Feb 20 2009

Seminary Travels with Juana Jordan

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Our Guest Blogger this week is Juana Jordan (pictured above, on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera on the rocks at the Glass Window). Juana is a first year MDiv student who came to Candler from Tallahassee, Florida by way of Jacksonville, Florida. She is seeking certification for ordination as an elder in the United Methodist Church in the Florida Conference. Juana is a second career student whose former life was that of a journalist and radio co-host before coming to Candler.

It was after reading a blog in this space last year that I made the decision right then and there – once I was accepted into Candler, I too would take the opportunity to fill my passport with stamps before I left there. And now, after completing one semester, I can say I’m on my way to doing just that!

Preachers in the caveMy first stop: Nassau, Bahamas. I thought what better way to kick off the New Year and prepare for my second semester than to spend 10 days among the Bahamian people learning about evangelism. I mean after all, it was one of the gifts I felt God had given me. So I figured, why not test it out and see if this was really one of the areas of ministry God was calling me to? The trip was part of the Evangelism Regional Seminar, a January-term three-credit course sponsored by the World Methodist Evangelism Institute, that I along with nine other Candler students (pictured above right in Preachers Cave, said to be the first spot where English settlers arrived on the island of Eleuthera) took part in. We were joined by one of Candler’s evangelism professors, Dr. Wesley de Souza and the center’s director, Dr. Winston Worrell. The tour was scheduled from January 3-13, with the first three days dedicated to a tour of Nassau and the surrounding islands, including Spanish Wells and Eleuthera, which is about 50 miles and a 2 ½ hour ferry boat ride east of Nassau and Harbor Island, off the north coast of Eleuthera.

I must admit, the trip was definitely not what I expected. Actually it exceeded any expectations I had. Dr. de Souza, during preparation meetings before leaving for Nassau and as part of our assignment, asked us to journal our expectations of our learning experience and then to chronicle our time there. Our experience started as soon as we arrived in Nassau that Saturday night. Dr. Worrell didn’t waste any time telling us where we would be preaching on that Sunday (most of all of us, those who volunteered, were assigned to local churches). We were told the ministers would pick up each of us and we would have lunch with them that afternoon.

IMG017I got the assignment – my first outside of the United States — to preach at John Wesley United Methodist Church on the island of Eleuthera. I was excited, yet nervous. For one, I hadn’t finished my sermon and secondly, there I was, on the first day we arrived, being shipped off that Sunday morning for a 2 ½ hour ferry ride by myself to another part of this country that was still foreign to me. I was the only student with an assignment outside of Nassau. And I’ll tell you, I wondered why that was. I wondered what God had in store.

I soon realized it was an opportunity for me to experience, in part, the gift of hospitality offered by the Bahamian people I met. Upon hearing that I was coming to the island of Eleuthera, the Methodist ministers between that island and the island of Spanish Wells and Nassau worked out a plan that would allow me to stay overnight in Spanish Wells. Now get this: Spanish Wells isn’t exactly a place most African Americans hang out. Now you will see a few on the island, working and such. And they have students who attend school there. But they don’t live there. In fact, many years ago, blacks weren’t even allowed to spend the night there — at least that’s what the native Bahamians told me. I learned that Spanish Wells, which got its name from the Spanish ships that used to stop over at the primarily white settlement to get water because of the island’s many wells, is pretty much still all white. Fishing is its dominant trade. In fact, it’s the Spanish Wells fishing house that provides lobsters to the U.S. Red Lobster restaurants.

Me and the LewisesBut I can now say I stayed there. I had a chance to speak to the students of the All Age School there and interact with them in their classes. I particularly enjoyed the religion class. And I had the chance to have dinner with the minister and his family, who put me up in their apartment. Many of us on the trip had opportunities to go into the homes of our Bahamian friends (Juana is pictured right with Rev. and Mrs. Lewis, a host family) and sit around the table in conversation and spend time in their neighborhoods and within the churches in which they served. Most of our days were spent in sessions where we discussed what evangelism looked like in the Bahamas and how to effectively do evangelism there, particularly when almost the entire country is Christian. There were sessions on faith-sharing and even opportunities to walk within some communities to share our faith. A few of us, Michael Hunt and Lance Eiland, Julie Gordon, Cynthia Whitehead, Monica Jefferson and I even got a chance to be interviewed on a few of the radio programs, which are broadcast across the entire Caribbean and into New Zealand. I had the chance to be on two radio programs, sharing with listeners the ideas being discussed in the evangelism conference.

But what I probably enjoyed the most were the Wesley sessions, where groups of us conference participants would get together to share experiences about ourselves and our culture. The Wesley groups were originally a part of the Wesleyan tradition for new congregational development and renewal. Monica Jefferson led our group in discussions about who influenced us spiritually as a child and invited us to reflect on what our experience there had taught us. Not only did I learn more about my fellow colleagues in ministry, but I gained insight into our new Bahamian friends, realizing that we are all more alike than different and face similar challenges in ministry and our individual lives.

I shared with my fellow seminarians and workshop participants that I was beginning to see what God was doing with me there. This seminar was the fulfillment of prayers I had prayed in regard to my ministry and a fulfillment of the promises God made to deliver on my desires. I didn’t realize until later that this list I had been compiling of the 100 things I would like to accomplish in my lifetime was dwindling somewhat as God was crossing some of those things off the list. I had written my desire to connect with people of other cultures and have the opportunity to speak and minister internationally and have them share their faith with me. This trip has allowed me the chance to do that. It connected me with people and other ministers, some of whom asked me to speak at other future events and churches. This seminar was the marriage of my former life as a journalist and my present life, which I could see coming together in this place. And Candler made it possible. It opened up a world that I didn’t realize existed for me. This opportunity presented me insight into the ministry God is possibly shaping me for and brought ministry of the “other” up close and personal.

It’s prompted me to live my life with the expectation that God has so much more in store for me and those of us he has called to serve.

I must say, this isn’t a bad start. Today the Bahamas, tomorrow…maybe South Africa. I’m praying!


May 30 2008

Summer at Candler

Today is my first day as the Candler Admissions Blogger—my first day as any kind of blogger, for that matter. Lane Cotton Winn has left us here at Candler to serve as Associate Pastor at First United Methodist Church of Amite, Louisiana. Our blog will continue every two weeks throughout the summer.

There is actually a lot going on at Candler this time of year. We are offering ten courses this summer, including Dr. Joy McDougall’s Doctrine of God: Women’s Voices Past and Present, Dr. Steve Kraftchick’s Seeing Jesus: The Gospels and Cinema, and Dr. Ian McFarland’s Christian Creeds and Confessions. Additionally, Candler students will be attending the Africa South Regional Evangelism Seminar in Johannesburg, South Africa, with Dr. Wesley de Souza in August.

This summer, the admissions office is continuing to help students who are entering Candler’s MDiv, MTS, ThM and ThD programs starting this fall. We’re processing I-20s for our international students, preparing for the Hampton Ministers’ Conference in June, answering questions about fall classes and the MDiv curriculum, and help process students for Candler’s new need-based financial aid grants. We are also eagerly anticipating our move to the new theology building going up right before our eyes and out our windows. We are starting to pack our books, files, and belongings, and are recycling a lot of paper!

One of the projects I am working on this summer is putting together a resource guide for current and prospective students about some of the wonderful things there are to see, do, smell, eat, and take part in here in Atlanta. I grew up outside Chicago and moved to Atlanta in 1997 right out of college. I was a US-2 United Methodist missionary and came to Atlanta for a two-year term of service. I loved my first two years and decided to extend my stay for a third. Three turned into four then five. Six years after arriving, I felt the call to come to seminary, and the best fit for me was right here at Candler. So my two years has turned into ten, in no small part because of what a fantastic city Atlanta is. I love Atlanta for its community and diversity, its arts, sports, recreational opportunities, food, theater, live jazz, outdoor festivals, and proximity to mountains, beaches, hiking and camping.

In anticipation of my forthcoming and more extensive resource guide, I have begun to interview my coworkers here in the Admissions and Financial Aid Office about what they love about Atlanta. So here you have it, the Candler School of Theology Office of Admissions and Financial Aid’s 5 Things I Love About Atlanta, listed in no particular order.

Lisa Parker, Financial Aid Advisor

Lisa has lived in Atlanta for nearly twenty years, moving here from Brooklyn, New York. “I’m just as much a peach now as I am an apple!” she noted when she realized she’d been down in Georgia for about long as she’d lived in NYC.

Lisa’s Top Five Things She Loves About Atlanta
1. Fun independent theaters for shows, plays, and performances. Lisa sees the Alvin Ailey Dance Company perform every year when they come to town (this year was at the Fox Theatre) and also caught Daniel Beaty in his one-man play Resurrection at the 14th Street Playhouse.

2. Atlanta Dream, Atlanta’s new WNBA basketball team.

3. The Sundial Restaurant, an upscale, tri-level, revolving restaurant that sits atop the Westin Peachtree Plaza hotel, the tallest hotel in the western hemisphere. Lisa recommends going for drinks and jazz.

4. MARTA—Lisa takes public transportation to work every day. MARTA is the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. Lisa catches the train and the #6 bus to get from home to Emory. Not only does she not have to pay for gas, but she receives a Cash for Commuters reward of $3 a day to not drive her car to work. Pretty cool.

5. The new World of Coca-Cola. In addition to helping pay your tuition at Emory, the Coca-Cola Company, headquartered right here in Atlanta, has a fun, interactive museum/tasting center. The Admissions Office saw Jimmy Kimmel there last summer. He was kinda thin. TV really does add a few pounds.


Jena Black, Admissions Advisor

Jena moved to Atlanta from Philadelphia in 2002 to begin the MTS program at Candler and has stuck around ever since.

Jena’s Top Five Things She Loves About Atlanta
1. The DeKalb Farmers Market. This family-run, international farmers market occupies 140,000 sq. ft. and serves up to 100,000 people per week! Try the fresh-baked breads and homemade pizzas. Check out the >virtual tour.

2. Proximity to the country-side. Jena enjoys living in the city, while also being less than 45 minutes away from the working farm she goes to where she can relax or work with the animals.

3. Festivals in the City of Decatur. Check out the BBQ, Blues & Bluegrass Festival, the Decatur Beach Festival—with 60 tons of imported sand—and Jena’s favorite the Decatur Book Festival.

4. The Freedom Park Trail. Jogging, rollerblading, or walking the dog—the trail dead ends into a fantastic panoramic view of downtown Atlanta.

5. The Flying Biscuit. One of Atlanta’s many award-winning restaurants, tucked in the Candler Park neighborhood. The biscuits are un-sane, Jena’s a fan of the Love Cakes, and you can get breakfast all day! She thinks their pastry chef might have been on Hell’s Kitchen Season 1.

Check back in two weeks for more Atlanta favorites!

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Brad Schweers is an Admissions Advisor at Candler and a 2005 graduate of Candler’s Master of Theological Studies program. His interests include comparative religion, mystical theology and social change (Howard Thurman, Thomas Merton, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Dorothee Solle, Swami Vivekananda), woodworking, Ultimate (frisbee), the Chicago Cubs and fantastic beer.


Jan 11 2008

J-Term

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.