Jan 28 2011

Worthy of Your Call

As seminary students, we spend a significant amount of time wrestling with our call to ministry. We analyze it, discuss it with our friends and in the classroom, and we are always trying to come up with new and better ways to articulate it.

A few of us have a concrete vision of exactly what God wants from us, but most of us only have a hazy picture at best. However, it’s easy to come to terms with this as you begin to realize, that not only are you in good company, but that it’s okay not to have all the answers.

But sometimes I think we assume our call is a future one, hidden beyond all the caps and gowns of graduation. I think we forget that regardless of where God leads us in the future, he has led us here in the present.  A present call, I’m discovering, is much more difficult that a future one.

The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 4[1], “Therefore, as a prisoner of the Lord, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

Now that perhaps is even scarier than having a call in the first place, having to live a life worthy of it. After all, it is a dangerous request Paul is making.  It requires us to take personal responsibility, stops us from resting on our laurels and reminds us that we have far to go.

But Paul doesn’t stop there.

He talks about attaining maturity, as though realizing you have a call is really only one of the first steps.

He talks about pursuing unity in Christ, reminding us that perhaps our call is bigger than just ourselves and that we were each called in order that body of Christ might be one.

He tells us to build each other up, to be careful what we say, to not speak in anger or bitterness, to love each other and forgive each other.

He seems to be concerned with how we live our everyday lives, with how we live out Christ in our routines and chores and arguments.

So maybe the question we discuss should include more than an analysis of our call, but a conversation about how we are living up to it and how we can help each other pursue that life that fully reflects both our call and the Holy One who gave it to us.

Ephesians 3 has some encouragement, and this is my prayer for you, for Candler, and for the whole Body of Christ as we strive to live lives worthy of our calling:

“ I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”[2]

-  Jennifer Wyant

Jennifer is a 1st year MDiv student from Atlanta, GA and a Student Ambassador.


[1] Notably, Ephesians is one of the disputed letters. However, that conversation will have to wait for another day, or maybe another blog post.

[2] Ephesians 3:17-19


Jan 26 2011

Kevin Murriel on Candler Advantage

New for 2011, each week we will feature a member of the Candler family sharing one of their stories by video.  Our first post is from Kevin Murriel:

Kevin is a third year MDiv student from Mississippi and active in many aspects of the Candler community.


Jan 21 2011

Not in Kansas Anymore

Students from all over the world converge at Candler. Each individual brings unique perspectives, passions, and gifts, and Candler offers students boundless opportunities to engage in conversations that generate a passion for further exploration of God’s multi-faceted creation.  When I joined the Candler community it became apparent right away that my theological education would be contextualized by a larger world view; an opportunity with which this small town Kansan was eager to engage.

After arriving at Candler I immediately answered the call to be a conversation partner.  Conversation partners are native English speakers who volunteer to meet with international students once a week.  I was paired with a Korean student who wanted to gain proficiency with his English.  Getting to know Wang has been a highlight of my seminary experience.  Learning about his family, his culture, and how he experiences God has been meaningful and humbling.  It has been meaningful in the sense that he has given me new perspectives into God as a father, a husband, and as a foreigner.  Humbling in the sense that he is very intelligent and has bravely chosen to study theology in English; a difficult enough undertaking in one’s own language.  It is a wonderful gift to me to help him learn to articulate his ideas about life and God in ways that I have never imagined.

One-on-one interactions are not the only way I have interacted with people different than me.  As a class representative on the Candler Coordinating Council, our student governing body, I get to meet with other student leaders on a regular basis to discuss the ways in which we utilize our student funding for programs.  The council also encourages collaboration between organizations and offers several opportunities a year to discuss, in open forum, issues of cultural competency that help our community grow together.

I have also been involved in cross cultural dialog through classes that are cross-listed with other schools at Emory.  Classes with Business, Law, Nursing, and Public Health students have given me the opportunity to hear about issues in the world from a different academic perspective and also to talk about the church in a way that many people often do not experience; one as an active agent for justice.  One of the most fun and intense of the interdisciplinary opportunities available to Candler students is the opportunity to compete in the Global Health Institutes Case competition.  Interdisciplinary teams are formed, given a global health issue and then over a few days analyze, produce, and present a viable solution to the issue.  Not only did I make many friends from other schools, but the lens through which I see issues now incorporates little pieces of their law, health, and entrepreneurial perspectives.

Candler has offered me an authentic world-view-expanding experience. Through individual relationships, participation in Candler student organizations and doing interdisciplinary work, it is clear that I am not in Kansas anymore.  I am looking forward to taking this experience back home so that I can offer a theological lens with a broader world view to the communities I serve.

-Patrick McLaughlin

Patrick is a second year MDiv student from Hutchinson, KS and a Student Ambassador. In addition to his time serving the community, he serves as a class representative to the Candler Coordinating Council, is a Candler Conversation Partner, and is a member of the Candler Singers.


Jan 18 2011

Mindfulness

This stained glass window appears in the entrance of Spurgeon’s College in London. The words Et Teneo Et Teneor mean I hold, and am held. I first saw it in 2006 when I was visiting England and Scotland. It’s a beautiful statement about our state as people of faith. While we are mindful of our need for compassion and guidance, so Christ already has been mindful of us.

At a recent CAYA (Come As You Are) worship service, the casual worship atmosphere offered by Decatur First United Methodist Church, the offertory song was titled Less Like Scars. Originally recorded by Sara Groves, this song is an emotional outpouring about what it means to hold and to be held. The words of the chorus express:

And I feel you here
And you’re picking up the pieces
Forever faithful
It seemed out of my hands, a bad situation
But you are able
And in your hands the pain and hurt
Look less like scars and more like
Character

Powerful and remarkable words. Forever faithful and able - two descriptors for Jesus the Christ. To be mindful of Christ means to have felt sustained, lifted up, protected, safe, and empowered. The actions of Christ are not reflected in the scars from being nailed to the cross. The actions of Christ are reflected in his character. To me, character means how you are mindful. How do your actions and words reflect your character? All of these things originate within the deep recesses of our brains, where the intricate patterns of the network of our brains flash and ignite our thoughts and imagination. For most of us, these deep recesses cause us to think more about ourselves. This is human nature. This is the natural way of how we think. So, my question now is, how was Christ mindful? He thought of serving everyone except himself – he was the least of his worries.

It may not seem like a new concept, but it is. It’s a concept that gets communicated, but we never truly live it out. One of the most important parts of the Christian faith is our genuine concern for the other. We are commanded to love God and to love our neighbor. To love is to be mindful. Although I grew up a Christian, I was never in church (outside of Vacation Bible School as a young child). I did not truly dedicate my life to Christ until I was 17, at the same time I was baptized. It was a remarkable moment in my life. I say that because of a group of friends that were mindful of me. If it was not for their persistence in telling me about their faith journeys and struggles, the community and support they found in a church family, and the personal transformation they had experienced, I would have never found myself. Because Christ was mindful of us, we can discover who we truly are. Because my friends were mindful of me, and were acting as the hands and feet of Christ, not only did I find myself, but I found Christ. He did not rise and conquer the grave for just any reason or to prove his identity. Christ rose for us. Christ conquered the grave so that we might have life. Christ was, quite simply, being mindful of us.

At Candler, I have found an atmosphere that is mindful of the other. Whether it is participating in a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Service Project with Emory University and local communities, holding a chili cook-off fundraiser to raise money for the ongoing Haiti relief efforts, being in conversation about issues facing the future of the church with people of different perspective, or helping create a community garden for a local congregation, Candler illustrates how vital it is to be in service to one another. Through the opportunities that Candler offers, both in and out of the classroom, I have been able to recall the moment that I found myself – and build on it.

Candler has helped me to dig deeper – offering me the possibility and freedom to identify my own voice and celebrate my own path of spiritual growth. Over the last three years at Candler I have realized it is okay to be journeying into the unknown, following all the twists and turns. After all, it is our journey that gives us experience and our experiences that shape who we are and what we are to do in this life. I am grateful that Candler has not only shown me how to be truly mindful of the other, but along the way finding myself.

-Mark Batten

Mark is currently the Coordinator of Admissions Services at Candler. He is also pursuing a Master of Divinity part-time. His areas of interest include liturgical formation, the spiritual disciplines, and creation care. Away from the office and class, Mark enjoys kayaking and piloting the latest tech gadgets.


Jan 7 2011

Both/And at Candler

Seminaries really are different from each other.  It’s important to get some sense of the culture of a school before attending.  As a United Methodist student at Candler many years ago, I was impressed with its willingness to struggle with the consequences of opening its M.Div. program to a mere handful of us women students (we’re talking the early 70’s here!) and to listen to us as we challenged some sacred traditions and assumptions about theological education and ministry during that time of change in our church.

Today, Candler is, of course, very different!  While some seminaries are still struggling with the very idea of accepting women as students, Candler discovered a long time ago, in its very identity as a United Methodist school, the theological and practical foundations for its openness to different denominations, cultures, and people.

Candler is unique in its commitment to claim, value, and be held accountable in its relationship to our parent denomination, The United Methodist Church, and at the same time, strongly emphasize its commitment to ecumenicity in its programming, courses, faculty, and students.  Methodists at Candler learn BOTH what it means to be distinctively Methodist AND a member of the greater Body of Christ, the universal Church.

This was the brilliance of the Wesleyan revival.  John Wesley addressed his message to those who were either formally or informally excluded from the Church of England – especially, the poor, women, and people of color.  He encountered, debated, and communed with leaders from other traditions.  Lay speakers and formerly Anglican clergy traveled to places far beyond England to advance the revival.  Wesley linked vital piety with social outreach, local with global outreach, poor with rich, his “both/and” list goes on and on.

This is just one example of how Candler is a “both/and” place!  While a Methodist at Candler, one is also in relationship and dialogue with others who reflect the “real” world in which we are called to serve.

And this “both/and” characteristic of our community extends deeply into the fibers of our woven life together.  It helps us discover the weaknesses and ever-increasing uselessness of dichotomies that are used in the “real” world to divide us, dichotomies like “liberal or conservative” and “straight or gay” and “evangelical or ‘not’” and “US or global”.

And, it opens us up to the possibilities of reframing our conversations, reimagining our communities in new ways, and giving us the tools to offer the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people otherwise unreached, isolated, or harmed by society and the Church.

-Dr. Anne Burkholder

Dr. Burkholder serves as the Associate Dean of Methodist Studies and Professor in the Practice of Ecclesiology and Church Leadership at Candler and is an ordained elder in the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church.  She helps Candler students through multiple stages of the UMC candidacy process, serves as a liaison to annual conferences and general agencies, and oversees the Course of Study, a non-degree training program for UM pastors who do not seek ordination. Her current research interests include Pastoral Ethics, Women in Religious Leadership and Administration, and United Methodist Polity.