It’s quiet in my office these days. From mid-August through mid-May, the Office of Student Programming on the third floor of the School of Theology building is usually a bee hive of activity—with more than a dozen student staffers planning programs or tutoring ESOL students, Candler Coordinating Council (C3) executive officers at work on behalf of its sixteen student organizations, admissions staff or visitors from outside the school meeting in our conference room, faculty stopping by for some late afternoon chocolate from the big glass candy jar on the front counter, students arriving for appointments with me, or just dropping by, to talk about what is going on in their lives—the OSP is a bustling place, with ideas and energy going in all directions to support Candler’s large and diverse student body.
But not right now. Right now the June days in Atlanta are hot and languid, and the pace has slowed. Summer school is in session, but classes are fewer and smaller; much of the time our corridors are cool and empty. Many faculty are away doing research or writing, and administrative staff are writing reports and planning for next year. ‘Tis the season for reflection about, and hopefully rest from, all that activity during the fall and spring semesters.
With just over a year behind me as Candler’s Director of Student Life and Spiritual Formation, I still am referring to this as my “Martha and Mary” job. I like to think about what those two sisters from Luke’s gospel teach us about the values of hard work and activity, as well as about the values of reflection and rest. We need both, yet it’s often a challenge to create a rhythm of life that incorporates first the one, and then the other, over and over again, so that we become whole people. As much as I love the quieter days, and the opportunities they afford to step back from the “programming” to really think about “students,” I find myself getting restless. I get up from my chair and go looking for people to talk to, or walk down to the Starbucks for an iced coffee I don’t need, or distract myself with a new project to keep me from, say, finishing this blog posting!
Figuring out how to create and sustain a balanced rhythm of life isn’t any easier as a student at Candler, but that’s one of the reasons the Office of Student Programming is here. Yes, we offer plenty of activities that may keep you busy, and hopefully enhance your life as a seminarian—but we also offer ways for you to reflect and to rest. If you’ve never been on a silent retreat for three days, or if you’ve never painted with water colors as a form of centering prayer, you will have that opportunity, and others like them, at Candler. We’ll be looking for you on the third floor!
-The Rev. Ellen Echols Purdum
Rev. Purdum is Director of Student Life and Spiritual Formation at Candler. An Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Atlanta, she can be found most Sundays preaching or presiding at Church of the Good Shepherd in the small town of Covington, Georgia. Whether teaching high school students, or working with undergraduates and seminarians at The Fund for Theological Education, or now at Candler, she understands her vocation as listening to the lives of students. She is a graduate of Emory University and the Candler School of Theology.