Dec 24 2010

Walk in the Light

Luke 2:8-11
2:8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 2:9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 2:10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 2:11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”


Classes at Candler School of Theology recently ended for the semester. Finals are over, grades are in, and students and faculty have emptied the hallways for now. We have worshiped together during this Advent season as a community with expectant hearts.

It is always interesting to read the story of the birth of Christ, especially in Luke’s account. This year I am struck by images of light and the request from the angel that the shepherds not be afraid. Equally attention-grabbing is the setting of the story – shepherds living and working in the fields, a census to further support Rome’s war, and God coming into this world as a helpless newborn who was laid in a feeding trough. This was not at first glance a splendid night.

Imagine an ordinary day. Darkness abounds amid our humanity. Life is hard. And all of a sudden there is so much light that instead of happiness to be have light in our lives, we are scared out of our minds. This was the kind of night in which God became incarnate.

And so it is the case today. Christmas is not always a glowing moment of joy and peace for so many. Rather, it is a time of profound loneliness and sadness. There appears to be nothing but darkness – broken relationships, unemployment, underemployment, aloneness, uncertainty about our calling, and the like. But yet, this time it is about the light that is shone all around us – even amid the perceived darkness (The darkness is showered with brilliance as the people who wait in darkness see a great light – Isa 9:2). We get a glimmer of it, but yet we may be afraid to walk in that light and to respond to the angel’s beckoning, “do not be afraid!”


One of my favorite hymns is Walk in the light. I recall one of my very first Christmas Eve’s as a new Christian. It was at a candlelight service that a friend insisted I attend. It was there that the song spoke to me and encouraged me to pay attention to the gift of light, no matter how big or small. It was that night that I allowed myself to be privy to the Glory that shone all around me and in that moment I was no longer afraid. The lyrics are simply:

Walk in the light,beautiful light,
come where the dewdrops of mercy shine bright.
Oh shine all around us by day and by night,
Jesus is, Jesus is the light of the world;

This Christmas, let us embrace the light as it comes. It may come in the face of another, or the kindness of a stranger, or even the words of a hymn that penetrates our hearts in new ways. No matter how it comes, step into it. Receive it. Walk in it. For the gift that is greater than all others is the coming of the One who is the Light now and forever – Jesus Christ.

Let us pray-

God of glory,
your splendor shines from a manger in Bethlehem,
where the Light of the world is humbly born
into the darkness of human night.
Open our eyes to Christ’s presence in the shadows of our world,
so that we, like him, may become beacons of your justice,
and defenders of all for whom there is no room. Amen.
Reproduced from Revised Common Lectionary Prayers copyright © 2002 Consultation on Common Texts admin. Augsburg Fortress.

-The Rev. Shonda Jones

Rev. Jones is Associate Dean of Admissions and Student Services at Candler.  She is involved in recruitment, admissions, financial aid, and student life. In addition, Rev. Jones provides vocational guidance, financial advisement, and crisis management for students. She is an ordained elder in the North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church. Her areas of interest include the HIV/AIDS pandemic, anti-racism, womanist theology, ethics, culture, and studies in church and society.

All images copyright John August Swanson. They can be viewed at Candler on the second floor outside of room 252.

Mar 27 2009

Candler, Emory, and the World

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Emory University Presidential Distinguished Professor

One of the things I love about Candler is that, as a student and now as a staff member, I have been connected deeply to the school here–faculty, staff, students–but also to Emory and to the larger world. What a week for all three of these aspects of Candler life on campus?!


At Candler this week, we had the privilege of hosting John August Swanson, the American artist whose works adorn the walls of our new Theology Building. Last week’s blog covers the art and techniques of Swanson. In a meeting of sizable powers, Swanson shakes hands with Dooley, Emory’s unofficial mascot (pictured right).

Meeting and hearing John August Swanson the man was a pure delight. Though he claims he is not a speaker or lecturer, his presentations throughout the week were insightful, funny, and thoroughly engaging. He gave a talk on his creative process. I was particularly fascinated by the patience and trust in the work that was coming through him about which he spoke. For instance, he had rough sketches from the 1970s that he held onto until the late 1990s or early 2000s, when he was ready to finalize his vision and complete a serigraph or painting. He never throws anything away, and when things are ready to come out, he is in tune enough to listen to the spirit within and create when the time is right.

Stay tuned for some video from the worship service he led with Rev. Dr. Don Saliers—I missed it, but heard from several colleagues that it was the best worship service they’d ever been to at Candler!


While Candler had Swanson week, the rest of Emory was in the midst of Dooley’s Week. While mostly for the undergrads at Emory College, Dooley’s Week is a week of food, music, and celebration across campus. Dooley is pictured to the left, with his entourage. Wikipedia has a great description of Dooley and Dooley’s Week:

Traditions at Emory include Dooley, the “Spirit of Emory” and the unofficial mascot of the university. Dooley is a skeleton and is usually dressed in black. The name “Dooley” was given to the unofficial mascot in 1909. Each year in the spring, during Dooley’s Week, Dooley roams Emory’s campus flanked by bodyguards (“Dooley guards”) and lets students out of class with unscheduled appearances in classrooms. He typically walks slowly with an exaggerated limp. A spokesperson amongst the bodyguards walks with him to deliver his messages as he never speaks himself. His identity is unknown and this is often fodder for campus gossip. He adopts the first name and middle initial of the University’s current president. As such, Dooley’s current full name is James W. Dooley, after James W. Wagner. Dooley’s Week culminates with Dooley’s Ball, a grand celebration that takes place in the center of campus on McDonough Field held in celebration of Dooley and Emory University. A sporting match called the Dooley Cup is played between the university administration and the student government association (SGA) each spring as well, and the SGA remains undefeated.

Dooley’s week always ends with a concert. This year N.E.R.D played to a packed crowd on Friday night (pictured below).

photo by Kevin Kelly/Emory Wheel Staff Photographer

The World

Lastly, this week was Tibet Week at Emory. Every year, Emory celebrates its relationship with Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Tibetan culture, religion, and arts. The Emory-Tibet relationship began in 1991 when 1991 Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi was sent to Atlanta by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Negi received his PhD at Emory and founded the Drepung Loseling Institute, the North American seat of Drepung Loseling Monastry in Dharamsala, India. Emory’s Religion Department offers a full range of classes in Buddhism Pali and Sanskrit language, as well as a study abroad program (alas, only for undergrads), in Dharmasala, India, seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

This week, Tibetan prayer flags criss-crossed the Quad in a rainbow of colors. The Tibetan tradition is that the prayers that are written on the flags are carried by the wind all across the countryside and the world, spreading joy and peace.

In a wonderful coincidence, the featured Tibetan art form this week was the Thangkas, which are Tibetan religious paintings. Like Swanson’s art work, thangkas are highly detailed paintings of religious saints (or boddhisattvas, in the case of the Buddhists), figures, and stories. I actually ran into one of the Buddhist thangka painters in the hallway of the theology looking at what he called Swanson’s “Christian thangkas.” We talked for about ten minutes about theology expressed through art and through prose, and how each medium has its place. What a blessing!

Mar 20 2009

The Art of John August Swanson

Psalm 85, serigraph, John August Swanson

All images are the copyrighted material of John August Swanson.

Candler School of Theology is the proud owner of the largest collection of artwork by John August Swanson in the world. Swanson’s folk-art is featured in museums and galleries around the world, including the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Tate Modern gallery in London, the Vatican Museums and the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.

Swanson’s work is highly colorful and detailed, often depicting biblical themes, alongside scenes of circuses and celebrations, as well as clowns, tricksters, and jesters. Please join us March 24-26 to hear Swanson talk about his art and the creative process, lead worship with Dr. Don Saliers, Candler emeritus professor of liturgical theology, and for an evening reception. (Swanson’s schedule of events is here) If you cannot make it to Candler for the festivities, do stop by the building and wander around all five floors of Swanson’s art.

Above is a video of Dr. Jan Love, Dean of Candler, talking about the recently acquired John August Swanson collection. (RealPlayer required.)

Below are some of his most beautiful serigraphs. All images are the copyrighted material of John August Swanson. Enjoy!

Procession, serigraph, John August Swanson

The Jester, serigraph, John August Swanson

Loaves and Fishes, serigraph, John August Swanson

Wedding Feast, serigraph, John August Swanson

Star Clown, serigraph, John August Swanson

Jan 24 2009

State of the School Address- Spring 2009

On Wednesday of this week, Candler held its 8th annual State of the School conversation. Rev. Cindy Meyer, Assistant Dean of Student Life began the gathering with a prayer by Edward Hayes from his book Prayers for the Servants of God.

Kim Jackson (pictured left), president of the Candler Coordinating Council (C3)—Candler’s umbrella organization overseeing all student groups—engaged the crowd with words to reflect on. She asked students to share the words, thoughts, and feelings that come to mind in relation to certain phrases. For New Building, responses were: ahhhh!, internet, bright, technologically complicated, and paintings (referring to the paintings of John August Swanson whose artwork fills the building); for Chapel, students shared the words: worshipful, creative, involving, and centering; for Student Body, replies were: family, human, amazing, diffuse, spread out, microcosm, and supportive.

Kim shared that as a third-year MDiv student, she is in her final semester, and yet hasn’t checked out. She is nostalgic about her time at Candler, encouraged by many events and happenings in the life of Candler over the past three years. She expressed her admiration and pleasure in things like students joining Emory Club sports teams—teams typically comprised of only undergrads—teams like the swing dance team, weightlifting, Ultimate Frisbee, and water polo. She also reflected on celebrations around the Candler community, such as ordinations and weddings, awards ceremonies, children birthed, fellowships received, books read, and many, many papers and sermons written!

While acknowledging some hard times over the past year, Kim reminded everyone of hope for the future. As C3 President, Kim has worked with Candler staff to have available to students more spiritual and pastoral supports. Additionally, Kim has helped to create a cultural competency and conflict transformation program aimed at helping Candler students get to know their diverse neighbors on a deeper level. The Candler is a microcosm of the diverse Body of Christ and Candler is a great place to learn more about brothers and sisters from different traditions, cultures, countries, and theological viewpoints.

Candler’s Dean, Jan Love (pictured right), shared with the students her reflections on the past year. She has been Dean at Candler for two years, and relates that “the honeymoon definitely is over, but the marriage is still strong!” This past year has held many new and exciting developments at Candler, including our fantastic new building, six new faculty members, the second year of our new curriculum, and four new chaired professors—professors Minor, Petersen, Richey, and Tipton.

Dean Love also shared her excitement about Candler’s strategic initiative to make Candler an even more international place of worship, study, and community. Dr. Jonathan Strom is leading the way towards making more international travel and study opportunities available to Candler students. (For current international opportunities, click here). Pointing out the increasingly global and international nature of the City of Atlanta, Dean Love mentioned that even those students who stay here in the U.S. will experience an increasingly internationalized curriculum in our degree programs to reflect the wide diversity of Christian and non-Christian cultures one encounters every day.

All in all, the gathering was a great start to the new semester, taking stock of where we’ve been as a school and looking forward to what the future holds for us all.