Feb 27 2012

Transitions

Jung Won AnIt’s crazy to think that in a couple of months, I will be facing yet another transition in my life. It seems like only yesterday that I hopped on a plane to fly across the country (literally – from California) to start my graduate education. Personally, coming to Candler was a HUGE decision. In so many ways, it was out of character for me to choose to invest so much time and money into an education that could not guarantee me a set career. And to get up and leave my family, friends and comfort zone to go to the South! What could the South possibly offer me that LA couldn’t? However, I knew that if I chose to ignore the opportunity set before me and refused to take that leap of faith, I would be left wondering “what if…”

Many people have told me that you need to be really intentional about spending time with God in seminary. Doesn’t seem to make much sense right? Shouldn’t it be easier since I will be reading, writing, breathing and living everything God? But it’s true–the academic demand does cause a spiritual disconnect at times. However, my studies here at Candler have also enriched my relationship with God in so many ways. I have been introduced to so many great thinkers, writers, theologians, preachers and the like. The readings that I actually got around to really challenged me to go deeper in my understanding of God and His Word. Similarly, the discussions with which I engaged during classes have also stretched me to look at things in new and different ways. Even though I know that God isn’t calling me vocationally to ministry (whew!), the skills that I have found and honed here at Candler will be an asset wherever I go.

Atlanta Sky

So. Was it worth it? Was it worth getting past my fears and insecurities, of trusting that God will somehow make everything work? Most definitely. This of course does not mean that I have all the answers. Graduation is in 3 months and I still have no answer to where I will be going next. But that leap of faith has brought me to trust in God at a different level. He not only met me here in s-l-o-w Atlanta, but He revealed different parts of Himself to me in the green trees and the curvy one-lane roads and even on the MARTA bus. He answered my prayers for real community and good people in a way that I didn’t think possible. I am astonished at how much God has grown me and stretched me in the past two years. Not only have I learned new things about myself but I have started a journey in finding parts of me that I have lost along the way. To think that I would’ve missed out on all of that…

- Jung Won An

Jung Won is a second year MTS student from Los Angeles, CA and a Student Ambassador.


Feb 21 2012

Thinking Globally with Candler

Patrick and Global Health TeamCandler School of Theology has offered me many opportunities to develop as a pastor.  One of the most formative experiences has been participating in the Emory Global Health Case Competition.  The event, which is funded in part by Candler’s student government the Candler Coordinating Council and other graduate school’s student governments, brings together students from the entire university to compete on teams to propose solutions to a current global health issue.  In one competition we proposed training community health workers and providing farmers subsidies in order to bring relief to the economic and health burdens of tobacco use and production in Gujarat India.  In the other competition we proposed funding food trucks with health food options, community/school gardens, and building capacity around an existing maternal health program to address the issues of childhood obesity in Mexico.  The problems were complex and the teams competing to propose the best solutions found out that solutions were even more complex.

Though neither team that I competed with won the competitions, a few Candler students have been on winning teams and earned the cash prize offered.  Though I am a competitive person this was truly a time when the experience was worth the time investment required to participate.  The interdisciplinary teams were composed of colleagues from the graduate programs in business, law, public health, development practices, theology, medicine, and nursing as well as the college of arts and sciences .  I was randomly assigned to a team in my first competition and was part of a intentionally formed team in my second go round.  In each competition we received the case and background information on a Monday and had until Saturday morning to research, brainstorm, and put together a professional proposal.  On Saturday morning the teams competed against each other with expert judges deciding on the best presentation and navigation of questions following.

In this experience I had my global perspective broadened.  I was able to think about and research how faith based organizations around the world were addressing the issues of people living on the margins.  As a theology student on the team it was often my role to consider people’s responses to programs based on their faith commitments and the overall ethical foundations of our proposed solutions.  Even more importantly I learned how to better communicate with people who have different ways of seeing and interpreting the world.  We all had a different way of talking about justice and health and had to either find a common language or learn each other’s languages in order to effectively communicate our ideas to one another.  I believe this will be an amazing tool for me in the local church as a pastor who believes we should be engaged with community health issues.  Empowering a congregation full of doctors, lawyers, nurses, business women and men, etc. will require knowing how to effectively translate theological themes that inform our involvement, effectively hear what other disciplines have to offer, and then translating that for other members of the congregation who have different vocations all together.

Candler is fertile ground to grow as a student of life and especially as a pastor.  The Global Health Case competition will be one of the things I miss the most about my time at Candler.  There are many other ways to get involved in community health at Candler.  One could do a dual degree with the public health or development programs, go on a trip half way around the world with organizations like International Relief and Development, take courses that introduce the intersection of faith and health, get involved with the Religion and Public Health Collaborative or Interfaith Health Program, or make friends with like minded people from one of the other 6 graduate schools at Emory.  If you are interested in how the church can be involved with community health, then Candler is the school for you.

- Patrick McLaughlin

Patrick is a third year United Methodist MDiv student from Kansas, a member of the Candler Singers, and a Student Ambassador.


Feb 13 2012

Why I’ll Miss Candler

Mia NorthingtonAs graduation quickly approaches, I find myself reflecting fondly on my time spent at this wonderful institution that I have called home for nearly three years now.  While graduations are always exciting, I find myself feeling particularly bitter sweet about this one.  It is difficult to narrow all of the reasons down to only a few paragraphs, but I will do my best to keep it brief.  Below are the reasons why I am forever grateful that I chose Candler and that Candler chose me:

ONE: The Community.  I began my career at Candler with a bit of anxiety – I was three years out of college, and was unsure how I would fit into the mix at Candler.   Immediately, however, I found my niche.  My fears were relieved within the first month as I settled into classes and began developing relationships with my ConEd group.  Again, those in the Admissions Office warmly welcomed me as I began working with the Student Ambassadors each week and was invited on a retreat as a small group leader.  I was amazed with the sense of community that existed within Candler, both among the students, staff, and faculty.

TWO: The Curriculum.  Since I had been removed from school and had not practiced good study habits for a few years, I was very intimidated by the coursework at Candler and feared that I would struggle in maintaining good grades at such a prestigious institution with such renowned scholars as my professors.  Yet again, I was pleasantly surprised with the willingness of the professors to help and even build relationships with the students.  Furthermore, the variety of coursework offered at Candler is truly remarkable.  Classes such as Old and New Testament, History of Christian Thought, and Systematic Theology could challenge my theology.  And I was able to develop practical skills and lifelong knowledge through courses such as Pastoral Care, Empowering Youth for Global Citizenship, and Vocational Discernment.

THREE: The Contextual Education Program.  This internship program, in my opinion, is Candler’s biggest selling point! I was able to cater my ConEd experience both my first and second year to my vocational goal, which involves youth ministry.  My first year, I did ConEd at the United Methodist Children’s Home (UMCH) in Decatur.  So I worked four hours each week with the youth who were living in this group home, sharing meals with them and leading them in Bible studies.  I would then bring my experiences back to my small group, all of who were also doing ConEd at the UMCH, during class each week.  My second year, I chose to work eight hours each week with a large youth group at a UMC in Decatur.  This experience helped to clarify my calling and even offered me a paid job for my third year of seminary.  God is good!  But having these “internship” experiences fulfilled during the academic year, alongside my other coursework, enabled me to apply the things I was learning in the classroom to my ministry.

Mia and friendsFOUR: Summer Opportunities.  Since my ministry internships were completed during the academic year, my summers were free to experience other transformational opportunities.  Among these summer opportunities is the Middle East Travel Seminar (METS), which I applied for and was accepted.  This gave me the opportunity to travel the lands of the Bible with other seminarians for three weeks.  The experiences and relationships that this trip was able to offer me forever changed my life.  My vocational dreams and my personal priorities were made clear and I was able to come home a better person.  Had I chosen a different seminary, I could have missed this once in a lifetime experience.

Ultimately, I could not have found a better match for my three years in seminary.  My life was transformed in my time at Candler and I will forever be grateful for the relationships, courses, and practical ministry experience that I encountered in and through this place.

- Mia Northington

Mia is a 3rd Year MDiv student from Tennessee and a Student Ambassador.


Feb 3 2012

Pilgrim’s Progress…or to the Holy Land and Back Again

pil·grim/ˈpilgrəm/

Noun: a person who journeys, especially a long distance, to some sacred place as an act of  religious devotion.

(Note: not a person who wore a funny hat and traveled on the Mayflower.)

 

Jennifer WyantAlmost three weeks ago, I walked a prayer labyrinth in Nazareth. I was trying to figure out what it meant to be more than just a tourist, more than just a traveler collecting memories for the scrapbook.

I knew how to be on a trip, but what I didn’t know was how to be on a pilgrimage.

I had joked with people before my trip to Israel with the WMEI[1] and 23 other seminarians that I was going to look for stones that Jesus had walked on, but in reality, I didn’t know if I would see any.

You see, seminarians can be a tad bit skeptical. We tend to question most everything we hear. I wanted to hear archaeological evidence on every sight. I wanted proof at every place that this was in fact the place where Jesus had been.

But then our tour guide, Wisam, a Palestinian Christian, spoke to us outside the Church of the Annunciation as we huddled together in the wind:

“It’s not that Jesus might have been here that makes this place holy. Jesus did not come to make stones holy. It’s the people who came here to worship over the centuries that makes this place holy. It’s the people. It’s the worship of God that turns this space into holy ground.”

Pilgrims for centuries had come searching for God in these places. And God had met them here. God had been meeting people here for thousands of years, and that made these places sacred ground.
And as I saw people crowded around the altar at the Garden of Gethsemane or taking the Eucharist in a church in Emmaus, I realized that it wasn’t about whether or not, it was this garden or the next garden over that Jesus physically prayed in or if it was that tomb or another tomb where they laid Jesus, it didn’t matter.

Because ultimately, Jesus wasn’t there anymore; he wasn’t in any of them. He is alive, meeting people on the long road home and in cold crowded churches, making them holy.

And so I went and walked in places where Jesus walked and maybe in some places where he didn’t. I walked around Israeli malls and refugee camps, past border fences and into the Dead Sea, along the Via Delarosa and the Sea of Galilee.

And I wondered what it meant to realize the reality of the resurrection and the gospel of Christ in a place that still knows so much hate and brokenness.

And as I walked around that prayer labyrinth, I realized that above all else,  no matter where following these footsteps led, I wanted to always walk in the places where Jesus walked, whether it be at a Palestinian refugee camp or back here among the halls of the CST[2].

And through all that, somehow I became a pilgrim.

- Jennifer Wyant


[1] World Methodist Evangelism Institute (http://www.wmei.ws/wordpress/)

[2] Candler School of Theology Building

Jennifer is a 2nd year MDiv student from Atlanta, GA and a Student Ambassador.


Feb 1 2012

In the Home Stretch!

A note from someone who only three years ago was anxious even applying to seminary and will celebrate completing the MDiv program feeling enabled and affirmed for ministry in the church in the world. 

Patrick McLaughlinI was completely unsure if I was what seminary was looking for.  I even had an application in for a nursing program thinking I could partially put my biology degree to use and be guaranteed a job upon completion.  Then I got a phone call from the Candler admissions office, the only place I had applied for seminary.  I knew this must be good news as they surely would just send a letter to tell me no.  My intuition was correct; apparently the feeling about my fit at Candler was mutual as they even offered me a generous scholarship from the Sherman foundation.  I figured I would just put on hold my vocational calling into a health field while I discerned what Candler and I had to offer each other.  Little did I know these weren’t two separate vocational callings but just parts of a calling that would be complemented by biblical, theological, historical, and justice courses.  As someone who doesn’t consider themselves a great student, I am living proof that a hard worker with a willingness to learn can be transformed and be successful.  It has not been easy but has by far been the best investment I’ve ever made.

While at Candler I have been inspired by Old and New Testament instructors;  they are intent on making scripture real for students of the word.  Issues of racism and sexuality were common in our small group conversations in addition to learning how to read difficult passages, how to offer pastoral care through scripture, and how to offer a prophetic word to communities for justice.  My history instructors, in real and creative ways, helped me to understand the foundations of the complex paradigm in which we live today.  Finally, my justice oriented classes have prepared me to be a better pastor by giving me assessment tools, a better vocabulary for theological community engagement, and helped me focus on a root cause issue that is relevant to the church.  A consistent quality of instructors at Candler has been that they are focused on preparing future pastors.  Many of them admit that the reason they believe in Candler is because of its mission to prepare pastors.  Instructors also take great care of students who study in our other programs. Although coursework has been a very hard thing for me to find life in, I know that I have been very blessed to have taken so many courses that are of interest to me, even some at Emory outside of Candler.

The summer internships offered to me through Candler were formative.  A summer in Memphis and a summer back in my home conference, which I’d been away from for nearly a decade, offered me intensive opportunities to put into context the pastoral training I had received to that point. Furthermore I was able to flesh out how to raise questions of justice with parties invested in the issues from a multitude of complex angles.  These experiences offered me new insights into the proceeding semester’s classes.  Being able to say in class “this is how this scripture is being read by people on the margins” or, “I saw this particular theme, borne in some ancient thought, alive in the community” makes the theological education I received at Candler very real.

Engaging with student organizations Emory wide and as the president of one has enabled me to learn from other students perspectives and to enable other students to make their theological educations real.   I have been able to think theologically and respond pastorally to issues around global health, the Israel Palestine conflict, homelessness, immigration, and food security.  All of these opportunities have contextualized my education and will make me a better pastor after graduation.

And now here I am, sprinting towards home plate where they will hand me a diploma!  I’m on the road to ordination in the Kansas West Conference of the United Methodist Church where I look forward to one day being a pastor.  I started this journey not knowing anyone and am leaving with lifetime partners in ministry.  I am very thankful that I did not let my anxiety get between me and this amazing experience.

- Patrick McLaughlin

Patrick is a third year United Methodist MDiv student from Kansas, a member of the Candler Singers, and a Student Ambassador.