Throughout my time at Candler, I have appreciated the ability to engage with those of different beliefs and backgrounds. I have also appreciated the opportunity to worship in different ways based upon different traditions every Tuesday and Thursday in chapel. This gives me the opportunity to determine where I fit within my tradition and within traditions that are new to me. However, I have been able to appreciate these different worship styles on an even deeper level as a result of the Contextual Education II program.

As a person who grew up surrounded by liturgy in the formal cathedrals of the Episcopal Church and who now worships as a part of a praise band in a progressive United Church of Christ congregation, I have considered myself well versed in different denominational traditions. However, I sometimes focus on seeing God in my own contexts, forgetting that God also lingers in contexts that are completely foreign to me.

As a part of the Con Ed II program at Candler, I spend time each week serving Kirkwood United Church of Christ and meeting with my site mentor. However, I also spend six Mondays each semester traveling to different churches where members of my Con Ed II reflection group are currently serving. This experience has allowed me to see God in places that I have never been before.

Last semester, I traveled to visit churches within the Methodist, Lutheran-Missouri Synod, and African Methodist Episcopal traditions. This semester, I have already had the opportunity to participate in a Quaker meeting! Each site has carried space for dialogue and new understandings. Conversations have been raised surrounding the different use of gendered language, ways to serve individuals experiencing homelessness, types of baptism, styles of music, different financial situations, and leadership as a whole. For the first time, I have had the opportunity to engage with pastors from each tradition, who welcome both the comments and critiques of seminary students. I no longer feel like a lost student but an emerging pastor engaging in the best ways to reach the community through various churches.

I have found some environments that I truly resonate with and that feel like home. Other experiences have been completely new to me, such as the opportunity to walk into my first baptismal pool or to step into a church that seats thousands on a given Sunday. Each environment and opportunity, regardless of its fit with my particular style, has left me with a valuable lesson. All of these churches, regardless of shape, size, or style, are places where people go to find God. The diverse pastors and leadership of each church are grappling with the very same issues as they seek to link the congregation to our Creator.

In December, I had the opportunity to host my Con Ed II reflection group at my own church. Just as each group member shared their church experience, I am certain I shared a new experience with each of them. I attend a small UCC church with highly progressive social views and contemporary music. The tour at my church took no more than five minutes, versus hours spent at some of the others. However, this diverse nature is a beautiful thing. I was eager to share my environment with my classmates. Our conversations within the space showed me that they were able to find God in this new place, just as I found God in each of their spaces. I am certain that these opportunities for engagement in diverse church environments will fully prepare us for serving the varied nature of the world following graduation.