As a second year MDiv student at Candler School of Theology, the outstanding aspects of the institution continue to reveal themselves to me. Unfortunately, it has taken me over a year to realize that my academic course-load has the potential to envelop me, causing me to miss the many treasures on campus. More overpowering than academia, however, is life. Life is busy, life is fast, life is short. It seems that more often than not, I have deadline to meet and an agenda to fulfill. I am constantly running on a tight schedule in an effort to accomplish the task at hand in a timely fashion. This being the case, I have overlooked some of the most awesome displays of God’s presence in this place.
First, I have recently slowed down to appreciate the John August Swanson masterpieces that are scattered throughout the building. John August Swanson is an artist and independent print-maker of limited edition serigraphs, lithographs, and etchings, of which Candler has the largest collection in the world. His ability to capture scenes from Scripture with such vivid color and detail is truly remarkable. His serigraphs are completed through an extensive process of stencils and layers of color – the number of colors in the painting is the number of stencils he must make.
Often times, these works of art are much more complex than any single image. For instance, the “Ecclesiastes” masterpiece, which hangs on the third floor, contains almost 100 miniature works depicting the seasons of life, biblical images and symbols. Upon closer examination, it becomes apparent that each and every minute detail was careful and intentional, just as every gift and flaw with which each individual has been blessed is purposeful. Another exquisite example of John August Swanson’s attention to detail can be seen in the “Triptych of Noah,” which can be found on the fourth floor. The word “triptych” means that this work is composed in three separate parts. Each section of this illustration captures the chaos that is described during the flood in the Bible, or I would suggest the chaos that many of us experience in our daily lives! It is far too easy to rush through the halls, ignoring the exceptional artwork that Candler is so fortunate to have.
Another aspect of Candler that I hate to admit I have missed during much of my time here is worship in Canon Chapel. The internationally acclaimed architect Paul Rudolph designed this sacred space for Emory University in the late ‘70s. Its appearance of being somewhat unfinished is intentional, and with great theological meaning. Just as we, human beings, are unfinished and continuously being molded, so too is Canon Chapel. We are constantly transformed by those with whom we come in contact, just as the chapel is shaped and changed by each moment of worship and each diverse class of students that passes through.
While classes are not even offered during the times in which worship occurs in Canon, stress is a constant excuse for missing these services. Somehow writing a paper in the library, going to work, or even a nap seems more important than attending worship in the chapel, which is conveniently located next to the theology building! The few times that I attended in the past year and a half have been incredibly moving experiences, for so many reasons. The natural light that the architecture allows to shine in is breathtaking. The diversity in worship styles and congregation members unifies the community. I must confess that I have been brought to tears on multiple occasions in this space, and I am not an emotional person! The ways in which the Spirit moves in that building is undeniable. But one must take the time to slow down, and acknowledge its beauty.
All in all, I have come to deeply appreciate the abundant blessings that surround me at Candler. It is just a matter of me not getting in the way of myself in order for me to experience such fortune. I am now the biggest advocate for putting down your calendar and enjoying the wonders that surround us on a daily basis, because if we continue to cling to a tight schedule, we will remain blind to them all!
- Mia Northington
Mia is a 2nd Year MDiv student from Tennessee and a Student Ambassador.
Image copyright John August Swanson.