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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.