Aug 13 2013

Where the Wild Goose People Go

“Why the Wild Goose Festival?” the reporter asked me.

He was a freelance journalist working both for the local newspaper and The United Methodist Reporter, an independent news site that covers the denomination. He wanted to know what Candler, as a United Methodist institution, thought about the festival. Why was it important for Candler to be there?

As I thought about my answer, a lot of ideas ran through my mind.

First, I thought about Candler and the students in my own cohort. In many ways we’re “Wild Goose People.” My classmates are creative folk, passionate about the arts and anxious to pour their creativity into everything they do, whether in the classroom or in the chapel–music, dance and the visual arts are prominent in the life and worship of the Candler Community.

Karen Slappey

My classmates are also prophetic and compassionate. They are wrestling with the world, seeking God and striving to create a culture that does justice and loves mercy. Social justice isn’t just a commitment at Candler. It’s a value deeply rooted in the United Methodist heritage of Emory University and the Wesleyan tradition of social holiness. Wesleyan theology teaches that living the Gospel means living in and working to transform society. John Wesley defined salvation as a recovering of the divine nature endowed by God in the creation of humankind. The fruit of that restoration is, as Wesley put it, “true holiness in justice, mercy and truth.”

eARThSo why would Candler attend an event like Wild Goose? Well, “Wild Goose People” hold the values we do: creativity, passion and a fervent heart for restoring society through ministry, worship and community. And it’s important for pastors-in-training like myself to meet and hear from other like-minded people. It’s these kind of connections that make an event like Wild Goose an invaluable experience for those who attend year after year.

Candler participates in festivals, conferences and other events throughout the year. And the reason we do is not only to meet and connect with alumni and potential students; we also go to drink deeply from the community well, to cement our connection to the larger Church and to remind ourselves that the shared life we are creating at Candler is one tile in a bright and beautiful mosaic that covers the world.

–Timothy Hankins

Timothy is a second year MDiv student at Candler from Knoxville, TN. He coordinated Emory/Candler’s exhibit table at the 2013 Wild Goose Festival in Hot Springs, NC. In September he begins his appointment as the pastor of St. Stephen United Methodist Church in Marietta, GA.

Photo captions: Timothy at the Real table; Candler student Karen Slappey meets presenter Nadia Bolz-Weber; Cool art shirt; fellow student Sara Relaford.


Jun 21 2013

Ministry in the Deep End

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.

Reflecting on my overall experience with the church, I would say that I was standing in a shallow pool, feet confidently planted on the smooth concrete floor, free to move and walk as I pleased. But now, Candler Advantage has allowed me the opportunity to become much more involved in the life of church. As a result, my growing experience has turned that small pool into a much wider and deeper one. All of a sudden, my feet, which became accustomed to the smooth floor, have lost their stability as the floor plunges deeper and deeper below. Consequently, I begin to thrash in the deep end, struggling to find that fading stability.

The more I realize how deep the pool can become, the more I want my feet to be reunited with the floor. I begin to sink. Slowly. Finally, my feet touch the bottom and a well of comfort begins to rush forward only to become consumed by a more pressing need—the need for fresh air to fill my lungs. Frustrated, I awkwardly paddle back up. Now that I know I can reach the bottom, I keep sinking down only to be drawn back up. This pattern repeats over and over again. I soon realize that I am longing for the stability I once knew but is no longer available.

There has to be a better way. I need to find a way to adapt to these changing circumstances and my changing reality. At first I begin thrashing to maintain my buoyancy and realize how exhausting and draining it’s becoming. Over time though, I am learning that there is a particular rhythm to staying afloat with my head above water. I begin to move my hands back and forth under water while moving my legs in sync. It’s still exhausting but feels much more stable than before.

Working with Eastside United Methodist Church is not only allowing me to learn a completely new way of finding stability within ministry, but also to learn new skills, habits, and rhythms that grow me to be a much more effective minister. The Candler Advantage program is allowing me to develop the skills I will need to eventually swim in the deep waters of ministry.

–Tyler Jackson

Tyler is a rising third year student at Candler who is completing a summer internship as part of Candler Advantage. He serves in the areas of arts and community development at Eastside Church, a United Methodist church plant in Decatur, GA.


Mar 1 2013

A Depth of Expression

The first time I saw the inside of Cannon Chapel was the first day of my orientation. I made a gutsy move in coming to Candler having never visited the school, or even Atlanta before, so after being funneled through check-in I quickly made my way to a seat in the worship space. Knowing the days of endless introductions and getting-to-know-you conversations were beginning, I felt comfort in the familiarity of stillness in a quiet sanctuary.

As I took in the space, I remember appreciating the raw and unfinished characteristics of the natural wood and bare concrete, as well as the seating in the round that gave even the architecture a dynamic quality–an expectation for something new. I don’t remember anything about that first service except the perspective I had from my floor seat near the organ and the distinct expectation that in that place I could expect the Spirit to move.

I chose Candler for many reasons, but their emphasis on student involvement in worship was a top selling point. I imagined, and it proves to be true that the chapel serves as sort of laboratory for students to experiment with different elements and styles of worship. It is a place to try things on, to mix genres, to do something somewhat radical with the expectation that the Spirit will use what we bring, provided it is an authentic gesture pointing to the Word.

This school is ripe with artistic and liturgical gifts. From trained and professional vocalists to seasoned and gifted musicians, plus the added hundred or so robust congregational singers, the musical elements of worship are offerings worthy of the One they praise. Add to that the occasional dramatized reading, non-traditional (read: not-so-cheesy) liturgical dance, or poetic prayer, and the embodied Presence is witnessed among us.

While I am ever challenged by the intellectual prowess of my peers, and grateful for the thoughtful engagement of difficult and problematic theological perspectives, I am also captivated by the artistically pastoral gifts that are selflessly lent to prayer and praise in worship each week. The enlightenment and growth in the classroom seems to spill over into what is offered in worship–adding to the depth of expression and interpretation within that space.

I am only a little over halfway through my time in seminary, but already sense that when I leave it will be our worship together that I miss most. Some of my most treasured and moving experiences on this journey have taken place in that chapel. While seminary can feel overwhelmingly taxing and sometimes even isolating, it is together in worship that I am reminded of our commonality and shared mission as leaders of the Church. It is where I sense most strikingly that when we offer all of ourselves–our gifts and will– to God that we will truly be used for the transformation of the world and the building of the kingdom on earth.

May it be so.

- Darin Arntson

Darin is a second year MDiv student from Southern California, a member of the Candler Liturgical Dancers, and a Student Ambassador.


Aug 5 2011

Living History

Neo-Assyrian soldiers stretch out naked foes on the ground, preparing to flay them alive. Captive children witness the gruesome display.

One of the highlights of my trip to Israel this summer was visiting the site of ancient Lachish, about thirty-five miles southwest of Jerusalem. This Judahite city was the last to fall to the mighty Neo-Assyrian army before it set its sights squarely on Jerusalem (701 B.C.E.). King Sennacherib was so proud of this conquest that he had scenes from the siege of Lachish etched into the walls at his palace at Nineveh. Now displayed in the British Museum in London, these reliefs depict (among other things) the execution and torture of Judahite soldiers and dignitaries as well as the forced migration of the city’s inhabitants.

Neo-Assyrian troops impale citizens of Lachish on long poles while archers and soldiers armed with slings ascend the siege ramp.

Neo-Assyrian troops in a siege engine attack the fortified gates of Lachish. Torches and boulders rain down on the attackers, but to no avail.

I visited Tel Lachish late in the afternoon on a scorching day in July. Except for the birds and the occasional lizard that skittered by, I was completely alone at the site. It was eerily quiet. And as I stood atop the tel, I let my historical imagination run wild.

One can still see very clearly the huge earthen ramp that the Neo-Assyrians built to surmount the city’s walls. It is massive and an impressive feat of engineering even now. I imagined the dread that the citizens must have felt looking down from the walls to see below the greatest fighting force that the world had ever known. As Sennacherib’s troops slowly assembled the siege ramp rock by rock, the city surely knew what was coming. Once the ramp was finished, there could be no repelling Sennacherib’s raiders.

Remains of the Neo-Assyrian siege ramp leading up to the city walls.

Sennacherib resting comfortably on his throne in his camp outside of Lachish.

As I saw this historical drama playing itself out before me, I could picture the Neo-Assyrian soldiers in full armor, with a taste for blood and a lust for loot. I imagined a smug Sennacherib munching some grapes in his plush camp just out of range of Lachish’s archers. Why did he have to come all the way from Nineveh to wreak so much havoc here? Looking down on the site of Sennacherib’s camp, I had the urge to utter a curse against those damn Neo-Assyrians. And suddenly, quite unexpectedly, I felt a new kinship with old Jonah, who certainly had no love lost on these people (cf. Jonah 3-4). The memory of violence, even violence from thousands of year ago, can still have profound and disturbing effects.

Another very different highlight of my trip was visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. I wasn’t really planning on visiting the church, intending instead to focus on the numerous Old Testament “places of interest” in and around Jerusalem (like Lachish). Yet when I happened upon the church, I just couldn’t resist going in.

I have to admit that once inside I found the people far more interesting than the architecture, relics, and this or that shrine. As I navigated the various holy sites within the church, I realized I was walking alongside people from all over the world. It struck me powerfully that millions of Christians over hundreds of years had travelled to this very building and had walked on these very stones.

Why had we all come? Was it curiosity? Devotion? Adventure? And who were we exactly? Pilgrims? Or tourists? Or worse, crusaders? Or were we something in between, some mixture of all three? I couldn’t tell, but walking through the church gave me the sense that I was participating in something that was far bigger than me. To be sure, that something was very messy and complicated and rife with contradiction, but also somehow profoundly true.

Crosses etched into the walls by pilgrims at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Of all the images from the church that day, what most struck me was seeing the thousands of crosses cut in the stone blocks on the stairway down to the crypt of St. Helen. Those simple etchings testified to the presence and faith of so many who had come before me. Even in the few minutes I stood at the steps there taking it all in, scores of new pilgrims walked by.

- Dr. Joel LeMon

 

Dr. LeMon is Assistant Professor of Old Testament at Candler and will be teaching OT501 this year.  His research focuses on the Psalms, Hebrew and Ugaritic poetry, and (as you can tell) ancient Near Eastern history, literature, and art. He is the author of Yahweh’s Winged Form in the Psalms (Academic Press, 2010) and the co-editor of Method Matters (with Kent H. Richards, Society of Biblical Literature, 2009). LeMon is an elder in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church.


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:

http://www.myspace.com/hillarykobernick

http://www.catapultmagazine.com/users/hiwatson09/

http://www.seattlemennonite.org/2011/01/sermon-december-26-hillary-watson/

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.


Mar 30 2011

Lenten Meditation #1

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 second year MDiv Jason Myers.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Thinking of Romans

My window faces north, Lord,

I seek you there.

The sun moves behind me, Lord,

you move the moon.

It is eight in the morning, Lord,

the sun is at my right hand.

The grass is sweet in the early quiet, Lord,

the night spills sugar.

I had a bed to sleep in, Lord,

and time to dream.

None of these gifts, Lord,

do I deserve – not the

coffee in my cup, Lord,

the embrace of friends,

the smiles of strangers, Lord,

you spend so lavishly

while I wait and wait and wait, Lord,

as though the gift was not already given.

 

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.  You can find more of his work here:

http://www.ecotonejournal.com/index.php/authors/details/myers_jason/
http://www.cortlandreview.com/issue/45/myers.html
http://www.bu.edu/agni/poetry/online/2010/myers.html
http://www.terrain.org/poetry/26/myers.htm
http://www.theparisreview.org/back-issues/180
http://bhjournal.com/issues/Vol8_1/jason-meyers.php


Feb 18 2011

The (Not-so-) Hidden Treasures of Candler

As a second year MDiv student at Candler School of Theology, the outstanding aspects of the institution continue to reveal themselves to me.  Unfortunately, it has taken me over a year to realize that my academic course-load has the potential to envelop me, causing me to miss the many treasures on campus.  More overpowering than academia, however, is life.  Life is busy, life is fast, life is short. It seems that more often than not, I have deadline to meet and an agenda to fulfill.  I am constantly running on a tight schedule in an effort to accomplish the task at hand in a timely fashion.  This being the case, I have overlooked some of the most awesome displays of God’s presence in this place.

First, I have recently slowed down to appreciate the John August Swanson masterpieces that are scattered throughout the building.  John August Swanson is an artist and independent print-maker of limited edition serigraphs, lithographs, and etchings, of which Candler has the largest collection in the world.  His ability to capture scenes from Scripture with such vivid color and detail is truly remarkable.  His serigraphs are completed through an extensive process of stencils and layers of color – the number of colors in the painting is the number of stencils he must make.

Often times, these works of art are much more complex than any single image.  For instance, the “Ecclesiastes” masterpiece, which hangs on the third floor, contains almost 100 miniature works depicting the seasons of life, biblical images and symbols.  Upon closer examination, it becomes apparent that each and every minute detail was careful and intentional, just as every gift and flaw with which each individual has been blessed is purposeful.  Another exquisite example of John August Swanson’s attention to detail can be seen in the “Triptych of Noah,” which can be found on the fourth floor.  The word “triptych” means that this work is composed in three separate parts.  Each section of this illustration captures the chaos that is described during the flood in the Bible, or I would suggest the chaos that many of us experience in our daily lives!  It is far too easy to rush through the halls, ignoring the exceptional artwork that Candler is so fortunate to have.

Another aspect of Candler that I hate to admit I have missed during much of my time here is worship in Canon Chapel.  The internationally acclaimed architect Paul Rudolph designed this sacred space for Emory University in the late ‘70s.  Its appearance of being somewhat unfinished is intentional, and with great theological meaning.  Just as we, human beings, are unfinished and continuously being molded, so too is Canon Chapel.  We are constantly transformed by those with whom we come in contact, just as the chapel is shaped and changed by each moment of worship and each diverse class of students that passes through.

While classes are not even offered during the times in which worship occurs in Canon, stress is a constant excuse for missing these services.  Somehow writing a paper in the library, going to work, or even a nap seems more important than attending worship in the chapel, which is conveniently located next to the theology building!  The few times that I attended in the past year and a half have been incredibly moving experiences, for so many reasons.  The natural light that the architecture allows to shine in is breathtaking.  The diversity in worship styles and congregation members unifies the community.  I must confess that I have been brought to tears on multiple occasions in this space, and I am not an emotional person!  The ways in which the Spirit moves in that building is undeniable.  But one must take the time to slow down, and acknowledge its beauty.

All in all, I have come to deeply appreciate the abundant blessings that surround me at Candler.  It is just a matter of me not getting in the way of myself in order for me to experience such fortune.  I am now the biggest advocate for putting down your calendar and enjoying the wonders that surround us on a daily basis, because if we continue to cling to a tight schedule, we will remain blind to them all!

- Mia Northington

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

Image copyright John August Swanson.


Mar 27 2009

Candler, Emory, and the World

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Emory University Presidential Distinguished Professor



One of the things I love about Candler is that, as a student and now as a staff member, I have been connected deeply to the school here–faculty, staff, students–but also to Emory and to the larger world. What a week for all three of these aspects of Candler life on campus?!



Candler

At Candler this week, we had the privilege of hosting John August Swanson, the American artist whose works adorn the walls of our new Theology Building. Last week’s blog covers the art and techniques of Swanson. In a meeting of sizable powers, Swanson shakes hands with Dooley, Emory’s unofficial mascot (pictured right).


Meeting and hearing John August Swanson the man was a pure delight. Though he claims he is not a speaker or lecturer, his presentations throughout the week were insightful, funny, and thoroughly engaging. He gave a talk on his creative process. I was particularly fascinated by the patience and trust in the work that was coming through him about which he spoke. For instance, he had rough sketches from the 1970s that he held onto until the late 1990s or early 2000s, when he was ready to finalize his vision and complete a serigraph or painting. He never throws anything away, and when things are ready to come out, he is in tune enough to listen to the spirit within and create when the time is right.


Stay tuned for some video from the worship service he led with Rev. Dr. Don Saliers—I missed it, but heard from several colleagues that it was the best worship service they’d ever been to at Candler!



Emory

While Candler had Swanson week, the rest of Emory was in the midst of Dooley’s Week. While mostly for the undergrads at Emory College, Dooley’s Week is a week of food, music, and celebration across campus. Dooley is pictured to the left, with his entourage. Wikipedia has a great description of Dooley and Dooley’s Week:


Traditions at Emory include Dooley, the “Spirit of Emory” and the unofficial mascot of the university. Dooley is a skeleton and is usually dressed in black. The name “Dooley” was given to the unofficial mascot in 1909. Each year in the spring, during Dooley’s Week, Dooley roams Emory’s campus flanked by bodyguards (“Dooley guards”) and lets students out of class with unscheduled appearances in classrooms. He typically walks slowly with an exaggerated limp. A spokesperson amongst the bodyguards walks with him to deliver his messages as he never speaks himself. His identity is unknown and this is often fodder for campus gossip. He adopts the first name and middle initial of the University’s current president. As such, Dooley’s current full name is James W. Dooley, after James W. Wagner. Dooley’s Week culminates with Dooley’s Ball, a grand celebration that takes place in the center of campus on McDonough Field held in celebration of Dooley and Emory University. A sporting match called the Dooley Cup is played between the university administration and the student government association (SGA) each spring as well, and the SGA remains undefeated.

Dooley’s week always ends with a concert. This year N.E.R.D played to a packed crowd on Friday night (pictured below).

photo by Kevin Kelly/Emory Wheel Staff Photographer



The World

Lastly, this week was Tibet Week at Emory. Every year, Emory celebrates its relationship with Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Tibetan culture, religion, and arts. The Emory-Tibet relationship began in 1991 when 1991 Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi was sent to Atlanta by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Negi received his PhD at Emory and founded the Drepung Loseling Institute, the North American seat of Drepung Loseling Monastry in Dharamsala, India. Emory’s Religion Department offers a full range of classes in Buddhism Pali and Sanskrit language, as well as a study abroad program (alas, only for undergrads), in Dharmasala, India, seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile.



This week, Tibetan prayer flags criss-crossed the Quad in a rainbow of colors. The Tibetan tradition is that the prayers that are written on the flags are carried by the wind all across the countryside and the world, spreading joy and peace.

In a wonderful coincidence, the featured Tibetan art form this week was the Thangkas, which are Tibetan religious paintings. Like Swanson’s art work, thangkas are highly detailed paintings of religious saints (or boddhisattvas, in the case of the Buddhists), figures, and stories. I actually ran into one of the Buddhist thangka painters in the hallway of the theology looking at what he called Swanson’s “Christian thangkas.” We talked for about ten minutes about theology expressed through art and through prose, and how each medium has its place. What a blessing!


Mar 20 2009

The Art of John August Swanson

Psalm 85, serigraph, John August Swanson

All images are the copyrighted material of John August Swanson.

Candler School of Theology is the proud owner of the largest collection of artwork by John August Swanson in the world. Swanson’s folk-art is featured in museums and galleries around the world, including the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Tate Modern gallery in London, the Vatican Museums and the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.

Swanson’s work is highly colorful and detailed, often depicting biblical themes, alongside scenes of circuses and celebrations, as well as clowns, tricksters, and jesters. Please join us March 24-26 to hear Swanson talk about his art and the creative process, lead worship with Dr. Don Saliers, Candler emeritus professor of liturgical theology, and for an evening reception. (Swanson’s schedule of events is here) If you cannot make it to Candler for the festivities, do stop by the building and wander around all five floors of Swanson’s art.

Above is a video of Dr. Jan Love, Dean of Candler, talking about the recently acquired John August Swanson collection. (RealPlayer required.)

Below are some of his most beautiful serigraphs. All images are the copyrighted material of John August Swanson. Enjoy!

Procession, serigraph, John August Swanson

The Jester, serigraph, John August Swanson

Loaves and Fishes, serigraph, John August Swanson

Wedding Feast, serigraph, John August Swanson

Star Clown, serigraph, John August Swanson