You can do better Candler

Yesterday I attended chapel at Candler School of Theology as part of a response to the dean’s unfortunate and painful decision to celebrate intolerance of LGBT people. Leaders of Sacred Worth and other students had invited folks to wear red and show solidarity with those children of God that the United Methodist Church still believes are incompatible with Christian teaching. So I donned a red sweater (the only red I could find, and uh, it ain’t quite sweater weather in Atlanta yet) and took a long lunch from the job I love to support the people I love.

When I arrived I saw very few red shirts but as the hour of chapel arrived, in trickled a handful of joyful students, faculty and staff wearing what ever red they could dig out of their closets that morning. Seeing those faces (Anna and John especially) and the smattering of red made my heart smile. But, unfortunately the fellowship was the only balm of our gathering.

I experienced the chapel service as perhaps the least holy encounter I have ever had to sit through. This service connected not at all with the pain and struggle of the gathered body.  This “worship service” touched not a note of reconciliation at a time heartache and schism. The music was doleful, the hymns dusty and tepid,  the sermon disconnected from the reality of the congregation’s pain and the rote prayers rang hollow in my heart. Candler, if this is what you are teaching your future leaders, it is no wonder the Methodist Church is losing good and faithful people in droves. Dear alma mater, don’t fool yourself. Just because you’ve put a couple of flatscreen monitors in that sterile worship space does not mean you even remotely understand what it means to create a thin place in which to encounter the divine in the 21st century.

Now, I could stop there with a scathing critique and feel like I got a little heat off my chest (and chip on my shoulder) but, as an alumna, something else woke me in the night and has been tuggin’ at my sleeve all morning. I feel inspired to finally step up and be more involved on campus – to give back what Candler really did give to me. There is so much good happening at Candler, so many bright and faithful students, so many brilliant and inspiring teachers. I am grateful more than I can say for how I have been formed by the years I spent having my faith and intellect filled with New Wine. It was just so very sad to experience that listless and vacant moment that presumed to call itself worship. You can do better, I know you can.

Of course, as a lesbian and as one of your graduates who has taken a non-traditional route for her ministry, I don’t expect you to know what to do with me or even to accept my offer. Hell, I am not even sure I am particularly gifted any more than anyone else, but I do have a heart that cares deeply about the school as well as setting a table where everyone, everyone, everyone is welcome to be fed as well as serve.

I do hope and pray that as I reach out, you will reach back and we can perhaps learn from one another how moments like yesterday can be transformative in the hearts and minds of those who are loyal beyond reason to our beloved school.

About Kimberly Knight

Kimberly has a long history of back-pew sitting, Wednesday night supper eatin' and generally trying God’s patience since 1969. She's lucky enough to have made her technology addiction a career and serves as both the Director of Digital Strategy as a southern liberal arts college and Minister of Digital community with Extravagance UCC.

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  • John Blevins

    Hi Kimberly. Good to be with you in worship yesterday though I do have
    to concur with your description. I was trying to describe it to a
    co-worker who actually gave me words for the experience: limp and
    lifeless. Here’s my two cents on worship yesterday (and by implication
    the current events going down at Candler): Candler does not (yet) know how
    to move beyond toleration and/or private affirmation of LGBT folk and
    actually find ways in worship (through liturgy, prayers, sermons, songs,
    etc) to utilize the tremendous resources of the tradition to make those
    resources relevant to the lived lives of LGBT folk. Here’s my
    question: will it be willing to learn this? It does indeed have
    tremendous resources to learn this new language and school itself in new
    ways of proclaiming good news. My fear is that the institutional
    intertia against doing so is and will be quite strong. Your offer,
    then, is in my opinion a tremendous offer of grace to the community.
    I’m happy to join with you in such efforts. But you (or I or others)
    need not only learn this new language and new speech through Candler’s
    and her resources. Rocks will cry out if the people of God are silent
    because the testimony of God’s love will not be silenced in the
    creation. So there are other places that do have language and speech
    and practice that offer witness to God’s love and already are “thin
    places to encounter the divine.” Part of my (our?) response to all
    that’s gone down in the past few weeks is to engage in hte spiritual
    discipline of looking for those places, trusting that God is already
    revealing them if I’ll listen and open my eyes. I hope and pray that
    your alma mater will accept your gift and will be happy to be part of
    what that might look like if Candler says yes. If they don’t, however, I
    pledge to stand with you in looking for God at work in other places.
    And to be open to God’s leading to co-create them with God. If you’re
    interested, let me know. Grace and peace.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kimberlyknight/ Kimberly

      John,

      I am grateful for your wisdom is this comment and very much interested in looking for ways to create those thin places together. I think I am going to make to campus today but do not think I will be in red. Hope to see you there. Let’s plan to get together soon either way.

      K

      • John Blevins

        See you later today. And in the coming days! One thing I’m grateful for in all this is the chance to get to re-connect with you and to move beyond the minimal connections we had at Candler.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kimberlyknight/ Kimberly

          Indeed!

  • Guest

    Hi Kimberly. Good to be with you in worship yesterday though I do have to concur with your description. I was trying to describe it to a co-worker who actually gave me words for the experience: limp and lifeless. Here’s my two cents on worship yesterday (and by implication the current events going down there): Candler does not (yet) know (yet) to move beyond toleration and/or private affirmation of LGBT folk and actually find ways in worship (through liturgy, prayers, sermons, songs, etc) to utilize the tremendous resources of the tradition to make those resources relevant to the lived lives of LGBT folk. Here’s my question: will it be willing to learn this? It does indeed have tremendous resources to learn this new language and school itself in new ways of proclaiming good news. My fear is that the institutional intertia against doing so is and will be quite strong. Your offer, then, is in my opinion a tremendous offer of grace to the community. I’m happy to join with you in such efforts. But you (or I or others) need not only learn this new language and new speech through Candler’s and her resources. Rocks will cry out if the people of God are silent because the testimony of God’s love will not be silenced in the creation. So there are other places that do have language and speech and practice that offer witness to God’s love and already are “thin places to encounter the divine.” Part of my (our?) response to all that’s gone down in the past few weeks is to engage in hte spiritual discipline of looking for those places, trusting that God is already revealing them if I’ll listen and open my eyes. I hope and pray that your alma mater will accept your gift and will be happy to be part of what that might look like if Candler says yes. If they don’t, however, I pledge to stand with you in looking for God at work in other places. And to be open to God’s leading to co-create them with God. If you’re interested, let me know. Grace and peace.


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