Jul 29 2011

Where’s Loganville?

This summer 14 Candler students are serving in ministry through Candler Advantage, a paid summer internship in conjunction with Candler’s Contextual Education Program.  Over the course of the summer many of these students will be sharing their experiences here on the blog.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you” Psalm 32:8

This summer I have had the opportunity through the Office of Contextual Education to serve at Loganville First United Methodist Church.  When I tell Candler students about my position, their first response is… “Where is Loganville?”  If you are from Atlanta and in the market for a new or used car, you might know where Loganville is.  For everyone who doesn’t know, Loganville is located roughly halfway between Atlanta and Athens.

Loganville is a historically small country town that has been absorbed by the growth of metro Atlanta.  Loganville First UMC was my Contextual Education site last year, and now I am serving the church full time for the summer.  There is something that happens when you begin to work in a church full time.  Those stories that pastors tell about their congregants that seem ridiculous all of a sudden seem to make sense.  I seem to be in the middle of issues I once distanced myself from.  Even when conflict arises and nothing seems to be going right, God reveals God’s self in the people of the church every single day.  Most importantly, for me, the church that was a small part of my life has become a challenging and sustaining part.

One of the many great things about this congregation is that they have accepted a call to help support and train young people in ministry.  This congregation has welcomed me with open arms and has allowed me to be a part of every area of ministry.  They have been very supportive of me in my successes and in my failures.  This summer at Loganville First has helped me further define my call.  Now, I see more clearly my gifts with youth and young adults as well as areas in which more growth is needed.

This experience this summer has been challenge, rewarding, and life changing.  I hope and pray that Loganville First will continue to support young ministry, and any Candler student wishing to pursue full time ministry will seriously consider the Candler Advantage program.

- Andrew Wolfe

Andrew is a rising 3rd year MDiv student from South Carolina and a graduate of Clemson University.

Jul 26 2011

Candler Anticipation

On the morning of Thursday, July 21, 2011, I was excitedly glued to my computer attempting to enroll in fall classes, the first being my Con-Ed site. The Contextual Education program is largely what made Candler stand out for me. I loved the concept of learning experientially and being involved and connected to the Atlanta community through Emory, but outside of it.

Initially, when I was researching sites, my heart felt lead to the Genesis shelter, which serves homeless families with infants and young children. Most of my life has been spent working with and for children and youth. As a teenager, I taught Sunday school in the non-denominational church that I grew up in. I also fulfilled my high school’s 300 hour community service requirement assisting at daycare center. In college, I interned in the communications department of the Children’s Defense Fund. After college, I trained to become a youth facilitator, interned for a multicultural children’s book publishing company and eventually became a founding teacher of a charter school for teen moms and their babies. In last role at Reading Is Fundamental, which I recently left to pursue my studies at Candler, I helped launch programs to provide free books for children all over the country.

Nonetheless, I thought Emory Hospital; with its focus on pastoral counseling would be a more practical choice. My tentative career goal has been to counsel individuals and families within churches and other non-profit agencies. But my heart (and fate maybe…) ended up winning out, when I saw the blue box indicating that the hospital site was full. Honestly, the more I think of it, I couldn’t be more excited about the outcome.

In a sense, going to Genesis feels like a natural progression. Once at RIF, my department was charged to develop strategies to better service specific populations, including homeless children. To gather information, I called a number of homeless shelters and explained what RIF did and asked how we could best work with them, based on their needs. Overwhelmingly, the intake process was mentioned. At some shelters, the duration of intake can span from a few hours to a few days. This can be particularly difficult for parents with young children. We reasoned that the kids may need something to keep them occupied, which is where the books could come in. Ultimately, my team and I envisioned putting bookshelves in the shelters filled with books for the children to select from, including soft books and board books for infants and toddlers.

With the budget crisis the RIF is currently facing as a result of being cut from the federal budget, our ideas never made it beyond the dream stage. They did spark an interest in me that I look forward to exploring in the coming months.

I believe that so many of my interests will be engaged during my time at Candler. Much of my decision to attend seminary began several years ago with my work as a volunteer rape crisis counselor. My desire to get re-involved in advocacy work led me to checking out what resources Emory had for survivors of sexual assault. Tomorrow, I have a call scheduled with Lauren Bernstein, the Coordinator of Sexual and Relationship Violence Prevention Education and Response, at Emory’s Student Health and Counseling Services office. I was also thrilled to learn that Dr. Pamela Scully, is a Professor of Women’s Studies and African Studies in Emory’s Women’s Studies department. I became aware of Dr. Scully through my involvement with The Saartjie Project, a theatre ensemble I have been performing and writing with since 2008. Dr. Scully wrote a book about our muse, Saartjie Baartman, a 19th century South African woman who was paraded around Europe to display her voluptuous body, and lend supposed evidence to racist theories of the wanton sexuality of black women. Dr. Scully has been to our shows and we have read and recommended her book

Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus: A Ghost Story and a Biography, which she co-authored with Clifton Crais. Unfortunately, I never got an opportunity to connect with her, beyond a recent email to which she promptly replied. I look forward to meeting her when I get to campus.

Beyond that, I am slowly packing my apartment and preparing to relocate from DC to Atlanta on the first week of August. On Friday, I bought my one way plane ticket and bade my colleagues farewell. Being a regular contributor on the “admitted students” Facebook page, I am definitely looking forward to meeting my classmates and the rest of the Candler community.  Every day the reality of this endeavor becomes more and more apparent. Last week, I passed a church sign that read, “Let every ending be a new beginning”.  I am embracing this new beginning and excited to see how it all unfolds.

-Nia McLean

Nia will begin her MDiv at Candler this fall. She has a degree in journalism from Howard University and currently lives in Washington, DC.

Jul 22 2011

Christ Upon the Mountain Peak

This summer 14 Candler students are serving in ministry through Candler Advantage, a paid summer internship in conjunction with Candler’s Contextual Education Program.  Over the course of the summer many of these students will be sharing their experiences here on the blog.

Photo courtesy Ken Howle – Lake Junaluska

There is a little gem of a hymn in The United Methodist Hymnal (p. 260) that features the poetry of Brian Wren, emeritus professor of worship and hymn writer from across Decatur at Columbia Theological Seminary. It is a beautiful and poetic song, albeit one set to a difficult tune, that intentionally forces the singer to face the majesty and terribleness of Christ’s divinity revealed to his disciples, Peter, James and John in Matthew 17. It is titled “Christ Upon the Mountain Peak” and features the refrain:

Christ upon the mountain peak stands alone in glory blazing;

let us, if we dare to speak, with the saints and angels praise him. Alleluia!


“Let us, if we dare to speak,” – this phrase gets at, what I think, is the heart of the Gospel story in Matthew’s Transfiguration – the inability of language to speak to that which is unspeakable. These unspeakable moments are those experiences in which we glimpse something greater than ourselves.

I thought I understood this hymn. I have even preached on it, but I am not sure I truly appreciated the imagery of “Christ Upon the Mountain Peak” until I experienced the brilliancy of the morning sunshine cutting through the early morning fog that had settled on the Smoky Mountains. Watching the sunshine pour into the valley and bounce off the waters of Lake Junaluska like a giant mirror, I think I truly appreciated the need for the disciples to tremble “at his feet.”

A friend of mine calls these occasions – “golden moments.” Golden moments are flashes of liminality, where you stand on the threshold between two different existential planes. This liminal existence can be located within sacred space, but I prefer to think of it as those experiences that occupy sacred time. In such a liminal space, the individual experiences the revelation of sacred knowledge where God imparts God’s knowledge on the person. So many of our stories in scripture feature the imparting of divine wisdom to humanity on top of a mountain. My summer internship at Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center in western North Carolina as part of the Candler Advantage program has been filled with these “golden moments.”

I have spent the past two months working as the Summer Worship Coordinator for Lake Junaluska’s Summer Worship Series, a nine-week series featuring guest preachers from all over the world (www.lakejunaluska.com/summer-worship). As part of my job, I get to design and order worship and then reflect on the ways in which our community is being shaped as a Christian people through our liturgy, literally, “the work of the people.” All of this has taken place against the resplendent backdrop of the Smoky Mountains, in a place that has served for almost 100 years as sacred space to Christians, particularly, United Methodists in the Southeastern portion of the United States. Lake Junaluska seems to maintain this sense of liminality. I will always remember my Candler Advantage internship as an intense, hands on, real-world experience set within this sacred space where the threshold between reality and divinity seem to be blurred.

- Kimberly K. Jenne

Kim is a third year MDiv student from St. Louis, MO and a member of the Missouri Annual Conference.

Jul 18 2011

Laying Down Roots

This summer 14 Candler students are serving in ministry through Candler Advantage, a paid summer internship in conjunction with Candler’s Contextual Education Program.  Over the course of the summer many of these students will be sharing their experiences here on the blog.

Summers at the Candler School of Theology almost always result in events to tell stories about. When I’m coming back each fall, I anticipate running into friends who’ve been working in international development in Cambodia or Laos, studying abroad in England or Germany, or working with a progressive Christian organization like Bread for the World in Washington, D.C. The stories, blogs, pictures and videos that result from these experiences are always eye-opening and make me excited for the folks who come out of each place with a new call or purpose.

As happy as I am that Candler offers these opportunities, I have yet to take them up on it. Even though I love traveling and meeting new people, my vocation is all about laying down roots. For me, it’s a spiritual discipline to stay in a place past its novelty, and to walk with people even when their spiritual growth is about as perceptible as the growth of a tree. So I was excited when Candler offered me an opportunity to stay at St Paul United Methodist Church, where I spent my second year of Contextual Education, through the Candler Advantage internship program.

Friends have asked me all summer how my internship is going and what I’m learning. I think the number one thing I’ve learned is this: ministry in familiar spaces can be just as surprising as ministry in brand new, exciting contexts. When I started my internship, I knew I’d be working with the same youth group I worked with all year, and the same adult Sunday School class I taught many times. I don’t think I started my summer really looking to see those around me as I would if I were getting to know people in a new context. But slowly, people started surprising me as they offered whole new parts of themselves and their faith journey I’d never known were there. Having even just an extra ten weeks to spend ministering with this congregation has proved to me that having the time to spend with people (especially non-school time) is like having eyes to see the beauty of God’s imaginatively unfolding creation. Of course, time alone doesn’t do it; it also takes a fair amount of awkwardness and persistence. But time makes the space. So I’ve added to my list of spiritual disciplines to cultivate; in addition to staying put, I also mean to practice a lack of hurriedness. After all, what important ministry goal could I accomplish apart from knowing, seeing and loving those whom God has made?

I don’t mean to say that other parts of ministry aren’t important. Mostly, I’ve just begun to understand that seeing the people around me, really seeing them, is a constant and daily part of my vocation. It is so much easier for me to plan my Bible studies and classes based on what I think I know about people, what I’ve learned from classes, or what I think would work based on my own experience; but being a religious educator means constantly reshaping my methods in response to those I’m teaching and learning with.

- LauraBeth Jones

LauraBeth is a third year MDiv student, a member of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church, and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.

Jul 15 2011

Different Standards of Growth

This summer 14 Candler students are serving in ministry through Candler Advantage, a paid summer internship in conjunction with Candler’s Contextual Education Program.  Over the course of the summer many of these students will be sharing their experiences here on the blog.

A couple of weeks ago we pulled out all our summer squash plants because they were slowly being killed by vine borers. Our tomatoes are looking diseased. The purple beans are growing well, but they’ve had a few unfortunate encounters with little feet trampling over them. The sweet corn looks promising, and the eggplant and basil are doing great, but there’s only so much you can do with eggplant and basil…

Let’s just say that some of my hopes for an abundant garden at New Life Covenant Church this summer, from which I’d deliver overflowing baskets of produce to local neighbors, aren’t quite being fulfilled. But that’s just fine. Because other hopes which I hadn’t even imagined or articulated are being fulfilled in much more meaningful ways.

My Candler Advantage summer internship is based at New Life Covenant Church, a small, multi-racial church in the English Avenue neighborhood of West Atlanta. The church started close to 20 years ago in a converted crack house. Though their worship space has since changed, they’ve been consistently committed to the well-being of the neighborhood and community around them. In a neighborhood that’s seen the sobering effects of drug dealing, crime, and urban poverty, New Life’s desire to “see God’s shalom experienced in people’s lives and lived out on the streets and in the homes of English Avenue” is an invaluable one.

One way New Life has worked to reveal God’s beauty and shalom has been through the community garden they installed a few years ago. Much of my work this summer has revolved around the garden, taking leadership of its basic maintenance and using it as an educational site for the church’s summer youth program. As I’ve already mentioned, I haven’t managed to coax enough produce out of this garden for all the community meals and vegetable deliveries I had hoped for. But I think it’s for the better. My experience of ministry at New Life, both within and beyond the garden, has pushed me to expand my notions of what “growth” and “success” are.

As a congregation, New Life is definitely on the small end of the spectrum, with about 40-50 members and probably a few less than that attending on any given Sunday. You can imagine that with its size, the church doesn’t necessarily have endless financial resources. Yet although New Life’s membership or checking account may not be growing exponentially, they are a congregation that experiences and facilitates impressive growth. They provide a consistent place of structure, support, and care for neighborhood kids through their after-school and summer youth programs; they strive to bring beauty through regular garden work days and neighborhood clean up efforts; they work to build relationships with their neighbors, and offer what help they can when folks lose their jobs, have a family member put in jail, or are evicted from their apartment. Most of all, they are present and they pray. Many of the members live in the immediate neighborhood and as a result are very aware of different goings on. Concerns are constantly being brought to the larger body, uplifted during bible studies, prayer walks around the neighborhood, and times of prayer before and during Sunday worship.

This steady, locally grounded, committed form of ministry is one I’ve been privileged to participate in this summer. And as I’ve witnessed some of the challenges and blessings of this ministry, some of my own expectations have been re-shaped. It’s really not so much about results as it is about the day-to-day realities of being in relationship. Who cares if our summer squash plants died? The kids had a blast pulling out the plants and squashing the vine borers, and they learned a bit about plant cycles and pests in the meantime. Who cares if basil is one of the only things producing in any abundance? We made pesto grilled cheese sandwiches, the kids learned a little about harvesting and cooking, and one of them even begged to take home the leftover pesto with him. Only one cucumber on the vine? It’s totally worth it when a young boy—living in a tiny boarding house with relatives while his mom is in jail—is incredibly excited to take it home.

It may not be easy to quantify. But we’re spending time with one another, getting our hands dirty and experiencing the joys and challenges of gardening together. It’s ministry. It’s most definitely growth. And it will be an experience that continues to inform and shape whatever ministry I find myself in next.

- Krista Showalter Ehst

Krista is a third year MDiv student from Pennsylvania and a graduate of Goshen College.

Jul 11 2011

The Root Level

This summer 14 Candler students are serving in ministry through Candler Advantage, a paid summer internship in conjunction with Candler’s Contextual Education Program.  Over the course of the summer many of these students will be sharing their experiences here on the blog.

Hello, I am Patrick McLaughlin and I am working this summer through the Candler Advanced Summer Internship program.  My aim is to further explore how the church can be a community health promoter by better understanding the determinants of health that lie in our agriculture communities.  I have spent time with friends and family who are farmers, seed distributors, fertilizer salespeople, ranchers, feedlot operators, ethanol producers to gain their perspective on sustainability, health of people and the land, and life with God.  Check out my video to see how my summer is going and keep an eye out in August for a follow up video!

-Patrick McLaughlin

Patrick is a third year United Methodist MDiv student from Kansas and a Student Ambassador

Jul 8 2011

Sharpening the Prophetic Voice

This summer 14 Candler students are serving in ministry through Candler Advantage, a paid summer internship in conjunction with Candler’s Contextual Education Program.  Over the course of the summer many of these students will be sharing their experiences here on the blog.

I was walking through the Tampa convention center hosting the United Church of Christ’s 28th General Synod last Friday when an elderly gentleman asked me if I knew where he could get some coffee.  We set off in search of liquid caffeine and before I knew it, I was having a cup of joe with Avery Post, former General Minister and President of the UCC (1977-89).  I had just serendipitously wandered into a coffee date with a man whose leadership around racism and justice issues made him a really big deal in our denomination.  It was like a UCC celebrity sighting–I was so jazzed I called my mom and told her about it ASAP.

Amidst all the Six-Degrees-of-UCC connections I made with Rev. Post (it’s a small but mighty denomination, so almost everyone you meet knows someone you already know), I told him that I was about to enter my third year at Candler.  When I mentioned that Jan Love is our dean, Avery’s face lit up—“Oh, Jan!  She and I worked together for years on the World Council of Churches.  She’s brilliant…and may I say, beautiful!”  His passion for ecumenism shined through as he shared fond memories of WCC time spent with Dean Love.

I understood his enthusiasm.  Ecumenism is one reason I came to Candler—there are several excellent UCC-related seminaries out there, but I wanted to attend a school where I would not be in the majority, denominationally or theologically speaking.  And aside from all the good-natured jokes about “Unitarians Considering Christ” and the UCC being the denomination that will take anybody (okay, that part’s true!), I’ve found Candler to be a really rich blend of theological perspectives, faith traditions, and ministry outlooks.  It’s deeply satisfying to dig deep into such a fertile mix of experiences and viewpoints and let them help hone and define your own.

Leah serving commuion to Praxis UCC members.

Leah serving communion to Praxis UCC members and fellow Candler students.

Candler is not only a place where I can practice the vital pastoral skill of dialoguing with people whose views are very different from my own; it’s also a place where I can follow in the footsteps of Rev. Post and try my hand at being a prophetic voice in the mainline church (which is why you’ll see Facebook photos of me participating in Candler’s protest against Westboro Baptist and in support of people of all sexual orientations, or, inspired by Beth Corrie’s class on Teaching Peace in Congregations, wearing sackcloth and ashes to repent for our part in American militarism and war violence).  Classes, professors, and students at Candler have all pushed me to sharpen that prophetic voice and develop those distinctive views.  And the Candler Advantage internship program has allowed me to work full time this summer for Praxis UCC, the new church my husband and I started last year.  That’s also how I was able to attend five days of a denominational conference and make it a key part of my internship—waitressing doesn’t give you that much vacation time!

When I met a fellow UCCer who is matriculating at Candler in the fall for drinks (yes, we drink!) at the young adult clergy group at Synod, I told him how much I love defining my faith in a context where most people don’t think like I do, and how excited I was to be interning with Praxis this summer.  How ecumenism, academic excellence, and on-the-ground ministry experience were what drew me to Candler.  How glad I am to be here.

I certainly needed that cup of coffee on Friday morning—between Praxis’ small group wrapping up its discussion on “ordinary radicals” and catching our flight to Tampa, I’d only slept 4 hours the night before.  So I felt truly grateful for the reinvigorating liquid, but I was also thankful to be able to brush elbows and swap stories with a living legend in the United Church of Christ.  And I recognize with gratitude that it is through Candler’s generosity, hands-on learning style, and ecumenical commitment that I get to dive into experiences like these and really get the most out of them.  Here’s to another year of theological and ministerial adventure—and thanks, Candler!

-Leah Lyman Waldron

Leah is a third year MDiv from Chicago and a graduate of Wellesley College.

Jul 6 2011

A Sustaining Relationship

“Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God…” Ruth 1:16

A few weeks ago, I got to read those words from the pulpit in Cannon Chapel at the wedding of Kate Floyd (’07) and Kyle Tau (‘10). I was one of six women sitting in the front in white albs – women who have gathered before to celebrate occasions like this, who stayed up all night together writing papers at Candler just a few years ago, who have consumed unearthly amounts of chocolate while watching overly dramatic television, who have laughed and cried together to the point of exhaustion, who have gathered yearly since we graduated to re-center and find rest.

At Lane Cotton Winn’s (’07) wedding a couple years ago, the same group of us who walked to the front in white robes were called “The Big Six” by a friend of her family. And so, adding Lane in, one of the names we call ourselves is The Big Seven.

We like to name things, like each other (we all have nicknames). We also take great care to name the occasions in our lives, to mark them intentionally, to set the space and prepare our hearts – to channel our inner MEM (as we are influenced heavily by Mary Elizabeth Moore, who directed the Women in Theology and Ministry program in our day) or our inner BDM (as we create liturgy to bring into our celebrations in classic Barbara Day Miller style). We are, after all, Candler Women, scattered as we may be around the country.

I’m not sure how we became a group exactly. All of these women filtered into my life at different stages of my seminary career. Lane sauntered into the first day of CT501 wearing a pink “Mary is My Homegirl” tshirt, and I knew instantly that we’d be friends. Along with Lane, Kate and Nicole Christopher (’07) were in most of my classes first year and in the WTM program. I remember meeting Anjie Peek Woodworth (’08) first year during our orientation – all confident and cheerful and wearing overalls – but somehow we didn’t get to know each other until second year.

My second year at Candler was also when Sara Pugh (’08) moved into an apartment two floors above mine at the retirement community that had become a Candler outpost. Candace Hirsch (’08) danced in to my life soon after Sara, and they quickly became part of the crowd who usually hung out in my apartment.

We gathered to study, to put off studying, to celebrate being done studying… And in the midst of classes and papers and random adventures around the city, we built strong bonds. Several of us have taken mission trips together, particularly to Lane’s hometown, New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina.  Some of us have traveled to other continents together. And all seven of us have lived with someone else in the group at some point, but Candace takes (and usually bakes) the cake, having lived with four of us.

By my last semester in spring of 2007, our relationships had cemented. We were a group by the time we arrived early in the morning (kind of a big deal for some of us) to Bishops 211 on the first day of Don Salier’s last Public Worship class to scope out the primo seats. And by the time some of us were packing up to move to our respective Conferences and varied ministry settings a couple years later, we decided to be intentional about remaining a group, staying connected, and continuing to be a sounding board and support system even when we unpacked our boxes in different states.

We had our first Sabbath Retreat in the spring of 2008. We’ve had four now, and they follow a pattern. We each spend time sharing about the craziness of our year, the curveballs of ministry and family and relationships. We eat far too much, but it’s all delicious. We stay up until we’re falling asleep, and then we sleep until we wake up. We each create something to remind us of that particular gathering. And we celebrate the milestones in our lives – birthdays, engagements, pregnancy, ordinations…  Although we keep in touch during the year, these Sabbath Retreats are like cramming a year’s worth of in-person friendship into a couple of days.

I can’t fully express what I’ve learned from these women, and what I miss most living so far flung – the empathy and energy that take Candace away from what she may want to do and place her where someone needs her; the care with which Sara attends to every word someone says to her; the precision and insight of Anjie’s questions, opening a conversation wider; the grace and thoughtfulness with which Kate points to deeper systemic issues; the bodaciousness of Lane’s prophetic voice, calling us to think bigger; the glint in Nicole’s eye when she’s just thought of something mischievous and awesome for us to do… and the living room dance parties that ensue whenever we gather together. Sometimes I turn up the music and dance alone on the hardwood in my living room in Miami, channeling Candace’s moves and Sara’s laughter and the presence of these delightful women.

My first year at Candler, I heard the 3rd year students repeat over and over, “It’s all about relationship.” I kept waiting for the class where that phrase would be used. But that lesson wasn’t from a class. For me, that lesson came from the experience of Candler – the willingness of most everyone to be in relationship even when we disagreed vehemently in classes, talking theology wherever we were and whatever we were doing, the closeness of the community, the emphasis on lovingly engaging our brothers and sisters throughout the city and world, and the call to intentional devotion to God.

These friends, and so many others, shared and shaped my time at Candler. The strength of these relationships encourages me as I keep working to build myself a community in Miami, a city with an abundance of tropical fruit and adventure. It’s easy to find people, but difficult to make meaningful connections. But even as I find new friendships, those Candler relationships sustain me knowingly, as we all embrace the adventure that is ministry. Every day I discover something else I don’t know, and I’m still figuring out how to do campus ministry both faithfully and relevantly. The words and love of these women spur me on as I try to convey to my students that it really is all about relationship – our relationship with God and with each other.

Our Sabbath gatherings are like water in a parched land, as we regroup after another year of living out this rigorous call to love and serve.  A few months ago during this year’s Sabbath, I stood in Cannon Chapel with the rest of The Big Seven, and we sang “Blessed Be the Tie That Binds.” And when we part, it really does give me inward pain. But these people are my people, and their God is my God. Where I go, in some way, they go.

- Beth Bostrom

Beth is a 2007 graduate of the Candler School of Theology and currently serves as the chaplain/campus minister/director/goofy lady with the random ideas of the Wesley Foundation at the University of Miami.