Apr 18 2008

Marking the End of the Year

This has been a week speckled with services of sending forth, good byes and honoring graduates. With only one week of classes still remaining here at Candler School of Theology, the community is in a season of transition and closure. Though various student groups and classes mark the end of the year with celebrations and gatherings, I’d like to share with you four of the larger events that bring the Candler community together as the year comes to an end.

On Tuesday evening, the Women in Theology and Ministry Program sponsored a graduation dinner, as they do each year, centered on the program’s theme this year of “Women & Peacemaking.” Before Amanda Hendler-Voss 05T, Faith Communities Coordinator of WAND (Women’s Action for New Directions) and Minister of Christian Education at First Congregational UCC in Asheville, NC, and Dr. Elizabeth Corrie 96T 02G, Interim Director of Youth Theological Initiative and Lecturer in Youth Education and Peacebuilding spoke to the gathering, all the names of the graduating women were spoken aloud and those present were invited forward to accept a gift.

This year’s gift was a Peace Pole, which is an internationally recognized symbol of hope for the human family, standing vigil in silent prayer for peace on earth. Each Peace Pole bears the message “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in different languages. The graduates’ poles were made especially for Candler School of Theology, and the cost included a donation to the Peace Pole Project. Peace Poles have been planted in front of churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples, as well as sites of human conflict, such as the War Museum in Viet Nam and South Africa’s Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.

Sacred Worth, a student group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, those questioning their sexuality, and allies, offered a Service of Sending Forth on Wednesday, which took time to recognize the open LGBTQ graduates in the Candler community. Because sexuality is such a divisive issue in many of the mainline Protestant denominations of which our students are members of, Sacred Worth intentionally honors seniors of the LGBTQ community, knowing some of their denominations may not honor and recognize them as pastors and leaders in the church. It was an intimate service in the chapel that included communion and words of affirmation. Seniors, who were willing to come forward, were given a stole in recognition of their calling. A stole was also placed on the altar and later will be donated to the Shower of Stoles Project to remember that there are many people who have to remain silent about their sexuality in order to be in the church and answer their call to ministry.

During chapel on Thursday, the community gathered for a Celebration of Gifts and Honors. The service affirmed the gifts of the Candler community and thanked those who have made contributions to our life and fellowship together this year. From our communion bread bakers and readers of scripture in worship to those part of a student organization or have helped with a Candler event, we honored each person. Students, staff, and faculty who were nominated for awards were also named in conjunction with Honor’s Day awards.

Thursday evening was the Elder’s Send Off, sponsored by the Program of Black Church Studies, in conjunction with the Black Student Caucus. The evening included dinner, creative expressions performed and shared by members of the community, and ended with a blessing of the seniors, as well as staff and faculty who are also leaving our community at the end of the academic year. Kirstyn Brown, who is graduating with her Master of Divinity in a couple of weeks describes, “The Elder’s Send Off was a night of remembrance and celebration that served as a source of motivation and encouragement as I transition from Candler. It reaffirmed the sacredness of my cultural, personal, and spiritual formation.” After graduating, Kirstyn will be teaching English with the Baltimore Teaching Residency Program in Baltimore City Public School System.

Clearly we are a community who loves to mark the seasons of life and honor times of change and transition. There will certainly be more celebrations, tears, and hugs next week, but I can’t imagine anything that could top this week’s schedule of events. Tonight is Candler’s Spring Banquet (AKA “Candler Prom”), and next week, two guest bloggers will share their experience at the banquet.

If you are interested in learning more about Candler School of Theology, check out our website. In addition, you can call us at 404.727.6326, email us at candleradmissions@emory.edu, 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.

Oct 19 2007

Sacred Conversation

One of the strengths I admire about the Candler School of Theology’s community is its openness to dialogue and converse about anything that may be on one’s mind. Walking through Brooks Commons, our gathering commons area, I hear conversations ranging from theodicy to Tillich, from the weather to weekend plans, and sharing about family and favorite faculty. What is even more impressive is that these conversations are happening all over campus—in the classroom, at lunch or over coffee, in the hallways and across bathroom stalls. In fact, I had a great conversation about Wesleyan theology with a Jewish Master of Arts student, who has a United Methodist minister in her family, on the Emory Shuttle on the way to school last week. We are a community of talkers. Wait; let me clarify. We are a community of dialoguers. Sure, every now and then it seems like we talk just to hear our own ideas but, for the most part, the Candler community is welcoming and open to dialogue with whatever is on your mind.

One conversation that I had the privilege to be a participant in this week was hosted by Sacred Worth, which is a group comprised of straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) students at Candler. Their mission statement says that, “Sacred Worth seeks to be a place of support and safety to those members of the Candler community who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered and those who are supportive heterosexual allies of LGBT justice issues. The group also serves as a prophetic voice, promoting and provoking conversation about sexuality and gender orientation, especially as it relates to ministry, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identification.” This is Sacred Worth Week, therefore, they are hosting a number of events including a silent auction and coffeehouse, several panels and conversations, a faculty and staff appreciation dinner, as well as planning and leading all the chapel services for the week.

The main speaker and preacher they have for the week is Dr. Harry Knox, who is the Director of the Religion and Faith Program at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). The conversation I attended was with Harry Knox and Rev. Beverly F. Ostrowski as well as those of us in attendance. The conversation was about the HRC’s resource Out in Scripture, which is a weekly commentary by theologians, scholars, and LGBTQ writers that coincides with the Revised Common Lectionary. Their website says, “This Human Rights Campaign resource places comments about the Bible alongside the real life experiences and concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of faith and our allies. With the help of skilled scholars, you will discover a fresh approach to Scripture.” During the conversation, Harry Knox commented, “Let’s let the church be ahead of something, for once,” in reference to the conversations going on in both secular and sacred arenas about LGBTQ issues and concerns. Indeed, there are dialogues, debates, and down right fights happening around many divisive issues within the church and world. I am grateful that we are encouraged at Candler to talk openly and with compassioned spirit and passion about issues that touch us at the core of our beliefs and ideals.

Rev. Ostrowski offered the following comment about the Out in Scripture resource: “It encourages us to listen to the voice we might not otherwise hear.” And I would argue, or dialogue with you, that the Candler community, as a whole, pushes itself to be in dialogue with the voiceless, the marginalized, the mainstream, the right winged, the leftest liberal, the traditional orthodox, and all the other beautiful loud and quiet voices that make up the conversations of the world.

Sometimes the conversations are hard and push us to look beyond what we know and believe, but at least we are conversing. There will be other student-led weeks throughout the year, such as Heritage Week, hosted by Black Student Caucus, and Women’s Week, coordinated by Candler Women. Student groups, professors, and even our chapel services are constantly asking us to be in dialogue, and those of us who matriculate at Candler are more well-rounded dialoguers and citizens of the kingdom of God for having been invited to the conversation.

If you want to be in dialogue with others about deep theological issues as well as pressing debates of today, maybe Candler is the place for you. Please contact us in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at candleradmissions@emory.edu, call us at 404.727.6326, learn more about the Admissions Process 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.