Aug 27 2013

Something Interesting

“Tell us your name, and something interesting you did this summer,” instructed my August term professor on our first day of class. I had encountered the all too familiar first day of class introduction cue numerous times, but this time it was different. Unlike previous first days, I did not have to work very hard to conjure up interesting or exciting memories from a less than exciting summer. Considering the time constraints of the brief introductions, I asked myself, “Which one should I choose?”

I will never forget Summer 2013. My mind, ministry, and imagination were stretched like never before. For three weeks, I traveled with the Middle East Travel Seminar (METS) to Israel, Jordan, and Greece.  Although I had traveled abroad prior to METS, exploring the lands and cultures that shaped Judaism and Christianity was more enriching than any previous travel. My time traveling with METS was filled with unforgettable moments including dancing with Bedouins in a desert camp, leading an international group of Christians in song in Jerusalem, and standing atop Mt. Nebo with a breathtaking view of the Promised Land. Without doubt, these details would have made an interesting introduction.

Mario at Parthenon

Following METS, I was privileged to teach a Bible and Leadership class at Camp Summer Hope hosted by Emmaus House Episcopal Church in Atlanta’s Peoplestown. This would have been a fitting introduction for the class: Teaching the Bible. I could have shared with my classmates some of the challenges of teaching the Bible, and anything else for that matter, to grades 3-5. Teaching in an urban classroom after METS grounded me in real ministry “lest I should be exalted beyond measure.” After attempting to share the Good News with a group of middle schoolers, who some most days couldn’t care less, I could tell my classmates how I was reminded of God’s grace and patience in my own life.

I could also share my experiences working with Candler’s own Dr. Greg Ellison. My small group, led by Dr. Ellison, planned and hosted a community conversation on ways every citizen can address the issues facing young black males. The event, held at Candler, featured music, group discussions, and Dr. Ellison’s stirring call to action. A careful blend of tent revival and community forum, the event provided for me a model of ministry with a social conscience.  (For more about “Fearless Dialogues” click here.)

While my classmates and other people that I will meet may not have the time or patience for me to elaborate on all the details of this transformative summer, I am certain that its effects will be evident in how I minister, the ways I engage my community, and in how I view myself in the world.

–Mario Stephens

Mario Stephens, a native Atlantan, is a third-year MDiv student at the Candler School of Theology. Mario is a graduate of Morehouse College. He currently serves as interim pastor of New Generation Baptist Church.

Photo captions: Mario on Nebo (top right); At the Parthenon (middle left).


Aug 20 2013

Under Construction: Tearing Down and Building Up

Tiffany CopperThe most popular Candler hangout spots these days are the 3rd through 5th floor lobbies looking down onto the construction site below. Every day without fail you can find a combination of faculty, students, and staff huddled around the window looking down into the site completely mesmerized by the process occurring in front them. There is something about watching a building being torn down and another one being erected that fascinates the human imagination. So much goes into the process of construction—destroying the old, clearing the site, pouring the foundation, anchoring the supports, building the new. It literally takes a village of workers to make the whole process occur. To theological minds, there is so much that you can do with this analogy.

Like my colleagues, all summer long I have been enthralled by the work of construction occurring around me. As the 2013 Candler Orientation Coordinator, I have found it interesting how similar the process of planning Orientation has been to the process of construction occurring below. With Orientation, you have to dissect the project into smaller manageable pieces, clear away those pieces that no longer belong and begin to build a new foundation for what is yet to come. It takes work—lots of work! And, the process could not occur without the help of countless people.

Reflecting back over the journey, on the eve of Orientation, I have come to realize that there are several lessons that I have gained from this experience. First, the process of constructing anything of substance, whether it be a building, an event or one’s own spiritual foundation, can be REAL MESSY. In the in-between stages of tearing down the old and erecting the new you have to be willing to get dirty. It is hard to do any real work without being willing to dig deep and entrench one’s hands in the dirt. The dirt, while it may not be pleasant to deal with, is a necessary part of the journey. The process can also feel REAL CHAOTIC with so much activity happening on the site all at one time. With the drilling, digging, hammering, and lifting it sometimes feels like there is more disorder than order occurring. But, the chaos only feels like disorder to those who are not aware of the builder’s plan. If you are willing to stick through the process to the end you will quickly discover that the chaos is actually organized and is heading somewhere. Construction also involves REAL TRANSFORMATION. It’s amazing how with a little help something old can be transformed into something brand new. It’s difficult to remain static when there is change occurring all around you.

The Orientation team chose the theme, “Under Construction: Tearing Down and Building Up,” for all of these reasons. It’s our hope that as incoming students embark upon this new journey that they will be willing to participate in the process of construction occurring within themselves. Theological education involves a lot of tearing down and building up. It can definitely feel real messy and chaotic sometimes. But, the beauty of the entire process is that if you stick with it to the end you can build something substantial.

–Tiffany Cooper

 Tiffany is the 2013 Candler Orientation Coordinator. She graduated from Candler with an MDiv degree in May 2013 after serving in the Office of Student Programming as a Student Life Coordinator. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, she attended Cincinnati Christian University before moving to Atlanta.


Aug 16 2013

International Exchange: Visitor and Host

Haley at Morumbi

Gol! Haley at Morumbi Stadium

With my blue plastic Candler name tag affixed, flight numbers noted, and umbrellas packed, I drove to the airport ready to greet the newest Candler student. An airplane landed as a taxi driver cut me off from the hourly parker entrance. I walked into Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport reliving my own arrival flight to a new semester, new country, new university, and new language.

A smile spread across my face as I remembered my hand clasping the Portuguese-English dictionary disembarking the plane and reluctantly releasing the book it to accept the handshake greeting Demétrio offered me at the arrival gate. Equipped with name badge, smile, and delightfully slow, articulate Portuguese, Demetrio welcomed me to Brazil, to Methodist University of São Paulo, and to an unforgettable part of my Candler journey. Refugee advocate and author, Mary Pipher calls this role a “cultural broker,” explaining they are the ones who “help ease people into each other’s cultures”. (The Middle of Everywhere: Helping Refugees Enter the American Community, Orlando, Harcourt (2002), 89.) Demétrio’s hospitality and grace at the threshold of my study abroad semester ushered me into the vivacious seminary community of Methodist University.

Haley dictionaryWith soccer matches, discussions of liberation theology as compared to Pentecostal theology, ever-present coffee, and an array of church visits behind me, it is my turn to do the welcoming. Hoping to practice the encouraging hospitality I received, I have and am currently working in the Office of Student Programming this summer to assist the incoming international and exchange students in their transitions to Candler. My summer has been filled with flight schedules, good questions, shuttle routes, and emails.

Haley, rodrigo, margarida

Rodrigo dos Santos and Prof. Margarida Ribeiro with Haley in Atlanta

Reflecting on the many welcomes that gave me the courage to ask challenging questions, to seek the wisdom and experiences of my Brazilian colleagues, and to knock on the doors of those friends, I pray that here at Candler we each continue to build relationships with people whose experiences are different from our own. May we each grow towards the image of Christ that resides in each “stranger.”  I am grateful for the adventure helping to ease the transition into the culture here at Candler, the South, and the United States. I thank God for the rich diversity of cultures represented at Candler as we each learn a bit about each other as we journey together asking, knocking, and searching for the Kingdom of God.

–Haley Mills

Haley is a third-year MDiv student at Candler. An Alabama native, last year Haley was a Luce Fellow through Candler’s exchange program with the Methodist University of São Paulo, Brazil.


Aug 13 2013

Where the Wild Goose People Go

“Why the Wild Goose Festival?” the reporter asked me.

He was a freelance journalist working both for the local newspaper and The United Methodist Reporter, an independent news site that covers the denomination. He wanted to know what Candler, as a United Methodist institution, thought about the festival. Why was it important for Candler to be there?

As I thought about my answer, a lot of ideas ran through my mind.

First, I thought about Candler and the students in my own cohort. In many ways we’re “Wild Goose People.” My classmates are creative folk, passionate about the arts and anxious to pour their creativity into everything they do, whether in the classroom or in the chapel–music, dance and the visual arts are prominent in the life and worship of the Candler Community.

Karen Slappey

My classmates are also prophetic and compassionate. They are wrestling with the world, seeking God and striving to create a culture that does justice and loves mercy. Social justice isn’t just a commitment at Candler. It’s a value deeply rooted in the United Methodist heritage of Emory University and the Wesleyan tradition of social holiness. Wesleyan theology teaches that living the Gospel means living in and working to transform society. John Wesley defined salvation as a recovering of the divine nature endowed by God in the creation of humankind. The fruit of that restoration is, as Wesley put it, “true holiness in justice, mercy and truth.”

eARThSo why would Candler attend an event like Wild Goose? Well, “Wild Goose People” hold the values we do: creativity, passion and a fervent heart for restoring society through ministry, worship and community. And it’s important for pastors-in-training like myself to meet and hear from other like-minded people. It’s these kind of connections that make an event like Wild Goose an invaluable experience for those who attend year after year.

Candler participates in festivals, conferences and other events throughout the year. And the reason we do is not only to meet and connect with alumni and potential students; we also go to drink deeply from the community well, to cement our connection to the larger Church and to remind ourselves that the shared life we are creating at Candler is one tile in a bright and beautiful mosaic that covers the world.

–Timothy Hankins

Timothy is a second year MDiv student at Candler from Knoxville, TN. He coordinated Emory/Candler’s exhibit table at the 2013 Wild Goose Festival in Hot Springs, NC. In September he begins his appointment as the pastor of St. Stephen United Methodist Church in Marietta, GA.

Photo captions: Timothy at the Real table; Candler student Karen Slappey meets presenter Nadia Bolz-Weber; Cool art shirt; fellow student Sara Relaford.