was not until I got to Candler School of Theology at Emory University did my goal of filling my passport seem more attainable and at such an early stage of my life. Journeys both near and far abound for students at Candler.

Two of the most amazing and eye opening trips of my life were through Candler and happened within months of each other during the summer of 2006, between my second and third year of seminary. Only days after completing my final exams and even before Candler seniors graduated, I departed on the Middle East Travel Seminar, or METS as we call it. METS is a three-week intensive travel seminar with seminarians from various other divinity schools in the southeastern United States, as well as several lay people. It is a political and archeological tour through Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, and Greece, that Candler has participated in for many generations of students. We rode up Mount Sinai on camelback to watch the sun rise (STAMP); we toured religious, interfaith sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem (STAMP); we visited Damascus and Corinth, making Paul’s letter come alive (STAMP, STAMP); we floated in the salty Dead Sea and went through Israel checkpoints (STAMP). We had challenging, enlivening theological conversations every step of the way, and my faith and commitment to ministry in God’s broken world were strengthen and affirmed all along the way.

The summer of 2006 was book ended by the METS trip in late May and a trip to Seoul, South Korea in late July (STAMP). Candler School of Theology has a unique relationship with the World Methodist Evangelism Institute, which takes students and church leaders on evangelism seminars all over the world twice a year, in which Candler students can receive three class credits for the trip. In fact, United Methodist students can fulfill their Evangelism class requirement for ordination by attending one of these seminars. What was so unique about this seminar in particular is that it was in conjunction with the 19th World Methodist Conference, which is a global conference held every five years, in which all Methodist and Wesleyan denominations and movements come together for worship, celebration, workshops, and dialog. Recently, World Methodist Evangelism Institute Seminars have traveled to Singapore, France, and South Korea, with plans to travel to Latin America and South Africa in 2008.

While traveling domestically will not earn me stamps in my passport, I have also been on a few trips regionally with other Candler students. After the devastation of hurricane Katrina, Candler sent a work team of students down to New Orleans during spring break to clean out and gut homes. Doing hands-on mission work with fellow seminarians was such a powerful experience of living out our call to ministry in both the church and the community. That week in New Orleans, we literally lived part of Candler’s mission statement, “…to educate—through scholarship, teaching, and service—faithful and creative leaders for the church’s ministries in the world.”

I’ve only mentioned a few of the life changing travel experiences and adventures I’ve been on through Candler School of Theology, but there are so many more ways to enhance your theological education through travel seminars and exchange programs. Candler has ongoing exchange programs with Göttingen University in Germany, the University of Melbourne in Australia, the Wesley House at Cambridge University in Great Britain, St. Andrews in Scotland, and Uppsala University Theology School in Sweden. In January, Dr. David Jenkins, Co-Director of Contextual Education and program director for Faith and the City, Church and Community Ministries Certificate, and CPE, will lead a Borderlinks trip with a class, “The Church on the Border” to the U.S. and Mexico border to examine the realities of border life, immigration policy, the history of border relations and immigration vis a vis the life of the church on the border, as participates stay with Mexican families and in community centers. Not only will Candler take you to the border’s edge, but it will also facilitate you in doing further study with other great theology schools in the U.S. Candler often has students participate in the National Capital Seminar for Seminarians at Wesley Seminary, which is offered every spring semester. During the semester in Washington D.C., students participate in hands-on learning and intense study of ethics, theology and public policy, with the nation’s capital as your primary resource. Seminary is designed to be a journey of discernment and discovery, and Candler provides students with options that will rock the world and rock your ministry.

The familiar saying, “Life is a journey, not a destination,” can also be said about Candler. Theological education at Candler School of Theology is a journey with God, your fellow students, and yourself, and if you allow it, will also be a journey to Israel (STAMP), South Korea (STAMP), Geneva (STAMP), New Orleans, and to the boundaries, borders, and edges of the life you knew before seminary. Candler will push you to adventure beyond your known world and into a life of service to God’s creation that may require you to carry a passport.

What study abroad and travel seminars have you enjoyed participating in or learning about? What destinations and international experiences would you like Candler to explore and offer? What has been one of your most meaning journeys?

If you are interested in getting more stamps in your passport and going on a theological journey, you should consider Candler a destination for your adventure. Please contact us in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at candleradmissions@emory.edu, call us at 404.727.6326, check us out online at www.candler.emory.edu/admissions/ and look for my profile on Facebook, named Candler Intern-Theology, and the Candler School of Theology Group at www.facebook.com.