Each year Candler School of Theology offers sponsorship opportunities to students participating in professional conferences and educational events that support the School’s mission of “educating faithful and creative leaders for the church’s ministries in the world.” One such conference that students at Candler attend is the American Academy of Religion’s (AAR) Annual Conference. The AAR’s 2008 Annual Conference was held in Chicago, Illinois on November 1-3, 2008.

The AAR’s mission statement begins:

In a world where religion plays so central a role in social, political, and economic events, as well as in the lives of communities and individuals, there is a critical need for ongoing reflection upon and understanding of religious traditions, issues, questions, and values.

The AAR promotes such reflection through excellence in scholarship and teaching in the field of religion. This year, 2nd Year MDiv Student Ann Lister (below) received a Leadership Development Grant from Candler’s Office of Student Programming in order to attend the AAR meeting in Chicago. Ann is our contributing blogger today.

My AAR Experience
by Ann Lister

The opportunity to attend the American Academy of Religion Conference was a blessing. The energy at the conference was surreal. There was excitement in every session that I attended. The conference was everything I expected and more. While the sessions that I attended were very interesting, I was especially inspired by the consultation of the Black Religious Scholars Group (BRSG), on Friday evening. This event was held at the historical Trinity United Church of Christ and what a joy it was to be surrounded by African American scholars whose books I had read, especially Dr. Renita Weems. She was being honored as the 2008 BRSG Distinguished Religious Scholar and the whole evening was powerful. Dr. Weems shared her story of pain and struggle with the audience while rejoicing about the goodness of God.

Additionally, Dr. Weems reminded us of how the ancestors were rejoicing at the possibility of the first African American President; it was electrifying. I am grateful for my alma mater, Spelman College and the Leadership Development fund at Candler, for affording me this great opportunity. As a result of AAR, I returned to Atlanta with a fresh new outlook on my life as a seminarian. In the words of song-writer, Edwin Hawkins, “I feel like going on; though trials come on every hand, I feel like going on.”