Apr 19 2013

Getting Dirty with Theology

Krista transplantingI recently spoke at my former high school’s chapel service on the topic of vocation and faith. I started the chapel by showing the students my e-mail signature lines of recent years. A year ago at this time, I would have signed my e-mail as: Krista Showalter Ehst, MDiv student, Candler School of Theology. Right now, I sign my business e-mails as: Krista Showalter Ehst, Farmer, Valley Run CSA. Quite the jump, right?

Those high schoolers, as well as many other folks who learn about my recent transition may wonder—what’s the connection? Three years of theological education and then…farming?

I’ll admit it. Sometimes when I’m feeding our pigs or collecting eggs, Candler’s classrooms seem a world away. But I don’t, in fact, think that these two pieces of my journey are disjointed. When I consider the recent shift from theological education to farming, I often remember Dean Love’s words at my Candler orientation– “we are,” she reminded us, “called to love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength.” She went on to challenge us to consider the next three years as an opportunity to love and worship God with our minds.  That framework was helpful for my time at Candler, and it’s continued to be helpful in the current season of my life. While farming, I have the chance to worship God with my strength; with the work of my hands and of my body.

Of course, as a good non-dualist, I hope that the activity of my mind and body are connected. While at Candler, in fact, I began to discover the intersections between theology/ministry/biblical studies and the hands-on tasks of caring for our landscapes. Reading Ellen Davis’ Scripture, Culture, Agriculture in Dr. Strawn’s OT class; working on a gardening curriculum for Georgia Interfaith Power & Light during my Candler Advantage experience; taking a directed study with Dr. Ayres on Religious Ed. and Ecology; exploring my tradition’s relationship to rural identity and agriculture through my thesis paper. Each of these experiences helped me to discover that the world of Christian ministry and theological studies need not exclude my passions for sustainable farming and food justice.

But now I’m out of the classroom and into the time of weaving these worlds together on a daily basis. It’s not always easy. Now that I’m away from the context of engaged students, provocative lectures, and assigned readings, it is harder to find folks who share and support my passions. Now that I’m away from the resources of summer internships and an academic community, it’s more of a challenge to explore creative vocational pursuits.

There was a part of me that hoped that by the time I left Candler, all my vocational aspirations would crystallize and come together in some ideal job. For me at least, it’s proving to be much more of a process. I’m farming now. And some days, farming seems totally unrelated to my Candler classes. Other days, the weaving together happens. Sometimes in more explicit ways: when I serve on the board of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light or advise the Mennonite World Conference planning team on how they can make the gathering more “green;” or when I work with a local church to plan a week-long “Peace and the Earth” camp. Other times, it’s in less obvious ways—attempting to nurture the diversity of the Genesis 1 creation poem by cultivating a small, interdependent and diverse farm. Attempting to heed the prophetic call to feed the orphan and the widow and the poor by offering a sliding scale program through our CSA. And then other days, the weaving together happens in dreams—dreaming of the farm as a site for youth and adults to consider their Christian discipleship through the lens of their relationship to land; dreaming of the farm as a site where our local community can find both physical and spiritual nourishment.

For now, though, morning chores beckon and I must go tend to those chickens and pigs. The journey has not been an obvious one. It has not been easy. But I am trying to trust that God is in all facets of the journey, weaving them together in her mysterious ways. And I’m trying to find ways of continuing to cultivate the love of God with all of my being—heart, mind, soul and strength.

- Krista Showalter Ehst

Krista is a 2012 graduate of the Candler School of Theology and is currently a farmer in Pennsylvania.  In addition, she serves on the board of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light and acts as an adviser to the Mennonite World Conference planning team.

Mar 1 2013

A Depth of Expression

The first time I saw the inside of Cannon Chapel was the first day of my orientation. I made a gutsy move in coming to Candler having never visited the school, or even Atlanta before, so after being funneled through check-in I quickly made my way to a seat in the worship space. Knowing the days of endless introductions and getting-to-know-you conversations were beginning, I felt comfort in the familiarity of stillness in a quiet sanctuary.

As I took in the space, I remember appreciating the raw and unfinished characteristics of the natural wood and bare concrete, as well as the seating in the round that gave even the architecture a dynamic quality–an expectation for something new. I don’t remember anything about that first service except the perspective I had from my floor seat near the organ and the distinct expectation that in that place I could expect the Spirit to move.

I chose Candler for many reasons, but their emphasis on student involvement in worship was a top selling point. I imagined, and it proves to be true that the chapel serves as sort of laboratory for students to experiment with different elements and styles of worship. It is a place to try things on, to mix genres, to do something somewhat radical with the expectation that the Spirit will use what we bring, provided it is an authentic gesture pointing to the Word.

This school is ripe with artistic and liturgical gifts. From trained and professional vocalists to seasoned and gifted musicians, plus the added hundred or so robust congregational singers, the musical elements of worship are offerings worthy of the One they praise. Add to that the occasional dramatized reading, non-traditional (read: not-so-cheesy) liturgical dance, or poetic prayer, and the embodied Presence is witnessed among us.

While I am ever challenged by the intellectual prowess of my peers, and grateful for the thoughtful engagement of difficult and problematic theological perspectives, I am also captivated by the artistically pastoral gifts that are selflessly lent to prayer and praise in worship each week. The enlightenment and growth in the classroom seems to spill over into what is offered in worship–adding to the depth of expression and interpretation within that space.

I am only a little over halfway through my time in seminary, but already sense that when I leave it will be our worship together that I miss most. Some of my most treasured and moving experiences on this journey have taken place in that chapel. While seminary can feel overwhelmingly taxing and sometimes even isolating, it is together in worship that I am reminded of our commonality and shared mission as leaders of the Church. It is where I sense most strikingly that when we offer all of ourselves–our gifts and will– to God that we will truly be used for the transformation of the world and the building of the kingdom on earth.

May it be so.

- Darin Arntson

Darin is a second year MDiv student from Southern California, a member of the Candler Liturgical Dancers, 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.

May 9 2008

Candler Exchange

By Guest Blogger Mark Rowland

Time flies as the old adage says, and that has certainly been the case for my time here at Candler School of Theology. I came here last August for one school year on exchange from the UK, where I’m training to be a presbyter (elder in United Methodist Church terms) in the Methodist Church of Great Britain. As I sit here a week away from leaving Atlanta it doesn’t seem long since I stepped off the plane at Hartsfield-Jackson, the Atlanta airport, wondering how anywhere could possibly be so hot!

The UK system works quite differently to the US one and one effect of my coming on the exchange is that I will have spent the three years of my training (1 year discernment and 2 years pre-ordination) in different places. I began in September 2006 in the Urban Theology Unit (UTU) in Sheffield, UK. UTU is a small institution – very small by comparison to Candler – situated in inner-city Sheffield and devoted to study and action in the inner-city context. There’s a strong emphasis on contextual and liberation theologies and being situated in the midst of the context stops you from having any illusions about it.

It was in May 2007 that I heard that I had been accepted as a candidate for ordination and chosen as the exchange student to come to Candler. There was a lot to sort out in the few months between then and when I had to be in Atlanta. The array of forms for Candler, the visa, accommodation and so on; travel plans to sort out, arrangements to be made for my possessions in the UK while I was gone. There were times when I thought that it would just be easier to stay at home.

UTU to Candler was a big shift in many ways, but there were some exciting things in common: context is still an important word and an inclusive ethos is at the heart of what happens. We read some books by familiar authors and the familiar strains of liberation theology began to play, though sounding a little different in the US South to the inner-city of Sheffield, in a large university rather than Edwardian townhouses. There were some new themes too and they make exciting harmonies.

At a time when the Methodist Church back home has been cutting back on spending for training clergy, the resources at Candler present an impressive contrast. There is so much available in terms of people, facilities, equipment and possibilities. Many things are possible here that we cannot do. Training for ministry in this setting presents a lot of exciting opportunities – indeed, far too many for me to be able even to scratch the surface in just one year.

One of the most exciting opportunities at Candler is worship in Cannon Chapel, which is always an inspiration – in the thought that goes into its preparation, in the community coming together in worship as part of its daily life, in the diversity of traditions represented. The group that gathered daily for Morning Prayer was a constant source of support and fellowship. Music has always been a passion for me and singing in the Candler Singers (see our photo to the right) – one of the choirs that assists in worship – has been fantastic. As well as our regular place in the rhythm of worship, we have traveled to various places, from the mountains to the beach to the rodeo! We sing a wide variety of music, reflecting the diversity of our community and the wider church.

I’ve been really interested by the number of different vocational goals and aspirations that students at Candler have: some training for ordination, some for lay ministries, some for work outside the church, some aiming to the academy and some still in discernment. Different routes and stages bring different questions to the task of theology and the broad sweep of perspectives present has opened my mind to other ways of asking theological questions and to new approaches for responding to them.

My winding path continues as I head home for the summer and then to Wesley House in the ancient University city of Cambridge, where I’ll be excited to be joined by two Candler students – the first exchange students in the other direction. The long and winding road of vocational discernment takes me to many places, each different to the last. Candler has been an interesting, stimulating and exciting stop along the way: I go on from it greatly enriched and wondering what will get written on the next page.

Mark Rowland was born and brought up in Aberystwyth, on the west coast of Wales, UK. After graduating from the University of Cambridge in 2003 with a Masters degree in Chemical Engineering, he worked for three years in the field of chemical and pharmaceutical patents. Blown by the wind of the Spirit (or something…), he began training in September 2006 towards ordination as a presbyter in the Methodist Church of Great Britain. He is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Theology and Religious Studies and will be appointed to one or more churches somewhere in the UK beginning in September 2009.

If you are interested theological education through international travel and exchange programs, you should consider Candler a destination for your adventure. We offer a wide variety of travel opportunities for students, and would love to give you more information about them. Please contact us in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at candleradmissions@emory.edu, call us at 404.727.6326, check us out online at www.candler.emory.edu/admissions/ and join the Candler School of Theology Group at www.facebook.com.

May 5 2008

Candler at General Conference

Candler School of Theology at Emory University was well represented at General Conference of The United Methodist Church. General Conference meets every four years, and is the international decision-making body of the denomination. It met from April 23-May 2, 2008 in Fort Worth, TX, and we had members of the Candler community active in all aspects of the conference, from delegates, to singers and dances, to pages and marshals. In fact, Dr. Darryl Stephens, Visiting Assistant Professor of Christian Social Ethics and Acting Director of Methodist Studies, even lead a class of Candler students to General Conference as they got to experience United Methodist polity live and in person.

Check out this photo blog of the journey of the Candler Singers, one of Candler’s choirs, which sings every Tuesday in chapel and represents Candler on tours throughout the school year.

Candler Singers offer back rubs to one another as they warm up for their noonday concert at General Conference on Monday, April 28, 2008.

Liturgical dancer Parker Diggory, Master of Divinity student at Candler School of Theology, dances during morning worship at the 2008 United Methodist General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. Parker is a student at Candler School of Theology. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose. April 26, 2008.

Liturgical dancer Julie Songer dances during morning worship at the 2008 United Methodist General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. Songer is a student at Candler School of Theology. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose. April 26. 2008.

Candler Singers help lead a 120-member student choir, from nearly 30 United Methodist-related schools, on April 28 at the Higher EducationCcelebration Dinner at the Fort Worth Convention Center, site of the 2008 United Methodist General Conference. A UMNS photo by Ronny Perry. April 29, 2008.

Candler Singers lead the procession on to the stage at the Higher Education Celebration Dinner on Monday, April 28, 2008.

Candler Singers and some of Candler’s liturgical dances perform April 28 at the Higher Education Celebration Dinner, along with students from other United Methodist institutions, held at the Fort Worth Convention Center, site of the 2008 United Methodist General Conference. A UMNS photo by Ronny Perry. April 29, 2008.

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 my profile on Facebook (Candler Intern-Theology) and the Candler School of Theology Group at www.facebook.com.

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.

Jan 25 2008

Who'll Be a Witness For My Lord?

Daniel Ogle, Master of Divinity senior, our guest blogger this week, paints a picture of the great diversity of the Candler School of Theology community. As he names the great cloud of witnesses that surround him and continue to encourage him during his time at Candler, there are bound to be individuals that come to mind who have helped you in your discernment process, been supporters along the journey, and have lifted your spirits or your name in prayer. Who are your witnesses? When have you been a witness? Please journey with Daniel as he introduces you to his community of witnesses, pastors, professors, and proclaimers who have made his Candler experience one he will never forget.

One of my favorite moments at Candler is when the Candler Singers, one of our choirs, which sing weekly in chapel, perform the song, “Witness”. The singers ask the question, “Who’ll be a witness for my Lord?,” and then they begin randomly pointing, first at one student, and then at another, and then a faculty member, and another student, and on it goes as they point out the witnesses within our community in a contemporary rendering of the listing of Great Cloud of Witnesses in Hebrews 11.

And although the song can be, and is, sung in many places, I am continually impressed and blessed by the great cloud of witnesses that surround me here at Candler. There are faithful pastors in training like Lance Presley and Julie Songer, who are committed to developing and nurturing believers in the church. We are surrounded by Christian scholars and leaders in waiting like Joshua Ralston and Lauren Henricksen, who show us that discipleship demands our minds. Powerful preachers like Mark Jefferson and Conitras Houston proclaim the Gospel with passion and fire, giving us glimpses of the Kingdom while showing us that what we do matters, and matters greatly. Professors like Brooks Holifield, the C.H. Candler professor of American church history, and Tom Long, the Bandy professor of preaching, and Mary Elizabeth Moore, director of the program for women in theology and ministry and professor of religion and education, witness by combining academic excellence with a profound commitment to the Church. Students like Mary Messara-Redman and Clayton Smith, who juggle school and family while serving as student pastors, show us their faith and commitment by bringing the real life concerns of people in the pews into our community.

Seminary, like the Christian life, is not a solo journey but is a trip that takes a village. These witnesses and so many more like them at Candler have enriched my life and helped me become a more faithful Christian as I have tried to follow Jesus. Who will be a witness for My Lord? Whether in structured classroom discussions, impromptu table talk in Brooks Commons, worship in Cannon Chapel or in service throughout the community, we can proudly say that the great cloud of witnesses is all around us and among us. Thanks be to God.

Daniel Ogle is a third-year Master of Divinity student from Sevierville, Tennessee. He graduated from Wake Forest University in 2001 and should have done so with a minor in religion, but dropped the minor his last semester because he thought, “I’ll never need that again.” Oops. Prior to attending Candler, Daniel analyzed religion on Saturday afternoons by covering the Clemson football team for the Anderson (S.C.) Independent-Mail newspaper. After graduation, he hopes to actually practice religion and help others do so too by serving as an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church.

Would you like to be a witness for a fellow peer in seminary? Are you searching for a cloud of witnesses to support and encourage you in your discernment process? Candler School of Theology is preparing witnesses, pastors, professors, and proclaimers for service in the Church and the world. We want to be part of your journey, and if you would like more information about Candler, please visit our website, email us at candleradmissions@emory.edu, or call us at 404.727.6326. We are also on Facebook, and you are welcome to join the Candler School of Theology Facebook group.