There is snow falling outside and students buying textbooks at the Cokesbury Bookstore inside. On the eve of the first day of classes for the spring semester at Candler, deep in the south, here in Atlanta, Georgia, as kids rejoice at the possibility of a snow day, Candler students pack their schoolbags, finalize their schedules, and prepare for the semester. Candler School of Theology is back in business. Classes resumed on Thursday, January 17, 2008, and seniors could not be more thrilled! They are two days closer to graduation.
For the next two weeks, the blog will feature two of our graduating Master of Divinity seniors as they begin their final semester of seminary. I hope you will hear and feel the celebration in Sheila Elliott’s words as you read below.
Everything is in. All of my commissioning papers, Bible study, sermon, security check, credit check, applications for CPE, and a fall semester full of take homes, sermons, and papers. I am surrounded by piles of paper and there are various books strewn about. As I prepare to leave Candler I am reminded of my first semester and how long three years seemed at the time. I was financially, socially, and personally looking into the unknown. Dr. Teresa L. Fry Brown, Associate Professor of Homiletics, preached during worship at my Candler orientation, and even now, her words ring in my ears – “you can do this!” Her words soothed my uncertainty and gave me the lift I needed to begin the journey. I contemplated returning to my home and career during the spring semester of my first year, but the words of my pastor prepared me to remain for the duration. So, I stayed, and I am incredibly glad and thankful that I did.
A famous player in the Negro Baseball League once said that it’s alright to look back just don’t stare. Pursuing theological education and accepting one’s call into the ministry requires looking down the road that is ahead, not staring at what was left behind. I decided to commit to the journey and to the Candler community, opting not to squint in order to see the end. I decided instead to focus on where I was at the time. A good look at Candler revealed challenges, of course, but what I have seen and experienced at Candler has truly blessed me. I have enjoyed the fellowship and friendship.
The thought that there will come a day when I won’t see Maxine, Wilbur, Kirstyn, Steve, Sarah, Marlo, Anna, Greg and others or say something sassy to Sonja is almost unimaginable. I will miss worship and to some extent community lunch, but I know that my journey here is coming to an end and I’m ready. I know that I am leaving a place I have come to cherish and folks I have grown to love. But I’m ready. Being ready isn’t primarily about no longer wanting to be a student or having grown weary of papers and exams. Readiness is about the pull of what one is being called to do. I don’t feel as if I’m being pushed out of Candler, but drawn into that which I have been prepared and called to do. I know that there are lessons still to learn, and leaving is bittersweet, I’m just thankful that I was able to come to a place that now feels like home.
Sheila Elliott was born into a military family in South Carolina, and she has lived aboard since she was four years old. Sheila has a PhD in International Relations from the University of South Carolina, and she taught in higher education for 20 years both at Columbia College and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Sheila is currently a graduating senior Master of Divinity student at Candler School of Theology, and she hopes to get commissioned as a probationary elder in the South Carolina Annual Conference in June, 2008.
Just as Dr. Teresa Fry Brown preached, you can do this; you can go to seminary; you can come to Candler. For more information about Candler School of Theology, visit our website at www.candler.emory.edu, or email the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.