Feb 6 2009

Friends and Community at Candler

This week’s guest blogger is Allie Rosner (pictured above). Allie is a third-year MDiv student at Candler and will graduate in 93 days. Originally from Vienna, Virginia, Allie is a Certified Candidate for ordination as an Elder in the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church. Her favorite classes at Candler have been all things Hebrew Bible-related.

It’s about three weeks into my last semester at Candler, which means I’m starting to panic just a little about the future. I am planning on being commissioned towards ordination in 2010 and am applying to various jobs this spring working with homeless people, since I’d like to incorporate that into my future ministry. Leaving Candler is going to be tough, though. I really don’t know what I’m going to do without my friends.

In undergrad it took me a semester or so to find my niche, so when I moved to Atlanta three years ago I braced myself for a few months of awkward friendlessness. And in the two weeks or so between moving and orientation, it seemed like that might indeed be the case. I went so stir-crazy in my apartment that at one point I practically begged my third-year roommate to let me come to her church and help the staff clean out the youth room. I signed up for the Spiritual Life retreat the day before orientation started, and to be honest, I was a lot less concerned about spiritual life than I was about just talking to people who weren’t on instant messenger. Well, at the end of the day I happened to stumble upon a group of girls headed out for ice cream. Sometimes if you stand around looking awkward enough, you can get yourself invited to things.

So I got myself invited to ice cream. The next day, day one of orientation, I met a guy filling out bubble sheets and ran into him later when he was looking for a lunch buddy. (Sometimes, if you stand around looking awkward enough, you’ll find someone looking for a lunch buddy.) The circle has grown a lot since then—but as it turns out, the girls from the ice cream trip and the guy from the bubble sheet table are some of my best friends to this day.

I don’t know exactly what it is about Candler that made me feel so much a part of a community so easily. I know that the people here are awesome, the kind of people who are irreverent enough to stay sane and still make you feel good about the future of the church. I know I can walk into Brooks Commons at practically any time and see people I know. I know that Candler’s just the right size to make me feel at home but not get bored.

And I know that when I leave here it will be with memories of potluck holiday dinners, country line dancing outings, ghost tours at Stone Mountain, birthday parties, weekly breakfast dates, days at Six Flags, and of course some of the best times we had just hanging out.

Right before this semester started, Kathy got married. She’s my former roommate and one of the ice cream girls, by the way. A group of us roadtripped down to Ft. Lauderdale for the wedding. We left at midnight Friday and drove through the night. Well, Meg (pictured without her eyes on the road, left) drove through the night. The rest of us provided moral support by singing cheesy music and passing around the car snacks. We really hoped to see some alligators as we headed south—but the only ones we saw were dead and stuffed at some of Florida’s classier rest stops. We arrived in time for a few precious hours of sleep before the wedding (which was beautiful!)

Emily and Steve left the next day, but Meg, Lauren, Beth and I drove up to Orlando for an optimistically-early graduation celebration in Disney World. It was the perfect way to spend the last few days before the semester started—playing with the toys in the shops in downtown Disney, getting to meet the cast of the Lion King show, needlessly freaking out about the Tower of Terror, and a whole day from open to close in the Magic Kingdom.

There was one really horrendous ride at Disney World. If you’ve ever been on Stitch’s Great Escape in Tomorrowland you know what I mean. You sit in a circular room and they harness you in, and the ride looks like it should be some spinning gravitron-like adventure. But instead, Stitch “escapes” from the center of the room and you feel him jumping on your shoulders and actually smell him digesting his chili-dog lunch. We walked out of that room silently, half confused and half disgusted. And then we started laughing at just what a terrible idea it was and laughed for hours straight. I think it’s friends you share those random things with who are the forever kind.

Jan 11 2008


Sure, it may have been long and grueling days, but it was one of my all time favorite classes at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. I may have had several hundred pages of reading to complete each night, that put an end to my social calendar for two weeks, but, like I mentioned before, it was one of the best classroom experiences of my Candler career. I may have sacrificed the final two weeks of my Christmas and winter break in order to take the class and earn my three credits, but I would not have wanted it any other way.

We all have those classes, professors, and experiences that leave us feeling so enriched and excited about learning, life, and, for me, ministry. The class, “Church and Community Leadership,” with Dr. David Jenkins, Director of the Faith and the City Program, Lecturer in Church and Community, which I took during January Term, also known as “J-Term” at Candler, is the very class I am referring to. Like other J-Term classes at Candler, the class was an all-day intensive course that covered a semester’s worth of material in just under two weeks at the beginning of January.

I know you must be thinking that that sounds like torture, but it truly was one of my favorite classes at Candler. Because we had all day to focus solely on the course, we took several field trips around the Atlanta area. We visited community centers and churches and met with community organizers who are putting the theories of the class, like Asset-Based Community Development and Training for Transformation, into practice. The class was set up like a workshop, and was small enough that we could really get to know one another as classmates and partners in ministry. In many ways, it was a mystical two weeks of collaborative learning and in-depth study, which, when complete, left me with long lasting friendships and relationships with both my peers and the professor.

This J-Term is just as full and dynamic as the J-Term I experienced a few years ago. We have two study abroad opportunities. One of the study abroad classes is through the World Methodist Evangelism Institute with Dr. L. Wesley de Souza, the Bishop Arthur J. Moore Associate Professor of the Practice of Evangelism, to Paraguay in which students will be in conversation with church leaders of the country to learn how they do evangelism. The other trip is called “The Church on the Border,” in which Dr. David Jenkins guides students along the Mexico and United States border to examine the realities of border life, immigration policy, the history of border relations and immigration vis a vis the life of the church on the border, as participates stay with Mexican families and in community centers. Just like my own J-Term experience in Church and Community Leadership, Dr. Jennie Knight’s, the Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Education and Community Ministries, class, “Religious Education as Formation and Transformation,” is using two of its class days for field trips, including a trip to The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum. I had a chance to glance at this class’s syllabus, which makes me want to drop everything and audit the class so I, too, can soak up this enriching experience.

While there are a few classes that allow you to travel and take you outside the classroom walls, many students use J-Term as a chance to lighten the load for their spring semester or to take denominational classes like church polity or doctrine. Parker Diggory, Master of Divinity Middler, is currently enrolled in “Presbyterian Polity.” Parker says, “I’m thankful that Candler provides opportunities for students from different denominations to learn about their own traditions. The unique, intense time frame, allows us to work with a pastor from the Atlanta area who wouldn’t be available to teach a longer semester.” Not only do our Presbyterian students have class options, but Rev. David W. Key, Director of Baptist Studies, is teaching “Baptist Traditions and Church Praxis,” during J-Term as well. While I have not mentioned all the J-Term classes, there are others that may be calling your name loud enough that you are willing to start school two weeks earlier than many of your fellow students. It is a creative way to take a class, work on some of your ordination requirements, or get to know other students and faculty in a smaller, more intensive setting.

The spring semester will begin on January 17, 2008, with Opening Convocation, a new slate of classes, and many ways for the Candler students, faculty, and staff to be in community with one another. All these exciting learning opportunities may have you wishing you were enrolled at Candler. Believe me; it is the place to be for theological education and formation. For more information about Candler School of Theology email the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at candleradmissions@emory.edu. In addition, you can call us at 404.727.6326. Look for my profile on Facebook (Candler Intern-Theology) and the Candler School of Theology Group at www.facebook.com.