Though previous blog posts have shared a variety of events and happenings around campus this month, February has also been Heritage Month, co- sponsored by the Black Student Caucus (BSC) and the Black Church Studies Program of Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Mark Jefferson, Master of Divinity senior, is the president of Black Student Caucus, and in his writings below he takes us not only through the journey of this past month but also through his discernment journey that led him here to study at Candler.
I feel especially honored to be a guest blogger for Candler School of Theology at Emory University. My sojourn at Candler has been a “beautiful struggle.” I believe that Heritage Month has reflected that same theme. February, which is Heritage Month, provides the Black Student Caucus (BSC) the ability to reflect and commemorate our intentionally obscured yet luminous past as we find the courage to see the light that Christ casts upon our future. The Black Student Caucus, for over 20 years, provides African students across the Diaspora an opportunity for spiritual, cultural, educational, theological edification and exposure. This month the Caucus had the honor of inviting the esteemed poet, author, civil rights activist and lecturer Nikki Giovanni. With a standing-room only crowd, she gave gleanings on various issues and provided an ocular demonstration of the power of a committed life.
During one of the chapel services the BSC planned and led, Rev. E. Dewey Smith, Jr., the Pastor/Teacher of The Greater Travelers Rest Baptist Church of Decatur, Georgia preached about how not to “Corrupt Our Calling.” His homiletic prowess and passion for ministry has garnered him many accolades and honors. Each guest demonstrates the beauty that is blackness and the strength that has resonated in the souls of all those who have trodden those dusty pathways of freedom and justice.
The month concluded with the celebration of the work of our own beloved professor and new Director of Black Church Studies, Dr. Teresa Fry Brown. These events stand as bridgeheads of a wonderful journey that we have humbly and joyously embarked upon. With a wonderful month of celebration closing soon, I am able to see the seemingly dissonant sound of theological education has proven to be the sweetest sound I could have ever imagined.
I considered several schools before the God commissioned me to Candler. I must admit that the struggle seemed to stifle instead of strengthen me. I often dreamed of packing my belongings in my 1993 Dodge Dynasty and going back to the life I knew. The struggle of theological diversity and experiencing a new understanding of God overwhelmed me. Being malcontented and overly guarded of my own theological positions and presuppositions caused me to initially miss what God had for me to learn.
I would be less than authentic to say that theological education will be all honey and no bees, all sunshine and no rain, a bouquet of hellos and not a series of goodbyes. To accomplish any great task, fear is often the necessary prerequisite. Not fear as in paralysis, but fear as in a healthy respect for the call of theological education on our lives. I felt smothered by the mantle of learning and sharing with God’s people and creation at large.
I believe the turning point in my theological education came finding a church that supported theological maturation. The aforementioned Pastor Smith afforded me the opportunity to ask the tough theological question, use the theoretical frameworks that I have learned, and to find a harmony between academia and the church. I would advise anyone to pray about a person to assist you in discerning the voice and vision of God. This will allow you a concrete manner to see God’s movement in your life.
I find this blog humorous because I went from being ready to go and quit it all to thanking God for every moment. Christ granted me the maturity to aggregate what I learn with my love for him. I was afforded the opportunity to preach in chapel last week. I found it strange because I was able to see a marked sense of growth. It is often ironic that the person who felt like the most unlikely and chronically overwhelmed, ended up technologically testifying to you. There may be someone who may be wondering about this next step. There may be extreme trepidation and turmoil but I assure you that the same God that led you to read this blog is the same God that will give you the strength to endure, enjoy, and appreciate this journey so that you may blog to students like yourself three years from now.
I am bowing out, my time is far spent but I thank you for considering Candler School of Theology. I pray that God will lead you in all you do. I am looking forward to see how you impact the world for Christ. If you are on campus, please shake my hand.
Mark A. Jefferson
Black Student Caucus, President
Mark Jefferson is a third year Master of Divinity student from Hampton, Virginia. He graduated from Norfolk State University where he was four year letterman on the football team. He currently serves as the Director of Christian Education for the Greater Travelers Rest Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia.
Are you thinking about taking the next steps towards theological education or interested in seminary? For more information about Candler School of Theology, visit our website at www.candler.emory.edu, or email the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, you can call us at 404.727.6326, or learn more about the admissions process at Candler by clicking here. Look for my profile on Facebook (Candler Intern-Theology) and the Candler School of Theology Group at www.facebook.com.