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.


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