Jun 26 2012

“I just wanna be a sheep, baa baa baa baa…”

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.

After a week of Vacation Bible School at Kirkwood United Church of Christ, I catch myself every so often singing this little song and very nearly doing the hand motions that go with it. It has been a joy to play, read and act out stories, and sing alongside nearly 30 children as we went on a “Journey With Jesus” this past week, traveling from place to place as we (re)discovered some of the great stories of Jesus’ life.

Spending time with all of the VBS participants and volunteers has been just one of the many gifts that I’ve received from participating in the Candler Advantage program this summer. Whereas I worked 4 hours a week at my Con Ed I site, and 8 hours at my Con Ed II site (which was also Kirkwood UCC), I’m expected to work full-time (40 hours a week) this summer as a part of the program, allowing me to truly get a sense of what this vocation is all about. From finance and fundraising meetings, to choir, to early morning worship, to preaching, and to Soup Saturday community meals, I have begun to see the broader picture of the life of our community in ways that were nearly impossible with a full-time academic course load.

Something that was a little unexpected but turned out to be a great adventure was the chance to attend the annual meeting of the Southeast Conference of the UCC in Birmingham, Alabama. There I attended workshops on social networking and creating a culture of call, and had the opportunity to see how the polity of the UCC works, especially in comparison to the tradition I grew up in, the United Methodist Church. The most exciting thing about this trip was seeing the many ways that God moves in the world. Meeting people from Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia, I was able to hear and witness the diverse ways people are responding to God’s call on their lives – whether its starting a new church, liturgical dance teams, recovery ministries, LGBTQ outreach, or being a community of faith for over a hundred years. I’m hoping that throughout the rest of this summer I will continue in this same spirit, ministering to and being ministered by the Kirkwood UCC community, and witnessing the many ways that God continues to speak to us here and now.

- Mayjean Deam

Mayjean is a rising third year MDiv student from Virginia and a graduate of Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, VA.


Jun 19 2012

Ministry Immersion: Kathy Brockman on Candler Advantage

Today begins week 4 of our ten-week internships for Candler Advantage.  What a privilege and gift this has been for me and for my journey in ministry.   My initial hopes and goals for this summer included immersion in the day-to-day activities of the church.  I can tell you that in the last three weeks, I have experienced a total and complete immersion!

I am spending my summer on staff at Brookhaven United Methodist Church, located a little more than 5 miles from the Emory campus.  This is a mid-sized church (about 70 people attend Sunday worship) located in a diverse neighborhood.  The church has a daycare center that operates during the week and fills my days with the sounds of life -laughter, singing, excited voices and, yes, even a few tears and occasional screams.

A significant ministry of this church includes an outreach to the recovery community.  This community includes those who are in recovery programs for alcohol and substance abuse.  Brookhaven UMC has a local pastor on staff whose main responsibility is to minister to those who are in recovery.  His story is that of alcohol and drug abuse and the completion of his own recovery program.  He is not shy about telling his story to the community and sharing his acceptance of Jesus and his belief in God.  We celebrated his 11th birthday last week – 11 years of sobriety.  He is a truly a blessing to the church and the community and to all who know him.  His ministry includes once a week meetings for those in recovery using a Bible specifically for those in recovery, titled The Life Recovery Bible.  He also oversees the transportation of those in recovery who want to attend worship on Sunday mornings to be brought in for Sunday School and worship.  Twice a month, a Saturday night worship and fellowship event for those in recovery is held at the church.  A short, casual worship service including communion is followed by a meal of hotdogs (always!) and a rousing game of BINGO.  Everyone leaves Soulful Saturday with a prize – practical prizes including toothbrushes, shaving cream or maybe a box of Little Debbie cookies for those who just want a junk food snack.  On Monday evenings, the recovery community is brought to the Clothing Closet housed in the church and the participants (almost completely men) are allowed to pick out clothing, socks and, if they’re lucky, shoes.  These are all items that have been donated by the community.  This is a wonderful outreach to those who are one step away from homelessness as Pastor Don describes them.

The senior pastor of this church is the only full-time employee.  Her job includes anything and everything that needs to be done.  From picking up elderly members for worship on Sunday morning to delivering a provocative sermon series on the fruits of the spirit to sharing communion, Pastor Sara does it all.  She is a wonderful role model and is always open to my questions and reflections on the reasons why she does things the way she does.

It’s been three full weeks of total immersion in the life of a mid-size church.  What have I experienced so far?  I’ve been welcomed by the community in various ways – some more warmly than others and I imagine that is the way a new pastor must feel when going into a church the first time.  I’ve had the wonderful experience of leading the Monday morning chapel service for the daycare children and singing This Little Light of Mine with the sweetest voices you can imagine.  I’ve served dessert to the recovery community at Soulful Saturday and played a little BINGO.  I’ve watched grown men rejoice at the prize of a new razor or a tube of toothpaste. I’ve taken an elderly couple to the emergency room and listened to their life stories while they waited to be seen by a doctor. I’ve had the pleasure of planning worship with a creative and open Senior Pastor. I’ve taught children’s Sunday School, eaten lunch with the younger adults, and visited members in the hospital. What have I learned in these three short weeks? I have learned that this is indeed my calling in life and as hard as some of it may be, it has nourished and challenged me to grow in ways that I had never considered in the past.

If any of you are considering spending your summer interning next year through Candler Advantage, I can not recommend it enough.  Your life and your ministry will never be quite the same.

-  Kathy Brockman

Kathy is a rising third year MDiv Student from Georgia.

 


Jun 11 2012

What’s in a Name?

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.

As my friend Jonathan explained in the previous post, we are part of the Candler Advantage program this summer. My placement is at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, a church that has a strong connection with Candler and has hosted Contextual Education 1 and 2 students. It is a mission of the Episcopal Church, meaning it is not a regular congregation (whatever regular means). Most of the people who fill the pews on Sundays and who are involved in church activities throughout the week are adults with mental illness. They live in group homes or are homeless, some also suffer from various addiction issues. It isn’t a “regular” congregation because the members do not support the church financially but congregants are very much a part of nearly every aspect of church life. Holy Comforter also has a day-program called The Friendship Center that has opportunities for all kinds of art projects and two meals twice a week.

I chose Holy Comforter despite not being Episcopalian (I grew up in and also attend a United Church of Christ congregation) and despite having no experience with caring for and working with people with mental illness. I knew that this would be a challenge for me, but I had seen so many of my Candler colleagues fall in love with Holy Comforter, so I wanted in on it. I was still a little nervous as I began coming to worship services and meals, slowly learning people’s names and learning the songs and responses of the liturgy.

The people of my new congregation were not people I normally encountered in my day-to-day life, I would sometimes see people like them in a grocery store or maybe a fast food place but would try and discreetly avoid their gaze and perhaps offer a wan smile if I accidentally made eye contact. I was simply uncomfortable in their presence, unsure of how to interact with them and unsure of what my responsibility was to respond to their mumbling or confusing speech. I knew Jesus wanted me to be with “the least of these,” even if it made me uneasy. I knew this in my head but I still had no idea what it really might mean, or even how condescending that bumper sticker theology might be.

One of the deacons at Holy Comforter asked me how I was feeling after my first few days, if I was beginning to feel more at ease. I nodded, actually unsure of how comfortable I was feeling. He said, “Good, you know Holy Comforter is a place you can really be yourself. It is a place of rest, a place of acceptance.” I realized I had been looking at Holy Comforter too much like my own personal mission to comfort the afflicted. I was focused on caring for people; of responsibly saying the right thing after someone had just told be they were in fact married to a famous celebrity. I had not opened myself up to receive the respite this unique congregation had to offer. I did not have to worry about judgment if I did something wrong in the liturgy or sang off key. I did not have to worry if people would want to talk to me. I didn’t have to worry about my painting looking amateurish- I could just paint.

Holy Comforter is an aptly named church. It is a place that everyone and anyone can go to be welcomed, fed, loved, and respected with an honesty that I do not encounter in many other places in my life. Although it is still an adjustment for me to be with the congregation and I still find myself second-guessing things I do and sometimes catch myself feeling particularly saintly for helping someone with a walker, I have started to open up myself to the rest, freedom, and acceptance at Holy Comforter.

- Megan Worthman

Megan is a rising third year MDiv student and a graduate of Hastings College in Hastings, NE.


Jun 5 2012

Finding Deeper Meaning

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.

Jonathan teachingOver the summer, I am working in a local church setting through the Candler Advantage Summer Internship program. This program, in which rising third-year students engage in full-time supervised ministry for ten weeks during the summer, presents a number of opportunities for me. One of these is to preach on a fairly regular basis. With this role, I have been preparing an upcoming sermon for a set of lectionary readings that includes Mark 3:31-35. In the NRSV, this short passage is entitled, “The True Kindred of Jesus,” but I have found that a title such as “Jesus Rethinks Family” would be just as appropriate. Through the words of Jesus, Mark communicates that it is not simply one’s biological relationships, but whether or not one “does the will of God,” that defines who one’s brothers, sisters, and mothers are. I am sure this passage challenged the notions of family of Mark’s earliest readers, as it does ours today.

Just as this short passage challenges us to think anew of what it means to be family, my time at Candler has challenged me to view faith, scripture, ministry, and a host of other subjects in new and meaningful ways. I would like to briefly share some of the ways some of these understandings have changed during my time at Candler.

I still say, as I did before coming to Candler, that scripture is the “word of God,” but I now have new, much richer, understandings of what I mean when I say that. In scripture, we hear a chorus of witnesses, from over the course of centuries, who have sought to express encounters with God. Each word of scripture has been written in a particular historical setting to a particular audience, yet these words still speak to us today.

Similarly, my Candler education has deepened the meaning of “faith” for me. Faith is no longer merely belief, i.e. intellectual assent to a proposition. Faith involves trust, whether belief is possible or not. Perhaps most importantly, faith involves living faithfully.

Jonathan at ConEdIn seeking to live faithfully along with others at Candler who seek to do the same, ministry has taken on new layers of meaning as well. When I first came to Candler, I saw ordained ministry as primarily involving preaching, with a number of other responsibilities such as pastoral care, administration, and outreach. While I still see each of these as significant components of ordained ministry, I now have a better understanding of how I am called to live out each of these aspects of ministry. Through my contextual education experience, I have seen that ministry involves formation through practices that shape us and give us identity, such as the reading of scripture and participation in the sacraments. However, ministry also involves formation through activities that stretch congregations out of their comfort zone, such as interfaith dialogue, outreach to members of the local community, and programs that teach and encourage faithful environmental stewardship.

Finally, Candler has challenged me to think through what the word “education” means. Certainly, education has occurred in the classroom. However, learning has also taken place in conversations with other Candler students outside of class time. Connections between academic coursework and people’s concrete circumstances have been made through Contextual Education I and II site work. As much as I learned about United Methodist polity in class at Candler, much more was gained simply by travelling to General Conference with other Candler students and professors this past April. Education, like these other things, has taken on a deeper meaning through my experiences at Candler. It is my hope and prayer that by being challenged to think through theology and practices in new and fresh ways, we will all come to new appreciations of what it means to live faithfully in our own time.

- Jonathan Harris

Jonathan is a rising third year MDiv student and a graduate of Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC.