May 3 2013

At Table

My first Easter at Candler opened my eyes to what Easter worship could be. The singing was beautiful, the preaching was simply fantastic. But what impressed me the most were the yards and yards of sheer fabric soaring through the vaults of Canon Chapel proclaiming, in a visual way, the Risen Christ.

That seed, planted at Candler, became the Westfield Center for Liturgical Creativity which allows neighboring churches to borrow our worship visuals (whole installations or just pieces of them) to use in their services.  Our goal is to help other churches find new ways to use old spaces.

The truth is, however, you don’t have to borrow items from us.  Chances are you’ve got most of what you need right in your own church.

The first time I toured Westfield Church, I found, on the third floor landing, a 19th century farm table. It’s beautiful table.  Chunks of wood are missing here, scrapes and scratches there. There are spots of paint dotting its surface and support reinforcing it’s old legs.

This past Lent, during my Holy Week planning, my mind wandered back to that table. Stored in that third floor corner for who knows how long, I wondered who had gathered around that table over the years. How many confirmation classes had be taught around it? How many crafts had been made on its old planks? How many meals had been shared over it?

I decided that this Holy Week, this Maundy Thursday, we would share communion around that table. How fitting to gather on the night we particularly remember the last supper around a table that generations of our faithful found themselves sitting around.

That night, as we sat in groups of twelve in a mishmash of wooden chairs, we shared communion in the company of that great cloud of witness who had gone before. That meal shared around that table nourished our spirits not just in the meal but in who we were sharing it with that night.

Jon ChapmanAnd in that sharing we knew that we weren’t alone, that we were, indeed, in it all together. That the church through time and around the world was in it with us.   We claimed our history–our stories, our table. And we looked to future–to the good we can accomplish having been nourished by such a meal and reminded of all those whose shoulders we stand on.

Pretty amazing what some fabric, an old table, and God can do.

- Jon Chapman

Jon is  a 2010 graduate of Candler School of Theology and is the pastor of Westfield Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Danielson, CT.  You can find him online (along with visual worship photos and how-tos) at revjonchapman.com.


Dec 14 2007

Focus on First Years

As final papers and examinations are completed and students go home for the holidays and a restful and rejuvenating winter break from Candler School of Theology, Emory University, we’ve invited current students as well as Office of Admissions and Financial administrators to be Guest Bloggers in the coming weeks. This week, First Year Master of Divinity students Jon Chapman and Jojo Mulunda reflect on their first semester at Candler. Please read below to hear the story of Candler as told through the voices and hearts of two of our newest students.

Jojo Mulunda: Candler Cares

I went to Emory University for my undergraduate education, so when I got accepted into Candler School of Theology, I thought I knew exactly what I was getting into. Emory is renowned for excellence in scholarship and service, so I naturally expected Candler to be the same as the rest of Emory. I quickly discovered within moments of meeting current students, admissions staff and professors, that I was absolutely wrong. Not only is the scholarship at Candler of the same high caliber as that of the other Emory schools, Candler has an added trait that sets it apart from other schools: love for people.

I was blown away by how genuinely interested people around campus were in getting to know new faces. Even seniors made it a point to attend some orientation activities to meet us when we first arrived on campus. Unlike the undergraduate college at Emory, Candler’s size is large enough for you to make new friends in every class, yet small enough for people to take interest in what matters to you as a student. I felt such a sense of friendship and community at Candler that is a challenge to foster at other institutions.

I can still remember a candid conversation some seniors had with the entire incoming class during orientation. All the seniors emphasized that Candler required excellence in academics, yet reassured us that it would be nearly impossible to complete all the readings. I remember turning around in my seat and waiting for a staff person or professor to rebut their statements. Surprisingly, most nodded in agreement! Almost all of the seniors gave us tips on how to read for particular classes, encouraged us to build relationships with one another, and advised us to take the time to find enjoyable non-Candler related hobbies, to bring balance into the lives we were about to begin. No truer words were spoken! Three months and three Old Testament exams later, I am infinitely grateful to those seniors, and to the countless people that I have met throughout the semester who have made my challenging, yet fun-filled, free food-filled, friendship-filled first semester a great one. Second semester, here I come!

Jojo Mulunda is a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo. She completed her undergraduate education in International Studies and French Studies at Emory University. Upon completion of the Master of Divinity program, her long-term goals include pursuing a career in public policy, and creating a rehabilitation and reintegration program for child soldiers in the Great Lakes region in Africa. She is recently engaged (and very excited about it) and is looking forward to getting married in Spring 2008.

Jon Chapman: Advent Eucharist

Friday Mid-day Eucharist is one of my favorite things about Candler School of Theology. Period. Every Friday, the same core group of 40 or so gather in Cannon Chapel after a long week of classes. I make my way from Hebrew, which gives me reason to need time to rest and recover.

It’s a simple service really. Most of the general parts of a church service are there, excepting the sermon. Instead, after the reading of the Gospel, we sit together, quietly thinking about the words we just heard–wondering if any meaning sat in them for us, for our studies, for our school, for our world.

Then comes my absolute favorite part. After the Prayers of the People (which are offered so genuinely by the people who have gathered), we share communion. Every week, we pause our scholastic endeavors to join together in the bread and wine before heading into the weekend, which all too often is as hectic as our school week. It’s a time for acknowledging the week just had, and preparing for the week to come.

Advent is much the same way. It lets us review the year that passed and prepare for the coming days. Advent, however, can be an irritating time. Because it is a season of waiting and preparation it insists that we slow down. Slowing down means swimming against the current swell of American consumerism in an increasingly globalized world, not to mention a secular Christmas that is celebrated before we have any birth to celebrate.

But it is necessary waiting, because without it, we would have no time to understand exactly what Christmas is.

This week, as we began our advent sojourn in Friday Mid-day Eucharist, the program had a few lines from Madeline L’Engle on its cover. Here is how it read:

“This is the irrational season
when love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
there’d have been no room for the child.”

As I read this poem, I was reminded of how irrational the whole thing was. Mary–a virgin? Son of God in a stable? Lazarus to life? Leaper healed? Deaf hear? The meek will inherit? Bread of Life? Blood of Salvation? A criminal’s death for a king? Heaven for a thief? Missing body? Death no more? For you? For me?

It is amazing really, this irrationality. It’s amazing because somehow, it makes sense. It’s amazing because somewhere through the absurdity and irrationality, there is undeserved grace and unconditional love that holds us close.

Keep watch.

Blessings,

Jon

Jonathan is a first year Master of Divinity student at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He holds a B. A. in Religious Studies from Elon University. While at Elon, Jonathan was active in LGBT awareness and other activism.

Jonathan is pursing ordination in the United Church of Christ, and is a member of Elon Community Church, United Church of Christ in Elon, North Carolina.

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If you are currently discerning if seminary is the next step in your faith journey, I hope you will consider Candler as a community for you to live into your calling. Please contact us in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at candleradmissions@emory.edu, call us at 404.727.6326, check us out online at www.candler.emory.edu/admissions/ and look for my profile on Facebook, named Candler Intern-Theology, and the Candler School of Theology Group at www.facebook.com.