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.


May 4 2011

Tim Moore on Candler

This week’s post comes from Candler Coordinating Council President Tim Moore.

Tim is a 2nd year MDiv student at Candler and President of C3. He is originally from Witchita Falls, TX and is a graduate of Hastings College.


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.


Apr 6 2011

Lenten Meditation #2

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 Marques Harvey.

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Psalm 121 Lenten Reflection

By: Marques Harvey

March 2011 (Copyright pending)

‘I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

In this season of Lent, my time is being spent discovering that this God of Israel- IS REAL and I mean that environmentally. For God is stretching me to break- fast from traditions of seeing God just as some ‘cosmic sugar Daddy’, this Agape poppy, who whenever I need a blessing I just send a praise up, and my blessings come down.  But this time around, in this season of Lent, less time is being spent craving the obesities of life. You know the fat ride, with the extremely large house, even though it’s only occupants are you and your spouse. All those things which contribute to this energy crisis- in which the inflation in the prices- has got us wondering just where Christ is.     So like the Psalmist, we lift up our eyes to the hills, only to discover they aren’t there anymore.  Cause the country’s economic plan of mountain top removals has crossed the burning sands and Mt. Zion is being converted into a mole hill – things are getting REAL in Israel.

In this season of Lent, my time is being spent discovering that this God of Israel – IS REAL – and I mean that sociologically, God is really challenging me to break-fast from traditions of simply fasting the sweets, treats and meats in my diet.  Moving from Daniel’s fast to a fast so REAL Isaiah encourages everyone to try it.  It’s a fast that’s not about just me, but with just-us.

It beckons that us who too often fuss with us, would begin discussing trust with us so that God would no longer find disgust in us…where the words of one KRS & the One Christos help remove the proverbial planks from our eyes until we realize that this God of Israel – IS REAL – and I mean that ontologically.  God is awakening us to see that Israel is not just a man, not just some ancient land, not just the daughters of the dust but Israel is in each one of us.  I ask you, from where will my help come when the earth’s hidden faults cause disasters in the land, when impenetrable levees can no longer stand? You responded our help comes from the One who made heaven and Japan, from the One who made heaven and Iran, from the One who made heaven and Sudan.  For the God who keeps Israel is the One who will not sleep nor slumber. For at times like these, we no longer have to wonder.  All we have to do is take notice and know this – that this God of Israel – IS REAL.

Marques holds a Masters in Public Health from the Morehouse  School of Medicine and is a graduate of Benedict College.


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.

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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


Mar 18 2011

What Are You Doing Here?

This semester got off to a rocky start. Classes were postponed for a week as Atlanta dealt with the aftermath of “Snow-pocalypse 2011″. Initially, the snow provided a much welcomed extended winter break. When courses started, however, I realized the negative impacts of the snow.

Once the snow melted, Candler’s halls were filled with professors, staff and students trying to catch up from the class sessions that we’d missed: everyone was in a frenzy. It would have been a smooth transition had the snow not caused book shipments to be delayed by a week or two. Although the book store didn’t have many of the books that we needed to complete assignments, professors did their best to provide students with PDFs when possible – but everyone was still behind.

A couple weeks into the semester, I was still struggling to catch up/get ahead. My life had come to a halt: if it wasn’t directly related to my coursework, I didn’t have time for it. One day while sitting in the lobby, I was accosted by the Program Coordinator for Religious Education (RE). She inquired as to why I hadn’t signed up for the RE Retreat – which is a requirement for all persons seeking the RE certificate.

I calmly explained that I did not have the time to go away for a weekend for a retreat that I could complete next year: I needed to focus on my coursework. She gently responded that I should really consider going on the retreat in spite of my busyness, and that I needed to take time for self care amidst the mounting stress of the semester. She also casually mentioned that Dr. Anne Steaty Wimberly, religious educator extraordinaire, would be facilitating. With some reluctance, I agreed to go on the retreat – and boy, am I glad I did!

We started the weekend by reading a passage from 1 Kings 19. In this passage, Elijah has received a death threat from Jezebel. Afraid, he flees into the wilderness, and pleas with the Lord to take his life. After a couple of exchanges with an Angel of the Lord, Elijah gets up, and travels forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.

When he arrives, Elijah goes into a cave to spend the night, and the word of the Lord comes to him saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

After Dr. Wimberly read this passage, she paused and asked us to think about this question in relation to our seminary experience. Why had we come Candler? Why had we chosen to be religious educators? Why had we come to this retreat? Were we there only because it was a requirement? Was our educational experience solely about making a grade? About catching up post “Snow-pocalypse”?

Surely, our education was about those things to an extent, but it was also about much more.

After pondering these questions for a moment, I was filled with a peace that surpassed my understanding. Suddenly, my mind was free of the guilt of missing out on time I could have been reading – I probably would’ve just watched TV, anyway. This moment, and the entire retreat, provided me with the perspective that I needed to continue the semester. Sure, I was bummed about being behind, but that couldn’t break me.

What I had not realized up until the retreat is that fear had been dictating the majority of my semester: Fear of not being able to catch up, not being adequate enough, not being able to find the right words at the right times to adequately represent my voice. Like Elijah, I was afraid.

But then the voice of the Lord came to me, through Dr. Wimberly, saying, “What are you doing here, Brandon? Go back the way you came… You’ve got work to do.”

With this admonishment, I was prepared to tackle the semester head on, no longer letting fear be the dominant factor of governance. Sure, there was and still is much work to do, but doing that work in fear is not of much help to anyone – especially not to myself. This passage has continued to shape my perspective on the semester, and the seminary experience at large.

I am here, ultimately, because God has called me to be. Furthermore, that calling is consistent and true whether I’m behind on my work, on top of my work, stressed, perplexed, frustrated, or whatever – you name it!

I am here: not just to be overloaded with information, not just to say I’ve completed all the assignments, but to be shaped and formed by the process as well. I am here because this is where God has called me to be.

“What are YOU doing here, (insert your name here)?”

-Brandon Maxwell

Brandon is a 1st year MDiv student from Nashville, TN and a Student Ambassador. He is also a participant in the Religious Education Certificate Program – one of the seven certificate program opportunities for Candler students.


Mar 9 2011

Dr. Ellen Ott Marshall on life at Candler

This week is Spring Break at Candler, but that doesn’t stop members of this great community from sharing their stories.  Here, Dr. Ellen Ott Marshall shares her experience of joining the Candler family.

Dr. Marshall is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics and Conflict Transformation and is active in the United Methodist Church’s work in refugee resettlement as well as issues of peace building and public theology.


Mar 4 2011

Wrestling with Self and God

Let me begin by saying that I am not a proponent of violence or abuse in any form. However, I would like to use the analogy of wrestling in order to illustrate and describe my encounters with self and God this Spring Semester. Perhaps the story of Jacob will serve as a great point of entry.

When we encounter Jacob in Genesis 32 he is preparing to go home to meet his brother Esau. For those who are familiar with the story of Jacob before he left home, we know that the condition in which Jacob left home did not make the journey to return home look pleasant. Jacob was aware of this, but still decided to go home taking his family along with him. He received bad news from a messenger along the way that Esau was coming with about 400 men to greet him. This troubled him. If you will allow me to fast forward to verse 22, we see that Jacob has made the decision to send his family ahead of him in order to appease Esau, and he remained behind. He was alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak; “When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.” The story goes on to reveal that Jacob was not going to give in until he received a blessing. What Jacob received in the end was a greater revelation of self and God.

Like Jacob, I had to make some tough decisions in preparation for coming to Candler. I left my full time job as a primary school educator along with all the benefits that came with this position in the hope that I would enter into the rest and peace of God. In light of the struggle that I had in accepting my call to ministry, leaving my job and coming to Candler, and enduring the transition during my first semester at Candler, I thought that the battle was (somewhat) over. Not so! What I presumed to be an embodiment of the peace of God this semester and a free ticket to receiving a little more rest at night than last semester, was only a camouflage for what was actually an intermission or breaking between rounds in a wrestling match.

Little did I know three weeks into the semester I would encounter readings, assignments, and presentations in classes that would cause me to arise from my “false resting place” to be thrown back into the ring with readings and discourse that would challenge, bring greater awareness of my capabilities, and bruise (or dismantle ideologies within) me in this process of learning. In my Images of God class, I have been challenged to reflect on how the image of the God to which I pray and how I interact with this God is but a mere reflection of the life experiences, formative relationships, and the doctrine that I have encountered up until this point in my life. Also in my Contextual Education Seminar, I have wrestled with developing theologies of care, home, and hope, for those who are the disinherited and marginalized. While it would seem as if one could just embody the spirit of Christ and provide food, shelter, and clothing in order to aid those in poverty, this is but one small step, and does not seek to eradicate the structures and systems that perpetuate poverty, but merely manage it.

I thought that I would have some concrete answers concerning issues of injustice and how to tackle systemic issues that plague our society, but I am left searching and (re) discerning the fresh message that the biblical text speaks to such a fragmented, displaced, and hopeless people in a postmodern world. Even more so, I am left searching for God and discovering how my gifts can best meet the needs of those in our local and global society.  I am left unsettled in my being. Yet, like Jacob, I continue to hold on tight and endure this process at Candler, because the call continues to resound even though the “what” and the “how-to” dimension of this calling are yet to appear.

One thing that I have learned on this journey is that honesty with self and God is necessary. When the man or angel asked Jacob, “What is your name?” Jacob, with his history of trickery and dishonesty, could have answered my name is Victor, but he told the truth. In that very moment of confrontation and struggle, he was faced with the truth about who he was and even received a new name, Israel. This was symbolic of transformation.

In moments of wrestling with self and God, and being bruised in the process one can either choose to give up or surrender. One can continue to rely on self or see how interdependent and interconnected he or she really is and turn to a community of reliable others, or The Reliable Other, which is God. Instead of complaining during moments of wrestling with self and God, I want to encourage you to pay attention to what is being revealed during those moments. For in wrestling we find our true voice and become aware of our weaknesses and strengths. Despite the exhaustion, choose to prevail until the end! In the end you will be conditioned, equipped, and even energized to face both the war against social ills and fulfill the calling ahead.

Know that I am in solidarity with you on this journey!

-Ashley Thomas

Ashley is a first year MDiv student from Atlanta and a Student Ambassador.


Feb 14 2011

Noise

As I entered Cannon Chapel, I was greeted by noise.  Several students were spread throughout the Brooks Commons foyer and up the staircase towards the Chapel.  They were reading, praying, meditating in unison.  I was surrounded by sound, but it was not the unpleasant sound of large crowds or chatty groups.  It was the sound of God ushering his children to worship, leading them towards Himself with His words.  I felt guided up the stairs, almost as if I was being moved forward by the nudge of scripture and praise.

The diversity of worship life at Candler allows for many different student groups and denominations to lead worship throughout the semester.  This week, the Black Student Caucus led of large group of students, faculty, and staff in yet another unique style of worship to help celebrate Black History Month.  Noise is of course a component of every worship experience in Cannon Chapel, but the noise this week had a certain power and force to it, as I noticed before I even entered the space of worship.  The noise seemed to move.  It moved in and out of mouths and ears, up and down walls and ceilings, over and around bodies and clasped hands.  It not only moved throughout the space, but forced the space to move with it.

The service began with singing.  An organ, a saxophone, a piano, a drum set accompanied rich, vibrant voices.  There were not words to read from a hymnal or off a screen.  The words of the song were on repeat, it seemed.  Everyone joined in, participating in the repetition of noise.  Some shouted the noise out of joy and happiness; others whispered it out of reverence and humility.  Different tones, different inflections floated around the chapel, offering themselves up to God in their diversity.   The variations of the noise became unified, for each distinct sounds moved in the same direction.  Upward.

Singing rarely involves just the movement of the mouth.  Arms, legs, and heads were moving, too, adding to the rhythm of the noise being created in the space.  The whole chapel was noisy with movement, from the swaying of hips to the raising of hands.  Bodies became instruments as they harmonized with the notes being played and sung.  Every single body participated in the song as it reacted to the noise.  Each person added their own personalized notes, creating a song that God had never heard before.

A time of prayer was sandwiched between the sounds of song.    Individuals approached the middle of the chapel floor one by one, uttering words of both praise and sorrow.   The Candler community gathered around these bodies and their noise as a petition to God, a petition to grow them closer and more unified.  Working to tear down boundaries and to end habits of division were the words of these few, but the cry of all.  The noise of both verbal and silent prayer rose, again, upward.

The loudest sound of the whole service was indeed the footsteps exiting the chapel – the sound of God’s noise moving out into the world.

-Sara LaDew

Sara is a 2nd year MTS student from Greensboro, NC and a Student Ambassador.


Feb 9 2011

The All-Encompassing Divine

A few weeks ago, Atlanta was pounded by the biggest snow it had seen in decades. Snowmen were built, roads turned to ice blocks, and frostbitten folk were sent seeking shelter indoors. Because of the extremes of the arctic conditions, my January class was cancelled for a solid week—SEVEN whole days of complete freedom. As you might guess, my initial perspective on the break from school wasn’t entirely negative. No, I didn’t go into mourning at the thought of spending time cuddled up by a fire with a hot chocolate in hand. In fact, as a soon-to-be graduating MDiv-er, I welcomed the premature break with open arms. My plan was to rest, relax, and do a little outside reading for fun. In short, I was stoked.

On Monday, my first day of freedom, I slept ‘til 1 pm (a confession I shamefully make to my early-rising Mom), cleaned my apartment to spick and span standards (still reading, Mom?), and settled in that night with a good read that was unrelated to coursework. The day was pure bliss.

By Tuesday, I was restless and decided I couldn’t take the stale air of my apartment any longer. I opened the front door to six feet of snow, plowed my way to my car, and was one of the insane and overconfident ATLians braving the conditions of the streets. I arrived (sufficiently frightened by my stupidity that only posed as bravery) at a cafe with my outside reading in hand, salivating over the smell of pressed coffee mixed with the sweat of sledders seeking shelter from the cold.

The book I was reading was Easterly’s White Man’s Burden, a development book that had been on my reading list since it first appeared in 2006. Easterly takes a fairly secular look at the field of international development, criticizing it profusely at times yet also managing to balance his writing with a few helpful ideas to transform the industry. As a student with a focused interest in international aid and religion, Easterly was a breath of fresh air compared to commentaries out there that uncritically moralize and patronize aid. My goal for the week, however, was to take on this book and my other outside reading with a perspective that overlooked religion and theology. It was, after all, the beginning of my sixth semester of divinity school. I thought I could use a break from the complexities that religious and theological analyses sometimes unearth.

By page 200 of Easterly’s book, I was punishing myself for thoughts that kept circling back to religion. Maria, I thought, take a break. Rest your mind and read this book for what it is. Fifty pages later, I was buzzed by my third cup ‘o joe and desperately wanting to engage in a conversation with my neighbor about the possible advantages local communities of faith have over large-scale, top-down aid organizations. Though not the subject of Easterly’s book, his analysis spoke to the experiences I knew firsthand, and my study of religion had provided me with ideas for ways forward at points where he had reached standstills. On page 260, only ten pages later, I gave up my quest, turned to my neighbor and asked for her perspective on religious mission work and its correlation (or lack thereof) to grassroots development. I realized it was hopeless to seek to remove myself from the perspective that so intimately formed me, the foundational questions I have been trained to ask at Candler, and the heart of my calling in this world. After two-and-a-half years of divinity school, I embraced the fact that the Divine is not just one element that can be pieced apart from a societal perspective, but it is an all-encompassing lens that enlightens societal perspective and provides hope to transform it anew.

From that point forward, I read my other books of the week with a commitment to honest questions—a commitment to critical engagement of all forms. When the snow melted, I returned to my classes all the better, equipped with theological and religious questions influenced by real world realities and with real world perspectives connected to undeniable theological and religious implications.

And to think, all it took for me to get to this place was a pot of hot coffee, a couple of the most amazing years of my life studying at Candler, and a few snow days that left me desperate for more.

-Maria Presley

Maria is a 3rd year MDiv student from Mississippi and a Student Ambassador.