Error message

  • Warning: Illegal string offset 'field' in DatabaseCondition->__clone() (line 1901 of /home/fo22salt/public_html/includes/database/query.inc).
  • Warning: Illegal string offset 'field' in DatabaseCondition->__clone() (line 1901 of /home/fo22salt/public_html/includes/database/query.inc).

A Week

Quest for Adequacy - Wed, 10/16/2013 - 12:57
I am halfway through my first semester of seminary, and I feel like I have finally settled into a routine.  Some days I am amazed by how different my life is than when I was working an 8-5 job.  I am enjoying myself very much, though. 

Outside Cannon ChapelBefore I came to Candler School of Theology, many people warned me that seminary can be challenging for ones spiritual life, so I have been very intentional about my spiritual practices: setting aside at least 15 minutes in the morning for prayer and worship, reading a chapter of the Bible each night, giving thanks before meals, getting regular exercise, and blessing roadkill that I pass by on my bike.

My typical week looks pretty much like this:

First Day: Worship

On Sunday mornings, I have been worshiping with Atlanta Friends Meeting, a large, unprogrammed meeting in Decatur.  My friends Sadie and Chris live just a mile up the road from my apartment, so they usually give me a ride to meeting, which also gives us a chance to catch up.  Worship begins at 10am and lasts for an hour of silence and messages, with a few minutes at the end for holding people or other prayer requests in the Light.  After getting home from meeting, I often nap and then do any schoolwork I have left for the coming week.

Second Day: Prison

One of the unusual things about Candler is that the program includes two years of contextual education.  In our first year, all of the first-year M.Div. students spend four hours a week in social ministry or clinical settings.  On Mondays, I spend the day with eight of my classmates at Lee Arrendale State Prison, the largest women's prison in Georgia.
Chaplain Bishop (left) and the Candler chaplain interns
We meet up around 8am to take a van up to the prison, located about 66 miles northeast of Atlanta.  I have
been assigned to two dorms in the general population.  Two other chaplain interns and I spend about an hour and a half in each dorm, and we meet up with our other classmates for lunch and a 90-minute reflection class in the middle.

Working in the prison is one of the highlights of my week.  When I walk in the dorm, I never know what will happen.  Sometimes a woman will approach me immediately and I will spend most of my time with her.  Other days, I wait in the break room for women to come talk with me.  Most of the time I listen as they share their experiences and concerns, and we pray and talk together.

Third Day: Classes

Other than the reflection group at the prison, all of my classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  The day begins with History of Early Christian Thought (8-9:20am), a large lecture class where we are learning church history from the time of the early church to the Reformation (we will take a class that covers the Reformation to the current day next semester). 

Some of my school booksNext is Pastoral Care (9:30-10:50), a smaller class that is designed to complement our contextual education work.  My prison group is combined with a group that is working in another prison for a class of fewer than 20 people.  We are learning a lot about ministry in the prison setting and pastoral care and counseling for women, and we practice pastoral care with and for each other.

After Pastoral Care, I usually skip chapel so that I can eat some lunch and stop by the on-campus farmers market before choir practice with the Candler Chorale, a one-credit class (12-12:50pm).  Our choir is about seven people, and we usually spend our time on Tuesdays preparing the music we will be singing and leading in the Thursday chapel.

My last class of the day is Old Testament (1-2:20pm), another large lecture class.  This is also a year-long class, and we are currently working our way through the Pentateuch.  We started talking about Leviticus last week and will be moving on to Numbers tomorrow.  I think this is the class that many of my classmates have found most theologically challenging, but I am really enjoying learning about the sources of the Old Testament and reading the text more closely than I ever have before.
Pitts Theology Library
Fourth Day: Reading

Thursday is usually my busiest day of classes, so I spend most of Wednesday in the library, reading and preparing for that.  I also try to fit in a lunchtime swim at the Emory pool, and in the afternoon, I meet with a therapist in the Emory counseling center.  Counseling sessions are free for students (or, rather, included in our tuition and fees), and it has been really great to have someone to meet with each week to help me through all of the transitions.

Fifth Day: Classes

My schedule on Thursday is pretty much the same as Tuesday, with a few exceptions.  Instead of choir practice, my choir often leads the singing in chapel (11am-12pm).  After chapel, I sometimes have another one-credit class called First Year Advising (12-12:50pm).  As the name suggests, this is a class that is supposed to help all of us transition into seminary.  We meet regularly (though not every week) with our faculty advisor to talk about things like financial literacy and what we need to do to satisfy the M.Div. program requirements.
Inside Cannon Chapel
Sixth Day: Schoolwork

Friday is another day without classes and it is tempting to take the day off, but I have been trying to get most of my schoolwork done before the weekend.  It is also a day when we sometimes have special programs at school (for example, next week I will be taking an afternoon workshop on the Enneagram).  Again, I try to fit a run or swimming into the day.  In the evening, I might go out to dinner or do something else to unwind after the week.

Seventh Day: Sabbath

One of the reasons I try to do so much schoolwork on Friday is because I have set Saturday aside as a no-schoolwork day, a sabbath of sorts.  It is amazing to me how tempted I have been to do schoolwork on Saturdays, especially when midterms are looming, but I have managed to stick with it so far.

On Saturday mornings, I have been going to a yoga class at a local ashram, then I usually spend the rest of the day hanging out with friends, reading (fiction!), or catching up with things around the house.  So, it's not a complete sabbath, but at least one day a week when I am not completely focused on school.
Categories: Blogs

Exploring parkrun and the Quaker way

Jez Smiths blog - Tue, 10/15/2013 - 08:34
A great passion of mine over the past 13 years has been discovering the Quaker way and living with Quaker faith. And in the past year or so another great interest has come along – parkrun. I’ve not thought before about combining them but my great friend Marisa Johnson has! I didn’t even know that […]
Categories: Blogs

Getting to the point at Parkrun

Jez Smiths blog - Mon, 10/14/2013 - 13:14
Parkrun on Saturday was a mixed affair. I’d started with running to the park as my warm up, which was a good idea. When the run proper started, I was feeling good and I made it around about 3/4 of the first lap pacing myself just behind someone who runs within my PB time but […]
Categories: Blogs

From boasts about profits to moral outrage in 14 months

Jez Smiths blog - Mon, 10/14/2013 - 12:17
WHSmith have been in the headlines after they took down their online business after discovering ‘unacceptable titles’ within their e-stock. The action took place after a newspaper had exposed the sordid situation, with books offering bedtime stories for children being found next to books with fantasized accounts of rape and incest.  Part of the problem was […]
Categories: Blogs

Stating the obvious

Jez Smiths blog - Sat, 10/12/2013 - 05:38
I spotted this headline in the guardian online recently… “Leigh Ledare: the man who photographs his mother having sex – in pictures”. And wondered if Leigh Ledare might have photographed his mother in something other than pictures.
Categories: Blogs

More expensive by weight

Jez Smiths blog - Fri, 10/11/2013 - 13:19
Today in Sainsbury’s in Bethnal green I found that Zovirax, at £324.50 per 100g is even more expensive than bathtime squirters. Result! My quest for the most pointless cost comparison in Sainsbury’s goes on.
Categories: Blogs

Telegraph Hill Playclub needs you!

Jez Smiths blog - Thu, 10/10/2013 - 08:30
I happened to see this poster on the Brockley Central blog yesterday and off I trundled to this meeting last night. There were about 8 of us there, discussing how the playclub will run when it becomes volunteer-led and managed from 1/1/2014. The club was going to close because of local government cuts but now […]
Categories: Blogs

Expensive by weight

Jez Smiths blog - Wed, 10/09/2013 - 17:41
I was intrigued to discover in the sainsbury’s in whitechapel today that a baby’s bath toy costs £299 per 100g. I hadn’t realised that anyone would want to compare this product by weight.
Categories: Blogs

From apple day to…

Jez Smiths blog - Wed, 10/09/2013 - 07:35
On Saturday, toddler and I went off on our adventures. The primary destination was Ian’s apple day at One Tree Hill allotments. There, I chopped apples while toddler slept. Then, when he awoke, we chatted to each other. I met 4-5 people and saw a lot more. Fast forward to this morning and I found […]
Categories: Blogs

Passing on the running bug

Jez Smiths blog - Tue, 10/08/2013 - 08:09
On Saturday, I was all geared up for Parkrun. I had run on Thursday night and had recorded a great time so this was to be the day of my next Personal Best attempt. After recording 25:07 in August I had hardly got within 2 minutes of that time in the following 2 months. So […]
Categories: Blogs

Bug club

Jez Smiths blog - Sat, 10/05/2013 - 18:58
The challenge at Bug Club in Frendsbury Gardens today was to find 100 different kinds of leaves. The 15 or so kids found 104! We had loads of fun too. Toddler toddled and we took home a bag of harvested potatoes. Result!
Categories: Blogs

When a baby becomes a toddler

Jez Smiths blog - Fri, 10/04/2013 - 05:55
My baby has just become a toddler! And the giraffe pictured here above has helped. We borrowed this rather lovely item from Lewisham Toy Library. Taking it out into the local parks and the streets has helped give toddler lots of practice walking and now he’s doing it unaided. Meanwhile, I ran my NCT route […]
Categories: Blogs

Local dinner

Jez Smiths blog - Wed, 10/02/2013 - 19:27
It may just have been dinner but the potatoes were from the allotment and the beans came from Frendsbury Gardens. Do we ate talking food metres, rather than miles.
Categories: Blogs


Jez Smiths blog - Thu, 09/26/2013 - 06:05
Spotted this in Whitechapel Sainsbury’s yesterday. I imagine that to rope and chamois leathers are toys for many people, just not for me!
Categories: Blogs

Little steps

Jez Smiths blog - Sat, 09/21/2013 - 00:00
How quickly a year goes when you’re a father! My baby is almost a toddler and he now his first pair of shoes, which we bought from Gently Elephant this week. He also has Wellington boots too but they’re still a bit big.
Categories: Blogs

More Thoughts on Recording

Quest for Adequacy - Fri, 09/20/2013 - 14:18
The night before I went to preach at Camas Friends Church, I had a dream.  I dreamed that I was sitting in the Camas Friends meeting room, waiting to give the message.  In my dream, the announcements and introductions went on and on, and I began to get anxious that there would not be space for me to speak.  To my horror, I saw people standing to leave.  One by one, they quietly walked out of the room.  But when I looked to my right, I saw a small girl sitting on the bench next to me.  She looked up at me, her eyes wide, and said, "Are you going to be the preacher today?"  Then I woke up.

I have been in Atlanta for a month now, and it has been a bit of a bumpy landing.  There are things that I love about studying at Candler School of Theology: my classes are interesting, the professors are brilliant and entertaining, and my classmates are caring and thoughtful.  But I have also experienced a fair amount of culture shock.  I am adjusting to living in the South and being a full-time student again after several years of working as a lawyer.  I am also the only Quaker in a Methodist seminary, which has its own challenges.

One thing I did not anticipate was how big of a deal my recording would be here.

Because it is the beginning of the year, I often find myself in classrooms where we go around the room and introduce ourselves.  For many of my classmates, the introduction goes like this:  "My name is Jessie and I am United Methodist, on the ordination track in the North Georgia Conference."

When it's my turn to introduce myself, I usually say, "My name is Ashley and I am a Quaker (a member of the Religious Society of Friends).  I am a recorded Quaker minister (the Quaker version of ordination)."  

When I say that, people's eyebrows go up.  They shift in their chairs.  Last week, a professor said to me, "So, you're just here for the education."

It's true.  For many of my classmates, they need to go to seminary in order to be ordained in their denominations.  As a Friend, I do not need the degree to be a minister (in fact, several Friends tried to talk me out of it before I came here).

I am grateful for my recording, and it is still new enough that I am trying to figure out what it means to me and for my ministry.  I sometimes think it means more to non-Friends than it does to Friends.

A few days ago, I had a conversation with a friend who should be recorded. She has a clear call to ministry and has been deeply involved in public ministry among Friends, which is bearing fruit. But her yearly meeting does not record ministers. 

She said that, in a conversation with another minister, she blurted out, "I wish they would just record me!" The other (recorded) minister reminded her that recording is not something to take lightly. 

While I agree on one level, I also think that, when someone is doing public ministry, eventually the lack of recording can become a burden, and it is a burden that the meeting should take up. It is the responsibility of the meeting to provide support and accountability for public ministers, and recording is the way that Friends traditionally have shown their intention to provide that support and accountability. 

I also think this weighs heavier on women than men. It is true that yearly meetings that do not record ministers do not discriminate between women and men (neither are recorded). However, that does not take into account all of the voices that women hear telling them that they cannot do ministry. There are entire denominations that will not allow women to preach or even teach men. It is still unusual for a little girl to hear a woman preach. And when Friends say that they will not record ministers, that is one more voice telling women that they cannot be ministers.

Recording is important, Friends. Especially the recording of women. We need to take a look around and recognize the gifts that God has given to our meetings and find ways to support the Friends who are sharing those gifts with us.
Categories: Blogs

Whose details are they anyway?

Jez Smiths blog - Tue, 09/17/2013 - 21:09
Recently, I was reminded of the old adage that if you’re not paying for it, you’re part of the product. Often applied to social media like Google and facebook, it also applies to my (and your) email address. I think my email address belongs to me, but last year I realised that it belongs to […]
Categories: Blogs

The enduring appeal of sour grapes

Jez Smiths blog - Tue, 09/17/2013 - 12:37
In their book, Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath comment on how the Aesop fable of the fox and the sour grapes has lasted over 2,500 years. The fox repeatedly jumps to reach the grapes but they’re too high. They must be sour, he thinks, as he slinks away. The story was referenced this […]
Categories: Blogs

Peppa pig lookalike?

Jez Smiths blog - Tue, 09/17/2013 - 12:25
Peppa pig is a cartoon character loved by millions of children around the world. A few months ago a flyer came through our letterbox (despite the no junk mail sticker of course) for a local children’s nursery. To me this looks like Peppa pig on their flyer. But no, it’s a look-a-like according to the […]
Categories: Blogs

International baby of mystery

Jez Smiths blog - Mon, 09/16/2013 - 20:25
We have an international baby of mystery. Where do his toys go? Is he responsible for their disappearances? The red ball from the top of the discs turned up just now. It had been missing for months. Similarly, Bishopston, our eponymous dinosaur from the sadly now defunct fairtrade clothing store turned up tonight. We at […]
Categories: Blogs