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.


Jun 19 2012

Ministry Immersion: Kathy Brockman on Candler Advantage

Today begins week 4 of our ten-week internships for Candler Advantage.  What a privilege and gift this has been for me and for my journey in ministry.   My initial hopes and goals for this summer included immersion in the day-to-day activities of the church.  I can tell you that in the last three weeks, I have experienced a total and complete immersion!

I am spending my summer on staff at Brookhaven United Methodist Church, located a little more than 5 miles from the Emory campus.  This is a mid-sized church (about 70 people attend Sunday worship) located in a diverse neighborhood.  The church has a daycare center that operates during the week and fills my days with the sounds of life -laughter, singing, excited voices and, yes, even a few tears and occasional screams.

A significant ministry of this church includes an outreach to the recovery community.  This community includes those who are in recovery programs for alcohol and substance abuse.  Brookhaven UMC has a local pastor on staff whose main responsibility is to minister to those who are in recovery.  His story is that of alcohol and drug abuse and the completion of his own recovery program.  He is not shy about telling his story to the community and sharing his acceptance of Jesus and his belief in God.  We celebrated his 11th birthday last week – 11 years of sobriety.  He is a truly a blessing to the church and the community and to all who know him.  His ministry includes once a week meetings for those in recovery using a Bible specifically for those in recovery, titled The Life Recovery Bible.  He also oversees the transportation of those in recovery who want to attend worship on Sunday mornings to be brought in for Sunday School and worship.  Twice a month, a Saturday night worship and fellowship event for those in recovery is held at the church.  A short, casual worship service including communion is followed by a meal of hotdogs (always!) and a rousing game of BINGO.  Everyone leaves Soulful Saturday with a prize – practical prizes including toothbrushes, shaving cream or maybe a box of Little Debbie cookies for those who just want a junk food snack.  On Monday evenings, the recovery community is brought to the Clothing Closet housed in the church and the participants (almost completely men) are allowed to pick out clothing, socks and, if they’re lucky, shoes.  These are all items that have been donated by the community.  This is a wonderful outreach to those who are one step away from homelessness as Pastor Don describes them.

The senior pastor of this church is the only full-time employee.  Her job includes anything and everything that needs to be done.  From picking up elderly members for worship on Sunday morning to delivering a provocative sermon series on the fruits of the spirit to sharing communion, Pastor Sara does it all.  She is a wonderful role model and is always open to my questions and reflections on the reasons why she does things the way she does.

It’s been three full weeks of total immersion in the life of a mid-size church.  What have I experienced so far?  I’ve been welcomed by the community in various ways – some more warmly than others and I imagine that is the way a new pastor must feel when going into a church the first time.  I’ve had the wonderful experience of leading the Monday morning chapel service for the daycare children and singing This Little Light of Mine with the sweetest voices you can imagine.  I’ve served dessert to the recovery community at Soulful Saturday and played a little BINGO.  I’ve watched grown men rejoice at the prize of a new razor or a tube of toothpaste. I’ve taken an elderly couple to the emergency room and listened to their life stories while they waited to be seen by a doctor. I’ve had the pleasure of planning worship with a creative and open Senior Pastor. I’ve taught children’s Sunday School, eaten lunch with the younger adults, and visited members in the hospital. What have I learned in these three short weeks? I have learned that this is indeed my calling in life and as hard as some of it may be, it has nourished and challenged me to grow in ways that I had never considered in the past.

If any of you are considering spending your summer interning next year through Candler Advantage, I can not recommend it enough.  Your life and your ministry will never be quite the same.

-  Kathy Brockman

Kathy is a rising third year MDiv Student from Georgia.

 


Jun 11 2012

What’s in a Name?

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.

As my friend Jonathan explained in the previous post, we are part of the Candler Advantage program this summer. My placement is at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, a church that has a strong connection with Candler and has hosted Contextual Education 1 and 2 students. It is a mission of the Episcopal Church, meaning it is not a regular congregation (whatever regular means). Most of the people who fill the pews on Sundays and who are involved in church activities throughout the week are adults with mental illness. They live in group homes or are homeless, some also suffer from various addiction issues. It isn’t a “regular” congregation because the members do not support the church financially but congregants are very much a part of nearly every aspect of church life. Holy Comforter also has a day-program called The Friendship Center that has opportunities for all kinds of art projects and two meals twice a week.

I chose Holy Comforter despite not being Episcopalian (I grew up in and also attend a United Church of Christ congregation) and despite having no experience with caring for and working with people with mental illness. I knew that this would be a challenge for me, but I had seen so many of my Candler colleagues fall in love with Holy Comforter, so I wanted in on it. I was still a little nervous as I began coming to worship services and meals, slowly learning people’s names and learning the songs and responses of the liturgy.

The people of my new congregation were not people I normally encountered in my day-to-day life, I would sometimes see people like them in a grocery store or maybe a fast food place but would try and discreetly avoid their gaze and perhaps offer a wan smile if I accidentally made eye contact. I was simply uncomfortable in their presence, unsure of how to interact with them and unsure of what my responsibility was to respond to their mumbling or confusing speech. I knew Jesus wanted me to be with “the least of these,” even if it made me uneasy. I knew this in my head but I still had no idea what it really might mean, or even how condescending that bumper sticker theology might be.

One of the deacons at Holy Comforter asked me how I was feeling after my first few days, if I was beginning to feel more at ease. I nodded, actually unsure of how comfortable I was feeling. He said, “Good, you know Holy Comforter is a place you can really be yourself. It is a place of rest, a place of acceptance.” I realized I had been looking at Holy Comforter too much like my own personal mission to comfort the afflicted. I was focused on caring for people; of responsibly saying the right thing after someone had just told be they were in fact married to a famous celebrity. I had not opened myself up to receive the respite this unique congregation had to offer. I did not have to worry about judgment if I did something wrong in the liturgy or sang off key. I did not have to worry if people would want to talk to me. I didn’t have to worry about my painting looking amateurish- I could just paint.

Holy Comforter is an aptly named church. It is a place that everyone and anyone can go to be welcomed, fed, loved, and respected with an honesty that I do not encounter in many other places in my life. Although it is still an adjustment for me to be with the congregation and I still find myself second-guessing things I do and sometimes catch myself feeling particularly saintly for helping someone with a walker, I have started to open up myself to the rest, freedom, and acceptance at Holy Comforter.

- Megan Worthman

Megan is a rising third year MDiv student and a graduate of Hastings College in Hastings, NE.


Jun 5 2012

Finding Deeper Meaning

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.

Jonathan teachingOver the summer, I am working in a local church setting through the Candler Advantage Summer Internship program. This program, in which rising third-year students engage in full-time supervised ministry for ten weeks during the summer, presents a number of opportunities for me. One of these is to preach on a fairly regular basis. With this role, I have been preparing an upcoming sermon for a set of lectionary readings that includes Mark 3:31-35. In the NRSV, this short passage is entitled, “The True Kindred of Jesus,” but I have found that a title such as “Jesus Rethinks Family” would be just as appropriate. Through the words of Jesus, Mark communicates that it is not simply one’s biological relationships, but whether or not one “does the will of God,” that defines who one’s brothers, sisters, and mothers are. I am sure this passage challenged the notions of family of Mark’s earliest readers, as it does ours today.

Just as this short passage challenges us to think anew of what it means to be family, my time at Candler has challenged me to view faith, scripture, ministry, and a host of other subjects in new and meaningful ways. I would like to briefly share some of the ways some of these understandings have changed during my time at Candler.

I still say, as I did before coming to Candler, that scripture is the “word of God,” but I now have new, much richer, understandings of what I mean when I say that. In scripture, we hear a chorus of witnesses, from over the course of centuries, who have sought to express encounters with God. Each word of scripture has been written in a particular historical setting to a particular audience, yet these words still speak to us today.

Similarly, my Candler education has deepened the meaning of “faith” for me. Faith is no longer merely belief, i.e. intellectual assent to a proposition. Faith involves trust, whether belief is possible or not. Perhaps most importantly, faith involves living faithfully.

Jonathan at ConEdIn seeking to live faithfully along with others at Candler who seek to do the same, ministry has taken on new layers of meaning as well. When I first came to Candler, I saw ordained ministry as primarily involving preaching, with a number of other responsibilities such as pastoral care, administration, and outreach. While I still see each of these as significant components of ordained ministry, I now have a better understanding of how I am called to live out each of these aspects of ministry. Through my contextual education experience, I have seen that ministry involves formation through practices that shape us and give us identity, such as the reading of scripture and participation in the sacraments. However, ministry also involves formation through activities that stretch congregations out of their comfort zone, such as interfaith dialogue, outreach to members of the local community, and programs that teach and encourage faithful environmental stewardship.

Finally, Candler has challenged me to think through what the word “education” means. Certainly, education has occurred in the classroom. However, learning has also taken place in conversations with other Candler students outside of class time. Connections between academic coursework and people’s concrete circumstances have been made through Contextual Education I and II site work. As much as I learned about United Methodist polity in class at Candler, much more was gained simply by travelling to General Conference with other Candler students and professors this past April. Education, like these other things, has taken on a deeper meaning through my experiences at Candler. It is my hope and prayer that by being challenged to think through theology and practices in new and fresh ways, we will all come to new appreciations of what it means to live faithfully in our own time.

- Jonathan Harris

Jonathan is a rising third year MDiv student and a graduate of Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC.


Feb 13 2012

Why I’ll Miss Candler

Mia NorthingtonAs graduation quickly approaches, I find myself reflecting fondly on my time spent at this wonderful institution that I have called home for nearly three years now.  While graduations are always exciting, I find myself feeling particularly bitter sweet about this one.  It is difficult to narrow all of the reasons down to only a few paragraphs, but I will do my best to keep it brief.  Below are the reasons why I am forever grateful that I chose Candler and that Candler chose me:

ONE: The Community.  I began my career at Candler with a bit of anxiety – I was three years out of college, and was unsure how I would fit into the mix at Candler.   Immediately, however, I found my niche.  My fears were relieved within the first month as I settled into classes and began developing relationships with my ConEd group.  Again, those in the Admissions Office warmly welcomed me as I began working with the Student Ambassadors each week and was invited on a retreat as a small group leader.  I was amazed with the sense of community that existed within Candler, both among the students, staff, and faculty.

TWO: The Curriculum.  Since I had been removed from school and had not practiced good study habits for a few years, I was very intimidated by the coursework at Candler and feared that I would struggle in maintaining good grades at such a prestigious institution with such renowned scholars as my professors.  Yet again, I was pleasantly surprised with the willingness of the professors to help and even build relationships with the students.  Furthermore, the variety of coursework offered at Candler is truly remarkable.  Classes such as Old and New Testament, History of Christian Thought, and Systematic Theology could challenge my theology.  And I was able to develop practical skills and lifelong knowledge through courses such as Pastoral Care, Empowering Youth for Global Citizenship, and Vocational Discernment.

THREE: The Contextual Education Program.  This internship program, in my opinion, is Candler’s biggest selling point! I was able to cater my ConEd experience both my first and second year to my vocational goal, which involves youth ministry.  My first year, I did ConEd at the United Methodist Children’s Home (UMCH) in Decatur.  So I worked four hours each week with the youth who were living in this group home, sharing meals with them and leading them in Bible studies.  I would then bring my experiences back to my small group, all of who were also doing ConEd at the UMCH, during class each week.  My second year, I chose to work eight hours each week with a large youth group at a UMC in Decatur.  This experience helped to clarify my calling and even offered me a paid job for my third year of seminary.  God is good!  But having these “internship” experiences fulfilled during the academic year, alongside my other coursework, enabled me to apply the things I was learning in the classroom to my ministry.

Mia and friendsFOUR: Summer Opportunities.  Since my ministry internships were completed during the academic year, my summers were free to experience other transformational opportunities.  Among these summer opportunities is the Middle East Travel Seminar (METS), which I applied for and was accepted.  This gave me the opportunity to travel the lands of the Bible with other seminarians for three weeks.  The experiences and relationships that this trip was able to offer me forever changed my life.  My vocational dreams and my personal priorities were made clear and I was able to come home a better person.  Had I chosen a different seminary, I could have missed this once in a lifetime experience.

Ultimately, I could not have found a better match for my three years in seminary.  My life was transformed in my time at Candler and I will forever be grateful for the relationships, courses, and practical ministry experience that I encountered in and through this place.

- Mia Northington

Mia is a 3rd Year MDiv student from Tennessee and a Student Ambassador.


Dec 1 2011

Finding One’s Place at Candler

Candler group at Explo2009During my last Thanksgiving at Candler and as I approach graduation in May, I couldn’t help but think of the diverse communities of friends that have touched me and shaped me during my time here.  My first year, I had the opportunity to travel to Dallas, Texas as a small group leader for Exploration 2009.  Through this trip, I became connected to all of the staff in the financial aid and registrar office, as well as some other student leaders within Candler.  Despite the fact that I knew no one on the trip prior to arriving at the airport, we were instant friends only a few hours into our weekend together.  We remained friends through the time that they graduated (as I was the youngest one on the trip), and still have lunch dates to this day!  Furthermore, I became involved with the Student Ambassador Program, which provided yet another community within which I found great friends and support.

Mia's ConEd 1 GroupAnother community that fully embraced me in my first year was my Contextual Education (ConEd) community.  The group of seven of us who worked four hours each week at the United Methodist Children’s Home was pretty much inseparable.  We shared “brother/sister”-type relationships with one another and had an incredible chemistry.  By the end of our first year, we were truly family to one another – we laughed together, cried together, and supported one another free of judgment, no matter what the situation.  We truly carried one another through a year full of both trials and celebrations.

I was anxious entering second year, because I knew that the people in my ConEd group would change and I would not see those from my first year group as much as we had the year before.  What did I have to fear, though?  Yet again, I grew incredibly close to a whole new group of people, while maintaining my previous friendships.  That year, we worked eight hours each week in an ecclesial setting.  I began to really wrestle with whether or not I wanted to continue with ordination in the UMC.  Hesitant to share these doubts with many others, my ConEd group embraced me and provided a safe space for me to continue my discernment process.  They challenged me as to what I would have to lose should I not follow through in the process, as well as what the Church could lose if I were to give up.  Having help in thinking through some of these things was really beneficial for me, and formational in my ministry.

Mia and Friends

Finally, outside of the small groups I was placed in as a result of my coursework, I developed a strong friendship with a group of five girls that I have no doubt will be lifelong friends.  During the stresses of second year, we became close, realizing we shared a lot of things in common as well as a similar sense of humor.  We spend a lot of time together both inside and outside of classes.  I have truly been greeted with open arms by each and every group I came into contact with at Candler.  I firmly believe that there is a wonderful and affirming place for everyone within this community.  I have no doubt that each individual who passes through this special place is touched and transformed in a way that will positively impact the future of their ministry, whether it be inside or outside the church, and for that I am very thankful.

- Mia Northington

Mia is a 3rd Year MDiv student from Tennessee and a Student Ambassador.


Aug 18 2011

Called “From” and “For”

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.

My call to a life of faith has been hardly ordinary.  Born and raised a Jehovah’s Witness, I grew up in a strict and unhealthy religious environment.  Every week, my family had to fill out time cards recording how many hours we spent in “service” (door-to-door evangelization).  I was forbidden from hanging out with kids who weren’t “one of us,” and was deprived of the usual childhood joys of birthday cakes, Christmas morning gifts, and Easter egg hunts.  The worst moment, however, came when my brother was disfellowshipped – a process of excommunication, or shunning, that forbids family and friends from associating with lapsed members.  As a child, I dearly loved and looked up to my brother; when he was disfellowshipped, I was told that we could no longer be seen together in public.

When I was 15, my parents called our family into the kitchen for what would be a life-changing announcement: they told us that they were leaving the Witnesses.  For me, a 15-year-old who was bitter and angry, I was simply happy that I could finally hang out with my brother again.  I was also happy that I would no longer have to attend five meetings a week, and would no longer be forced to engage in the mind-numbing chore of preparing for them.  While I knew that we still had very close relatives in the Witnesses, and that our leaving would greatly impact our relationships with them, I was excited by the possibility of living a normal life.

For the next four years, however, life was hardly normal.  My parents, who no doubt felt guilty about the restrictive lives to which my siblings and I had been subjected, allowed me a tremendous amount of freedom.  I had no curfews (none that were enforced anyways), and no limits on whom I could or couldn’t hang out with.  I was allowed access to my mother’s car to the point where it was basically mine; I could come and go with it, whenever I wanted, without permission.  I was also given unearned money on a regular basis, without any questioning with regard to what it would buy.  All of this amounted to a recipe for disaster.  I became addicted to drugs, and eventually started selling them.  Toward the beginning of this phase, I hung out with the “party crowd” – kids who drank a little here, smoked a little weed there – but quickly found myself surrounded by hardcore criminals.  Three of my closest friends from this time ended up dead (long after I stopped hanging out with them); all shot, I presume, over drug deals gone wrong (officially, these cases are all unsolved).

When I was 18, my life took a drastic turn.  One night, after getting high with a friend, I was in my car, alone, driving home.  I always struggle to describe what came next.  All I can say is that suddenly, with no warning, I felt a very strong presence with me.  This presence had a voice – not an audible voice, but a voice I could, in the strangest imaginable way, feel.  The voice’s message was simple: “You must stop this, or you will die.”  Whatever happened that night, I believe that it saved my life.  It shook me up so much that I went home, told my parents everything that had been going on, and left all of my friends in the dust.  The next several months would be spent in isolation, reflecting on God, my future, and how the two might be related.  I believed I had been spared for something.  This was the initial call.   This experience, although only 10 years ago, seems like a scene from a movie I barely remember.  But I must not let myself forget.  I firmly believe that our present is shaped by our past and motivated by our future.  The “call” is dynamic, as God calls his people from and for.

Preparation and Discernment

As of late, I’m learning that the call entails a perpetual cycle of preparation and discernment.  For the past six years, I’ve been preparing for ministry through academic training.  I have a B.A. in Pastoral Ministries and Biblical Studies, and I’m two years into my MDiv program at Candler (two down, one to go!).  Sounds like I’ve had a clear understanding of my vocational calling all along, right?  Not exactly.  While I’ve rarely questioned whether I’ve been called to ministry, the form of ministry to which I’m being called at any given time is something that I’m continuously discerning.  Thanks to the Candler Advantage program, I just spent the entire summer working (while getting paid…WOO WOO!) at a local United Methodist congregation in Decatur, GA.  This experience affirmed my specific call to parish ministry – at least for a time.  But let me be clear: I will never make the decision to be a “career pastor,” or a career anything else.  Maybe God will call me to be a pastor my entire life, but maybe not.  I cannot determine today what God will call me to do tomorrow.  The Spirit of God is exciting, unpredictable, even dangerous.  God may call a person to one form of ministry for a season, and to a completely different form for the next.  The Spirit that calls us is the same Spirit who hovered over primitive waters, who appeared as a roaring wind and as flaming tongues.   The call is an invitation from a mysterious God who promises, if we’re willing to take the risk, to give us an abundant life.  So let the narrative continue!

- Angelo Mante

Angelo is a rising third year MDiv student and a graduate of Taylor University.


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 11 2011

The Root Level

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.

Hello, I am Patrick McLaughlin and I am working this summer through the Candler Advanced Summer Internship program.  My aim is to further explore how the church can be a community health promoter by better understanding the determinants of health that lie in our agriculture communities.  I have spent time with friends and family who are farmers, seed distributors, fertilizer salespeople, ranchers, feedlot operators, ethanol producers to gain their perspective on sustainability, health of people and the land, and life with God.  Check out my video to see how my summer is going and keep an eye out in August for a follow up video!

-Patrick McLaughlin

Patrick is a third year United Methodist MDiv student from Kansas and a Student Ambassador