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.

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 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.

Jan 26 2011

Kevin Murriel on Candler Advantage

New for 2011, each week we will feature a member of the Candler family sharing one of their stories by video.  Our first post is from Kevin Murriel:

Kevin is a third year MDiv student from Mississippi and active in many aspects of the Candler community.

Dec 10 2010

Exploring Vocation through Youth Ministry

As a Candler student myself, I did not identify my calling as youth ministry. Indeed, my interests during my time there focus on historical theology, and this is the area of study in which I pursued my doctorate at Emory University later. Yet, I spent several summers of student years working for the Youth Theological Initiative, a program for high school students in justice-seeking theological education. This “summer job” turned out to be one of the most Jibye Talkingimportant experiences I had at Candler—spiritually, professionally and intellectually. At YTI, I had the opportunity to participate in innovative practices of religious education, learning how to engage in theological reflection with young people that enlivened their imaginations and inspired them to move out into the world to transform it. Living in an ecumenical, diverse community of fellow Candler students, Emory University PhD students, and high school students from around the country, and indeed around the world, I developed insights into the dynamics of race, gender and class, honed skills in teaching, pastoral care, worship planning, and conflict transformation, and came to understand myself better as a teacher and minister. Now that I am on faculty at Candler and serve as the director of YTI, I see how the roots of my professional and personal develop began during these experiences as a Candler student.

YTI Mentor and StudentThose who feel called to working with youth, whether in the local church, in a school or in a non-profit context, can explore this vocation at Candler easily. In addition to working with YTI, students can participate in internships in congregations and organizations in the Atlanta area that provide the space to experiment with new ways of engaging young people in transformative ministry. They can take courses in religious education and participate in research projects that draw on the voices and insights of young people directly. They can even pursue a Certificate in Religious Education with a focus in youth ministry.

Those who feel called to other vocations still have much to gain from the unique youth education resources at Candler, however. At YTI, for example, we are experimenting in interfaith dialogue, innovative worship, and new forms of building community that are invaluable for working with adults as well. We are learning new ways of “doing church” that will enliven the work of all congregational leaders, ordained and lay, senior pastors and youth directors, teachers and ministers.

What are you called to do? Come explore with us!

-Dr. Elizabeth Corrie

Dr. Corrie is Assistant Professor of Youth Education and Peacebuilding and Director of the Youth Theological Initiative at Candler.  Her research interests include theories and practices of nonviolent strategies for social change, the religious roots of violence and nonviolence, international peacebuilding initiatives, and character education and moral development with children and youth. She received her MDiv from Candler in 1996 and PhD from Emory University.

Apr 16 2010

Candler Iron(wo)Man

LauraBeth Jones is a first year MDiv student from Philadelphia, PA. She graduated in 2008 from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Religious Studies. Her favorite things to study at Candler are religious education and Hebrew Bible.  She is currently on track for ordination in the United Methodist Church as a deacon. She hopes to pursue ministry with youth geared towards social justice in the future.

Sep 25 2009

Candler Evangelical Society


Evangelical. What does it mean to be Evangelical? How do Evangelicals view the world, humanity, and salvation through Jesus Christ? Are there “liberal” Evangelicals versus “conservative” Evangelicals? And what’s the difference? So many good questions!

Wrestling with what is means to be Evangelical and how this relates to all one’s relationships and work in the world is a big part of the work of the Candler Evangelical Society (CES). In the United States, there are positive connotations to the “E word,” evangelical.

Ben Gosden is a second-year MDiv Student at Candler and the President of CES. About the CES, Ben writes,

In and through our involvement at Candler we desire to reach out to the community and, hopefully, work to change the skewed view of what being evangelical means. Our view is one of love for ALL people, recognition of all human equality under God, and that salvation through Jesus Christ not only includes us with God in the world to come, but also that we are to work, in and through the Holy Spirit, to establish that world right where we are.

sandwichesThe term “evangelical” is a fairly new invention, considering the 2000 year history of the Christian faith. The term showed up in the middle ages, and only appeared in English in 1531. Given it’s short history, the term has had many definitions and permutations.

Today, Evangelicals are not monolithic, but are multi-faceted. For instance, among other things, the Candler Evangelical Society is committed to challenging the notion that Evangelicals are inactive in the world in terms of works of love and justice. Last week, students from the CES made over 500 sandwiches for the Open Door Community, a Christian ministry to homeless people in Atlanta.

CES has also been active in promoting a panel discussion about people of faith and health care reform that includes professors from Theology, Public Health, and other Emory departments. CES is also set to host Bishop Will Willimon (Candler grad ’73) for a talk in November.

There’s a lot going on at the CES–check out their Facebook Page (search for “Candler Evangelical Society”) and the video below, from their Kickoff Lunch.

So what does “evangelical” mean to you?

Apr 24 2009

Spring in Atlanta: Festivals and Gardens!!!

(music from the Atlanta Dogwood Festival)

There is nothing like springtime gardening and festivals in Atlanta. Winter (well, whatever winter we have—I’m from Chicago. I’m just sayin’). Everything is green, the rains have come, the flowers, dogwoods, and azaleas are blooming, and there is so much to do outside and inside around the city. Last weekend for me was about two great festivals –the Dogwood Festival and the Atlanta Film Festival– and some gardening.

Last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday was the 73rd Annual Atlanta Dogwood Festival. The Dogwood (pictured left in pink, though most dogwood flowers are white) is the unofficial state flower of Georgia (the Cherokee Rose is the Official State Flower; the State Seashell, in case you were wondering, is the Knobbed Whelk). The Festival was back in Piedmont Park this year, after a drought-induced hiatus to the Lenox Mall Parking Lot last year. The weather was gorgeous! I went on Friday, played Frisbee, and walked around to some of the more than 250 artist booths, which were really spectacular. I’m a woodworker, and I was very impressed with the number and quality of wood turning, carving, and furniture booths. I might have to get one for next year…. In 2006, the Artist Market was ranked #16 out of the Top 200 Shows in the Country by Sunshine Artist’s Magazine.

Last weekend was the best weekend so far this year for gardening. On Saturday, before the Atlanta Film Festival, I went to pick up a pick-up truck-full of horse manure! I know, it might sound kinda gross, but this stuff is all natural, totally organic, and better than gold to gardeners and farmers! You can use manure as a top-dressing, mixed into soil directly (do this at least 2-4 months ahead of any planting), or thrown in your compost bin. And it was FREE!

I went to Vogt Riding Academy, located about a mile from the Emory campus. My friend Colin and I had the truck filled in 20 minutes, and they had TONS of free manure. Just go by anytime they’re open (8-5 M-F; 8-3ish on Sat), and they’re happy to help out. They’ll even load your truck for you for free (you should tip the guy five bucks, in my opinion) if you go earlier in the day. Loaded up with horse apples, Colin and I grabbed a cup of coffee at a coffee shop, where they gave us free used coffee grounds for the garden.

We saw Farmer D’s organic garden shop across the street, so we went over and bought some vegetables and herbs to go into the ground. The workers there were friendly and knowledgeable and Farmer D’s website is fantastic. For instance, they’ve got a great video on the process and benefits of composting.

Lastly, The Atlanta Film Festival (AFF) was fantastic. I only caught the Drama Shorts, but there were 183 films total being screened between April 16-25. Since 1977 the AFF has screened early films from directors such as Steven Spielberg, Victor Nunez, Spike Lee, Julie Dash and Robert Rodriguez. The Drama Shorts that I saw were all good, and several were great. They were between 12 and 19 minutes long. I can say that I had previously seen less than five short films in my life. But the shorts were powerful and unlike most Hollywood movies. Three of the six were filmed in Atlanta, with many of the actors, directors, and production people sitting in the theater with me! I particularly like Magellan, the story of a bright and awkward young boy living in a smokestack in Atlanta with his artist father. The festival website says:

Magellan, a scrawny seventh-grade outcast, has a precarious friendship with the popular but insecure girl he walks to and from school with everyday, but that friendship ends at the school boundaries until one day Magellan gathers the courage to ask her to the Spring Dance.

Check out the trailer on the website and go see the movie! It was fantastic! The rest of the The AFF website is very interactive, and most of the films have trailers and/or comments sections. Check out the rest of the Drama Shorts below for descriptions, reviews, and trailers.

Between You And Me | Micah Stansell

Flying Lessons | Janet Grillo

Magellan | Sebastian Davis

Miracle Fish | Luke Doolan

The Capgras Tide | Adam Hutchings

Wheels | Tracy Martin

So the festivals, gardening, and spring have arrived in Atlanta. Sometimes all on the same weekend. You can see why it’s my favorite time of the year!!!

Mar 6 2009

There’s Something ‘Bout the Southland in the Winter/Springtime

I love Atlanta and I love the weather here. Maybe not so much when there’s a snowstorm while trying to coordinate travel for 20 some people flying into town from all over the world, like I did this past Sunday (see healthy snowman, left). But I do love this time of year. Yes, we got our bi-annual snowstorm (anytime there is snow in the air at all= a “storm”), but fear not, next week it’s supposed to be 82 degrees (see snowman carcass, right)!

Though it might seem trite, one of the great things about living in Atlanta is the weather. If you’ve never spent a spring in Atlanta or the South, you might not fully appreciate Emily Saliers’ “Southland in the Springtime,” on the Indigo Girls’ third solo album Nomads, Indians, and Saints. (Incidentally, Emily is daughter of Candler emeritus professor Don Saliers, an amazing musician in his own right. Together they published A Song to Sing, A Life to Live: Reflections on Music as Spiritual Practice in 2004)

This past weekend was cold, but the average high temperature in March in Atlanta is 65°F and the average low is 43°F. Not bad. The daffodils are almost all up, and some of them have already faded. The Bartlett pear trees are in full bloom and everyone should be out in the parks this weekend!

Weather.com had a little piece on March and April in Atlanta. They also have a chart of the monthly highs and lows. Read on and come check out Atlanta this spring. Being a Chicagoan by birth, I can say Yankees (i.e., someone from outside the south, be it Ohio, Oklahoma, or Oregon) are always welcome in Atlanta!

In March and April, Atlanta’s temperatures are pleasant, and the city is awash in the blooms of dogwoods, cherry trees, and azaleas. September and October often bring Indian summers, and the temperate weather can linger as late as mid-November. The short winter is usually fairly moderate.

The New York Post also published a story some time ago about a family from New York City relocating to Atlanta. Great story. You, too, could come down South and live the good life! And it might even snow!