Mar 27 2008

Candler on Second Life

Just when I finally feel like I’m getting used to the life of the Candler School of Theology Admissions Office, I have entered into a whole new world through Second Life. The Candler admissions office has opened an office on Second Life, which is a virtually 3-dimensional chat world in which we can interact with people from across the world. It’s immersive, impressive, interactive, and just plan cool! Second Life, like other social networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace, are helping us connect and reconnect with people in ways we never could have imagined. Furthermore, through Second Life, people are able to interact in the moment with an Avatar profile that one has created to be a representation of one’s self. Creativity is key in Second Life, and it is opening up a whole new life of possibilities for us at Candler.

Kimberly Knight, a currentMaster of Divinity student at Candler, has started a church community, called Koinonia Congregational Church, which worships and gathers together on Second Life several times a week. On the church’s website, Kimberly shares, “Koinonia Congregation is an actual congregation meeting in an online space — a virtual reality world known as ‘Second Life.’ Koinonia uses the cutting-edge technology of Second Life to create a safe environment where people can learn about the Christian faith and experience a loving Christian community.” Through her ministry on Second Life with the Koinonia Community, Kimberly has helped envision, build, create, furnish, and maintain our newly opened Candler Admissions Office in Second Life.

For many of you, this must sound impressively cutting edge, but to be honest, there are plenty of other higher education institutes who have been on Second Life much longer. Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford all have virtual campuses on Second Life, and unlike Candler, yet, they host real classes on Second Life. Imagine undergraduate students at Harvard logging into freshman English class on Second Life, as they sit in their dorm room in their pajamas sipping coffee. This is happening on university campuses world wide, and it is so exciting that Candler is joining in!

Just as we host prospective students and campus visitors at our Admissions Office at Emory University in Atlanta, we will also host them at our office in Second Life. Our space on Second Life has rooms dedicated to learning about Pitts Theology Library; Candler’s faculty, degree programs, and curriculum; student and community life, and worship at Candler. We certainly believe that much of the seminary experience is about being in community with one another, therefore we will encourage visitors to our Second Life office to make a campus visit as well. It is our hope that Second Life will be another form of sharing Candler with people who are discerning a call in their lives and are exploring going to seminary.

If you are discerning a call to seminary and thinking about doing ministry, outreach, social justice work, and faith sharing, we hope that you will consider Candler as a next step on your journey. Please visit our office on Second Life or schedule a visit here in Atlanta. 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. We recently started a group on MySpace too, so hopefully we’ll connect with you soon online or in person.


Mar 21 2008

Holy Week

“Sometimes the right person, reading the right text, at the right time makes all the difference,” said Dr. Don E. Saliers, Faculty Emeritus, William R. Cannon Distinguished Professor of Theology and Worship and retired Director of the Master of Sacred Music Program at Candler School of Theology of Emory University, during a workshop held this week on inclusive worship practices. This workshop, which was sponsored by Sacred Worth, one of Candler School of Theology’s student organizations, focused on incorporating inclusivity into worship services, through song, prayers, hymns, and other elements of worship.

To get the conversation started, Don Saliers outlined some basic questions that we as worship planners and leaders should ask: Who is gathering for worship? What is the time, space, and occasion of the worship? What are the central images, texts, songs available in the community? What are the pastoral needs of the community or of particular individuals? What conception of the divine and human relationality is in focus?

As we pondered the first of his various questions, he reminded us, many of whom are future church pastors, that so much of inclusive worship planning depends on who is gathering. Though the congregation may appear homogenous, there is such diversity of interpretation and experience within every worshipping community. In fact, even before we, the learned seminary graduates, arrive to lead a congregation, there is rich knowledge and “stuff,” as Saliers put it, in the congregation before we get there. This is, of course, a true statement but is a good reminder, too.

Though he highlighted and suggested various song and hymn resources that offer new music and more inclusive language, Saliers encouraged us to look to existing hymnals and songbooks, which are familiar to worshippers, because it may allow us to take old words and put them into a new context. In fact, the most useful and tangible suggestion I believe he made during the workshop was to host informal hymn sing-alongs, inviting congregants to introduce, in a safe space, their attachments to certain favorite hymns. What a beautifully melodic way for the congregation to share part of its story with us and each other. Saliers taught that, “Sometimes an image in a song or psalm will say something that a person can’t.”

That statement certainly rings true for me, one who is a lover of words. A poem, hymn, or psalm can speak the thoughts and prayers on my heart that I cannot always verbally articulate. I am sure that you too have had deeply divine moments of clarity and awareness during corporate worship, while reading liturgy, or as you mouth the words of a favorite biblical text during a stressful time.

Saliers rhetorically asked, “If liturgy can’t touch the hurts, then where will we go?” Though it was designed to discuss inclusive worship practices, the workshop became much more in that moment. We dialogued about suffering and how deep and honest prayer can uncover what is hidden within each of us. During Holy Week, we, as Christians, are keenly aware of Jesus’ suffering as well as his deep and honest prayers to God as he made his way to the cross. As we prepare for Easter, I invite you to find ways to touch your own text and song imagination with things that can really make a difference in your worship and life.

Dr. Thomas Thangaraj, the D.W. and Ruth Brooks Associate Professor of World Christianity, wrote a Passion Week Prayer, that you will find below. I hope it encourages you to slow down and dwell in the uncomfortable before the resurrection on Sunday.

O God, we are always in a hurry -
reluctant to stop, linger, or wait.
We are in a hurry to race from Passion Sunday to Easter morning,
never stopping on the way.
Slow us down, Lord, during this week;
Slow us down.

May we pause to hear your judgment on our temples of greed
and on our tables of selfish desire;

May we linger and listen to your curse

on our leaf-full appearances and our fruit-less lives;

May we stay with the community of disciples

and wash one another’s feet;

May we tarry at the table while you break bread,

sip wine, and call us to remember you at every meal;

May we wait at the foot of the cross

and hear your words of forgiveness, acceptance, forsakenness, and fulfillment;

May we halt a while to experience the deadening silence of the tomb –

our tombs of loneliness and helplessness;

Slow us down, Lord, during this week;

Slow us down.

That renewed in the spirit, we may face the coming Easter morning with joy and hope.

Amen.

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. We recently started a group on MySpace too, so hopefully we’ll connect with you soon online or in person.


Mar 15 2008

Concentrate on Concentrations

Though classes are not in session this week because it is spring break at Candler School of Theology, surprisingly, I’ve been thinking a lot about academics. While I thoroughly enjoyed—even loved—my classes, faculty interactions, assignments and studies during my time at Candler from 2004-2007, I think I would have really excelled and delighted in the new Master of Divinity curriculum that Candler launched this school year. If only my discernment and decision to attend seminary had happened a few years later! As I mentioned before, I have very few complaints about my own experience as a Candler student, but the interactive nature of the curriculum through Contextual Education, introductory Arts of Ministry classes, advising groups, reflection colloquies, and a plethora of Concentrations to choose from certainly sounds appealing to me, one who already is and has a “Master of Divinity.”

There is a strong interdisiplinary foundation to the degree program, which offers a core curriculum that is nurtured and grounded in Christian texts, traditions, theology and practices. All the elements of the curriculum foster courageous leadership and compassionate inquiry in the practices of ministry and theological reflection. If that doesn’t sound cool enough, this new curriculum allows each student to choose a Concentration that I like to think of and compare to a minor. Just like the Minor Prophets from Hebrew scripture, you will graduate as a Minor of Leadership in Church and Community (or something else from the list of concentrations), not to mention a Master of Divinity. This choose-your-own-adventure style of study allows students to develop their interests and passions through focused study in a particular area by engaging with other students and faculty with the same interests.

The following are Candler’s concentrations:
Formation and Witness
Leadership in Church and Community
Religion, Health and Science
Religion and Race
Scripture and Interpretation
Society and Personality
Theology and the Arts
Theology and Ethics
Traditions of the Church
Women and Religion


Just like many of us, I’m sure that before you reached the end of the list, there were at least one or two concentrations that sparked your interest, peaked your imagination, or made you run for your bookshelf in remembrance of a favorite author or writing. And though I can’t give you the full description of each and every concentration in this one little blog post (check with the Candler registrar’s office to read the Concentration Handbook), take my word for it, these classes are going to rock your world.

How do concentrations work, you might ask? Well, each concentration requires 12-15 hours of classes to complete, and each Master of Divinity student is required to complete a concentration in order to graduate. There is a handy-dandy Concentration Handbook that students have and will be made available online soon, which outlines the courses offered for each concentration. Because of the integrative nature of learning here, it is very likely that classes can overlap and count for various concentrations, so you could be sharing a classroom with students in the Religion and Race concentration as well as Society and Personality. Though not required, if you are so energized by the learning process here at Candler, you can complete more than one concentration during your degree program. This works well for someone with diverse passions and interests or for one who is trying to diversify one’s resume!

Now is the time to be studying at Candler, and we want you to be in academic study and play with us! I hope I didn’t make you “concentrate” too hard on the gory details, but we do hope you will seriously consider Candler when discerning about seminary education. For more information about Candler School of Theology, visit our website at http://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.


Mar 7 2008

Methodist Madness

While many Candler School of Theology students go “church shopping” when school starts each fall to find a church home and worshipping congregation in the Atlanta area, many of our United Methodist students have the opportunity to go “conference shopping” in the spring. With such a diverse student body from across the globe, it makes sense that church bodies would want to “recruit” candidates for ministry here at Candler, and in turn, it is only natural that students would also like to size up the options for ministry from across the Church.

The Candler Office of Student Programming coordinates visits for tons of United Methodist Annual Conferences each year, but this time of year in particular, early spring, is our heavy meet-and-greet season. From Mississippi to Kansas and from Oregon or Idaho to North Carolina, The United Methodist Church is well represented on the Candler campus this semester. Between the start of 2008 and commencement in May, over ten conferences will send representatives from their Board of Ordained Ministry or Cabinet (I’ve even sited a bishop or two!) to both visit with Candler students from their conference and to talk with current students who may be interested in doing ministry in their region.

There are certainly plenty of students at Candler that are committed to be ordained or provide lay leadership to a specific conference, diocese, district, congregation, or community, but others are still looking for that perfect fit. In fact, during my first year at Candler, one of my classmates, who shall remain nameless, signed up for every single United Methodist Conference visit, particularly when the conference was offering a free meal to its student and inquiring candidates. Without fail, he attended every drop-in, meet-and-greet, dinner party, information session, and Q&A time for conferences ranging from the Pacific Northwest to Florida. He networked, ate, and made friends with students and conference officials from conferences in every United Methodist jurisdiction. That, my friends, is the connectional church at work!

It turns out that March is also a high season for prospective students to visit seminaries and schools of theology as well. So between the Boards of Ordained Ministry and the prospective students, you never know who you will run into at chapel or in class. Earlier this week we hosted 20 finalists for the Woodruff Fellowship, Candler’s most prestigious and generous scholarship award. The following day after they left, we had several individual visitors come to campus to learn more about Candler School of Theology. What I naturally deduce from all these visitors to campus is that Candler is either the center of the universe or the coolest place ever to study theology. In my optimism, I like to believe both, but I invite you to make a visit here so you can be the judge. World revolves around us or coolest learning environment ever?

With weeks still left in March, it’s hard to know how many visitors we’ll host to campus in the coming days, but I hope you are one of them. We have two admitted student visit days coming up later this semester, but we welcome prospective student visitors just about every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Candler is an amazing community of students, faculty, staff and the occasional Bishop, and we would love for you to make us a permanent home for study and reflection in one of our degree programs. 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. Look for my profile on Facebook (Candler Intern-Theology), and you are welcome to join the Candler School of Theology Facebook group.