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.