May 10 2013

Mother’s Day!

Stacey HarwellSo I am preaching this Mother’s Day, and I find myself deeply relying on my Candler education as I prepare for this sermon.  By the time you read this, I hopefully will have crafted a sermon that has toed the line between celebrating all the wonderful mothers in the world and yet recognizes that this can be a painful day for some. One of the best things my Candler education offered was awareness of two things: 1) those on the margin with whom Jesus spent a lot of time, and 2) critical re-readings of the Bible.

In my job as Minister of Community Building at Centenary United Methodist Church, I minister with many folks who may have difficulty with Mother’s Day. Many of them come from one parent (most often mom) homes, and their mothers have done the best they can, but between working multiple jobs – to make ends meet while trying to pay the stack of bills that never will seem to go down – these mothers are stressed to the max. Some of the folks I’m in ministry with in my community have been abused by their mothers. Others are mothers who have abused their own children. Within the context of my 11 o’clock congregation, we’ve recently had one woman lose a child shortly after childbirth, another who had a miscarriage, and still others who have tried fertility treatments for years with no luck.  Some folks have children who have run away, others have children who are addicted to substances, and others will have children who will spend this Mother’s day behind bars. And then still further, we have couples who have decided not to have children for many good reasons.   These persons or some representation of all of these types and more, will come to service this Sunday.  When I rise to preach, all of them will be in my mind.  I was well-taught to think about the whole congregation, not just the ones part of whatever “normal” might look like.

When I go to my text on the creation of humanity (Genesis 1:26-31) I will remember this lesson. Fraught with misinterpretation, I will have to use all of my Candler tools to help save this text from where we most often find it at churches.  Instead of deciding whether it’s history or myth, and making a judgment call on my Christianity either way, we will approach it as a proclamation narrative of a creator who created us on purpose, whose work in creation we continue whether we are mothers or not.  Instead of focusing on the sin and fall, we will look at the “very good” imago dei and explore for a minute together in our community of faith what that might look like and what it might call us to do.

Because I want this to come out right, in a way that allows people to really hear what God has revealed in the text of this ancient sacred story in our lives today, I will rely on the many things I learned about preaching and worship planning, weaving the sung salute to God with the prayed petition of God’s people and the spoken sermon. I work closely with a worship team at Centenary to make sure the songs, prayers, and litanies reflect the context and content of the sermon. This idea of nurture from the imago dei is important. We need to get this right.

Then on Monday, I will go back to the Monday-Thursday job I have of figuring out how to find echoes of God’s Eden in our world – to be part of the restoration of the world to God’s shalom for mothers, fathers, and children the world over.  Part of that work will be pastoral care for those who have had difficulties with their mothers. Part of the work will be the joy of visiting a newborn baby in the hospital or the anticipation of life at a congregant’s baby shower.

We could just say Happy Mother’s Day on Sunday. But because of God’s work in my life, I will have to say so much more.

-Stacey Harwell

Stacey is Minister of Community Building at Centenary United Methodist Church in Macon, GA and a 2010 MDiv graduate of Candler School of Theology.  You can read more about Stacey’s work at Centenary in the most recent Candler Connection.

Dec 17 2010

An Intentional Forum for Women’s Voices

While Candler students are on Christmas break we are highlighting a number of people, places, and organizations that help to make the Candler community such a powerful place in which to prepare for a life of service to the church and the world.  This week we feature the Candler Women.

Candler Women is a student organization committed to empowering and equipping women to faithfully lead and serve global communities. Candler Women’s meetings and other events provide the opportunity for women of all backgrounds, ages and concerns to come together for fellowship and to dialogue.  Our most recent activities have included the 100 Women at Candler Luncheon and Dialogue, Candler Women Arts Exhibit, Celebrating Our Stories Book Project, Karaoke Night, Self-Care Day, Survival Tips for Seminary luncheon and the formation the Candler Women Sacred Spaces.

Candle Women won the Emory University Campus Life Outstanding Student Organization Event 2009-2010 for the 100 Women at Candler Luncheon and Dialogue   The event exceeded our expectations and create a space for food, friends, fellowship and a forum for women’s voices.  The proposition that women of all backgrounds, ages and concerns could come together with a collective voice to dialogue about call, purpose and self-care was extremely powerful. During the noon hour, CST 252 was vibrant and buzzed with excitement as we shared our stories about how we are currently discerning our call, our understanding of individual and collective purpose at Candler and how Candler Women can help in the area of self-care.

The Celebrating Our Stories book project has resulted in the publication of a collection of narratives and poetry from students, staff and professors.  The book was a collaborative project that included graphic and cover design from the talent within the Candler Women community.  The first printing sold out in a matter of days and is now in its second edition.  A copy of this initial project now resides in the Pitts Theological Library.

The next Candler Women’s Week of activities will be from Monday, March 21, 2011 through Friday, March 25, 2011 and will culminate in an overnight spiritual formation retreat.   We invite you be a part of Candler Women activities and events as we all set the stage for an encounter with the Divine and continue to strive for our most exciting and transformative year ever!

- Diana Williams

Diana is a third year MDiv Student at Candler and President of the Candler Women.

Apr 4 2008

Women’s Week

As Women’s Week comes to an end, Anjie Peek Woodworth, Master of Divinity senior, reflects on the significance of the relationships she has created and nurtured during her time at Candler School of Theology as she, and others here, there, and everywhere, prepare for life changes and transitions as graduation approaches.

Candler Women, a student organization that seeks to provide community support and advocacy for women, sponsors Women’s Week each spring. This year’s theme was “From Worship to the World,” and Sara Miles, author of Take This Bread and founder of the St. Gregory Food Pantry in San Francisco was the keynote speaker for the week. Sara Miles’ website describes the book as, “The story of an unexpected and terribly inconvenient Christian conversion, told by a very unlikely convert, Take This Bread is not only a spiritual memoir but a call to action.” She preached in chapel on Tuesday, and the Candler community was invited to a lunch discussion with her following worship and a workshop Tuesday evening that she facilitated. On Wednesday of Women’s Week, there was a Service Opportunities Fair and Thursday’s chapel service included creative expressions and liturgical arts from members of Candler Women. To close out the week, Candler Women offered a film screening and dialog of Stop the Violence.

On this day, when we remember the tragic assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., may we all be called out, as the theme of Women’s Week suggests, of our sanctuaries, worship services, desks, and comfort zones and into the world, offering hope and healing to this broken world. In his sermon entitled “The Drum Major Instinct,” Martin Luther King, Jr. preaches that,

…everyone can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.

Reflections, by Anjie Peek Woodworth

Women’s Week at Candler School of Theology is always a fun week for me. Last year I was able to help plan it and got to be involved in that way. This year I enjoyed being a participant. A wonderful team of women coordinated educational and mission events, planned food, and helped create worship services for the whole community that celebrate the ministry of women in the world.

Witnessing the gifts of all of these Candler women and celebrating the call and ministry of women in the world caused me to think about how much my life has changed by the women who have come into my life at Candler. I have developed a group of friends who are amazing! There are men and women in this group, for sure, but it is the women who show up for me whenever I need them.

I am in Atlanta this semester, finishing my Master of Divinity at Candler, while my husband, who graduated from Candler already, is in Virginia working at his new job. Most of the time, this means I am with my women friends a lot. I mean A LOT…and for that I am abundantly grateful!

One of my dearest friends was approved for commissioning yesterday, which means she is one more major step along her journey to ordination in The United Methodist Church. So, we gathered to celebrate. It didn’t have to be fancy, just sitting the living room in our apartment, hearing the story of the day and laughing together. It was simple and wonderful.

I was reminded yet again what a gift this group of women is in my life. If things hadn’t gone so well for my friend yesterday, we would have gathered to support her. It’s simple…being together…feeding each other…food for our bodies…and nourishment for our souls…listening, sharing, and walking together. There’s so much on the table right now in the lives of the women I love…huge life and vocational decisions about ordination, chaplaincy, and all the ways these women will serve God in the world, new jobs, upcoming moves to a variety of states, graduations, relationships in their joyful and fun times and relationships in their hard and sad times, struggles and joys with families, raising children or thinking about having children, planning weddings or considering the possibility of that life commitment. So much is piled on our table when we gather.

Yet, it doesn’t have to be much. We just sit together, eat together, walk together, and journey with each other on this crazy adventure of our lives. And, thanks be to God for that!

Anjie Peek Woodworth is a graduating senior in the Master of Divinity program at Candler School of Theology. She is a certified candidate in the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. Her passion for ministry lies in Christian education and spiritual formation. After graduation she will move to northern Virginia where her husband (MDiv ’07) is the Program Director at Meadowkirk Camp and Retreat Center and continue to develop her ministry in retreat and workshop leading.

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