May 24 2013

You Won’t Learn That Here

“School did not prepare me for this.”

Despite the excellent academic education that I received at Candler – the rigorous instruction in Christian history, the intensity of my Greek classes, the thought-provoking learning of the “symbolic worlds” of the New Testament – those are the words that came to mind when I first began my journey in hospital chaplaincy.

Because, really, what can prepare you to make a hand print of a recently-deceased infant? Or explain to a five-year-old that his brother won’t be coming home with him? Or sit with a scared and exhausted mother while her child is undergoing surgery?

As a Chaplain Resident in the Clinical Pastoral Education program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite, I face all of these situations and more on a weekly basis. When I first felt the call towards chaplaincy, I eagerly piled my academic schedule with many pastoral care classes. I loved all of them, and have had opportunities to reference the materials I learned there. At the end of the day, though, I discovered that no amount of reading, lectures, or memorization prepared me to do the actual day-to-day work I engage in as a Chaplain in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

What it did prepare me for – critically – is how to think theologically in every situation.

During my orientation week at Candler, I remember then-professor of New Testament studies Dr. Michael Joseph Brown relating a discussion he had with a recent graduate and new pastor. She was telling him a story about how the pipes in her church’s bathroom burst, and jokingly complained about how “she didn’t learn how to repair church plumbing at Candler.” He relayed this story to us, and plainly stated, “I’m going to tell you right now, you’re not going to learn anything about church plumbing here.” He went on to tell us, however, that there is a significant difference between pastors who simply perform tasks – be they repairing plumbing or preaching – and pastors who know how to integrate everything in their world – from the stories of the saints of the faith, to an understanding of how Greek philosophy influenced the New Testament – into a way of being that can respond pastorally, theologically, and prophetically to any situation, including burst pipes in the church basement.

Dr. Brown’s words have been prophetic in my own life and work. Many of the tasks that I perform in my current role I have just had to learn by doing. The difference between the pastor I am now and the person I was when I entered seminary, however, is that I can seamlessly reflect on every experience I have, and can place it within the broader context of Christian history.

When I had to pray with and give care to a man who shook his baby to death, I thought of the discussions I had in Dr. Andrea White’s Systematic Theology class about the doctrine of sin. The learning I did there gave me the framework to even begin to make sense of such a complicated tragedy. In my reflections on this event and others like it, I would be completely undone if I didn’t have a firm grasp on what this doctrine means to me, and how people of faith throughout time have used theology in order to understand their own tragedies.

The counsel of Dr. Barbara Day Miller in my Liturgical Writing class to expand our usage of adjectives in our prayers, confronts me every time I am tempted to lazily open with “Gracious God,” at the bedside of a child in the ICU.

The pipes will burst. The copier will stop working right as the bulletins need to get printed off. The call will come for you to get to the hospital as soon as possible. The corpse of a little one will need to be washed and dressed and placed in her mother’s arms. Candler won’t give you the book you need to know how to do all this. But it will give you the tools to make sense of it all, and respond pastorally.

- Whitney E. Walton

Whitney graduated from Candler in May 2012 with an M.Div. degree. She is training to be a board-certified hospital chaplain at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.


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.


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.


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 2 2007

Hymns of Peace

How many hymns can you name whose texts are about peace? After the suggestions of Let There Be Peace on Earth and This is My Song, what hymns are left to sing of peace? There may be a few choral arrangements and solo pieces we can uplift, but very few congregational hymns name our hearts weeping desire for peace. With over 3,000 casualties of American soldiers in Iraq, and countless—literally uncountable, numbers of Iraqis killed during this hostile season of their country’s history, we seem at a loss for hymns of peace and concord. What is there for us to sing? How can we keep from singing?

The recent Annual Women’s Forum at Candler School of Theology on “Women and Peacemaking” offered some anthems and themes for us to sing in times of great need for peace and stillness in our hearts, lives, and in the world. The Women in Theology and Ministry Program’s forum met for two days last week, and offered several conversations over meals, including “Peacemakers Telling Their Stories” and “Peacemaking Through Art.”

The noonday storytelling luncheon featured a Midrash written and orated by Kim Jackson, a Master of Divinity Middler, as well as a monologue written and performed by Kanisha Billingsley, MDiv middler, about AIDS and the violence and silence it causes. Kim’s provocative line, “I bled the tears I could not shed,” speaking from the voice of the woman who touched Jesus’ garment and was healed of her bleeding, found in all three synoptic gospels, led us solemnly into a conversation about peacemaking with Professor Renee Harrison, Interim Director of Black Church Studies and Visiting Assistant Professor of West African and African American Religious Practices and Culture, and Senator Nan Orrock, a Georgia State Senator since 1987, who began her work for justice and peace in the Civil Rights Movement with she worked for SNCC in Atlanta and Mississippi. Dr. Harrison asked us repeatedly, “How would you define peace in terms of your own existence and life experiences?” As each of us departed that lunch conversation, we contemplated our own thoughts on being peacemakers and peacekeepers in the context of our personal life as well as ministry.

When the forum resumed for dinner, three Candler students offered artist interpretations of peacemaking through presentations of photography, dance, and spoken word. The talent and gifts of the Candler community continue to amaze and delight me, and this evening was another such occasion. Just as I inquired above about hymns of peace, Professor James Abbington, Associate Professor of Music and Worship, in his presentation on “Peacemaking through Music,” also asked us that same question. While the dinner guests commiserated about the Church’s lack of hymns and sacred texts about peace, he introduced us to several contemporary women hymn writers who are writing moving, current, fresh hymn texts on peace, which can often be set to traditional and standard hymn tunes. I ask again, with this gift of new language for the gospel message and call to peace: How can we keep from singing?

Professor Abbington and his co-presenter, Rev. Cynthia Wilson, a Deacon in The United Methodist Church, popular preacher, teacher, conductor, concert artist, and Grammy nominee, shared a creative array of hymns and songs of peace, which we spoke and sang together, as we formed a congregation over the dinner tables.

As a closing reflection, I offer one of the hymn texts shared with us that evening. May the Peace of Christ Be Yours was written by Mary Louise Bringle, who received her PhD from the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University and is currently on the faculty at Brevard College in North Carolina. These beautiful words that take us through the seasons of the year remind me that peace does not just mean a lack of war or an end to violence. Rather, peace is a state of mind, a calm heart, a soothing spirit, and a grace-filled gift from God.

May the Peace of Christ Be Yours

May the peace of rolling oceans,
glinting green with silver foam
through the pull of tides and seasons:
may the peace of Christ be yours.

May the peace of winter stillness,
snowflakes piling white on white
showing ev’ry creature’s footprints:
may the peace of Christ be yours.

May the peace of springtime raindrops
and the scent of moistened grass
clad in lilies of the valley:
may the peace of Christ be yours.

May the peace of summer evenings,
darkness hung with shooting stars
and the fireflies’ dance of gladness:
may the peace of Christ be yours.

May the peace of autumn mountains
etched in gold against the sky,
hushed and strong through countless ages:
may the peace of Christ be yours.

Text: Mary Louise Bringle, 2002; Copyright 2006,
GIA Publications, Inc. Used by permission.

The Women in Theology and Ministry Program is not the only outlet at Candler to discuss peace, hymnody, and gather with the community for a free meal. There are countless opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to be in dialogue together about all of the pressing theological, social, and personal life issues surrounding us, and we would love for you to join in that conversation. If you are interested in enrolling at Candler or talking to someone about your own discernment process, please contact us in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at candleradmissions@emory.edu, call us at 404.727.6326, find us online at www.candler.emory.edu/admissions/ and look for my profile on Facebook (Candler Intern-Theology) and the Candler School of Theology Group at www.facebook.com.


By Lane Cotton Winn 07T

Candler School of Theology
Emory University
Office of Admissions
and Financial Aid Intern