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 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.

Sep 30 2011

The Seminarians’ Prayer


We think about you all the time.

We think about people who think about you and think about what they wrote about you. And then we write about them.

And yet sometimes, God, we cannot find you even in our thoughts. Our minds do feel like a labyrinth in which we have gotten lost and Scripture feels too much like the bricks blocking the exit than the string that guides us out.

And so we grow tired of thinking.

We talk about you all the time.  We throw your name around like we own it. We hide our confusion about you into declarative statements, saying that we know you are like this and we know you wouldn’t do that.

But we don’t know.

We don’t know you, at least not as much as we would we like.

Forgive us our hubris and our eagerness to talk about you which so often exceeds our desire to listen to you. It’s just so much easier to talk about you than to say it to your face.

But, God, we remember that you called us here, though there are days when this ivory tower looks nothing like your Kingdom and we certainly don’t look like we belong within it.

Remind us, God, that appearances can be deceiving,  that grades do not measure our worth.

God, we want to fight for justice, to stand for mercy, to love our enemies. But also, we want to take a nap, spend an evening alone with our families, and go to bed not worried about books still unread on our night table.

You said once that to follow you, there were crosses we had to carry. We know this small academic cross is tiny compared to the one you carried once, but some days we can hardly even drag it behind us, let alone pick it up.

But thankfully, You also said once that those who are weary should come to you. So here we are.

Because to whom else could we go?

Because at the end of the day, there is no one else that we would rather think about.

- Jennifer Wyant

Jennifer is a 2nd year MDiv student from Atlanta, GA and a Student Ambassador.

Aug 10 2011

Slow Dancing with Seminary

United States Botanic Garden

My favorite place in Washington, DC is the United States Botanic Garden. Squeezed in between the House of Representatives and our Nation’s Capitol, it is a large greenhouse filled with exotic plants and the wet, cool smell of the Amazon rainforest. Beautiful flora of all shapes and sizes coexist magically, sharing common soil and interweaving their root systems —a connectedness the rest of Capitol Hill could certainly benefit from. My favorite thing about the Garden is the millions of colors that show up there. Just a quick walk around and I am left with a great sense of awe at the complexity of life and color. The millions of shades of green alone are surely more than we could ever fully label or classify. Leaving the greenhouse and walking back into the bustle of the city never fails to present a stark contrast. It is like going from a box of 96 Crayola crayons into a world of only primary colors.

I’ve noticed an unfortunate trend in American culture and language today. We categorize and dichotomize most everything: Democrat/Republican, Public Sphere/Private Sphere, Rich/Poor, Educated/Uneducated, Politics/Religion, Male/Female, and the list goes on. These dichotomies often create a lack of ability to see outside the established boxes. It is easy to get so fixed in seeing through these lenses—in primary colors, if you will—that we forget that the people and ideas we encounter are far more complex than the categories we place them in. The language of dichotomies helps us to order our lives—divisions provide us a way of defining and clarifying our world and our everyday encounters—but I’m beginning to wonder if these binaries have maimed our capacity for creative and integrated thinking. Instead of connections, we see divisions. Instead of issues, we see political parties. Instead of people, we see opinions. There is little space for the millions of shades of green in between the “blue” category and the “yellow” category. We are living in a primary-color world.

The Church, in all her complexity, is not exempt from this type of narrow categorical thinking. Like society, we classify our doctrines, our denominations, and our practices. We dichotomize humanity/divinity, belief/praxis, personal piety/social justice, sacred/secular, charismatic/liturgical. And let’s not forget the one that many of us ministerial students fear (and hear) the most: the Church and the Academy. Despite the fact that we tend to function in these divided spheres, I find hope in the various people and institutions that are unafraid to explore the overlap between them. These individuals and organizations are acutely aware that their faithfulness is to a God that transcends our categories and defies our logic. Their work restores brilliant shades of color to an increasingly primary-color world. Candler is one of these institutions. An integrated curriculum and faithful faculty beautifully blend ministerial excellence with academic rigor, a commitment to spiritual formation as well as public praxis, and an understanding of ministry that transcends the walls of the Church. As an entering seminarian, it was my frustrations with traditional dichotomies that led me to apply to Candler, and Candler’s ability to expose the complexity of colors alive in our world that took me from a perspective student to an enrolled Candler seminarian. What a colorful paradise this School of Theology is in the Kingdom-garden!

The Church and the Academy

The division between the Church and the Academy perplexed me as undergrad. For those who thought being a Religion major would be something similar to Sunday School, boy did they have a rude awakening! The world of Christian Education inside the church differs drastically from Religion or Biblical Studies as an academic disciple. In fact, we often think of these two institutions as having two very different purposes: the Academy is to educate, and the Church is to incarnate. The problem lies in that fact that these are often seen as mutually exclusive endeavors and the relationship between the two institutions is jagged, at best. This poses a problem for many of us who wish to serve the Church but are at the mercy of the Academy. I mean, if we didn’t believe that the sacred was somehow spilling into the secular, would we really be pursuing a career built on the spiritual life? In my seminary selection process, I craved a place that valued both academic rigor and ministerial excellence—and I heard this desire echoed by many friends with similar frustrations. I hoped to find a school that saw the Church and the Academy as two sides of the same institutional coin, engaged in a beautiful dance that informs hearts and minds simultaneously. My craving led me to Candler—a seminary that is practically slow-dancing with the Church! The work of blending academic excellence and ministerial integrity is truly an art form. My experience of Candler has been revealed the school’s dedication to this delicate balance. While Candler’s academic excellence ranks at the top of most charts, it is not at the cost of ministerial integrity. The school’s faculty is a blend of pastor-theologians, community leaders, and lay leaders who have a personal investment in the life of the Church. They teach from podium and pulpit alike. Candler’s commitment to holistic contextual education is paired with demanding coursework that integrates theology and praxis in an unparalleled way. It is this marriage, of education and incarnation that produces true ministerial excellence. It is this unification than led me to Candler.

Personal Piety & Social Justice

I was raised in a thoroughly Evangelical household, and one of the byproducts of this upbringing was the deeply relational spirituality I inherited. Even the language we used to talk about conversion reflects this: phrases like “asking Jesus to live in your heart” and having “a personal relationship with God.” While these platitudes often get a bad rap due to their stale overuse, they are remarkably revolutionary! They speak of an inconceivably intimate God—whose covenantal marriage-like relationship with the Israelites births redemption; who incarnates the holy and lives among us in the form of a carpenter. But I was often taught this relational and personal piety at the cost of a lived theology—a spirituality of action and social justice, a love of neighbor and care for the least of these.

During my time in college, I spent a few semesters in a not-so-evangelical context. A passion for incarnational ministry and social justice pervaded the Church’s mission and focus. I was at home among my kinda’ people—people who saw God’s redemptive work as much bigger than personal salvation. Despite my resonance with this activism-oriented congregation, I missed the intimacy of the tradition I was raised in. A focus on action and justice often came at the cost of personal spiritual formation. Too often, categorizing and dichotomizing leads to this sort of imbalance, a separation between congregations who believe in Jesus (the spiritual) and those who believe Jesus (the practitioners). As I looked for a home in which to continue my theological education, I wanted to find a place that exposed the complex variety of colors and hues that exist in the overlap between personal piety and social justice. I wanted to find a school in which both were seen as necessary components of faith—as flowing from one another like James 2 (faith without works is dead) and 1 Corinthians 13 (without love as the source of action, works are useless) suggest. My visit to Candler this spring was an inspiring embodiment of such a blend. Before I even stepped foot on campus, I had examined and dissected Candler’s curriculum. It seemed obvious to me that the school cared deeply about justice and activism. Candler’s contextual education program encourages diverse ministerial experiences in parachurch contexts addressing issues of poverty and homelessness, paired with classes that teach the art of preaching as a prophetic necessity or provide insight on community ministry. But being on Candler soil—meeting with students, sitting in on classes, and experiencing worship—I was moved by the institutional and individual commitment to spiritual formation that I encountered. Candler is a place that worships together, prays together, and breaks bread together. My visit was filled with prayers—before the beginning of a class, before a meal, in a meeting—and a deep sense of value for worship as a transcended experience necessary for the hard work that is theology, both studied and lived. I caught just a glimpse of this beautiful merger of inner spirituality and outward action, but it was an infections taste that stuck with me and came back to me. As I was contemplating my seminary decision with a minister-friend, she said—“God’s will is for you to go where you can love God best,” and the place that came to mind was Candler—a place that loves God in the most holistic sense.

The Church and the World

The same categorizing and dichotomizing that is typically applied to Church/Academy or personal piety/social justice, also occurs in the broader academic world. Disciplines are sorted and relegated to particular fields of study—designating health to science, policy to law, and corporate affairs to the business world. While there is no denying that this methodology is practical, I sometimes wonder if it creates leaders who are unprepared for the complexity of the world, trained solely in one discipline and taught to keep their interests tapered. When education is approached in this primary-color way, it is easy to miss the beauty of the brilliant hues that are created when disciples overlap and ideological lenses converge. One of my favorite things about Candler is the strong desire for interdisciplinary theology that characterizes the students and professors alike. If you peruse through Candler’s list of degree programs or the M.Div concentration guide, it quickly becomes apparent that Candler’s definition of minister reaches far beyond the walls of the Church. Candler pairs ministry with science, politics, business, ethics, sociology, and psychology (just to name a few), empowering ministers in a variety of vocations—even if their profession isn’t blatantly theological. This interdisciplinary approach does more than just blend diverse areas of study, it also serves as a reminder, at least to me, that faith is meant to permeate far beyond the walls of the Church. Theology should inform every aspect of our lives, from the way we do business, to what we buy and how we vote. Candler is not only committed to a voice in the Church, but also to engaging the Church and the world.

I am acutely aware that my expectations for Candler may seem impossibly high. I mean, really? What institution can live up to this romanticized version of theological education? Maybe it sounds like I am a marketer selling an ideal or a naive undergrad with unrealistic expectations. And maybe these are true, in some way or another. But believe me, trying to articulate why you made a choice before you’ve actually experienced its ramifications is quite a challenge! The core components that led me to Candler—a dedication to the church and ministerial excellence, an integrated and holistic curriculum, and a desire to see theology reach beyond the private sphere—might say more about me than the actual than it does about the school. I feel called to a life that exposes the brilliant colors that we sometimes miss with our narrow labels. I want to work in the margins between Church and Academy, formation and ministry, and politics and religion. I chose Candler because it was a place committed to the millions of shades of green that lie outside our everyday classifications. It is a place I could find a home in the margins, and be supported in a call to the Church and to the world.

-Meg Lacy

Meg is an entering 1st year MDiv student and a graduate of Samford University.  She spent this summer as a CBF Fellow at Bread for the World in Washington, DC.

Jun 1 2011

Christina Repoley, Candler Class of 2011, “Why Church?”

Young Leaders of the Church is a series from Day1 designed to highlight the young talent of today’s churches, and their ability to reach the next generations. Candler Class of 2011 MDiv graduate Christina Repoley was selected to share a short message about “Why Church?”

This series is being done in partnership with The Fund for Theological Education, for more information please visit http://fteleaders.org and Day1 today!

May 6 2011

Candler Student Jason Meyers, “Why Church?”

Young Leaders of the Church is a series from Day1 designed to highlight the young talent of today’s churches, and their ability to reach the next generations.   Candler MDiv student Jason Meyers was selected to share a short message about “Why Church?”

This series is being done in partnership with The Fund for Theological Education, for more information please visit http://fteleaders.org and Day1 today!

Jason is involved in a variety of activities at Candler – including Creation Keepers and his work as a writing tutor – and in the greater Atlanta community.  He is also an accomplished poet, and regular blog readers may remember his Lenten Meditation, “Thinking of Romans” from a few weeks ago.

Apr 13 2011

Lenten Meditation #3

During a Candler chapel service known as “Songs and Prayers for the Lenten Journey,” several students shared spoken word reflections.  For the next few Wednesdays we will share some of these reflections with you.

This week’s reflection is from 1st year MDiv student Hillary Watson.

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You can find more of Hillary’s work at these sites:




Hillary was born and raised an urban Mennonite in Seattle, Wa.  She is a graduate of Goshen College (Ind.) and prior to attending Candler she spent a year with Mennonite Voluntary Service.  She describes herself as a compulsive poet and thinks a good poem is worth a four-course meal.

Dec 5 2008

Leadership Candler

These days are exciting ones here at Candler and Emory. As of August of this year, we have a brand-new, state-of-the-art theology building as our home. It’s a LEED certified “green” building, meaning it’s one of the most environmentally friendly theology buildings in the world! Emory, by the way, has more square footage of LEED certified building space than any other university in the country. Go Emory!

Here in the Office of Admission and Financial Aid , the most exciting thing we have going on is the announcement of our Leadership Candler scholarship weekend coming up this March. The event will bring together top prospective Master of Divinity students from across the country and the world to Candler’s campus at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. Prospective students will be considered for all of Candler’s top awards, including the Woodruff Fellowships and the Pitts Scholarships, among others. Scholarships range from full tuition awards to our tops awards, which include up to full tuiti
on, fees, plus a $10,000 per year stipend!

Candler will pay all of your travel and accommodation expenses for Leadership Candler. So if you or someone you know is looking at a world-class theological education, have a record of academic excellence, service, and leadership, and are committed to being a leader in the church and the world in the 21st century, you’ve got to check out Leadership Candler!

A top-notch theological education just became more affordable! Come to Candler. Come to Emory.