Apr 26 2008

Spring Banquet (AKA Candler Prom)

Guest Bloggers, Candace Hirsch, Master of Divinity senior, and Brandon Stewart, MDiv first year, pictured together at right, recount their experience at this year’s Spring Banquet, an end of the year dinner party for the entire Candler School of Theology community, complete with meal, entertainment created from the community, which often pokes fun at the community, and dancing. It’s certainly one of the greatest social events of the year at Candler, and I know you’ll enjoy hearing from both a senior and a first year about this year’s party to end all parties.

By Candace Hirsch

The semester is almost over, and for graduating seniors like myself, our time at Candler is almost over, too. Just when our energy and enthusiasm begin to lag and it seems as though finals are the only thing in sight, a beacon of fun and celebration appears: Spring Banquet. I’ve enjoyed the food, socializing, skits and dancing of Spring Banquet (affectionately known as Candler Prom) each year I’ve been here, and this year’s banquet included all of the celebration a graduate could imagine.

Before the actual banquet began, the entire Candler community was invited to be a part of the official wedding ceremony of two third year students, Jill and Corey. They met at Candler, began dating, and got engaged here, so having their official marriage ceremony on campus, with the beautiful backdrop of the trees and flowers of the Emory quad seemed perfect. Chad McGinnis and Lance Presley, two graduating Candler students, presided over the ceremony, while music was provided by second year student Joe McBrayer. We were able to celebrate not only the marriage vows Corey and Jill will now live out but also signs of some of the ministry our graduates are going out into the world to lead.

Dolled up in everything from sundresses and seersucker suits to vintage velvet jackets and old bridesmaid dresses, our celebration continued as Spring Banquet began and students, faculty, and staff shared a meal together while a slideshow of photos from this school year flashed on a screen in the front of the room. The senior class presented Dean Jan Love a check for $4500 raised in the senior class gift campaign, which will be used to support scholarships for future students and lockers in the new building.

As we finished our meal, the evening’s comedic entertainment—a series of video and live skits, created by Candler students, staff, and faculty—began. When the skits ended and the laughter died down, out stage was transformed into a dance floor and everyone, faculty and staff included, danced the night away. This year the “prom” planners included an option for karaoke in the midst of dancing, and we heard the musical stylings of a wide variety of Candler students, willing to make a joyful—if not always entirely on key—noise in songs such as “Ring of Fire”, “Respect”, “It’s Raining Men” and more. We shook our tail feathers, rocked the soultrain, and danced until the very end of the night.

In the midst of integrated papers, intense theological discussions, and the academic rigors of Candler, Spring Banquet is a chance to let loose and just have fun with the community. I’ve enjoyed Spring Banquet each year, celebrating with new friends and old, laughing and dancing with not only my peers but also faculty and staff. As the saying goes, “there ain’t no party like a Candler party,” and this year’s Spring Banquet was certainly a party to send our graduating class out in style.

Candace Hirsch is a third year Master of Divinity student from Pittsburgh PA, and a graduate of Allegheny College. After graduation, she’ll spend the summer working as a chaplain at Camp Lake Stephens, a United Methodist summer camp in Mississippi.

By Brandon Stewart

The 2008 “Candler Prom” was a night that all the students, faculty, and staff will always remember. We moved beyond the walls of the classroom to laugh at one another and come together to celebrate our hard work and to have a “crunk” Candler house party. First, with everyone dancing the night away, the Candler community was extremely “hot” as we set “the roof on fire.” Secondly, watching the wonderful skits that the students of the Candler community created were hilarious as we saw the innovative side of our colleagues.

The theme of the skits featured a sarcastic telethon that attempted to raise money for the new building Candler will open this fall as well as made fun of the old building, Bishops Hall. The skits also revealed the many different characteristics that Candler portrays. According to the Bible, thou shall not steal, but the in one of the skits, the Candler community incorporated their “five fingered” discount to the equipment that was needed for the new building since no funds were raised for the new building. One could only imagine if Jesus was happy or laughing at Candler for having such a wonderful time together. No wait, Jesus, or his 2008 look alike, Dr. Thomas Thangaraj, who’s punch line that he was Jesus at the end of a skit stole the show, was there to participate in his last prom!

And last, the night was one that the Candler School of Theology would always remember because everyone put the word, “community,” into action. The many brothers and sisters of Candler were from present all different backgrounds based on race, gender, beliefs, and denominations, but this did not stop us from having a great time and showing love to one another. As we boogied down the soul train line, we caught our wonderful dean, Jan Love, showing us her old school dancing skills that won her the coolest-dean-ever award. As the evening came to a close, there even was a little hip-hop open mic session that was introduced by the first year students as well as the DJ. The Candler Prom was an event that brought out laughs, great dancing, and great memories as we displayed ourselves in our formal fashion. Especially a guy dressed up as the pink panther! For one moment in time, we, as a community, were able to enjoy life outside the stress of academia and bask in the ambience of each other’s presence.

Brandon Stewart is a first year MDIV student from Jackson, TN who majored in African American Literature and Communications as well as played college football at the University of Memphis. Brandon plans to attend law school after attaining his Master of Divinity from Candler School of Theology and work with the disadvantaged urban community.

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.

Apr 18 2008

Marking the End of the Year

This has been a week speckled with services of sending forth, good byes and honoring graduates. With only one week of classes still remaining here at Candler School of Theology, the community is in a season of transition and closure. Though various student groups and classes mark the end of the year with celebrations and gatherings, I’d like to share with you four of the larger events that bring the Candler community together as the year comes to an end.

On Tuesday evening, the Women in Theology and Ministry Program sponsored a graduation dinner, as they do each year, centered on the program’s theme this year of “Women & Peacemaking.” Before Amanda Hendler-Voss 05T, Faith Communities Coordinator of WAND (Women’s Action for New Directions) and Minister of Christian Education at First Congregational UCC in Asheville, NC, and Dr. Elizabeth Corrie 96T 02G, Interim Director of Youth Theological Initiative and Lecturer in Youth Education and Peacebuilding spoke to the gathering, all the names of the graduating women were spoken aloud and those present were invited forward to accept a gift.

This year’s gift was a Peace Pole, which is an internationally recognized symbol of hope for the human family, standing vigil in silent prayer for peace on earth. Each Peace Pole bears the message “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in different languages. The graduates’ poles were made especially for Candler School of Theology, and the cost included a donation to the Peace Pole Project. Peace Poles have been planted in front of churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples, as well as sites of human conflict, such as the War Museum in Viet Nam and South Africa’s Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.

Sacred Worth, a student group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, those questioning their sexuality, and allies, offered a Service of Sending Forth on Wednesday, which took time to recognize the open LGBTQ graduates in the Candler community. Because sexuality is such a divisive issue in many of the mainline Protestant denominations of which our students are members of, Sacred Worth intentionally honors seniors of the LGBTQ community, knowing some of their denominations may not honor and recognize them as pastors and leaders in the church. It was an intimate service in the chapel that included communion and words of affirmation. Seniors, who were willing to come forward, were given a stole in recognition of their calling. A stole was also placed on the altar and later will be donated to the Shower of Stoles Project to remember that there are many people who have to remain silent about their sexuality in order to be in the church and answer their call to ministry.

During chapel on Thursday, the community gathered for a Celebration of Gifts and Honors. The service affirmed the gifts of the Candler community and thanked those who have made contributions to our life and fellowship together this year. From our communion bread bakers and readers of scripture in worship to those part of a student organization or have helped with a Candler event, we honored each person. Students, staff, and faculty who were nominated for awards were also named in conjunction with Honor’s Day awards.

Thursday evening was the Elder’s Send Off, sponsored by the Program of Black Church Studies, in conjunction with the Black Student Caucus. The evening included dinner, creative expressions performed and shared by members of the community, and ended with a blessing of the seniors, as well as staff and faculty who are also leaving our community at the end of the academic year. Kirstyn Brown, who is graduating with her Master of Divinity in a couple of weeks describes, “The Elder’s Send Off was a night of remembrance and celebration that served as a source of motivation and encouragement as I transition from Candler. It reaffirmed the sacredness of my cultural, personal, and spiritual formation.” After graduating, Kirstyn will be teaching English with the Baltimore Teaching Residency Program in Baltimore City Public School System.

Clearly we are a community who loves to mark the seasons of life and honor times of change and transition. There will certainly be more celebrations, tears, and hugs next week, but I can’t imagine anything that could top this week’s schedule of events. Tonight is Candler’s Spring Banquet (AKA “Candler Prom”), and next week, two guest bloggers will share their experience at the banquet.

If you are interested in learning more about Candler School of Theology, check out our website. In addition, you can call us at 404.727.6326, email us at candleradmissions@emory.edu, 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.

Apr 11 2008

Famous Last Words

A new, end-of-the-year tradition came into being around the time I enrolled at Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Each April, as the dogwoods blossom and graduation seems just around the corner, the Candler community gathers to honor the faculty members who are retiring that year in an event known as “Famous Last Words.” This year, Dr. Jon P. Gunnemann, Professor of Social Ethics, and Dr. M. Thomas Thangaraj, the D.W. and Ruth Brooks Associate Professor of World Christianity, are both retiring from Candler and shared some of their “last words” with this us on Wednesday. As Dr. Thangaraj started he said, “Famous words?…certainly not. Last words?…I hope not!” Both professors playfully shared some of their fondest memories and celebrations from their time at the seminary. The luncheon was a wonderful reminder of how special Candler is, not only to its students, but to the faculty and staff who are living out their vocational call here.

Both Dr. Gunnemann and Dr. Thangaraj reflected on their time of teaching and being in community at Candler. It was evident through their words, laughter, and memories that Candler has shaped them and their theology in profound ways. Not only have they been shaped by Candler, but the Candler community has also been shaped and reshaped during the years they taught here. One of the classes Dr. Thangaraj teaches each year is Images of Christ in World Christianity. He shared with us that the first semester he taught at Candler in 1988, he had eight students in the class from six different countries. In his final semester teaching, he offered an open enrollment so that every student who wanted could take the class. Dr. Thangaraj has 80 students in his Images of Christ in World Christianity class this semester. As he said, “It took 20 years to perfect it.”

In a similar vain, Dr. Gunnemann talked about the variety of changes and transformations of Candler and Emory during the 26 years he has taught here. As he named all the people, projects, and resources he was grateful for during his tenure at Candler, he opened by reflecting on the faculty who were already at Candler when he arrived in 1981. These courageous faculty members laid the groundwork for change and social justice, particularly in helping integrate Candler, which was the first school at Emory to admit African American students. That naturally led into him celebrating Candler’s commitment to diversity.

Dr. Gunnemann shared that when he first arrived at Candler in 1981, only 5% of the student body was African American and only 26% of students were woman. We have certainly come a long way in nearly 3 decades, and we can proudly boast that 50% of our student body is women, 25% is African American, and 10% is international students. Just over 40% of our students are United Methodist, and we represent over 50 different denominations and faith traditions throughout our student body. Dr. Thangaraj described that when he first arrived at Candler, when anyone mentioned the word “world” everyone would look as him, “as if I was in charge of it,” he said. But now he and Dr. Gunnemann both celebrated that we are all talking about the world and realize that the whole world matters, particularly as we prepare students for Christian service and leadership.

Both Dr. Gunnemann and Dr. Thangaraj spent significant time talking about how much they love teaching. Each, in his own way, thanked the generations of students who have helped teach them a thing or two. As Dr. Thangaraj put it, “Teaching has become my way of learning.” Dr. Gunnemann is grateful for those students who have pushed him and have also been receptive to thinking about the world and theology differently.

Dr. Gunnemann closed by encouraging us to boldly live out the Great Commandment and ended by quoting Micah 6:8 by saying, “Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” These famous words from scripture resound in my heart and continue to call me to action every time I hear them. On further reflection, we did hear some famous (last) words on Wednesday—words that have been taught, preached, and lived out for generations; words from the living gospel; words that heal, offer hope, and call us forward. Dr. Gunnemann and Dr. Thangaraj’s words offer a witness to how words can become a living truth and move us to a deeper relationship with God and with our neighbors here at Candler and in the world.

There will be many more opportunities to hear famous words spoken, prayed, and taught here at Candler. If you are discerning if seminary is the next step in your faith journey, we hope that you will seriously consider Candler School of Theology. For more information about applying to Candler, please visit our website, email us at candleradmissions@emory.edu, or call us at 404.727.6326. You can also find us on Facebook, MySpace, and Second Life and would enjoy interacting with you through those social networking sites.

Apr 4 2008

Women’s Week

As Women’s Week comes to an end, Anjie Peek Woodworth, Master of Divinity senior, reflects on the significance of the relationships she has created and nurtured during her time at Candler School of Theology as she, and others here, there, and everywhere, prepare for life changes and transitions as graduation approaches.

Candler Women, a student organization that seeks to provide community support and advocacy for women, sponsors Women’s Week each spring. This year’s theme was “From Worship to the World,” and Sara Miles, author of Take This Bread and founder of the St. Gregory Food Pantry in San Francisco was the keynote speaker for the week. Sara Miles’ website describes the book as, “The story of an unexpected and terribly inconvenient Christian conversion, told by a very unlikely convert, Take This Bread is not only a spiritual memoir but a call to action.” She preached in chapel on Tuesday, and the Candler community was invited to a lunch discussion with her following worship and a workshop Tuesday evening that she facilitated. On Wednesday of Women’s Week, there was a Service Opportunities Fair and Thursday’s chapel service included creative expressions and liturgical arts from members of Candler Women. To close out the week, Candler Women offered a film screening and dialog of Stop the Violence.

On this day, when we remember the tragic assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., may we all be called out, as the theme of Women’s Week suggests, of our sanctuaries, worship services, desks, and comfort zones and into the world, offering hope and healing to this broken world. In his sermon entitled “The Drum Major Instinct,” Martin Luther King, Jr. preaches that,

…everyone can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.

Reflections, by Anjie Peek Woodworth

Women’s Week at Candler School of Theology is always a fun week for me. Last year I was able to help plan it and got to be involved in that way. This year I enjoyed being a participant. A wonderful team of women coordinated educational and mission events, planned food, and helped create worship services for the whole community that celebrate the ministry of women in the world.

Witnessing the gifts of all of these Candler women and celebrating the call and ministry of women in the world caused me to think about how much my life has changed by the women who have come into my life at Candler. I have developed a group of friends who are amazing! There are men and women in this group, for sure, but it is the women who show up for me whenever I need them.

I am in Atlanta this semester, finishing my Master of Divinity at Candler, while my husband, who graduated from Candler already, is in Virginia working at his new job. Most of the time, this means I am with my women friends a lot. I mean A LOT…and for that I am abundantly grateful!

One of my dearest friends was approved for commissioning yesterday, which means she is one more major step along her journey to ordination in The United Methodist Church. So, we gathered to celebrate. It didn’t have to be fancy, just sitting the living room in our apartment, hearing the story of the day and laughing together. It was simple and wonderful.

I was reminded yet again what a gift this group of women is in my life. If things hadn’t gone so well for my friend yesterday, we would have gathered to support her. It’s simple…being together…feeding each other…food for our bodies…and nourishment for our souls…listening, sharing, and walking together. There’s so much on the table right now in the lives of the women I love…huge life and vocational decisions about ordination, chaplaincy, and all the ways these women will serve God in the world, new jobs, upcoming moves to a variety of states, graduations, relationships in their joyful and fun times and relationships in their hard and sad times, struggles and joys with families, raising children or thinking about having children, planning weddings or considering the possibility of that life commitment. So much is piled on our table when we gather.

Yet, it doesn’t have to be much. We just sit together, eat together, walk together, and journey with each other on this crazy adventure of our lives. And, thanks be to God for that!

Anjie Peek Woodworth is a graduating senior in the Master of Divinity program at Candler School of Theology. She is a certified candidate in the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. Her passion for ministry lies in Christian education and spiritual formation. After graduation she will move to northern Virginia where her husband (MDiv ’07) is the Program Director at Meadowkirk Camp and Retreat Center and continue to develop her ministry in retreat and workshop leading.

We hope you will consider Candler School of Theology in your discernment process, and invite 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.