Sep 10 2013

Brooks Was Here, So Was Red

Many of you may recognize the title of this post as the defining moment in The Shawshank Redemption.  Underneath this etching in a halfway house, Morgan Freeman (Red), an ex-con of 40 years, confronts fear and despair and chooses hope in the very spot where Brooks, a similar man in a similar situation, chose to take his own life.  It is the tipping point of the film; a dramatic moment where the promise of hope triumphant outweighs the danger and futility of losing hope.  It is both moving and powerful to watch and I quickly find myself conjuring up my own stories of hope triumphant, including and especially the Christian idea that though troubles may fill the night, joy comes in the morning.

However, bringing this metaphor out of the script and into the present causes me great trouble.  Certainly there are times in our collective, societal memory that we can recall such real-life stories of hope triumphing over despair.  This past week, as we honored the 50th anniversary of The March on Washington, we were served a wonderful reminder of such an account of hope overcoming overwhelmingly negative odds.  However, as Syrian children are gassed in senseless acts of violence, broken systems of democracy exclude the rights and voices of the poor and hungry, and Bangladeshi buildings crash to the ground claiming the lives of thousands and declaring the ultimate reign of horrific and inhumane forms of global capitalism, I find the metaphor to be broken, or at least, misleading.  It is not the fact that hope cannot overcome injustice that gives me trouble, for I suppose, in certain times it can and does.  Rather it is the perceived simplicity of the choice and subsequent nullification of circumstance and complexity that causes a gag reflex to well up inside of me.

As theologians and citizens of the world in the twenty-first century, it is our responsibility to introduce a third character into the room, one that meticulously and responsibly presents hope while also being accountable to the devastating particularities of modern circumstances.  This character must stand firmly at the same crossroads of hope and despair, where Brooks and Red once stood, and reject the futility of blindly embarking down either road.  And in doing such, this character must creatively re-shape and re-imagine faith, hope, and love.

However, as I write this post, I do not pretend to know what this character might look like, say, or do.  Nor do I imagine that I am, in some way or another, this character.  But, I do know this:  today, many Syrian parents will be reminded that their precious young children are never coming home to them again.  No more family dinners.  No more nighttime prayers.  No more innocent, precious smiles.  Not today, not tonight, and not in the morning.

As the leaders of America meet on Capitol Hill this very minute to discuss the use of force in Syria, this metaphor deserves at least a moment of thought, especially from those who follow the way and example of Jesus Christ.  Surely Christianity has more to offer the world than bombs, which only lead to the perpetuation of violence, and flimsy hymns of metaphorical hope which only fall flat as tears pour onto breathless children.

But then again, for some things, I imagine, there are no words.

–George Kernodle

George is a second-year student in the Master of Theological Studies (MTS) program and a Student Ambassador at Candler. A graduate of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, George has traveled to China as part of a language learning exchange program and to El Salvador with the Global Health Organization. After Candler he hopes to pursue his interest in health policy and management.

Photo credits:

(Top) Movie still from The Shawshank Redemption with Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins;

(Bottom) Photo by Craig Ruttle, a Syrian child at a refugee camp in Yayladagi, Turkey, April 4, 2012.


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.


Jan 18 2011

Mindfulness

This stained glass window appears in the entrance of Spurgeon’s College in London. The words Et Teneo Et Teneor mean I hold, and am held. I first saw it in 2006 when I was visiting England and Scotland. It’s a beautiful statement about our state as people of faith. While we are mindful of our need for compassion and guidance, so Christ already has been mindful of us.

At a recent CAYA (Come As You Are) worship service, the casual worship atmosphere offered by Decatur First United Methodist Church, the offertory song was titled Less Like Scars. Originally recorded by Sara Groves, this song is an emotional outpouring about what it means to hold and to be held. The words of the chorus express:

And I feel you here
And you’re picking up the pieces
Forever faithful
It seemed out of my hands, a bad situation
But you are able
And in your hands the pain and hurt
Look less like scars and more like
Character

Powerful and remarkable words. Forever faithful and able - two descriptors for Jesus the Christ. To be mindful of Christ means to have felt sustained, lifted up, protected, safe, and empowered. The actions of Christ are not reflected in the scars from being nailed to the cross. The actions of Christ are reflected in his character. To me, character means how you are mindful. How do your actions and words reflect your character? All of these things originate within the deep recesses of our brains, where the intricate patterns of the network of our brains flash and ignite our thoughts and imagination. For most of us, these deep recesses cause us to think more about ourselves. This is human nature. This is the natural way of how we think. So, my question now is, how was Christ mindful? He thought of serving everyone except himself – he was the least of his worries.

It may not seem like a new concept, but it is. It’s a concept that gets communicated, but we never truly live it out. One of the most important parts of the Christian faith is our genuine concern for the other. We are commanded to love God and to love our neighbor. To love is to be mindful. Although I grew up a Christian, I was never in church (outside of Vacation Bible School as a young child). I did not truly dedicate my life to Christ until I was 17, at the same time I was baptized. It was a remarkable moment in my life. I say that because of a group of friends that were mindful of me. If it was not for their persistence in telling me about their faith journeys and struggles, the community and support they found in a church family, and the personal transformation they had experienced, I would have never found myself. Because Christ was mindful of us, we can discover who we truly are. Because my friends were mindful of me, and were acting as the hands and feet of Christ, not only did I find myself, but I found Christ. He did not rise and conquer the grave for just any reason or to prove his identity. Christ rose for us. Christ conquered the grave so that we might have life. Christ was, quite simply, being mindful of us.

At Candler, I have found an atmosphere that is mindful of the other. Whether it is participating in a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Service Project with Emory University and local communities, holding a chili cook-off fundraiser to raise money for the ongoing Haiti relief efforts, being in conversation about issues facing the future of the church with people of different perspective, or helping create a community garden for a local congregation, Candler illustrates how vital it is to be in service to one another. Through the opportunities that Candler offers, both in and out of the classroom, I have been able to recall the moment that I found myself – and build on it.

Candler has helped me to dig deeper – offering me the possibility and freedom to identify my own voice and celebrate my own path of spiritual growth. Over the last three years at Candler I have realized it is okay to be journeying into the unknown, following all the twists and turns. After all, it is our journey that gives us experience and our experiences that shape who we are and what we are to do in this life. I am grateful that Candler has not only shown me how to be truly mindful of the other, but along the way finding myself.

-Mark Batten

Mark is currently the Coordinator of Admissions Services at Candler. He is also pursuing a Master of Divinity part-time. His areas of interest include liturgical formation, the spiritual disciplines, and creation care. Away from the office and class, Mark enjoys kayaking and piloting the latest tech gadgets.


Dec 24 2010

Walk in the Light

Luke 2:8-11
2:8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 2:9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 2:10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 2:11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Shepherds

Classes at Candler School of Theology recently ended for the semester. Finals are over, grades are in, and students and faculty have emptied the hallways for now. We have worshiped together during this Advent season as a community with expectant hearts.

It is always interesting to read the story of the birth of Christ, especially in Luke’s account. This year I am struck by images of light and the request from the angel that the shepherds not be afraid. Equally attention-grabbing is the setting of the story – shepherds living and working in the fields, a census to further support Rome’s war, and God coming into this world as a helpless newborn who was laid in a feeding trough. This was not at first glance a splendid night.

Imagine an ordinary day. Darkness abounds amid our humanity. Life is hard. And all of a sudden there is so much light that instead of happiness to be have light in our lives, we are scared out of our minds. This was the kind of night in which God became incarnate.

And so it is the case today. Christmas is not always a glowing moment of joy and peace for so many. Rather, it is a time of profound loneliness and sadness. There appears to be nothing but darkness – broken relationships, unemployment, underemployment, aloneness, uncertainty about our calling, and the like. But yet, this time it is about the light that is shone all around us – even amid the perceived darkness (The darkness is showered with brilliance as the people who wait in darkness see a great light – Isa 9:2). We get a glimmer of it, but yet we may be afraid to walk in that light and to respond to the angel’s beckoning, “do not be afraid!”

Nativity

One of my favorite hymns is Walk in the light. I recall one of my very first Christmas Eve’s as a new Christian. It was at a candlelight service that a friend insisted I attend. It was there that the song spoke to me and encouraged me to pay attention to the gift of light, no matter how big or small. It was that night that I allowed myself to be privy to the Glory that shone all around me and in that moment I was no longer afraid. The lyrics are simply:

Walk in the light,beautiful light,
come where the dewdrops of mercy shine bright.
Oh shine all around us by day and by night,
Jesus is, Jesus is the light of the world;

This Christmas, let us embrace the light as it comes. It may come in the face of another, or the kindness of a stranger, or even the words of a hymn that penetrates our hearts in new ways. No matter how it comes, step into it. Receive it. Walk in it. For the gift that is greater than all others is the coming of the One who is the Light now and forever – Jesus Christ.

Let us pray-

God of glory,
your splendor shines from a manger in Bethlehem,
where the Light of the world is humbly born
into the darkness of human night.
Open our eyes to Christ’s presence in the shadows of our world,
so that we, like him, may become beacons of your justice,
and defenders of all for whom there is no room. Amen.
Reproduced from Revised Common Lectionary Prayers copyright © 2002 Consultation on Common Texts admin. Augsburg Fortress.

-The Rev. Shonda Jones

Rev. Jones is Associate Dean of Admissions and Student Services at Candler.  She is involved in recruitment, admissions, financial aid, and student life. In addition, Rev. Jones provides vocational guidance, financial advisement, and crisis management for students. She is an ordained elder in the North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church. Her areas of interest include the HIV/AIDS pandemic, anti-racism, womanist theology, ethics, culture, and studies in church and society.

All images copyright John August Swanson. They can be viewed at Candler on the second floor outside of room 252.


Sep 24 2010

Spiritual Gifts: Knitting for Our Neighbors

I firmly believe that utilizing our spiritual gifts in an effort to give back to our community is of utmost importance.  My favorite aspect of Candler’s coursework is Contextual Education (ConEd).  Through ConEd I, every Candler student is given an opportunity to explore his or her spiritual gifts during their weekly hours on site in a church, hospital, foster home, or outreach community setting.  One of Candler’s professors took it a step further with her spiritual gifts and began a knitting group called Project Warmth: Crafting a Better World.

Dr. Karen Scheib, Director of the Women, Theology and Ministries Program, recognized knitting and crocheting Balls of Yarnas some of her spiritual gifts, and she chose to use these gifts in an effort to further help those in our ConEd I communities.  To that goal, she created Project Warmth and invited everyone to be involved. She began by purchasing loads of yarn and multiple sets of knitting needles.  Dr. Scheib was excited to share her gift and teach all of us how to knit so that we could give back to the communities in which we had become so entrenched and attached.

Quilt SquaresLast year, Dr. Scheib was the faculty advisor for my ConEd I group which served at the United Methodist Children’s Home.  For this particular ConEd site, we planned to make a patchwork lap blanket to give to them.  Each of the students in my group helped knit different colored squares that Dr. Scheib finalized by crocheting together into a blanket.  She had many ideas for other sites such as hats and scarves for homeless adults and baby blankets and mittens for underprivileged children.

God makes each individual uniquely different and blesses us with a variety of spiritual gifts; I can safely say that knitting is not mine.  What was supposed to be my square wound up looking like some unnamed shape!  While I certainly believe that more practice would have helped, I was never able to relax for fear of messing something up!  I have no doubt that through the years of ministry that I have ahead of me there will be many more “false starts.”  But I believe that I will be guided to my appropriate niche each and every time if I remain patient and steadfast in my relationship with the Lord.

For many of my classmates, however, knitting actually became a spiritual discipline and served as a form of self-care – a skill which is really stressed at Candler.  Despite all of the reading, papers, and extracurricular activities, all of us must find the time to take care of ourselves.  Taking time out of our day for knitting gave us time for reflection and meditation amidst our chaotic schedules.  Dr. Scheib explained that we were doing something for ourselves by knitting, but also doing something for others by giving to charity.  The dual purpose of this project helped and continues to help all of those involved.  I believe that all of us have gifts that can be shared with the community at large, and I admire Dr. Scheib for sharing hers with not only the Candler community but also with those in need throughout the greater-Atlanta area.

- Mia Northington

Mia is a 2nd Year MDiv student from Tennessee and a Student Ambassador.


May 16 2008

The Journey

Today is my last day of interning in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at Candler School of Theology. I have had four wonderfully amazing and nurturing years here—three as a Master of Divinity student and one after graduation as an intern and research assistant. But I know from the lyrics of Steven Tyler, lead singer of Aerosmith, and other wise sages, who have spoken these words through the ages that, “Life’s a journey not a destination.” Candler was a significant stop along the journey, but the journey of life certainly does not end here. In fact, many things are just beginning. It seems fitting that the word seminary was used to describe a plot where plants were raised from seeds back in the mid 1400s. My calling, much like a seed, was nurtured from its tiny conception into a spout of new possibilities for living and ministry during my time at Candler.

Candler has played midwife to my pastoral identity and personhood while still allowing me to find my own way. This community has helped birth me into a new way of being in ministry and care of the world, my neighbor, and myself. Candler has allowed me to ask the challenging questions and created space for deep dialogue. As I prepare to go, I pack with me a box full of friends, memories, moments, and their loving words as I take the next step in my vocational journey in ministry. As I prepare to be appointed as the Associate Pastor at First United Methodist Church of Amite, LA, I realize that Candler will still be with me along the journey. Sure, the relationship will change and grow, but Candler has become and will remain a large part of my very being and my ministry for years to come.

I carry Candler with me as a journey to the Louisiana Annual Conference on June 1 where I will be commissioned a probationary elder in The United Methodist Church. Candler will be there as the clergy vote on my preparedness for ordained ministry, for Candler helped prepare me for this. Candler will be in the congregation on the night of my commissioning as other alums from the seminary participate and attend the service. Candler preaching professors, Dr. Tom Long, Dr. Teresa Fry Brown, and Dr. Gail O’Day will be with me in word and spirit as I call upon their teachings as I write my sermons. On June 15, my first Sunday at my new church, Candler will be present in the face of my former housemate that I lived with during seminary, who is driving 5 hours to come hear me preach my first sermon as Rev. Lane Cotton Winn.

Candler will be along for every step of my journey into ministry—as I visit parishioners in the hospital, as I lead meetings and teach classes, as I administer the sacraments and bake communion bread using the same recipe we use here in Cannon Chapel. Candler will be there when a church member tells me she feels called to ministry and is interested in going to seminary. I will tell her of my mystical and amazing time at Candler, and I can confidently say that I believe God does marvelous things in the halls, classrooms, corners, chapel, courtyard, and offices of Candler School of Theology. We’re growing a beautiful garden here, and this spring of my time at Candler, I am ready to be in full bloom for others as I move into local church ministry and service to the world. Candler has prepared me for this next step, and I am ready to be harvested.

Poet Mary Oliver ends her poem “The Summer Day,” with these words that I leave with you today. I hope you will carry Oliver’s closing question around in your heart as you discern the next steps for you along your journey.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?


Jan 18 2008

You Can Do This

There is snow falling outside and students buying textbooks at the Cokesbury Bookstore inside. On the eve of the first day of classes for the spring semester at Candler, deep in the south, here in Atlanta, Georgia, as kids rejoice at the possibility of a snow day, Candler students pack their schoolbags, finalize their schedules, and prepare for the semester. Candler School of Theology is back in business. Classes resumed on Thursday, January 17, 2008, and seniors could not be more thrilled! They are two days closer to graduation.

For the next two weeks, the blog will feature two of our graduating Master of Divinity seniors as they begin their final semester of seminary. I hope you will hear and feel the celebration in Sheila Elliott’s words as you read below.


Everything is in. All of my commissioning papers, Bible study, sermon, security check, credit check, applications for CPE, and a fall semester full of take homes, sermons, and papers. I am surrounded by piles of paper and there are various books strewn about. As I prepare to leave Candler I am reminded of my first semester and how long three years seemed at the time. I was financially, socially, and personally looking into the unknown. Dr. Teresa L. Fry Brown, Associate Professor of Homiletics, preached during worship at my Candler orientation, and even now, her words ring in my ears – “you can do this!” Her words soothed my uncertainty and gave me the lift I needed to begin the journey. I contemplated returning to my home and career during the spring semester of my first year, but the words of my pastor prepared me to remain for the duration. So, I stayed, and I am incredibly glad and thankful that I did.

A famous player in the Negro Baseball League once said that it’s alright to look back just don’t stare. Pursuing theological education and accepting one’s call into the ministry requires looking down the road that is ahead, not staring at what was left behind. I decided to commit to the journey and to the Candler community, opting not to squint in order to see the end. I decided instead to focus on where I was at the time. A good look at Candler revealed challenges, of course, but what I have seen and experienced at Candler has truly blessed me. I have enjoyed the fellowship and friendship.

The thought that there will come a day when I won’t see Maxine, Wilbur, Kirstyn, Steve, Sarah, Marlo, Anna, Greg and others or say something sassy to Sonja is almost unimaginable. I will miss worship and to some extent community lunch, but I know that my journey here is coming to an end and I’m ready. I know that I am leaving a place I have come to cherish and folks I have grown to love. But I’m ready. Being ready isn’t primarily about no longer wanting to be a student or having grown weary of papers and exams. Readiness is about the pull of what one is being called to do. I don’t feel as if I’m being pushed out of Candler, but drawn into that which I have been prepared and called to do. I know that there are lessons still to learn, and leaving is bittersweet, I’m just thankful that I was able to come to a place that now feels like home.

Sheila Elliott was born into a military family in South Carolina, and she has lived aboard since she was four years old. Sheila has a PhD in International Relations from the University of South Carolina, and she taught in higher education for 20 years both at Columbia College and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Sheila is currently a graduating senior Master of Divinity student at Candler School of Theology, and she hopes to get commissioned as a probationary elder in the South Carolina Annual Conference in June, 2008.

Just as Dr. Teresa Fry Brown preached, you can do this; you can go to seminary; you can come to Candler. 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.


Dec 14 2007

Focus on First Years

As final papers and examinations are completed and students go home for the holidays and a restful and rejuvenating winter break from Candler School of Theology, Emory University, we’ve invited current students as well as Office of Admissions and Financial administrators to be Guest Bloggers in the coming weeks. This week, First Year Master of Divinity students Jon Chapman and Jojo Mulunda reflect on their first semester at Candler. Please read below to hear the story of Candler as told through the voices and hearts of two of our newest students.

Jojo Mulunda: Candler Cares

I went to Emory University for my undergraduate education, so when I got accepted into Candler School of Theology, I thought I knew exactly what I was getting into. Emory is renowned for excellence in scholarship and service, so I naturally expected Candler to be the same as the rest of Emory. I quickly discovered within moments of meeting current students, admissions staff and professors, that I was absolutely wrong. Not only is the scholarship at Candler of the same high caliber as that of the other Emory schools, Candler has an added trait that sets it apart from other schools: love for people.

I was blown away by how genuinely interested people around campus were in getting to know new faces. Even seniors made it a point to attend some orientation activities to meet us when we first arrived on campus. Unlike the undergraduate college at Emory, Candler’s size is large enough for you to make new friends in every class, yet small enough for people to take interest in what matters to you as a student. I felt such a sense of friendship and community at Candler that is a challenge to foster at other institutions.

I can still remember a candid conversation some seniors had with the entire incoming class during orientation. All the seniors emphasized that Candler required excellence in academics, yet reassured us that it would be nearly impossible to complete all the readings. I remember turning around in my seat and waiting for a staff person or professor to rebut their statements. Surprisingly, most nodded in agreement! Almost all of the seniors gave us tips on how to read for particular classes, encouraged us to build relationships with one another, and advised us to take the time to find enjoyable non-Candler related hobbies, to bring balance into the lives we were about to begin. No truer words were spoken! Three months and three Old Testament exams later, I am infinitely grateful to those seniors, and to the countless people that I have met throughout the semester who have made my challenging, yet fun-filled, free food-filled, friendship-filled first semester a great one. Second semester, here I come!

Jojo Mulunda is a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo. She completed her undergraduate education in International Studies and French Studies at Emory University. Upon completion of the Master of Divinity program, her long-term goals include pursuing a career in public policy, and creating a rehabilitation and reintegration program for child soldiers in the Great Lakes region in Africa. She is recently engaged (and very excited about it) and is looking forward to getting married in Spring 2008.

Jon Chapman: Advent Eucharist

Friday Mid-day Eucharist is one of my favorite things about Candler School of Theology. Period. Every Friday, the same core group of 40 or so gather in Cannon Chapel after a long week of classes. I make my way from Hebrew, which gives me reason to need time to rest and recover.

It’s a simple service really. Most of the general parts of a church service are there, excepting the sermon. Instead, after the reading of the Gospel, we sit together, quietly thinking about the words we just heard–wondering if any meaning sat in them for us, for our studies, for our school, for our world.

Then comes my absolute favorite part. After the Prayers of the People (which are offered so genuinely by the people who have gathered), we share communion. Every week, we pause our scholastic endeavors to join together in the bread and wine before heading into the weekend, which all too often is as hectic as our school week. It’s a time for acknowledging the week just had, and preparing for the week to come.

Advent is much the same way. It lets us review the year that passed and prepare for the coming days. Advent, however, can be an irritating time. Because it is a season of waiting and preparation it insists that we slow down. Slowing down means swimming against the current swell of American consumerism in an increasingly globalized world, not to mention a secular Christmas that is celebrated before we have any birth to celebrate.

But it is necessary waiting, because without it, we would have no time to understand exactly what Christmas is.

This week, as we began our advent sojourn in Friday Mid-day Eucharist, the program had a few lines from Madeline L’Engle on its cover. Here is how it read:

“This is the irrational season
when love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
there’d have been no room for the child.”

As I read this poem, I was reminded of how irrational the whole thing was. Mary–a virgin? Son of God in a stable? Lazarus to life? Leaper healed? Deaf hear? The meek will inherit? Bread of Life? Blood of Salvation? A criminal’s death for a king? Heaven for a thief? Missing body? Death no more? For you? For me?

It is amazing really, this irrationality. It’s amazing because somehow, it makes sense. It’s amazing because somewhere through the absurdity and irrationality, there is undeserved grace and unconditional love that holds us close.

Keep watch.

Blessings,

Jon

Jonathan is a first year Master of Divinity student at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He holds a B. A. in Religious Studies from Elon University. While at Elon, Jonathan was active in LGBT awareness and other activism.

Jonathan is pursing ordination in the United Church of Christ, and is a member of Elon Community Church, United Church of Christ in Elon, North Carolina.

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If you are currently discerning if seminary is the next step in your faith journey, I hope you will consider Candler as a community for you to live into your calling. 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 look for my profile on Facebook, named Candler Intern-Theology, and the Candler School of Theology Group at www.facebook.com.


Dec 7 2007

Eventful Advent

It may have been the last week of classes here at Candler School of Theology, Emory University, before Reading Week and final exams, but there were an amazing amount of activities, worship services, and community gatherings that happened in these last few days of the semester. On Tuesday, there was a Brown Bag Lunch Conversation sponsored by the Oral History Project of Women in Theology and Ministry with Melva Costen, who is a widely recognized authority on music and worship. She is the author of African American Christian Worship and In Spirit and in Truth: The Music of African American Worship. Dr. Costen recently retired from the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC), where she was the Helmar Emil Nielsen Professor of Music and Worship. The interview and conversation with Dr. Costen was part of our ongoing work in gathering stories of strong women who have helped shape their religious communities and the larger culture.

Then, on Wednesday, the Candler class “Christian Encounter with Hinduism,” taught by Dr. Thomas Thangaraj, the D.W. and Ruth Brooks Associate Professor of World Christianity, sponsored a free exhibition on Hinduism for all Candler students. There were displays, music, Indian finger foods, craft activities, and trivia to help learn more about Hinduism, along with an exhibition about Hindu Gods and Goddesses.

On Thursday, the Office of Student Programming turned Brooks Commons, the social gathering area for the seminary, into the “Candler Stress-Free Zone” for an intentional afternoon and evening of fun and relaxation for those feeling overwhelmed by finals. Loaded nachos, the movie Shrek 3, crafts, video games, and board games were the perfect combination of junk food and distractions to help people temporarily forget about the stress of final exams and papers that are yet to be completed.

These were indeed all wonderful events, but my favorite part of the week had to be the Hanging of the Greens service in chapel on Tuesday. It was a Service of Readings, Advent Carols, and Prayers for the Waiting World. During the singing, which included congregational hymns as well as special music from the Candler Singers, the Chapel Choir, and Voices of Imani, the chapel was prepared and decorated with greenery, poinsettias, Advent paraments, and the colors of the season.

The service was beautifully planned and presented—everything from the readings to the liturgical dances. In fact, each scripture reading was done in two languages by two people, who were standing across the altar table from each other. Various members of the Candler community, who come from places near and far, read the text in their native tongue. It was so moving to hear the Advent scriptures read in Shona, Russian, Korean, Tamil, and English. It reminds us that these sacred texts are universal and calls to each of us personally from the four corners of God’s creation. Those in attendance at this service certainly caught a glimpse of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God as we worshipped, sat in silence, prayed, and lit the first candle on the Advent wreath together.

Because the semester is quickly coming to an end, the Candler community must squeeze Advent in four days instead of four weeks. Therefore, on Wednesday, the Office of Worship planned a Las Posadas service, which is an enactment of the Holy Family’s search for shelter, with songs in Spanish reflecting the Mexican origins of this service. Prayers were offered for those still searching for shelter, for food, for justice. The Thursday of Advent Week at Candler is always a Service of Artist Gifts, in which members of the Candler community offer their artistic expressions from music, dance, art, and spoken word. This service was themed around the Magnificat: My Soul Magnifies the Lord. Finally, the end of the week, as we light the last candle around the Advent wreath, we share in the Eucharist and feast at the Table. As students receive the Benediction on Friday, they have a week off for preparing and waiting for finals. And isn’t that what we are called to do during Advent? We wait and prepare for the coming Christ child with hopeful expectation.

As classes and final examinations end, the Candler student body will go home for the winter break, but we will continue to post blogs weekly. In fact, starting next Friday, we will begin a series of blogs which will be written by current students and others within the community. Though classes may not be in session, we are still around in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid to answer your questions and talk to you about your discernment process and interest in Candler School of Theology. Feel free to contact us through the Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany seasons. You can email us at candleradmissions@emory.edu or call is at 404.727.6326. Also, check out my profile on Facebook (Candler Intern-Theology) and please join the Candler School of Theology Group at www.facebook.com.

Lane Cotton Winn 07T
Candler School of Theology
Office of Admissions and Financial Aid Intern


Nov 30 2007

Holiday Lights

We’re mere moments away from December, and as the fall leaves turn brown and become mulch under our feet and the turkey and pumpkin decorations are put away, the Advent and Christmas season is immediately ushered in. It’s that time of year when we get new candles for the Advent wreathe, compose Christmas cards, and hear Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree everywhere we turn. One of the harder tasks in decorating for the Christmas season has got to be untangling strands of lights and then successfully winding them around the Christmas tree in such a way that no cord is visible to the naked eye and there is an even distribution of lights at all angles of view, from the crawling baby to the towering uncle.

Lights have been a recent topic of discussion on both the campus level for Emory University, through the Office of Sustainability Initiatives, as well as on the seminary level here at Candler School of Theology. In fact, light bulbs, water conservation, electricity use, and sustainable food sources are all lively discussions and movements around campus. Last spring, the Office of Sustainability Initiatives invited the Emory University community to submit grants for sustainability projects. Brad Schweers 05T, admissions advisor in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at Candler, wrote a grant to switch all of the standard incandescent light bulbs in Bishops Hall and Cannon Chapel, Candler’s academic, administrative, and chapel buildings, with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) in order to reduce Candler’s electricity usage. The second, and more far-reaching, purpose of the project proposed by Brad was to educate students, staff, and faculty about compact fluorescent lighting and larger environmental issues, from a Christian and religious stewardship viewpoint and empower them to switch their personal and congregational lighting from incandescent to compact fluorescent lighting.

Brad was awarded the grant, and began switching incandescent bulbs in Cannon Chapel and Bishops Hall with CFLs in late August, as classes resumed. Brad switched just under a hundred bulbs. Over the expected ten thousand hour life of the bulbs, each CFL will save approximately four hundred seventy kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity as compared to their incandescent counterparts. To measure results, Brad compared energy consumption from September and October 2007 with the consumption from those same months in 2005 and 2006.

Georgia Interfaith Power and Light (GIPL), a local non-profit working with religious congregations on environmental justice issues, whose Executive Director, Katy Hinman graduated from Candler with her Master of Divinity (MDiv) in 2006 and is a candidate for ordained ministry in The United Methodist Church, teaches that a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) is fluorescent lighting designed to be used in a standard (incandescent) light bulb socket. Because incandescent bulbs work by heating up a metal filament until it is white-hot, they produce mostly heat, which is why a fluorescent bulb using only thirteen watts of electricity can produce light comparable to an incandescent hogging sixty watts.

Since switching our bulbs to CFLs two months ago, Candler has reduced energy consumption by twelve percent. We have saved almost eight thousand Kilowatt hours of electricity, which is more than an average household uses in a year. In addition, Candler has put 6,800 fewer pounds of carbon dioxide into the environment. That is four Honda Civics worth, by the way. We have saved $490 on our energy bills in September and October of this year. If you are thinking like a Candler student, that’s a lot of meals at Cox Hall, Dooley’s Den, and Emory Village, which are eateries in and around Emory that are frequented by seminarians.

Brad Schweers’ passion for energy reduction and environmental concerns continues. He says, “For me, energy conservation is more than just commonsensical, though it is that, of course. As a Christian, energy conservation is a matter of stewardship, a matter of caring for the Creation over which God has given us responsibility. Jesus said that the essence of life is to love God, love neighbor, and love your self. I think today he would add love Creation. Switching out a hundred light bulbs at Candler is, for me, a part of that Christian love.”

Georgia Interfaith Power and Light, along with their partners, are encouraging people to give Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs as Advent, Hanukkah, and Christmas presents this year. By switching one incandescent light bulb to a CFL, can save seventy percent of the energy used by an incandescent bulb; four hundred seventy kilowatt-hours of electricity (that’s like running a hair dryer non-stop for sixteen days); seven hundred thirty pounds (pounds!) of CO2 from entering the atmosphere; $36 over the life of the CFL bulb, which can be up to ten years. Katy Hinman 06T, at GIPL reminds us, “It is important that we not only make the theological connection between our faith and the need to be good stewards of our environmental resources, but also that we empower ourselves and our congregations to take positive action toward ensuring a thriving planet for generations to come.” Honor one of the colors of the holiday season, and be Green-friendly and give Green gifts that will honor God’s great creation.

Candler is a great place to explore pressing cultural and theological issues, such as the environment, as well as be in dialogue with timeless theologians and biblical texts. For more information about Candler School of Theology, visit our website at www.can
dler.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.

Lane Cotton Winn 07T

Candler School of Theology

Office of Admissions and Financial Aid Intern