Daniel Ogle, Master of Divinity senior, our guest blogger this week, paints a picture of the great diversity of the Candler School of Theology community. As he names the great cloud of witnesses that surround him and continue to encourage him during his time at Candler, there are bound to be individuals that come to mind who have helped you in your discernment process, been supporters along the journey, and have lifted your spirits or your name in prayer. Who are your witnesses? When have you been a witness? Please journey with Daniel as he introduces you to his community of witnesses, pastors, professors, and proclaimers who have made his Candler experience one he will never forget.
One of my favorite moments at Candler is when the Candler Singers, one of our choirs, which sing weekly in chapel, perform the song, “Witness”. The singers ask the question, “Who’ll be a witness for my Lord?,” and then they begin randomly pointing, first at one student, and then at another, and then a faculty member, and another student, and on it goes as they point out the witnesses within our community in a contemporary rendering of the listing of Great Cloud of Witnesses in Hebrews 11.
And although the song can be, and is, sung in many places, I am continually impressed and blessed by the great cloud of witnesses that surround me here at Candler. There are faithful pastors in training like Lance Presley and Julie Songer, who are committed to developing and nurturing believers in the church. We are surrounded by Christian scholars and leaders in waiting like Joshua Ralston and Lauren Henricksen, who show us that discipleship demands our minds. Powerful preachers like Mark Jefferson and Conitras Houston proclaim the Gospel with passion and fire, giving us glimpses of the Kingdom while showing us that what we do matters, and matters greatly. Professors like Brooks Holifield, the C.H. Candler professor of American church history, and Tom Long, the Bandy professor of preaching, and Mary Elizabeth Moore, director of the program for women in theology and ministry and professor of religion and education, witness by combining academic excellence with a profound commitment to the Church. Students like Mary Messara-Redman and Clayton Smith, who juggle school and family while serving as student pastors, show us their faith and commitment by bringing the real life concerns of people in the pews into our community.
Seminary, like the Christian life, is not a solo journey but is a trip that takes a village. These witnesses and so many more like them at Candler have enriched my life and helped me become a more faithful Christian as I have tried to follow Jesus. Who will be a witness for My Lord? Whether in structured classroom discussions, impromptu table talk in Brooks Commons, worship in Cannon Chapel or in service throughout the community, we can proudly say that the great cloud of witnesses is all around us and among us. Thanks be to God.
Daniel Ogle is a third-year Master of Divinity student from Sevierville, Tennessee. He graduated from Wake Forest University in 2001 and should have done so with a minor in religion, but dropped the minor his last semester because he thought, “I’ll never need that again.” Oops. Prior to attending Candler, Daniel analyzed religion on Saturday afternoons by covering the Clemson football team for the Anderson (S.C.) Independent-Mail newspaper. After graduation, he hopes to actually practice religion and help others do so too by serving as an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church.
Would you like to be a witness for a fellow peer in seminary? Are you searching for a cloud of witnesses to support and encourage you in your discernment process? Candler School of Theology is preparing witnesses, pastors, professors, and proclaimers for service in the Church and the world. We want to be part of your journey, and if you would like more information about Candler, please visit our website, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at 404.727.6326. We are also on Facebook, and you are welcome to join the Candler School of Theology Facebook group.