Feb 13 2012

Why I’ll Miss Candler

Mia NorthingtonAs graduation quickly approaches, I find myself reflecting fondly on my time spent at this wonderful institution that I have called home for nearly three years now.  While graduations are always exciting, I find myself feeling particularly bitter sweet about this one.  It is difficult to narrow all of the reasons down to only a few paragraphs, but I will do my best to keep it brief.  Below are the reasons why I am forever grateful that I chose Candler and that Candler chose me:

ONE: The Community.  I began my career at Candler with a bit of anxiety – I was three years out of college, and was unsure how I would fit into the mix at Candler.   Immediately, however, I found my niche.  My fears were relieved within the first month as I settled into classes and began developing relationships with my ConEd group.  Again, those in the Admissions Office warmly welcomed me as I began working with the Student Ambassadors each week and was invited on a retreat as a small group leader.  I was amazed with the sense of community that existed within Candler, both among the students, staff, and faculty.

TWO: The Curriculum.  Since I had been removed from school and had not practiced good study habits for a few years, I was very intimidated by the coursework at Candler and feared that I would struggle in maintaining good grades at such a prestigious institution with such renowned scholars as my professors.  Yet again, I was pleasantly surprised with the willingness of the professors to help and even build relationships with the students.  Furthermore, the variety of coursework offered at Candler is truly remarkable.  Classes such as Old and New Testament, History of Christian Thought, and Systematic Theology could challenge my theology.  And I was able to develop practical skills and lifelong knowledge through courses such as Pastoral Care, Empowering Youth for Global Citizenship, and Vocational Discernment.

THREE: The Contextual Education Program.  This internship program, in my opinion, is Candler’s biggest selling point! I was able to cater my ConEd experience both my first and second year to my vocational goal, which involves youth ministry.  My first year, I did ConEd at the United Methodist Children’s Home (UMCH) in Decatur.  So I worked four hours each week with the youth who were living in this group home, sharing meals with them and leading them in Bible studies.  I would then bring my experiences back to my small group, all of who were also doing ConEd at the UMCH, during class each week.  My second year, I chose to work eight hours each week with a large youth group at a UMC in Decatur.  This experience helped to clarify my calling and even offered me a paid job for my third year of seminary.  God is good!  But having these “internship” experiences fulfilled during the academic year, alongside my other coursework, enabled me to apply the things I was learning in the classroom to my ministry.

Mia and friendsFOUR: Summer Opportunities.  Since my ministry internships were completed during the academic year, my summers were free to experience other transformational opportunities.  Among these summer opportunities is the Middle East Travel Seminar (METS), which I applied for and was accepted.  This gave me the opportunity to travel the lands of the Bible with other seminarians for three weeks.  The experiences and relationships that this trip was able to offer me forever changed my life.  My vocational dreams and my personal priorities were made clear and I was able to come home a better person.  Had I chosen a different seminary, I could have missed this once in a lifetime experience.

Ultimately, I could not have found a better match for my three years in seminary.  My life was transformed in my time at Candler and I will forever be grateful for the relationships, courses, and practical ministry experience that I encountered in and through this place.

- Mia Northington

Mia is a 3rd Year MDiv student from Tennessee and a Student Ambassador.


Dec 1 2011

Finding One’s Place at Candler

Candler group at Explo2009During my last Thanksgiving at Candler and as I approach graduation in May, I couldn’t help but think of the diverse communities of friends that have touched me and shaped me during my time here.  My first year, I had the opportunity to travel to Dallas, Texas as a small group leader for Exploration 2009.  Through this trip, I became connected to all of the staff in the financial aid and registrar office, as well as some other student leaders within Candler.  Despite the fact that I knew no one on the trip prior to arriving at the airport, we were instant friends only a few hours into our weekend together.  We remained friends through the time that they graduated (as I was the youngest one on the trip), and still have lunch dates to this day!  Furthermore, I became involved with the Student Ambassador Program, which provided yet another community within which I found great friends and support.

Mia's ConEd 1 GroupAnother community that fully embraced me in my first year was my Contextual Education (ConEd) community.  The group of seven of us who worked four hours each week at the United Methodist Children’s Home was pretty much inseparable.  We shared “brother/sister”-type relationships with one another and had an incredible chemistry.  By the end of our first year, we were truly family to one another – we laughed together, cried together, and supported one another free of judgment, no matter what the situation.  We truly carried one another through a year full of both trials and celebrations.

I was anxious entering second year, because I knew that the people in my ConEd group would change and I would not see those from my first year group as much as we had the year before.  What did I have to fear, though?  Yet again, I grew incredibly close to a whole new group of people, while maintaining my previous friendships.  That year, we worked eight hours each week in an ecclesial setting.  I began to really wrestle with whether or not I wanted to continue with ordination in the UMC.  Hesitant to share these doubts with many others, my ConEd group embraced me and provided a safe space for me to continue my discernment process.  They challenged me as to what I would have to lose should I not follow through in the process, as well as what the Church could lose if I were to give up.  Having help in thinking through some of these things was really beneficial for me, and formational in my ministry.

Mia and Friends

Finally, outside of the small groups I was placed in as a result of my coursework, I developed a strong friendship with a group of five girls that I have no doubt will be lifelong friends.  During the stresses of second year, we became close, realizing we shared a lot of things in common as well as a similar sense of humor.  We spend a lot of time together both inside and outside of classes.  I have truly been greeted with open arms by each and every group I came into contact with at Candler.  I firmly believe that there is a wonderful and affirming place for everyone within this community.  I have no doubt that each individual who passes through this special place is touched and transformed in a way that will positively impact the future of their ministry, whether it be inside or outside the church, and for that I am very thankful.

- Mia Northington

Mia is a 3rd Year MDiv student from Tennessee and a Student Ambassador.


Feb 18 2011

The (Not-so-) Hidden Treasures of Candler

As a second year MDiv student at Candler School of Theology, the outstanding aspects of the institution continue to reveal themselves to me.  Unfortunately, it has taken me over a year to realize that my academic course-load has the potential to envelop me, causing me to miss the many treasures on campus.  More overpowering than academia, however, is life.  Life is busy, life is fast, life is short. It seems that more often than not, I have deadline to meet and an agenda to fulfill.  I am constantly running on a tight schedule in an effort to accomplish the task at hand in a timely fashion.  This being the case, I have overlooked some of the most awesome displays of God’s presence in this place.

First, I have recently slowed down to appreciate the John August Swanson masterpieces that are scattered throughout the building.  John August Swanson is an artist and independent print-maker of limited edition serigraphs, lithographs, and etchings, of which Candler has the largest collection in the world.  His ability to capture scenes from Scripture with such vivid color and detail is truly remarkable.  His serigraphs are completed through an extensive process of stencils and layers of color – the number of colors in the painting is the number of stencils he must make.

Often times, these works of art are much more complex than any single image.  For instance, the “Ecclesiastes” masterpiece, which hangs on the third floor, contains almost 100 miniature works depicting the seasons of life, biblical images and symbols.  Upon closer examination, it becomes apparent that each and every minute detail was careful and intentional, just as every gift and flaw with which each individual has been blessed is purposeful.  Another exquisite example of John August Swanson’s attention to detail can be seen in the “Triptych of Noah,” which can be found on the fourth floor.  The word “triptych” means that this work is composed in three separate parts.  Each section of this illustration captures the chaos that is described during the flood in the Bible, or I would suggest the chaos that many of us experience in our daily lives!  It is far too easy to rush through the halls, ignoring the exceptional artwork that Candler is so fortunate to have.

Another aspect of Candler that I hate to admit I have missed during much of my time here is worship in Canon Chapel.  The internationally acclaimed architect Paul Rudolph designed this sacred space for Emory University in the late ‘70s.  Its appearance of being somewhat unfinished is intentional, and with great theological meaning.  Just as we, human beings, are unfinished and continuously being molded, so too is Canon Chapel.  We are constantly transformed by those with whom we come in contact, just as the chapel is shaped and changed by each moment of worship and each diverse class of students that passes through.

While classes are not even offered during the times in which worship occurs in Canon, stress is a constant excuse for missing these services.  Somehow writing a paper in the library, going to work, or even a nap seems more important than attending worship in the chapel, which is conveniently located next to the theology building!  The few times that I attended in the past year and a half have been incredibly moving experiences, for so many reasons.  The natural light that the architecture allows to shine in is breathtaking.  The diversity in worship styles and congregation members unifies the community.  I must confess that I have been brought to tears on multiple occasions in this space, and I am not an emotional person!  The ways in which the Spirit moves in that building is undeniable.  But one must take the time to slow down, and acknowledge its beauty.

All in all, I have come to deeply appreciate the abundant blessings that surround me at Candler.  It is just a matter of me not getting in the way of myself in order for me to experience such fortune.  I am now the biggest advocate for putting down your calendar and enjoying the wonders that surround us on a daily basis, because if we continue to cling to a tight schedule, we will remain blind to them all!

- Mia Northington

Mia is a 2nd Year MDiv student from Tennessee and a Student Ambassador.

Image copyright John August Swanson.


Sep 24 2010

Spiritual Gifts: Knitting for Our Neighbors

I firmly believe that utilizing our spiritual gifts in an effort to give back to our community is of utmost importance.  My favorite aspect of Candler’s coursework is Contextual Education (ConEd).  Through ConEd I, every Candler student is given an opportunity to explore his or her spiritual gifts during their weekly hours on site in a church, hospital, foster home, or outreach community setting.  One of Candler’s professors took it a step further with her spiritual gifts and began a knitting group called Project Warmth: Crafting a Better World.

Dr. Karen Scheib, Director of the Women, Theology and Ministries Program, recognized knitting and crocheting Balls of Yarnas some of her spiritual gifts, and she chose to use these gifts in an effort to further help those in our ConEd I communities.  To that goal, she created Project Warmth and invited everyone to be involved. She began by purchasing loads of yarn and multiple sets of knitting needles.  Dr. Scheib was excited to share her gift and teach all of us how to knit so that we could give back to the communities in which we had become so entrenched and attached.

Quilt SquaresLast year, Dr. Scheib was the faculty advisor for my ConEd I group which served at the United Methodist Children’s Home.  For this particular ConEd site, we planned to make a patchwork lap blanket to give to them.  Each of the students in my group helped knit different colored squares that Dr. Scheib finalized by crocheting together into a blanket.  She had many ideas for other sites such as hats and scarves for homeless adults and baby blankets and mittens for underprivileged children.

God makes each individual uniquely different and blesses us with a variety of spiritual gifts; I can safely say that knitting is not mine.  What was supposed to be my square wound up looking like some unnamed shape!  While I certainly believe that more practice would have helped, I was never able to relax for fear of messing something up!  I have no doubt that through the years of ministry that I have ahead of me there will be many more “false starts.”  But I believe that I will be guided to my appropriate niche each and every time if I remain patient and steadfast in my relationship with the Lord.

For many of my classmates, however, knitting actually became a spiritual discipline and served as a form of self-care – a skill which is really stressed at Candler.  Despite all of the reading, papers, and extracurricular activities, all of us must find the time to take care of ourselves.  Taking time out of our day for knitting gave us time for reflection and meditation amidst our chaotic schedules.  Dr. Scheib explained that we were doing something for ourselves by knitting, but also doing something for others by giving to charity.  The dual purpose of this project helped and continues to help all of those involved.  I believe that all of us have gifts that can be shared with the community at large, and I admire Dr. Scheib for sharing hers with not only the Candler community but also with those in need throughout the greater-Atlanta area.

- Mia Northington

Mia is a 2nd Year MDiv student from Tennessee and a Student Ambassador.