Mar 22 2013

A Purpose in the Wrestling

Jacob Wrestles an Angel

Detail of “A Visit” by John August Swanson

The time is drawing nigh.

In just a few weeks we will be bringing to an end our destined journey together.

As these days and weeks sail by, my colleagues and I, well at least some of us, are giving much thought to what’s next.

Many of us are thinking about who we will be once we leave this place. Many of us appear to have it all figured out.

Some of us have plans to go back into the workforce. Some will be leading parishes or parish ministries. Some of us, like myself, will be going into another year of MORE school.

Much of it, these decisions of what is next or what we will be doing next, are centered around this idea of purpose.

What is my purpose? Who am I? Why am I here? What is my gift?

These questions are, to some extent, unavoidable. And recently, these questions were the centering focus of a session in our Howard Thurman course.

They are difficult questions to answer. To an extent, they are overwhelming and intimidating questions to answer. And why wouldn’t they be? We did come here, to this place called the Candler School of Theology to get some clarity, right?

During the session, our guest lecturer, Dr. Gregory Ellison, had us consider these questions in small groups with others. It was what he calls a laboratory experience. The experiment, as I will label it, was not necessarily for us to find any answers, but for us to at least engage them. We were instructed to wrestle, seek and question. But not one time were we instructed to answer them.

In my searching, I had an epiphany.

The story of Jacob comes to mind when considering this process of wrestling. In the 32 chapter of book of Genesis we find Jacob in a series of conundrums. I have always found this story of Jacob to be intriguing because of its imagery and storyline.

He is running, hiding, moving possessions and family and dealing with the result of some choices – he is dealing with life. And eventually he comes across this individual. Different translations say it’s a man. Some say it’s an angel. Some say the individual is God. What is shared by all of the translations is that a wrestling match takes place between the two; Jacob will not let go of the “entity” without a blessing; and then his name is changed.

Jacob walks away from the situation changed. After some wrestling – and determination – he has been changed, made new. He has a new name, but not only that he has this limp. Now, some have come to consider the limp as an impediment. But I consider the limp to be more of a testament. The limp is a lifelong reminder of the experience and how he has overcome.

Now, you may be wondering what any of this means and the point I am trying to make. It is actually quite simple. Dr. Ellison pointed something out in our wrestling with the questions he posed to us on this Thursday, during a session of our Howard Thurman course. And it is something that I believe regarding this story of Jacob, now known as Israel.

There is a purpose in the wrestling.

As my colleagues and I approach the final days of our time here at Candler, we have wrestled and are continuing to wrestle with a vast array of questions. Who are we? Why are we here? What is our purpose?

They are all questions we have come into contact with and I suspect we should continue to come into contact with; and rightfully so, right? But in the wrestling we are changed; we are made different from the experience. And once we are done wrestling with one thing, God blesses us in God’s own way. The blessings may come in the form of epiphany. The blessings may come in the form of answers and greater clarity on the journeys we have embarked.

And there will be scars along the way, scars that will remind us of the experience of wrestling – scars that will heal, but will also serve as the evidence that in some way, we have been touched by God.

We do not always have to have answers. And in reality, the answers are not as important as the experience of wrestling with the questions.

So, I leave this place called the Candler School of Theology renamed and limping, embarking upon a new journey of purpose and intent – wrestling with a new set of questions and seeking God’s blessings along the way.

Won’t you journey with me?

- Mashaun D. Simon

Mashaun is a graduating MDiv student at the Candler School of Theology where we served his final year as President of the Candler Coordinating Council, worked as a Student Ambassador and will be starting a ThM program in the fall in Toronto, Canada.


Feb 1 2008

State of the School

Every January, the president of the Candler Coordinating Council (C3) and the dean of Candler School of Theology give a “State of the School” address, which is a time when they discuss the ministry and work the seminary, our student body, and plans for the upcoming year and future of the school. With Dean Jan Love celebrating her first anniversary as dean of Candler School of Theology, a new building in the works, an active student body full of exciting ministry, outreach, and service experiences, and a zealous faculty producing publications by the dozens this year, there was quite a bit to share and celebrate at this year’s address. Bridget Cabrera, the C3 President, offers her vision of the state of Candler in this week’s blog.


Candler School of Theology is in a time of transition. Last year we installed a new dean, started a new curriculum, and broke ground for a new building. Yes, we are in a time of transition.

Candler students are also in a time of transition. I remember my transition to Candler. It was a difficult one. I was a music education major in college so words like exegesis, hermeneutics, and eschatology were new to me. I didn’t know what my professors were talking about. The seemingly endless amount of reading and the quality of writing that was expected of me was also something I was not used to. I will admit my first year was a little overwhelming, and I was a little scared about this transition.

I am sure that others have had similar experiences or fears during their first year of seminary. At times, the life of a seminary student seems like a juggling act. As students, we all transitioned into this place, but that is not where it stops. We continue to grow and change and transition into new understandings and new relationships everyday.

Once I got accustomed to the language and the pace of Candler, I began to get more involved in the community. I started to sing in the Candler Singers, one of our choirs at Candler and began participating in various student organizations. The more I got involved in the life of Candler, the more I grew to love and appreciate this community. And when I talk about the Candler community it extends not only to the students, but also to the faculty and staff as well. We are all a part of this together and we are all transitioning together.

As the Candler Coordinating Council (C3) President, I have had the privilege to see and be involved with a lot of things that most students are not aware of. I see everyday how blessed we students are to be here at Candler. Candler is a seminary that includes students in their committees and wants to hear their voice. In fact, we are included in faculty searches, by having a student representative on the search committee. When faculty candidates are interviewed, students are invited to listen to their lecture, attend a meet-and-greet, and submit comments about the candidates to the search committee. The C3 president also attends the faculty meetings to represent student interests, and there were students were on the curriculum committee that brought us our current curriculum. As you can see, Candler includes your voice and values what you have to say.

The work of the Candler Coordinating Council lies in what the name implies. It leads and supports the Candler community by facilitating the coordination between student organizations and programs and it also gives voice to the student body. Many of you have attended meetings of student organizations or attended a student sponsored event. So far this year Candler students have co-sponsored Habitat Houses; sustained relationships and been in ministry with groups such as Common Ground, an HIV/AIDS outreach center; advocated for the rights of children; educated each other on LGBT issues and concerns; played flag football with other seminaries; and have also found the time to support each other and do our school work. Our community has helped fund new lights for the intramural sports field; the remodeling of the graduate student lounge in the Dobbs University Center; and supported the university wide newspaper, which provides free copies of the New York Times, USA Today, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The Emory Student Government Association (SGA), along with the other nine graduate divisions, are making positive steps to ensure that our voice is heard. And that was only last semester!

Yes, we at Candler are in transition. We students have our hopes and our fears about the various transitions in our community and in our personal lives. The great thing about all of this is that we are not alone. We have, as Dr. Luther Smith, professor of church and community, preached in Cannon Chapel for MLK day and that Daniel Ogle blogged about last week, a whole cloud of witnesses. As we look forward to this semester and the coming year, let us all work together to continue this work for our beloved community that we call Candler.

Bridget Cabrera is from Enterprise, AL. She graduated in 2005 from The University of Alabama with a B.S. in Music Education. She is a member of the North Alabama Conference and is seeking ordination as an elder in the United Methodist Church.

If you are interested in learning more about Candler School of Theology to see first hand all these exciting opportunities Bridget mentioned, makes plans to visit campus, meet with an admissions advisor, attend chapel and a class, and have lunch with current students. 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 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 our Admissions Office Intern’s profile on Facebook (Candler Intern-Theology) and the Candler School of Theology Group at www.facebook.com.