Jan 25 2008

Who'll Be a Witness For My Lord?

Daniel Ogle, Master of Divinity senior, our guest blogger this week, paints a picture of the great diversity of the Candler School of Theology community. As he names the great cloud of witnesses that surround him and continue to encourage him during his time at Candler, there are bound to be individuals that come to mind who have helped you in your discernment process, been supporters along the journey, and have lifted your spirits or your name in prayer. Who are your witnesses? When have you been a witness? Please journey with Daniel as he introduces you to his community of witnesses, pastors, professors, and proclaimers who have made his Candler experience one he will never forget.

One of my favorite moments at Candler is when the Candler Singers, one of our choirs, which sing weekly in chapel, perform the song, “Witness”. The singers ask the question, “Who’ll be a witness for my Lord?,” and then they begin randomly pointing, first at one student, and then at another, and then a faculty member, and another student, and on it goes as they point out the witnesses within our community in a contemporary rendering of the listing of Great Cloud of Witnesses in Hebrews 11.

And although the song can be, and is, sung in many places, I am continually impressed and blessed by the great cloud of witnesses that surround me here at Candler. There are faithful pastors in training like Lance Presley and Julie Songer, who are committed to developing and nurturing believers in the church. We are surrounded by Christian scholars and leaders in waiting like Joshua Ralston and Lauren Henricksen, who show us that discipleship demands our minds. Powerful preachers like Mark Jefferson and Conitras Houston proclaim the Gospel with passion and fire, giving us glimpses of the Kingdom while showing us that what we do matters, and matters greatly. Professors like Brooks Holifield, the C.H. Candler professor of American church history, and Tom Long, the Bandy professor of preaching, and Mary Elizabeth Moore, director of the program for women in theology and ministry and professor of religion and education, witness by combining academic excellence with a profound commitment to the Church. Students like Mary Messara-Redman and Clayton Smith, who juggle school and family while serving as student pastors, show us their faith and commitment by bringing the real life concerns of people in the pews into our community.

Seminary, like the Christian life, is not a solo journey but is a trip that takes a village. These witnesses and so many more like them at Candler have enriched my life and helped me become a more faithful Christian as I have tried to follow Jesus. Who will be a witness for My Lord? Whether in structured classroom discussions, impromptu table talk in Brooks Commons, worship in Cannon Chapel or in service throughout the community, we can proudly say that the great cloud of witnesses is all around us and among us. Thanks be to God.

Daniel Ogle is a third-year Master of Divinity student from Sevierville, Tennessee. He graduated from Wake Forest University in 2001 and should have done so with a minor in religion, but dropped the minor his last semester because he thought, “I’ll never need that again.” Oops. Prior to attending Candler, Daniel analyzed religion on Saturday afternoons by covering the Clemson football team for the Anderson (S.C.) Independent-Mail newspaper. After graduation, he hopes to actually practice religion and help others do so too by serving as an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church.

Would you like to be a witness for a fellow peer in seminary? Are you searching for a cloud of witnesses to support and encourage you in your discernment process? Candler School of Theology is preparing witnesses, pastors, professors, and proclaimers for service in the Church and the world. We want to be part of your journey, and if you would like more information about Candler, please visit our website, email us at candleradmissions@emory.edu, or call us at 404.727.6326. We are also on Facebook, and you are welcome to join the Candler School of Theology Facebook group.

Jan 18 2008

You Can Do This

There is snow falling outside and students buying textbooks at the Cokesbury Bookstore inside. On the eve of the first day of classes for the spring semester at Candler, deep in the south, here in Atlanta, Georgia, as kids rejoice at the possibility of a snow day, Candler students pack their schoolbags, finalize their schedules, and prepare for the semester. Candler School of Theology is back in business. Classes resumed on Thursday, January 17, 2008, and seniors could not be more thrilled! They are two days closer to graduation.

For the next two weeks, the blog will feature two of our graduating Master of Divinity seniors as they begin their final semester of seminary. I hope you will hear and feel the celebration in Sheila Elliott’s words as you read below.

Everything is in. All of my commissioning papers, Bible study, sermon, security check, credit check, applications for CPE, and a fall semester full of take homes, sermons, and papers. I am surrounded by piles of paper and there are various books strewn about. As I prepare to leave Candler I am reminded of my first semester and how long three years seemed at the time. I was financially, socially, and personally looking into the unknown. Dr. Teresa L. Fry Brown, Associate Professor of Homiletics, preached during worship at my Candler orientation, and even now, her words ring in my ears – “you can do this!” Her words soothed my uncertainty and gave me the lift I needed to begin the journey. I contemplated returning to my home and career during the spring semester of my first year, but the words of my pastor prepared me to remain for the duration. So, I stayed, and I am incredibly glad and thankful that I did.

A famous player in the Negro Baseball League once said that it’s alright to look back just don’t stare. Pursuing theological education and accepting one’s call into the ministry requires looking down the road that is ahead, not staring at what was left behind. I decided to commit to the journey and to the Candler community, opting not to squint in order to see the end. I decided instead to focus on where I was at the time. A good look at Candler revealed challenges, of course, but what I have seen and experienced at Candler has truly blessed me. I have enjoyed the fellowship and friendship.

The thought that there will come a day when I won’t see Maxine, Wilbur, Kirstyn, Steve, Sarah, Marlo, Anna, Greg and others or say something sassy to Sonja is almost unimaginable. I will miss worship and to some extent community lunch, but I know that my journey here is coming to an end and I’m ready. I know that I am leaving a place I have come to cherish and folks I have grown to love. But I’m ready. Being ready isn’t primarily about no longer wanting to be a student or having grown weary of papers and exams. Readiness is about the pull of what one is being called to do. I don’t feel as if I’m being pushed out of Candler, but drawn into that which I have been prepared and called to do. I know that there are lessons still to learn, and leaving is bittersweet, I’m just thankful that I was able to come to a place that now feels like home.

Sheila Elliott was born into a military family in South Carolina, and she has lived aboard since she was four years old. Sheila has a PhD in International Relations from the University of South Carolina, and she taught in higher education for 20 years both at Columbia College and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Sheila is currently a graduating senior Master of Divinity student at Candler School of Theology, and she hopes to get commissioned as a probationary elder in the South Carolina Annual Conference in June, 2008.

Just as Dr. Teresa Fry Brown preached, you can do this; you can go to seminary; you can come to Candler. For more information about Candler School of Theology, visit our website at www.candler.emory.edu, or email the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at candleradmissions@emory.edu. In addition, you can call us at 404.727.6326, or learn more about the admissions process at Candler by clicking here. Look for my profile on Facebook (Candler Intern-Theology) and the Candler School of Theology Group at www.facebook.com.

Jan 11 2008


Sure, it may have been long and grueling days, but it was one of my all time favorite classes at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. I may have had several hundred pages of reading to complete each night, that put an end to my social calendar for two weeks, but, like I mentioned before, it was one of the best classroom experiences of my Candler career. I may have sacrificed the final two weeks of my Christmas and winter break in order to take the class and earn my three credits, but I would not have wanted it any other way.

We all have those classes, professors, and experiences that leave us feeling so enriched and excited about learning, life, and, for me, ministry. The class, “Church and Community Leadership,” with Dr. David Jenkins, Director of the Faith and the City Program, Lecturer in Church and Community, which I took during January Term, also known as “J-Term” at Candler, is the very class I am referring to. Like other J-Term classes at Candler, the class was an all-day intensive course that covered a semester’s worth of material in just under two weeks at the beginning of January.

I know you must be thinking that that sounds like torture, but it truly was one of my favorite classes at Candler. Because we had all day to focus solely on the course, we took several field trips around the Atlanta area. We visited community centers and churches and met with community organizers who are putting the theories of the class, like Asset-Based Community Development and Training for Transformation, into practice. The class was set up like a workshop, and was small enough that we could really get to know one another as classmates and partners in ministry. In many ways, it was a mystical two weeks of collaborative learning and in-depth study, which, when complete, left me with long lasting friendships and relationships with both my peers and the professor.

This J-Term is just as full and dynamic as the J-Term I experienced a few years ago. We have two study abroad opportunities. One of the study abroad classes is through the World Methodist Evangelism Institute with Dr. L. Wesley de Souza, the Bishop Arthur J. Moore Associate Professor of the Practice of Evangelism, to Paraguay in which students will be in conversation with church leaders of the country to learn how they do evangelism. The other trip is called “The Church on the Border,” in which Dr. David Jenkins guides students along the Mexico and United States 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. Just like my own J-Term experience in Church and Community Leadership, Dr. Jennie Knight’s, the Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Education and Community Ministries, class, “Religious Education as Formation and Transformation,” is using two of its class days for field trips, including a trip to The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum. I had a chance to glance at this class’s syllabus, which makes me want to drop everything and audit the class so I, too, can soak up this enriching experience.

While there are a few classes that allow you to travel and take you outside the classroom walls, many students use J-Term as a chance to lighten the load for their spring semester or to take denominational classes like church polity or doctrine. Parker Diggory, Master of Divinity Middler, is currently enrolled in “Presbyterian Polity.” Parker says, “I’m thankful that Candler provides opportunities for students from different denominations to learn about their own traditions. The unique, intense time frame, allows us to work with a pastor from the Atlanta area who wouldn’t be available to teach a longer semester.” Not only do our Presbyterian students have class options, but Rev. David W. Key, Director of Baptist Studies, is teaching “Baptist Traditions and Church Praxis,” during J-Term as well. While I have not mentioned all the J-Term classes, there are others that may be calling your name loud enough that you are willing to start school two weeks earlier than many of your fellow students. It is a creative way to take a class, work on some of your ordination requirements, or get to know other students and faculty in a smaller, more intensive setting.

The spring semester will begin on January 17, 2008, with Opening Convocation, a new slate of classes, and many ways for the Candler students, faculty, and staff to be in community with one another. All these exciting learning opportunities may have you wishing you were enrolled at Candler. Believe me; it is the place to be for theological education and formation. For more information about Candler School of Theology email the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at candleradmissions@emory.edu. In addition, you can call us at 404.727.6326. Look for my profile on Facebook (Candler Intern-Theology) and the Candler School of Theology Group at www.facebook.com.

Jan 4 2008

New Year-New You

The Rev. Shonda Jones is our Guest Blogger this week. Shonda is an elder in The United Methodist Church and serves at the Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. A native of Dallas, she spends her quiet time with the four fish tanks that adorn her Atlanta-area home and her loud time cheering on her beloved Dallas Cowboys. Shonda also serves as Assistant Pastor of Clarkston United Methodist Church in Clarkston, Georgia.

“New Year – New You”

During this time of year, we are all busy making resolutions, starting things anew, and setting goals. Some of the newness and vigor that comes with the New Year, will likely lead to some resolutions being fulfilled; yet some goals will fall by the way side. As I reflect on the start of 2008, I choose not to focus on more resolutions. Rather, I have decided to focus on those things that I know are steadfast. Don’t get me wrong – I have goals that I look forward to tackling with the New Year. I will attend to them and make sure that I maintain some discipline in trying to achieve them. I will try to keep to my resolutions and remain true to the new commitments made. However, if past years are any indication, I should be a little worried at the outcome of some of my New Year’s resolutions. So this year will be a little different. I will focus more on the things that will not fade with time. Those things that are steadfast. The things that last in spite of what we do. Things like God’s steadfast love, grace, and mercy.

I am currently attending the United Methodist Racial/Ethnic Clergywomen’s Consultation in Los Angeles, California. During our opening worship service, Bishop Minerva G. Carcano (the first Hispanic woman elected bishop in The United Methodist Church) spoke on our theme, “Rising from our Common Ground” and referenced Isaiah 43:19. As I listened to the God’s Word — “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?…” I thought how appropriate that the text points us to the brand new thing that God is doing and not so much on what we are doing. I listened, prayed silently, and gleaned new insight as I experienced God’s presence during Communion. I received the words of our celebrants, Bishop Leontine T.C. Kelly (the second woman and the first African American woman elected bishop in The United Methodist Church) and Bishop Violet L. Fisher (the first African American woman elected bishop from the Northeastern Jurisdiction). As I sat among other colleagues in ministry as we worshipped together, I nodded my head in the affirmative – Yes, God is doing a new thing among these powerful women of God and among us all!

Will I continue to set new goals and pronounce resolutions with the passing of each New Year? Sure. But I will always remember that though I may waiver, those things that are steadfast – God’s love, grace, and mercy– can gird me up in new ways because God is indeed doing a new thing! Can you not perceive it?

You may be sensing that God is doing a new thing in your life, which may be leading you towards seminary. If you would like to discuss your discernment and vocational options 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. Candler is also on www.facebook.com and we invite you to join our facebook group called Candler School of Theology-Emory University.

Jan 2 2008

Incarnation of Community

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Shelly Hart 02T is our Guest Blogger this week, and offers both a former student as well as a financial aid perspective to life and learning here at Candler. Shelly began working in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid as a Candler student and after graduating continues to work here, now as Associate Director of Admissions and Financial Aid. A native of Oklahoma, she and her husband Mark, along with their son Conner, two cats and a dog, call Atlanta home and are active members of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Grant Park.

A dozen years ago at Christmastime, I was fervently writing my seminary applications. Candler School of Theology, Emory University, which I only knew on paper, was my first choice among the four or five United Methodist schools I was considering. I was looking for a school that would challenge me academically and stretch me personally, spiritually, and socially. Most of all, I wanted to go to seminary in a place that would take seriously the joining of mind and heart, classroom learning and hands on practical experience. I wanted a place to call home for the next three years of my life that would prepare me for the rest of my life. I’d seen the gorgeous Emory campus on a road trip through Atlanta a few years before and I’d read the Candler catalog front to back. On paper, Candler looked like “the one”, but my experience with selecting my undergraduate school told me that you have to spend a bit of time experiencing a place before you can really know if it fits you.

A few months later, I came to Candler in person for a visit. The incarnation of Candler was, for me, even better than the theoretical Candler I knew from reading about it. Students were warm and encouraging. Faculty asked me questions that made me feel like they were genuinely interested in me and in the students they taught (and these were people who had authored some of my undergraduate text books!). The staff directed me to the places and people who would help me find the answers to my personal questions about Candler and about seminary in general. The other prospective students I met were delightful people of all ages, denominations, and backgrounds, and I knew that I would be blessed indeed if they were with me on my seminary journey. Finally, the more I heard about Candler’s focus on integrating practical learning and experience with academic excellence, the more I knew that I had found the place for me.

Candler did not disappoint me. From the day I arrived, I was surrounded by a community of teachers and learners who welcomed me and pushed me to grow. My thirst for hands on learning was fed by my experience in a community agency during my first year, in local church settings, and in classes on urban ministry, women in ministry, pastoral care, and more throughout my time at Candler. My professors were excellent scholars and teachers in their fields. Outside the classroom, I experienced worship and community life that enriched my experience at the time and that continue to inform my life.

Now, over ten years since I came to Candler for my own new student orientation, I am pleased to be part of the team that assists prospective students in moving from that Christmas break filled with application writing to matriculation at Candler School of Theology. The main focus of my own work is to help students find the funding resources needed to make their Candler education affordable. I benefited from these resources when I was a student and now I am able to help others find the opportunities for scholarships, grants, and work that, in partnership with churches, family resources, and others, will pay for a Candler education. I look forward to getting to know you as you plan for funding your future.

If you are considering Candler, I hope you will plan a visit to campus. At this time of year when we celebrate the incarnation of God in Christ, begin planning a spring visit to the schools you are considering. Your seminary education should take place in an incarnation of community that will enfold and welcome you as well as engage and challenge you. Candler was that place for me. If you think it may be that place for you as well, I hope you will come and join us and find out for yourself how rewarding this part of your journey can be.

Please contact us in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at candleradmissions@emory.edu, call us at 404.727.6326, bookmark our website on your computer for further exploration about the seminary. Candler is also on Facebook, and we would love for you to join the Candler School of Theology Group at www.facebook.com.