Spiritual Formation at Candler 2013 Orientation

Introduction to Spiritual Formation

"The Questions Are For Everyone: An Introduction to Spiritual Formation at Candler"

with the Rev. Dr. Gregory Ellison and the Rev. Dr. Ellen Shepard

While we probably should stop with the construction metaphors, being in seminary really can feel like being torn down and built back up, repeatedly—in fact, it can seem grueling at times, what with academics, denominational requirements, various relationships, and work demands.  And then there’s all that transition.  How can we find our spiritual bearings and create a rhythm of life that sustains us, keeping us vital and true to ourselves and the One who brought us this far?

During this special session at Orientation, two Candler faculty invite us to explore some essential questions—in a variety of modes, settings and experiences—that relate to how we might nourish our bodies and minds, hearts and souls while in seminary.  We’ll be introduced to a variety of spiritual practices, and invited into times of prayer and reflection to see what feels most life-giving for us.  Also, we’ll hear how current students are practicing their faith and spirituality, and learn what resources are available at Candler and beyond to sustain and support our spiritual lives.

Rev. Dr. Gregory Ellison, II, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care & Counseling


Dr. Ellison’s research examines the intersections of pastoral care, personality development, theologies of hope, and marginalized populations. His recently released book, Cut Dead but Still Alive: Caring for African American Young Men (Abingdon Press), is based on his years of counseling youth and his work with young men transitioning out of correctional facilities. He is an ordained Baptist minister and has served on the ministerial staffs at United Methodist and Presbyterian churches.

Rev. Dr. Ellen Shepard, Coordinator of Vocational Formation for the Women, Theology & Ministry Program


Ellen Shepard, an elder in the North Georgia Conference, is the Senior Minister of Stone Mountain First United Methodist Church.  She is married to Kelly, a native Texan, and together they have 3 grown children and 4 granddaughters (under five) and a grandson on the way, who all live in the Atlanta area. 

She is an adjunct faculty member at Candler School of Theology of Emory University and is the Coordinator of Vocational Formation for the Women Theology & Ministry program. 

Ellen likes to write and has written A River In the Desert, a book on women’s retreats (Abingdon Press) and a children’s book, Who Dared, Joshua Dared (Abingdon Press) in addition to numerous articles and Sunday school curriculum for children and adults.  Early in her ministry she wrote a book with Dick Murray, known to many as the “Grandfather of Christian Education,” titled, Teaching the Bible to Elementary Children.

A native of St. Simon’s Island, Ellen transferred to the North Georgia Annual Conference from the Texas Annual Conference in 1998.  She is a graduate of Texas A&M University, Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary at Northwestern University and Columbia Theological Seminary where she received her Doctor of Christian Spirituality. 

She enjoys ministry, leading retreats, collecting quilts, writing, working with people of all ages and has a special love for children’s literature.