Nov 2 2012

Freedom

MashaunI have always wondered, “If and when I had the chance to do one of these blog posts, what would I talk about exactly?” It may sound somewhat arrogant, but since I arrived at Candler I expected that at some point I would be writing for the Enthused Admissions blog. I just sort of expected it. And don’t get me wrong; I am not saying I sought out this opportunity – not at all. However, I just figured the time would come and when it did, what would I have to say. (Maybe I should shut up now and change the subject).

Anyway, so here we are. And, ummm, what am I going to say? There is so much I could talk about: the fact that it is half way through my next to last semester at Candler; or the fact that it is only early November but feels like it should be mid-April/May; or the experiences of being student body president of a Theology school, at this time, during an election year.

But then I think back to where I am right now in my life and what stands out to me is the importance of freedom. On September 22, 2012 I cut off eight years worth of hair. Yes, you read right. For the past eight years I had been growing my hair in locs. I had the idea many years ago while in undergrad; struggled with whether or not I should do, and how it would make me look; and then grew them out. In all, I have had locs for 10 years – growing them once, cutting and starting over a year later.

They were my claim to fame – my crowning glory (no pun intended). They – my hair – had become a part of me. They were part of my identity, and I had invested a lot of energy, time and money into my hairstyle.

Every month I would get them washed and retwisted. During special occasions in my life, or when I just felt like it, I would have them colored and styled in all sorts of designs on the top of my head. They had become my art piece, my form of expressing whom I thought I was. They had become my centerpiece. And then earlier this year, during the summer, I had this idea – maybe I would cut my hair.

No, no, no. Now wait a minute, Mashaun. What are you talking about? Your hair is your hair. You cannot cut it, is what I had told myself several times. And I was not alone. So many people, when I would tell them I was thinking of cutting my hair, would object as if the hair was theirs.

And then in early September, I was ready. I made up my mind, made the appointment and prepared myself for the experience of no longer having a head full of hair. That early afternoon I grabbed a pair of scissors and cut the hair off myself, one-loc-by-one. Much to my surprise, I did not have the emotional moment many people hard warned me about. I did not get emotional. I did not lose my strength like Samson when Delilah cut his hair.

Now, you may be wondering what does any of this have to do with Candler, theology and the past few years of being here in this space. Well, I am glad you asked. I think being here at Candler has prepared me for this moment in my life. I think my being here at Candler has provided me with not just this academic knowledge, practical ministerial skills, and a network of colleagues and lifelong ministerial friends. This experience has brought me closer to the man God created me to be.  This experience has provided me with a level of freedom I did not expect to have.

I came into Candler kicking and screaming with God. I know what happens in my community – the African American community – to people who become minsters, preachers and spiritual leaders. They are expected to be perfect. They are expected to have all of the answers. They are – well everything is expected of them. And I, if we are being honest, have never been excited about that reality.

However, in this time here at Candler my humanity has been validated, while at the same time my divine right has been affirmed. In this process, I have come closer to God’s Mashaun. I have the clarity and the vision now of who I am called to be, where I am to go into the world, and all of the abilities/gifts/skills I possess that can and will be used by God in God’s kingdom.

Candler freed me. Candler freed me so much so that I no longer needed to hide behind eight years of hair.

It all makes perfect sense now…at least to me!

- Mashaun D Simon

Mashaun is a native of Atlanta, GA, a graduate of Kennesaw State University, president of the Candler Coordinating Council, 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.


May 4 2011

Tim Moore on Candler

This week’s post comes from Candler Coordinating Council President Tim Moore.

Tim is a 2nd year MDiv student at Candler and President of C3. He is originally from Witchita Falls, TX and is a graduate of Hastings College.


Jan 21 2011

Not in Kansas Anymore

Students from all over the world converge at Candler. Each individual brings unique perspectives, passions, and gifts, and Candler offers students boundless opportunities to engage in conversations that generate a passion for further exploration of God’s multi-faceted creation.  When I joined the Candler community it became apparent right away that my theological education would be contextualized by a larger world view; an opportunity with which this small town Kansan was eager to engage.

After arriving at Candler I immediately answered the call to be a conversation partner.  Conversation partners are native English speakers who volunteer to meet with international students once a week.  I was paired with a Korean student who wanted to gain proficiency with his English.  Getting to know Wang has been a highlight of my seminary experience.  Learning about his family, his culture, and how he experiences God has been meaningful and humbling.  It has been meaningful in the sense that he has given me new perspectives into God as a father, a husband, and as a foreigner.  Humbling in the sense that he is very intelligent and has bravely chosen to study theology in English; a difficult enough undertaking in one’s own language.  It is a wonderful gift to me to help him learn to articulate his ideas about life and God in ways that I have never imagined.

One-on-one interactions are not the only way I have interacted with people different than me.  As a class representative on the Candler Coordinating Council, our student governing body, I get to meet with other student leaders on a regular basis to discuss the ways in which we utilize our student funding for programs.  The council also encourages collaboration between organizations and offers several opportunities a year to discuss, in open forum, issues of cultural competency that help our community grow together.

I have also been involved in cross cultural dialog through classes that are cross-listed with other schools at Emory.  Classes with Business, Law, Nursing, and Public Health students have given me the opportunity to hear about issues in the world from a different academic perspective and also to talk about the church in a way that many people often do not experience; one as an active agent for justice.  One of the most fun and intense of the interdisciplinary opportunities available to Candler students is the opportunity to compete in the Global Health Institutes Case competition.  Interdisciplinary teams are formed, given a global health issue and then over a few days analyze, produce, and present a viable solution to the issue.  Not only did I make many friends from other schools, but the lens through which I see issues now incorporates little pieces of their law, health, and entrepreneurial perspectives.

Candler has offered me an authentic world-view-expanding experience. Through individual relationships, participation in Candler student organizations and doing interdisciplinary work, it is clear that I am not in Kansas anymore.  I am looking forward to taking this experience back home so that I can offer a theological lens with a broader world view to the communities I serve.

-Patrick McLaughlin

Patrick is a second year MDiv student from Hutchinson, KS and a Student Ambassador. In addition to his time serving the community, he serves as a class representative to the Candler Coordinating Council, is a Candler Conversation Partner, and is a member of the Candler Singers.


Dec 3 2010

Considering Context at Candler

Recently, I’ve spent some time reflecting on my experience at Candler School of Theology.  One thing that continues to stick out to me about why Candler is a great place for a seminary education is its focus on context.  This context plays itself out in the classroom but also in our city.  Atlanta is an international hub of activity – an urban epicenter – but nestled in an otherwise rural region.   Candler students discern their vocation while serving Church and secular organizations addressing issues like homelessness, immigration, and equal rights among all people.

Context is built into the academic program for most students through Contextual Education; the MDiv degree requires that first year students serve four hours a week in a social service agency and second year students serve eight hours a week in an ecclesial setting.  My first year offered the opportunity to serve at the MUST Ministries in Cobb County.  While serving at MUST I learned a great deal about ministry with those experiencing homelessness.   I remember helping one gentleman with an online job application, and he was more grateful for my help than I expected.  It wasn’t just about being one step closer to a job; it was about overcoming the injustice of getting a job with an unaccommodating application process for those who had the job skills but lacked the computer skills necessary to apply for it.  Furthermore, he told me that he would be able to sleep that night thanks to the peace that came from submitting a job application.  My heart was broken as I considered the few nights of sleep I’d lost worrying about money or finding a job.  How much more stressful it must be to want so badly to work, but not be able to.  I learned quickly to respect those who are experiencing homelessness.  Their ability to survive and cope is admirable amidst a world that often chastises rather than helping them in appropriate ways.  Fortunately, the academic side of ConEd meant that we also had weekly reflection groups to help us process these new experiences and ways of seeing the world through a theological lens. But, the transformation I experienced at MUST made contextual education much more than an academic exercise.

Context is also experienced through voluntary service: a central part of the community life at Candler.  Most student organizations and individuals are highly involved in outside programs that continue to contextualize this education.  Some organizations focus on being in service to those within our community while others focus on issues that are world-wide.  The leaders of student organizations gather every other week to make proposals and allocate student activity fund money to programs that center on justice issues.  One local work day, organized by a fellow justice minded student, offered us the opportunity to get to know each other better, learn some new skills, and to make someone’s holidays a little better by helping them have their own home to celebrate in.  Spending the day on a Habitat for Humanity build with other Candler students reminded me of the conditions of those more immediately around us.  In the past month the Social Concerns Network also raised over $3000 for Haiti.  In one event students from all of Emory were invited to participate in a chili-cook off and students who have served in Haiti presented on the organizations with which they served. The cook-off proceeds then went to support those organizations.  It was great to see so many students from other schools come out and rally around an urgent need.  In another event the community donated hundreds of shoes for a region that has no paved roads, very little electricity, and no public sanitation.  The shoes will help prevent disease and gave the community an opportunity to give to a cause in which they might not have been able to otherwise.  There are often opportunities to be involved like this for local, national, and international causes.  It gives me a lot of hope about our future as the church to work and study with people whose hand is always on the margin.

I am grateful to be in a place that generates so much energy around contextualizing our vocational discernment process.  Whether next door or on the other side of the world, there are a multitude of opportunities to be in service and to experience transformation.  I am hopeful for the future of the church in which I intend to work because of the way I see and experience the preparation Candler offers.

-Patrick McLaughlin

Patrick is a second year MDiv student from Hutchinson, KS and a Student Ambassador. In addition to his time serving the community, he serves as a class representative to the Candler Coordinating Council and is a member of the Candler Singers.


Jan 24 2009

State of the School Address- Spring 2009

On Wednesday of this week, Candler held its 8th annual State of the School conversation. Rev. Cindy Meyer, Assistant Dean of Student Life began the gathering with a prayer by Edward Hayes from his book Prayers for the Servants of God.

Kim Jackson (pictured left), president of the Candler Coordinating Council (C3)—Candler’s umbrella organization overseeing all student groups—engaged the crowd with words to reflect on. She asked students to share the words, thoughts, and feelings that come to mind in relation to certain phrases. For New Building, responses were: ahhhh!, internet, bright, technologically complicated, and paintings (referring to the paintings of John August Swanson whose artwork fills the building); for Chapel, students shared the words: worshipful, creative, involving, and centering; for Student Body, replies were: family, human, amazing, diffuse, spread out, microcosm, and supportive.

Kim shared that as a third-year MDiv student, she is in her final semester, and yet hasn’t checked out. She is nostalgic about her time at Candler, encouraged by many events and happenings in the life of Candler over the past three years. She expressed her admiration and pleasure in things like students joining Emory Club sports teams—teams typically comprised of only undergrads—teams like the swing dance team, weightlifting, Ultimate Frisbee, and water polo. She also reflected on celebrations around the Candler community, such as ordinations and weddings, awards ceremonies, children birthed, fellowships received, books read, and many, many papers and sermons written!

While acknowledging some hard times over the past year, Kim reminded everyone of hope for the future. As C3 President, Kim has worked with Candler staff to have available to students more spiritual and pastoral supports. Additionally, Kim has helped to create a cultural competency and conflict transformation program aimed at helping Candler students get to know their diverse neighbors on a deeper level. The Candler is a microcosm of the diverse Body of Christ and Candler is a great place to learn more about brothers and sisters from different traditions, cultures, countries, and theological viewpoints.

Candler’s Dean, Jan Love (pictured right), shared with the students her reflections on the past year. She has been Dean at Candler for two years, and relates that “the honeymoon definitely is over, but the marriage is still strong!” This past year has held many new and exciting developments at Candler, including our fantastic new building, six new faculty members, the second year of our new curriculum, and four new chaired professors—professors Minor, Petersen, Richey, and Tipton.

Dean Love also shared her excitement about Candler’s strategic initiative to make Candler an even more international place of worship, study, and community. Dr. Jonathan Strom is leading the way towards making more international travel and study opportunities available to Candler students. (For current international opportunities, click here). Pointing out the increasingly global and international nature of the City of Atlanta, Dean Love mentioned that even those students who stay here in the U.S. will experience an increasingly internationalized curriculum in our degree programs to reflect the wide diversity of Christian and non-Christian cultures one encounters every day.

All in all, the gathering was a great start to the new semester, taking stock of where we’ve been as a school and looking forward to what the future holds for us all.


Feb 1 2008

State of the School

Every January, the president of the Candler Coordinating Council (C3) and the dean of Candler School of Theology give a “State of the School” address, which is a time when they discuss the ministry and work the seminary, our student body, and plans for the upcoming year and future of the school. With Dean Jan Love celebrating her first anniversary as dean of Candler School of Theology, a new building in the works, an active student body full of exciting ministry, outreach, and service experiences, and a zealous faculty producing publications by the dozens this year, there was quite a bit to share and celebrate at this year’s address. Bridget Cabrera, the C3 President, offers her vision of the state of Candler in this week’s blog.


Candler School of Theology is in a time of transition. Last year we installed a new dean, started a new curriculum, and broke ground for a new building. Yes, we are in a time of transition.

Candler students are also in a time of transition. I remember my transition to Candler. It was a difficult one. I was a music education major in college so words like exegesis, hermeneutics, and eschatology were new to me. I didn’t know what my professors were talking about. The seemingly endless amount of reading and the quality of writing that was expected of me was also something I was not used to. I will admit my first year was a little overwhelming, and I was a little scared about this transition.

I am sure that others have had similar experiences or fears during their first year of seminary. At times, the life of a seminary student seems like a juggling act. As students, we all transitioned into this place, but that is not where it stops. We continue to grow and change and transition into new understandings and new relationships everyday.

Once I got accustomed to the language and the pace of Candler, I began to get more involved in the community. I started to sing in the Candler Singers, one of our choirs at Candler and began participating in various student organizations. The more I got involved in the life of Candler, the more I grew to love and appreciate this community. And when I talk about the Candler community it extends not only to the students, but also to the faculty and staff as well. We are all a part of this together and we are all transitioning together.

As the Candler Coordinating Council (C3) President, I have had the privilege to see and be involved with a lot of things that most students are not aware of. I see everyday how blessed we students are to be here at Candler. Candler is a seminary that includes students in their committees and wants to hear their voice. In fact, we are included in faculty searches, by having a student representative on the search committee. When faculty candidates are interviewed, students are invited to listen to their lecture, attend a meet-and-greet, and submit comments about the candidates to the search committee. The C3 president also attends the faculty meetings to represent student interests, and there were students were on the curriculum committee that brought us our current curriculum. As you can see, Candler includes your voice and values what you have to say.

The work of the Candler Coordinating Council lies in what the name implies. It leads and supports the Candler community by facilitating the coordination between student organizations and programs and it also gives voice to the student body. Many of you have attended meetings of student organizations or attended a student sponsored event. So far this year Candler students have co-sponsored Habitat Houses; sustained relationships and been in ministry with groups such as Common Ground, an HIV/AIDS outreach center; advocated for the rights of children; educated each other on LGBT issues and concerns; played flag football with other seminaries; and have also found the time to support each other and do our school work. Our community has helped fund new lights for the intramural sports field; the remodeling of the graduate student lounge in the Dobbs University Center; and supported the university wide newspaper, which provides free copies of the New York Times, USA Today, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The Emory Student Government Association (SGA), along with the other nine graduate divisions, are making positive steps to ensure that our voice is heard. And that was only last semester!

Yes, we at Candler are in transition. We students have our hopes and our fears about the various transitions in our community and in our personal lives. The great thing about all of this is that we are not alone. We have, as Dr. Luther Smith, professor of church and community, preached in Cannon Chapel for MLK day and that Daniel Ogle blogged about last week, a whole cloud of witnesses. As we look forward to this semester and the coming year, let us all work together to continue this work for our beloved community that we call Candler.

Bridget Cabrera is from Enterprise, AL. She graduated in 2005 from The University of Alabama with a B.S. in Music Education. She is a member of the North Alabama Conference and is seeking ordination as an elder in the United Methodist Church.

If you are interested in learning more about Candler School of Theology to see first hand all these exciting opportunities Bridget mentioned, makes plans to visit campus, meet with an admissions advisor, attend chapel and a class, and have lunch with current students. For more information about Candler School of Theology, visit our website at www.candler.emory.edu, or email the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at candleradmissions@emory.edu. In addition, you can call us at 404.727.6326, or learn more about the admissions process at Candler by clicking here. Look for our Admissions Office Intern’s profile on Facebook (Candler Intern-Theology) and the Candler School of Theology Group at www.facebook.com.