Dec 11 2009

Guest Blogger: Marshall Jolly on Emory and the World AIDS Memorial Quilt

marshall jolly

Guest blogger Marshall Jolly

On Tuesday, December 1, 2009, Emory University hosted an AIDS awareness day, displaying the World AIDS Memorial Quilt at what was the largest collegiate display in the world. Several friends and I walked through the University quad, which is just a few 100 yards from the school of theology. As we walked and the names of the victims of AIDS were read aloud, we began to reflect on the small portions of the quilt that individual families and friends made to remember their lost loved ones. Many of them had died during the surge of HIV and AIDS cases from the 1980s.

aids-quilt_vertical_195wI experienced a profound sense of sadness at this sight. Needless to say, the sight of these quilts, combined with the names being read from the platform was powerful. However, I was most grieved because of how the Church—not any one individual church, but Christian Churches as a whole—have responded (or failed to respond) to the AIDS crisis. Just a few years ago, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell made a very public and licentious statement, suggesting in no uncertain terms that AIDS were repayment for the sin of homosexuality.

I was astonished after hearing a recent NPR report that revealed that a black man who is gay has a 1 in 4 chance of contracting HIV/AIDS. Even more shocking is that Hispanic men who are gay have a 1 in 3 chance of contracting HIV/AIDS. By and large, the Church has been silent in its response to the AIDS crisis—ostensibly because of the disease’s misunderstood stigma as a “gay disease.”

While it is true that a disproportionate number of men—both gay and straight—have AIDS, a growing number of women and children are suffering from the disease—especially in the global south. The long-standing position of “we have no official position” is no longer acceptable. The Church must not shy away from confronting controversial issues and helping to resolve the crisis.

Marshall is a first year Master of Divinity student from Paris, Kentucky. A graduate of Transylvania University with a BA in American Studies, Marshall is an Episcopal studies student at Candler and is pursuing ordination to the Episcopal priesthood in the diocese of Lexington (KY). His research interests include American religious history and the rise of the modern Christian evangelical movement.

Dec 4 2009

Guest Blogger: Keri Olsen on Family Away from Family

Keri Olsen- Preparing for a Candler Thanksgiving

Guest Blogger Keri Olsen. And a turkey.

On Family Away from Family

I’ve been sitting here in Brooks Commons (where most of Candler’s lounging occurs) for about an hour looking at pictures of the three semesters I’ve been in Atlanta and thinking about what I am most grateful for within my Candler experiences (it was just Thanksgiving, you know).  So much has happened.  So much has influenced my thoughts and ideas.  I’ve met new friends, worked at new jobs, tutored and ran around a track with underprivileged kids, lived in two different places, worshiped in all kinds of churches, experienced God in new ways, participated in retreats,  marched in a parade, studied all sorts of biblical criticisms, gone to Braves games,  been to costume parties, fell in love with Process Theology, cried with friends,  prayed with friends, danced in chapel, truly felt in community while receiving communion, written more papers than I care to imagine, laughed a whole lot, and discovered more about where God is calling me.  See what I mean?  So much has happened.  But when I think of all those experiences the predominate “theme” I am most grateful for is the family away from family that has developed around me.

I have never been in a place friendlier than Candler.  Candler beats Disneyland, church summer camp, and an old ladies’ knitting. That’s because the Candler people I have encountered are friendly in a way that is concerned with knowing who you truly are, and they want to see you succeed.  From the first day at orientation I knew I would have friends and good friends at that.  Aristotle describes three kinds of friends in his Nicomachean Ethics.  The first is a friendship based on utility; the giving of love for the sake of someone’s usefulness to you.  The second friendship is based on pleasure; giving love because someone is pleasant to be around.  However, the third form of friendship is an exchange of love for the sake of the other person, not to gain any advantage for oneself.  Friendship like this third kind is superior to the rest because it endures with goodness and love for others’ sake.   This is the kind of friendship I have found at Candler.  The community of friendship, support, love, compassion and mutual experience has become a family for me 2,160 miles away from home.

The last two years I have spent Thanksgiving here in Atlanta with other Candler students (and their significant others) who do not go “home” for the holiday.  I’ve hosted the meal by providing the location and the turkey.  All the other dishes are prepared by those joining me, and the merriment lasts all evening.  Although I would still love to spend the holiday with my family in California, having a second family away from home makes the day special anyway.

Last year’s Easter was a similar event.  Although it sounds REALLY cheesy, many of us got together to dye Easter eggs (which we ended up hiding for an Easter egg hunt in the amazing backyard of one of our classmates).  After church on Easter Sunday we had a delicious pot luck lunch.  In order to make it feel even more like home we each made an Easter basket for one other person.  It is the effort, care, and company that makes these holidays away from home still worth celebrating to their fullest extent.

I know my friends here at Candler will pick me up when I fall in frustration and fatigue, because they have done it.  I know my friends here at Candler will laugh with me when I am experiencing joyous times, because they have.  I know my friends here at Candler will walk alongside of me during all the times in between, because they have.  And I would do the same for them.  Our friendship is like that of a family, and I am most grateful.

Here’s a little video of Thanksgiving with Keri and her Candler friends.

Our guest blogger this week is Keri Olsen.  She is a second year MDiv student at Candler.  Keri grew up in a town called San Jacinto, located in south-eastern California.  She graduated with a BA in Religious Studies, focused on Society and Ethics, and a minor in Studio Art from University of the Pacific near Sacramento, California.  Keri is in the process of seeking certification and ordination as a Deacon in the United Methodist Church, all because of her Contextual Eduaction experience and the course “Church and Community Leadership” at Candler.