During my last Thanksgiving at Candler and as I approach graduation in May, I couldn’t help but think of the diverse communities of friends that have touched me and shaped me during my time here. My first year, I had the opportunity to travel to Dallas, Texas as a small group leader for Exploration 2009. Through this trip, I became connected to all of the staff in the financial aid and registrar office, as well as some other student leaders within Candler. Despite the fact that I knew no one on the trip prior to arriving at the airport, we were instant friends only a few hours into our weekend together. We remained friends through the time that they graduated (as I was the youngest one on the trip), and still have lunch dates to this day! Furthermore, I became involved with the Student Ambassador Program, which provided yet another community within which I found great friends and support.
Another community that fully embraced me in my first year was my Contextual Education (ConEd) community. The group of seven of us who worked four hours each week at the United Methodist Children’s Home was pretty much inseparable. We shared “brother/sister”-type relationships with one another and had an incredible chemistry. By the end of our first year, we were truly family to one another – we laughed together, cried together, and supported one another free of judgment, no matter what the situation. We truly carried one another through a year full of both trials and celebrations.
I was anxious entering second year, because I knew that the people in my ConEd group would change and I would not see those from my first year group as much as we had the year before. What did I have to fear, though? Yet again, I grew incredibly close to a whole new group of people, while maintaining my previous friendships. That year, we worked eight hours each week in an ecclesial setting. I began to really wrestle with whether or not I wanted to continue with ordination in the UMC. Hesitant to share these doubts with many others, my ConEd group embraced me and provided a safe space for me to continue my discernment process. They challenged me as to what I would have to lose should I not follow through in the process, as well as what the Church could lose if I were to give up. Having help in thinking through some of these things was really beneficial for me, and formational in my ministry.
Finally, outside of the small groups I was placed in as a result of my coursework, I developed a strong friendship with a group of five girls that I have no doubt will be lifelong friends. During the stresses of second year, we became close, realizing we shared a lot of things in common as well as a similar sense of humor. We spend a lot of time together both inside and outside of classes. I have truly been greeted with open arms by each and every group I came into contact with at Candler. I firmly believe that there is a wonderful and affirming place for everyone within this community. I have no doubt that each individual who passes through this special place is touched and transformed in a way that will positively impact the future of their ministry, whether it be inside or outside the church, and for that I am very thankful.
- Mia Northington
Mia is a 3rd Year MDiv student from Tennessee and a Student Ambassador.