Dec 7 2007

Eventful Advent

It may have been the last week of classes here at Candler School of Theology, Emory University, before Reading Week and final exams, but there were an amazing amount of activities, worship services, and community gatherings that happened in these last few days of the semester. On Tuesday, there was a Brown Bag Lunch Conversation sponsored by the Oral History Project of Women in Theology and Ministry with Melva Costen, who is a widely recognized authority on music and worship. She is the author of African American Christian Worship and In Spirit and in Truth: The Music of African American Worship. Dr. Costen recently retired from the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC), where she was the Helmar Emil Nielsen Professor of Music and Worship. The interview and conversation with Dr. Costen was part of our ongoing work in gathering stories of strong women who have helped shape their religious communities and the larger culture.

Then, on Wednesday, the Candler class “Christian Encounter with Hinduism,” taught by Dr. Thomas Thangaraj, the D.W. and Ruth Brooks Associate Professor of World Christianity, sponsored a free exhibition on Hinduism for all Candler students. There were displays, music, Indian finger foods, craft activities, and trivia to help learn more about Hinduism, along with an exhibition about Hindu Gods and Goddesses.

On Thursday, the Office of Student Programming turned Brooks Commons, the social gathering area for the seminary, into the “Candler Stress-Free Zone” for an intentional afternoon and evening of fun and relaxation for those feeling overwhelmed by finals. Loaded nachos, the movie Shrek 3, crafts, video games, and board games were the perfect combination of junk food and distractions to help people temporarily forget about the stress of final exams and papers that are yet to be completed.

These were indeed all wonderful events, but my favorite part of the week had to be the Hanging of the Greens service in chapel on Tuesday. It was a Service of Readings, Advent Carols, and Prayers for the Waiting World. During the singing, which included congregational hymns as well as special music from the Candler Singers, the Chapel Choir, and Voices of Imani, the chapel was prepared and decorated with greenery, poinsettias, Advent paraments, and the colors of the season.

The service was beautifully planned and presented—everything from the readings to the liturgical dances. In fact, each scripture reading was done in two languages by two people, who were standing across the altar table from each other. Various members of the Candler community, who come from places near and far, read the text in their native tongue. It was so moving to hear the Advent scriptures read in Shona, Russian, Korean, Tamil, and English. It reminds us that these sacred texts are universal and calls to each of us personally from the four corners of God’s creation. Those in attendance at this service certainly caught a glimpse of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God as we worshipped, sat in silence, prayed, and lit the first candle on the Advent wreath together.

Because the semester is quickly coming to an end, the Candler community must squeeze Advent in four days instead of four weeks. Therefore, on Wednesday, the Office of Worship planned a Las Posadas service, which is an enactment of the Holy Family’s search for shelter, with songs in Spanish reflecting the Mexican origins of this service. Prayers were offered for those still searching for shelter, for food, for justice. The Thursday of Advent Week at Candler is always a Service of Artist Gifts, in which members of the Candler community offer their artistic expressions from music, dance, art, and spoken word. This service was themed around the Magnificat: My Soul Magnifies the Lord. Finally, the end of the week, as we light the last candle around the Advent wreath, we share in the Eucharist and feast at the Table. As students receive the Benediction on Friday, they have a week off for preparing and waiting for finals. And isn’t that what we are called to do during Advent? We wait and prepare for the coming Christ child with hopeful expectation.

As classes and final examinations end, the Candler student body will go home for the winter break, but we will continue to post blogs weekly. In fact, starting next Friday, we will begin a series of blogs which will be written by current students and others within the community. Though classes may not be in session, we are still around in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid to answer your questions and talk to you about your discernment process and interest in Candler School of Theology. Feel free to contact us through the Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany seasons. You can email us at or call is at 404.727.6326. Also, check out my profile on Facebook (Candler Intern-Theology) and please join the Candler School of Theology Group at

Lane Cotton Winn 07T
Candler School of Theology
Office of Admissions and Financial Aid Intern

Nov 2 2007

Hymns of Peace

How many hymns can you name whose texts are about peace? After the suggestions of Let There Be Peace on Earth and This is My Song, what hymns are left to sing of peace? There may be a few choral arrangements and solo pieces we can uplift, but very few congregational hymns name our hearts weeping desire for peace. With over 3,000 casualties of American soldiers in Iraq, and countless—literally uncountable, numbers of Iraqis killed during this hostile season of their country’s history, we seem at a loss for hymns of peace and concord. What is there for us to sing? How can we keep from singing?

The recent Annual Women’s Forum at Candler School of Theology on “Women and Peacemaking” offered some anthems and themes for us to sing in times of great need for peace and stillness in our hearts, lives, and in the world. The Women in Theology and Ministry Program’s forum met for two days last week, and offered several conversations over meals, including “Peacemakers Telling Their Stories” and “Peacemaking Through Art.”

The noonday storytelling luncheon featured a Midrash written and orated by Kim Jackson, a Master of Divinity Middler, as well as a monologue written and performed by Kanisha Billingsley, MDiv middler, about AIDS and the violence and silence it causes. Kim’s provocative line, “I bled the tears I could not shed,” speaking from the voice of the woman who touched Jesus’ garment and was healed of her bleeding, found in all three synoptic gospels, led us solemnly into a conversation about peacemaking with Professor Renee Harrison, Interim Director of Black Church Studies and Visiting Assistant Professor of West African and African American Religious Practices and Culture, and Senator Nan Orrock, a Georgia State Senator since 1987, who began her work for justice and peace in the Civil Rights Movement with she worked for SNCC in Atlanta and Mississippi. Dr. Harrison asked us repeatedly, “How would you define peace in terms of your own existence and life experiences?” As each of us departed that lunch conversation, we contemplated our own thoughts on being peacemakers and peacekeepers in the context of our personal life as well as ministry.

When the forum resumed for dinner, three Candler students offered artist interpretations of peacemaking through presentations of photography, dance, and spoken word. The talent and gifts of the Candler community continue to amaze and delight me, and this evening was another such occasion. Just as I inquired above about hymns of peace, Professor James Abbington, Associate Professor of Music and Worship, in his presentation on “Peacemaking through Music,” also asked us that same question. While the dinner guests commiserated about the Church’s lack of hymns and sacred texts about peace, he introduced us to several contemporary women hymn writers who are writing moving, current, fresh hymn texts on peace, which can often be set to traditional and standard hymn tunes. I ask again, with this gift of new language for the gospel message and call to peace: How can we keep from singing?

Professor Abbington and his co-presenter, Rev. Cynthia Wilson, a Deacon in The United Methodist Church, popular preacher, teacher, conductor, concert artist, and Grammy nominee, shared a creative array of hymns and songs of peace, which we spoke and sang together, as we formed a congregation over the dinner tables.

As a closing reflection, I offer one of the hymn texts shared with us that evening. May the Peace of Christ Be Yours was written by Mary Louise Bringle, who received her PhD from the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University and is currently on the faculty at Brevard College in North Carolina. These beautiful words that take us through the seasons of the year remind me that peace does not just mean a lack of war or an end to violence. Rather, peace is a state of mind, a calm heart, a soothing spirit, and a grace-filled gift from God.

May the Peace of Christ Be Yours

May the peace of rolling oceans,
glinting green with silver foam
through the pull of tides and seasons:
may the peace of Christ be yours.

May the peace of winter stillness,
snowflakes piling white on white
showing ev’ry creature’s footprints:
may the peace of Christ be yours.

May the peace of springtime raindrops
and the scent of moistened grass
clad in lilies of the valley:
may the peace of Christ be yours.

May the peace of summer evenings,
darkness hung with shooting stars
and the fireflies’ dance of gladness:
may the peace of Christ be yours.

May the peace of autumn mountains
etched in gold against the sky,
hushed and strong through countless ages:
may the peace of Christ be yours.

Text: Mary Louise Bringle, 2002; Copyright 2006,
GIA Publications, Inc. Used by permission.

The Women in Theology and Ministry Program is not the only outlet at Candler to discuss peace, hymnody, and gather with the community for a free meal. There are countless opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to be in dialogue together about all of the pressing theological, social, and personal life issues surrounding us, and we would love for you to join in that conversation. If you are interested in enrolling at Candler or talking to someone about your own discernment process, please contact us in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at, call us at 404.727.6326, find us online at and look for my profile on Facebook (Candler Intern-Theology) and the Candler School of Theology Group at

By Lane Cotton Winn 07T

Candler School of Theology
Emory University
Office of Admissions
and Financial Aid Intern