Feb 13 2009

Candice Austin: Musings of a Third-Year

Our Guest Blogger this week is Candice Austin (pictured above in Ghana), a third-year MDiv student at Candler. She went to high school in Washington, D.C. and got her undergraduate degree from Florida A&M University (Go Rattlers!). When she wasn’t in Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Greece, or Ghana, or becoming ordained in Pensacola, Florida, Candice has been involved with numerous student groups on campus, including the African Methodist Episcopal Connection, Black Student Caucus, and has helped host visiting prospective students with the Admissions Office.

Having started Candler almost three years ago, I look back and realize this seminary experience has been one of the most intriguing journeys of my life. I remember sitting with my parents in the ministry and talking about the ministry prior to leaving Florida to head to Atlanta. They spoke very simple yet profound words that till this day I hold close to my heart. They said, “Many people go through seminary, but seminary doesn’t go through them.” I vowed to myself to not leave seminary the same way I came. Little did I know, a few weeks later in Orientation 2006, I would be singing the song “You Won’t Leave Here Like You Came” with my new classmates. As I reflect on my seminary experience, I know without a doubt that I have made the most of the journey and come May 11, 2009, I will not leave here the same way I came!

Candler has opened many doors and provided me with numerous opportunities of a lifetime. I entered Candler knowing no one, yet I leave with a new family whom I will miss dearly. I entered Candler seeking to explore theology and I leave having explored all the small pieces that have been magically woven together to create my own theology. I entered Candler desiring to go to Africa and I leave having explored Ghanaian traditional healing practices in Ghana, West Africa (pictured above, right). I entered Candler with a mental picture of Mt. Sinai and leave having hiked it at the crack of dawn and watched the sunrise from the top (pictured below). I leave Candler having floated in the Dead Sea and on the Red Sea, been to Damascus and walked the “Street Called Straight,” hiked Petra, walked the desert of Palmyra, and seen with my own eyes the Qumran Caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered—all made possible by the Middle East Travel Seminar. I have spent time with God on a Silent Retreat. I have rediscovered myself and my calling through Clinical Pastoral Education at Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital. I leave Candler having been educated at the feet of David Petersen, Luther Smith, Brooks Holifield, Noel Erskine, Emmanuel Lartey, Don Saliers, Nikki Giovanni, Jimmy Carter, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, to name just a few. And most importantly, I entered Candler struggling with the calling God placed on my life and I leave comforted and confident that I am able, with God’s help, to walk courageously in it.

Singing “You Won’t Leave Here Like You Came” at Orientation in 2006 was truly a prophetic moment in my seminary experience. I am grateful for every professor who has challenged me, every faculty and staff member who ever assisted me, and every friend who has kept me going. Candler was one of the smartest moves I made in the life of my calling. I do not take my seminary experience lightly and am forever indebted for all the life-changing opportunities Candler has presented.

Oct 5 2007

Life is a Journey

One of the long term, lifelong goals I set for myself a few years ago is to fill all the pages of my passport with stamps from various travel destinations before the passport expires. I received my current passport in the spring of 2001, before a six-week trip through Southeast Asia. While I did get a number of stamps and visas from that trip alone, I still had many pages to fill and countries to visit before attaining that goal. Luckily, passports are issued for ten years; therefore, I knew that as I entered my 20’s, there would likely be other travel opportunities in my future.

After college, I collected a few more passport stamps and memories as a photographer on a trip to South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo (STAMP). However, it was not until I got to Candler School of Theology at Emory University did my goal of filling my passport seem more attainable and at such an early stage of my life. Journeys both near and far abound for students at Candler.

Two of the most amazing and eye opening trips of my life were through Candler and happened within months of each other during the summer of 2006, between my second and third year of seminary. Only days after completing my final exams and even before Candler seniors graduated, I departed on the Middle East Travel Seminar, or METS as we call it. METS is a three-week intensive travel seminar with seminarians from various other divinity schools in the southeastern United States, as well as several lay people. It is a political and archeological tour through Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, and Greece, that Candler has participated in for many generations of students. We rode up Mount Sinai on camelback to watch the sun rise (STAMP); we toured religious, interfaith sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem (STAMP); we visited Damascus and Corinth, making Paul’s letter come alive (STAMP, STAMP); we floated in the salty Dead Sea and went through Israel checkpoints (STAMP). We had challenging, enlivening theological conversations every step of the way, and my faith and commitment to ministry in God’s broken world were strengthen and affirmed all along the way.

The summer of 2006 was book ended by the METS trip in late May and a trip to Seoul, South Korea in late July (STAMP). Candler School of Theology has a unique relationship with the World Methodist Evangelism Institute, which takes students and church leaders on evangelism seminars all over the world twice a year, in which Candler students can receive three class credits for the trip. In fact, United Methodist students can fulfill their Evangelism class requirement for ordination by attending one of these seminars. What was so unique about this seminar in particular is that it was in conjunction with the 19th World Methodist Conference, which is a global conference held every five years, in which all Methodist and Wesleyan denominations and movements come together for worship, celebration, workshops, and dialog. Recently, World Methodist Evangelism Institute Seminars have traveled to Singapore, France, and South Korea, with plans to travel to Latin America and South Africa in 2008.

While traveling domestically will not earn me stamps in my passport, I have also been on a few trips regionally with other Candler students. After the devastation of hurricane Katrina, Candler sent a work team of students down to New Orleans during spring break to clean out and gut homes. Doing hands-on mission work with fellow seminarians was such a powerful experience of living out our call to ministry in both the church and the community. That week in New Orleans, we literally lived part of Candler’s mission statement, “…to educate—through scholarship, teaching, and service—faithful and creative leaders for the church’s ministries in the world.”

I’ve only mentioned a few of the life changing travel experiences and adventures I’ve been on through Candler School of Theology, but there are so many more ways to enhance your theological education through travel seminars and exchange programs. Candler has ongoing exchange programs with Göttingen University in Germany, the University of Melbourne in Australia, the Wesley House at Cambridge University in Great Britain, St. Andrews in Scotland, and Uppsala University Theology School in Sweden. In January, Dr. David Jenkins, Co-Director of Contextual Education and program director for Faith and the City, Church and Community Ministries Certificate, and CPE, will lead a Borderlinks trip with a class, “The Church on the Border” to the U.S. and Mexico border to examine the realities of border life, immigration policy, the history of border relations and immigration vis a vis the life of the church on the border, as participates stay with Mexican families and in community centers. Not only will Candler take you to the border’s edge, but it will also facilitate you in doing further study with other great theology schools in the U.S. Candler often has students participate in the National Capital Seminar for Seminarians at Wesley Seminary, which is offered every spring semester. During the semester in Washington D.C., students participate in hands-on learning and intense study of ethics, theology and public policy, with the nation’s capital as your primary resource. Seminary is designed to be a journey of discernment and discovery, and Candler provides students with options that will rock the world and rock your ministry.

The familiar saying, “Life is a journey, not a destination,” can also be said about Candler. Theological education at Candler School of Theology is a journey with God, your fellow students, and yourself, and if you allow it, will also be a journey to Israel (STAMP), South Korea (STAMP), Geneva (STAMP), New Orleans, and to the boundaries, borders, and edges of the life you knew before seminary. Candler will push you to adventure beyond your known world and into a life of service to God’s creation that may require you to carry a passport.

What study abroad and travel seminars have you enjoyed participating in or learning about? What destinations and international experiences would you like Candler to explore and offer? What has been one of your most meaning journeys?

If you are interested in getting more stamps in your passport and going on a theological journey, you should consider Candler a destination for your adventure. 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.