Feb 29 2008

Heritage Month

Though previous blog posts have shared a variety of events and happenings around campus this month, February has also been Heritage Month, co- sponsored by the Black Student Caucus (BSC) and the Black Church Studies Program of Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Mark Jefferson, Master of Divinity senior, is the president of Black Student Caucus, and in his writings below he takes us not only through the journey of this past month but also through his discernment journey that led him here to study at Candler.

By Mark Jefferson

I feel especially honored to be a guest blogger for Candler School of Theology at Emory University. My sojourn at Candler has been a “beautiful struggle.” I believe that Heritage Month has reflected that same theme. February, which is Heritage Month, provides the Black Student Caucus (BSC) the ability to reflect and commemorate our intentionally obscured yet luminous past as we find the courage to see the light that Christ casts upon our future. The Black Student Caucus, for over 20 years, provides African students across the Diaspora an opportunity for spiritual, cultural, educational, theological edification and exposure. This month the Caucus had the honor of inviting the esteemed poet, author, civil rights activist and lecturer Nikki Giovanni. With a standing-room only crowd, she gave gleanings on various issues and provided an ocular demonstration of the power of a committed life.

During one of the chapel services the BSC planned and led, Rev. E. Dewey Smith, Jr., the Pastor/Teacher of The Greater Travelers Rest Baptist Church of Decatur, Georgia preached about how not to “Corrupt Our Calling.” His homiletic prowess and passion for ministry has garnered him many accolades and honors. Each guest demonstrates the beauty that is blackness and the strength that has resonated in the souls of all those who have trodden those dusty pathways of freedom and justice.

The month concluded with the celebration of the work of our own beloved professor and new Director of Black Church Studies, Dr. Teresa Fry Brown. These events stand as bridgeheads of a wonderful journey that we have humbly and joyously embarked upon. With a wonderful month of celebration closing soon, I am able to see the seemingly dissonant sound of theological education has proven to be the sweetest sound I could have ever imagined.

I considered several schools before the God commissioned me to Candler. I must admit that the struggle seemed to stifle instead of strengthen me. I often dreamed of packing my belongings in my 1993 Dodge Dynasty and going back to the life I knew. The struggle of theological diversity and experiencing a new understanding of God overwhelmed me. Being malcontented and overly guarded of my own theological positions and presuppositions caused me to initially miss what God had for me to learn.

I would be less than authentic to say that theological education will be all honey and no bees, all sunshine and no rain, a bouquet of hellos and not a series of goodbyes. To accomplish any great task, fear is often the necessary prerequisite. Not fear as in paralysis, but fear as in a healthy respect for the call of theological education on our lives. I felt smothered by the mantle of learning and sharing with God’s people and creation at large.

I believe the turning point in my theological education came finding a church that supported theological maturation. The aforementioned Pastor Smith afforded me the opportunity to ask the tough theological question, use the theoretical frameworks that I have learned, and to find a harmony between academia and the church. I would advise anyone to pray about a person to assist you in discerning the voice and vision of God. This will allow you a concrete manner to see God’s movement in your life.

I find this blog humorous because I went from being ready to go and quit it all to thanking God for every moment. Christ granted me the maturity to aggregate what I learn with my love for him. I was afforded the opportunity to preach in chapel last week. I found it strange because I was able to see a marked sense of growth. It is often ironic that the person who felt like the most unlikely and chronically overwhelmed, ended up technologically testifying to you. There may be someone who may be wondering about this next step. There may be extreme trepidation and turmoil but I assure you that the same God that led you to read this blog is the same God that will give you the strength to endure, enjoy, and appreciate this journey so that you may blog to students like yourself three years from now.

I am bowing out, my time is far spent but I thank you for considering Candler School of Theology. I pray that God will lead you in all you do. I am looking forward to see how you impact the world for Christ. If you are on campus, please shake my hand.


Mark A. Jefferson
Black Student Caucus, President

Mark Jefferson is a third year Master of Divinity student from Hampton, Virginia. He graduated from Norfolk State University where he was four year letterman on the football team. He currently serves as the Director of Christian Education for the Greater Travelers Rest Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia.

Are you thinking about taking the next steps towards theological education or interested in seminary? 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.

Feb 22 2008

Candler Mustache Society

The Candler Mustache Society, the newest addition to Candler School of Theology’s community, is on a unique and hairy campaign to end domestic violence this month. This new society, with some of its members pictured to the right with Dean Jan Love, has invited all Candler-associated men to grow a mustache for the month of February, or Febru-Hairy as they call it, to raise awareness about domestic violence as well as money for the Dekalb County Women’s Resource Center to End Domestic Violence.

Mustache-growers are asked to collect pledges for their superior ‘staches. The end of the month will culminate in a “Stache Bash” where the person who has raised the most money and the one with the most luxurious locks will each win a prize. In this inaugural hair growth period, there are about 16 active mustache society members, including one faculty member and one spouse of a Candler student. The husband of Whitney Walton, 1st year Master of Divinity student is participating, and Whitney says, “It wasn’t hard to convince Brandon to participate – this fundraiser gives both of us an opportunity to contribute creatively to a cause that we think is important. Plus, it gave him an excuse to rock out some crazy facial hair! It’s really exciting how his participation in the project has involved non-Candler people and generated awareness beyond the campus.”

The mastermind behind the Candler Mustache Society is Elizabeth Wilson, 1st year MDiv student. Elizabeth shares, “When I got here, I noticed an abundance of facial hair, met some big-hearted philanthropic men, and recognized a way to mobilize people to help a marginalized group. Growing a mustache costs nothing, but has a big visual impact.”

The Candler Mustache Society has partnered with the Dekalb County Women’s Resource Center to End Domestic Violence in this fundraiser. Elizabeth tells me that, “The WRCEDV was thrilled to have a group of men supporting their cause and I’ve been pleased with how our community has started to support the society.” The WRCEDV helps victims of Domestic Violence in a variety of ways, from their 24-hour hotline support and counseling center to their safehouse for victims who need a place to reside while they transition into stable living environments. Legal advocates are provided to assist women, and support groups meet weekly, which are led by trained staff.

The WRCEDV also provides childcare and child and youth advocacy for the children living in the safehouse. They also serve the larger community by offering community education to local organizations and schools about domestic and dating violence. Not only is this a fun and humorous way to raise money for a great non-profit, it is also raising awareness about domestic violence.
Chad McGinnis, 3rd year MDiv pictured to the right, says, “I usually like to change up my facial hair periodically, though mustaches are typically not on my rotation. But it makes it worthwhile knowing that whatever proceeds we raise go to helping prevent and educate about domestic violence.”

The Candler Mustache Society gathered some statistics from the Dekalb County Women’s Resource Center to teach the Candler community the reality and truth about domestic abuse. Did you know that over 100 Georgians are killed every year in domestic violence related incidents? Children living in violent homes have higher school dropout rates, increased incidence of teen pregnancy and lower-self esteem than children raised in non-violent homes. And the FBI reports that a woman is beaten every nine seconds in the United States.

Craig Newman, 3rd year MDiv student, pictured on the left, tells me, “I chose to join the group for two reasons: I have no problem growing facial hair, and I wanted to contribute to a worthy cause. Some of the participants look pretty ridiculous, myself included, but the whole thing’s been a lot of fun.”

I, personally, am impressed with these men’s commitments to helping end the cycle of domestic abuse, and to show my support and solidarity for this noble endeavor, I, myself, have taken a hiatus from shaving my legs this month, and hope the women of Candler will find further creative ways to join this hairy society.

There’s a lot growing around here at Candler, particularly as spring begins to bloom. I hope you will consider planting roots here at Candler, and invite you to learn more about the Admissions process by visiting our website. 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.

Feb 15 2008

Practicing Lent

It has been over a week since Lent began Wednesday, February 6, and I am sure you are wondering how much intentional time have I spent in quiet contemplation, journaling, or listening for God? After counting up my daily totals, I believe I have spent about 28.3 minutes engaging in my new Lenten practice. In search of support and guidance in living out my Lenten commitment to prayer, stillness, and listening (for God), I asked around the Candler School of Theology community for some tips and am eager to hear what other faithful believers are urging themselves to do or not do during Lent.

Within the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid staff we have both people who are giving up things, such as sweets and TV, as well as those who are committing to adding practices to their live. For example, one of my colleagues is committing to intentional time in the morning for quiet devotion, critical reading, journaling, and, as she describes it, “Sanity time.” If only I were a morning person and could have my quiet “God time,” before beginning my day. Jena Black, one of our Admissions Advisors, is giving up politics for Lent, which must be a challenge during this election year.

Anjie Peek Woodworth, an MDiv senior, is doing something creative or physical every day. Anjie shared with me that she feels more grounded and rooted and able to listen to God in her life when she’s being creative and active. The greater Candler community is also encouraging Lenten practices by starting a book group for those interested in reading and dialoguing about Tokens of Trust, by the Right Rev. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. In addition, interested students, faculty, and staff are gathering on Tuesdays, in the early evening, for an hour of intercessory prayer. The group is building a list of prayers for individuals, the community, and the world. They open with scripture and then pray for each person or group on our prayer list individually, ending with a short thanksgiving for answered prayers. This sounds like a great way for us, as a seminary community, to spend intentional time in prayer and reflection weekly.

Candler’s chapter of the Order of St. Luke, which is an ecumenical religious order in The United Methodist Church whose members vow to live the sacramental life and to carry out liturgical scholarship, education, and practice, in addition to the Morning Prayer services they help organize and lead daily here at Candler, published a daily lectionary, reflections, and prayer guide for the Lenten season. The booklet includes daily reading written by current Candler students, faculty, staff, as well as alumni. And to make prayer, reflection, and discernment time even easier, the Office of Student Programming also emails the Candler community one prayer a week written by various members of our community.

I hope you will join our communal prayers as you read and pray these beautiful words written by Rev. Dr. Renee K. Harrison, Interim Director, Program of Black Church Studies & Visiting Asst Prof of African American Religious Practices and Culture.

The Healing Spirit, Loving God,
We awake giving thanks
for breath,
for life,
for new possibilities of loving and healing
our nation,
and our world.

We awake giving thanks
for new possibilities of loving and healing
our earth,
our loved ones,
and our enemies.

Bless us this day as we to send forth
good vibrations of kindness through
our words,
and actions.

We give thanks for this Lent season
and for your grace divine.

Empowered we stand,
In love we speak,
In spirit we heal

May your will be done.

Amen, Ashe, and Shalom

What are your giving up or adding to your life during Lent this year? What practices have you tried in previous years? What tips can you offer to others, like myself, who struggle to maintain Lenten and spiritual practices?

I hope you are surrounded by a rich community of Lenten pilgrims like the one we share here at Candler. Blessings for the journey ahead.

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.

Feb 8 2008

My Big Fat Super Week

Busy-ness is running my life these days. I have a habit of getting over committed and not leaving much space for downtime and relaxing. I am constantly in motion and am a self proclaimed “Doer.” I feel like I’m talking to a therapist or introducing myself in a twelve step program. “Hi, I’m Lane, and I can’t sit still.” I’m sure some of you can relate.

And yet there is something inside of me that is calling me to silence and stillness. I am not very good at either of those things, but as we enter the Lenten season, the gentle whisper inviting me to silence and contemplation is becoming quite vocal. It’s like the New Orleans phrase that parade-goers yell during Mardi Gras, translated Fat Tuesday, which was one of my first complete sentences as a young child growing up in south Louisiana, “Throw me something, mister!” Something from deep within-dare I say God-is yelling for me to throw some time God’s way.

In my hometown of New Orleans, before the quiet of Lent is the commotion of Mardi Gras. With Super Tuesday primary elections falling on Mardi Gras this year, it certainly made for a hyper day for this New Orleanian living in Atlanta. One of my favorite annual traditions at Candler School of Theology is the Shrove Tuesday breakfast, which is how people outside of south Louisiana celebrate Mardi Gras, often with pancakes or other high fat, high sugar treats before giving up those delights during Lent. (According to Wikipedia, the word shrove is a past tense of the English verb “shrive,” which means to obtain absolution for one’s sins by confessing and doing penance. Shrove Tuesday gets its name from the shriving, or confessing, that Anglo-Saxon Christians were expected to do prior to receiving absolution immediately before Lent.) Each Mardi Gras, or Shrove Tuesday, Candler’s faculty and staff flip pancakes for students and Candler community members as we gather for a warm breakfast, complete with tons of toppings like chocolate chips, whipped cream, and fruit. With the Primary excitement and stacks of pancakes, it was Super Fat Tuesday at Candler School of Theology!

If I was not paying attention this week, I could have missed the start of Lent all together. My mind was still racing from the excitement of Super Fat Tuesday, as I entered the quiet sanctuary at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, where I am doing Clinical Pastoral Education, for their Ash Wednesday service. My body still felt like it was in motion, though I was firmly planted in the pew. Yet even in my fluttering mind, my spirit was inviting me to slow down. Some of my best and most meaningful discernment has happened during Lent. It seems to be a church season that I can really relate to. Sure, I love Christmas and Easter, but Lent is when I draw nearer to God.

As the week comes to a close, I feel a strong tension between the commotion of Tuesday and the contemplation of Wednesday. For me, Lent is best practiced with a little bit of the momentum of Mardi Gras as well as the wilderness journey of Ash Wednesday. The Isaiah text we read for Ash Wednesday, Isaiah 58:1-12, calls us to feed the hungry, clothe the sick, and shelter the homeless. I do not believe that Lent is a time to only work on one’s own personal relationship with God, but to continue bringing healing and hope to this broken world. By continuing in our momentum of building up God’s kingdom, Isaiah concludes that, “Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in,” (Isaiah 58:12). While I will certainly work on practicing stillness and listening attentively to God’s call to throw God some of my time and focus, I am still called by Isaiah, and Christ, to rebuild, repair, and restore God’s good creation. I am committed to living in the tension between Super Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday as I wait attentively for the resurrection on Easter.

Candler is a wonderful place to dialog about the tensions of living out one’s faith, and we would love to be in dialog with you as you are discerning this Lenten season. 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.

This week’s blog photos are from the Shrove Tuesday Breakfast on February 5, 2008 at Candler School of Theology, Brooks Commons, by Lane Cotton Winn.

Feb 1 2008

State of the School

Every January, the president of the Candler Coordinating Council (C3) and the dean of Candler School of Theology give a “State of the School” address, which is a time when they discuss the ministry and work the seminary, our student body, and plans for the upcoming year and future of the school. With Dean Jan Love celebrating her first anniversary as dean of Candler School of Theology, a new building in the works, an active student body full of exciting ministry, outreach, and service experiences, and a zealous faculty producing publications by the dozens this year, there was quite a bit to share and celebrate at this year’s address. Bridget Cabrera, the C3 President, offers her vision of the state of Candler in this week’s blog.

Candler School of Theology is in a time of transition. Last year we installed a new dean, started a new curriculum, and broke ground for a new building. Yes, we are in a time of transition.

Candler students are also in a time of transition. I remember my transition to Candler. It was a difficult one. I was a music education major in college so words like exegesis, hermeneutics, and eschatology were new to me. I didn’t know what my professors were talking about. The seemingly endless amount of reading and the quality of writing that was expected of me was also something I was not used to. I will admit my first year was a little overwhelming, and I was a little scared about this transition.

I am sure that others have had similar experiences or fears during their first year of seminary. At times, the life of a seminary student seems like a juggling act. As students, we all transitioned into this place, but that is not where it stops. We continue to grow and change and transition into new understandings and new relationships everyday.

Once I got accustomed to the language and the pace of Candler, I began to get more involved in the community. I started to sing in the Candler Singers, one of our choirs at Candler and began participating in various student organizations. The more I got involved in the life of Candler, the more I grew to love and appreciate this community. And when I talk about the Candler community it extends not only to the students, but also to the faculty and staff as well. We are all a part of this together and we are all transitioning together.

As the Candler Coordinating Council (C3) President, I have had the privilege to see and be involved with a lot of things that most students are not aware of. I see everyday how blessed we students are to be here at Candler. Candler is a seminary that includes students in their committees and wants to hear their voice. In fact, we are included in faculty searches, by having a student representative on the search committee. When faculty candidates are interviewed, students are invited to listen to their lecture, attend a meet-and-greet, and submit comments about the candidates to the search committee. The C3 president also attends the faculty meetings to represent student interests, and there were students were on the curriculum committee that brought us our current curriculum. As you can see, Candler includes your voice and values what you have to say.

The work of the Candler Coordinating Council lies in what the name implies. It leads and supports the Candler community by facilitating the coordination between student organizations and programs and it also gives voice to the student body. Many of you have attended meetings of student organizations or attended a student sponsored event. So far this year Candler students have co-sponsored Habitat Houses; sustained relationships and been in ministry with groups such as Common Ground, an HIV/AIDS outreach center; advocated for the rights of children; educated each other on LGBT issues and concerns; played flag football with other seminaries; and have also found the time to support each other and do our school work. Our community has helped fund new lights for the intramural sports field; the remodeling of the graduate student lounge in the Dobbs University Center; and supported the university wide newspaper, which provides free copies of the New York Times, USA Today, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The Emory Student Government Association (SGA), along with the other nine graduate divisions, are making positive steps to ensure that our voice is heard. And that was only last semester!

Yes, we at Candler are in transition. We students have our hopes and our fears about the various transitions in our community and in our personal lives. The great thing about all of this is that we are not alone. We have, as Dr. Luther Smith, professor of church and community, preached in Cannon Chapel for MLK day and that Daniel Ogle blogged about last week, a whole cloud of witnesses. As we look forward to this semester and the coming year, let us all work together to continue this work for our beloved community that we call Candler.

Bridget Cabrera is from Enterprise, AL. She graduated in 2005 from The University of Alabama with a B.S. in Music Education. She is a member of the North Alabama Conference and is seeking ordination as an elder in the United Methodist Church.

If you are interested in learning more about Candler School of Theology to see first hand all these exciting opportunities Bridget mentioned, makes plans to visit campus, meet with an admissions advisor, attend chapel and a class, and have lunch with current students. 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 our Admissions Office Intern’s profile on Facebook (Candler Intern-Theology) and the Candler School of Theology Group at www.facebook.com.