Emily We knew the weather forecast: Tropical Storm Nate was moving rapidly towards Tennessee, North Carolina, and North Georgia, right where Creation Keepers brought a group of 10 faithful Candler students to go camping for the weekend. But, we figured, what’s a little rain? So we left Atlanta on Saturday morning and drove towards Smoky Mountain National Park. We set up camp, six tents of all colors, walked around the forest a little, then cooked dinner and sat around the campfire enjoying the crisp fall air and the company of fellow seminarians enjoying Fall Break by momentarily forgetting all those papers with impending due dates.

creation keepers campingAll the while, the impending threat of rain remained buried in our consciousness, verbalized at times more in a joking manner than with actual preparations. When the next morning came, the day Nate was scheduled to arrive, we nevertheless laced up our boots and began a 14-mile trek up to a ridge on the Appalachian Trail. Maybe about 15 minutes in to our walk, it began to rain (surprise, surprise). Though the thought to turn back frequented my mind (and I’m sure the minds of my fellow hikers), we never waivered in our driving pace forward. By the time we reached the ridge, each of us was thoroughly soaked with still over 11 miles to go.

At some point, we each just put our head down and walked. I mean walked. We booked it.  It’s surprising the degree of determination that can be engendered from a cold wet drizzle and just over 10 miles between you and dry underwear. We walked with purpose.  I reflected at some point on the journey that this trek through the rain is kind of like seminary. Don’t get the wrong idea, but going into ministry is work. The future of the church is uncertain, speaking God’s truth is countercultural, and let’s be honest, we all know this probably won’t pay well. What keeps us walking in the way, the truth, and the life despite these raindrops on our journey? What inspires us to continue to put one foot in front of the other and jump through the hoops of graduation requirements, CPE hours, District Committees on Ordination, Boards of Ordained Ministry, and all the other institutions in place to ensure that we are fully equipped and called to this ministry?

I suppose this is where God comes into the story. As we each journey through seminary and our respective calls to ministry, we walk with purpose towards the way that God has called us. Call this purpose the work of the Holy Spirit, call it that fire in your soul that moves you to stand in the face of injustice, call it whatever you please. Regardless of the name, its truth takes hold of your life and propels you to pursue that which everyone around you says is crazy. 

creation keepers hikingOf course, the journey of seminary is not all rain. It is full of celebrations, friends, new experiences, and the certainty that God is at work in the world. Along our 14-mile trek in the rain we shared many thoughts, stories, and laughs with one another. At one point, the trail turned suddenly and we knew that we had begun our 5-mile descent back to the campsite. Halleluiah! We spent the next 20 minutes systematically working our way through the alphabet from A to Z thinking of synonyms for “wet.” Among my favorites, “H – Hydroblasted,” “L – Liquefied,” and “N – Notonedryspotleft.”

This experience in the rain in Smoky Mountain National Park is one of the reasons I sincerely love Candler. The camaraderie experienced by a group of students all navigating their way through seminary on their journey into ministry is exceptional. These friends will laugh with you, cry with you, study with you, listen to you preach, lament with you, point out God to you even when it seems like the world is standing in opposition, and most importantly, accompany you on this walk with purpose.