Mar 29 2013

Community…

This is a word often over used or misused. But this is what I came to Candler to find. I came to Candler intentionally to be a part of a University community – to build relationships across schools and across ages. Candler has provided ample opportunity for me to do so.

Prime example…

NYC Group PhotoThis year I spent Spring Break with a unique and diverse community of students and staff. Yes, just a few weeks ago, I traveled to New York City with 20 Emory undergraduates, a fellow graduate student, staff and faculty of the Office of Religious Life where I am a Chaplain/Religious Life Intern for my second year in my MDiv experience. Our theme for the trip was Sacred Sites on the Margins. We explored various temples, churches, community centers, art exhibits, and hospitals where sacred work was taking place. We met doctors who chose to work in the poorest congressional district in the country because their heart told them it was the right thing to do. We met religious leaders who wrestled with staying relevant in an over-worked, over-stimulated society for in their hearts, they were committed to persevere. We met members of a Sikh community who offered hospitality to any and everyone – no questions asked. We met Muslims blocks away from Ground Zero committed to providing a safe community for people of all faith traditions. In all our encounters, we met people doing works of love, sacred work though doing it very differently. The trip really made me consider what it means to be a part of a community – what it means to be welcoming, accepting and honest.

As I journey toward the completion of my second year at Candler, I do so with intentionality. My experiences as a University chaplain intern this year have encouraged me to consider my calling – a calling to be faithful in whatever community I find myself. Faithfulness is what links people across race, age, gender, religion, sexuality; what makes us able to do sacred work. Faithfulness is what makes for great community.

I appreciate the opportunities I have had at Candler to take classes with Public Health graduate students, to listen to a lecture by a Law professor or to listen to music or grab a bite to eat with a group of undergraduate students studying anthropology or religion. I appreciate the opportunities to eat with said students in a Sikh temple while pondering what it means to be in a sacred place.

I appreciate the community I have come to known, the community I have grown to cherish.

- Rachelle Brown

Rachelle is a second year MDiv student from Cincinnati, OH and a Candler Student Ambassador.


Dec 7 2012

Who is a theologian?

This is a question I never cared to ponder until seminary. I have a business background as well as an ecclesial one but defining a theologian was never a concern … until now. Who constitutes the classification of theologian? Before coming to Candler, I may have answered that question with a list of erudite scholars, many of whom are no longer living.

A theologian is someone who dedicates her or his life to the scholastic vocation of seeking after knowledge of God and the things of God….

For some, that may have been a sufficient answer but life has taught me differently. While I have learned a great deal from the noted theologians of the past, I have learned, perhaps most deeply, from the theologians who would never classify themselves as such. Some of the most impactful learning experiences I have had over the course of my time in seminary have not been from books but from lived experiences.

Voices of HopeA few weeks ago, the Voices of Hope Gospel Choir of the Lee Arrendale State Prison for Women came to sing during chapel service. The ways the songs soothed my soul and the way the melody wrapped me in comfort is something words cannot adequately convey. Excuse my colloquialism but you just had to be there. One song in particular struck me in a way no scholarly reading ever has. The choir full of women who were incarcerated for crime sang the words I AM FORGIVEN, I AM A CHILD OF GOD. It was as if all of the theological discourse in my being came to an abrupt halt to listen again to these words of truth. What does it mean to be forgiven? To belong to God? To be children of grace? By singing these words, these women became for me at that moment, theologians, encouraging me to learn something new and think about God in new and fresh ways.

I am teaching a class this semester at the same prison the women in the choir are from. On the first day, I began class by saying – “whether you know it or not, you are all theologians.” I wanted to affirm the voices of these women relegated to the outskirts of society. I wanted to do for these women what my theological education has done for me – affirm the voice within. God in Christ Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit speaks to me, in me and through me…and to these women as well. I have a voice, I have something to say and my words matter. So do theirs. So does yours.

The pursuit of theological education is a blessed one. It will often times lead you to the wonders of great writings and texts and if you are patient enough, it will lead you to the lives of people whose experiences will stay with you for a lifetime. These people will never call themselves theologians but you and I know better.

- Rachelle Brown

Rachelle is a second year MDiv student from Cincinnati, OH and a Candler Student Ambassador.

You can see an earlier blog about the Voices of Hope here.