Alumni Partnerships are the Foundation of ConEd Program

Not many programs can say that almost forty percent of their program's partnerships are with alumni. But for the Contextual Education Program at the Candler School of Theology, alumni partnerships are the foundation of this program. Candler's unique commitment to contextual theology and theological education is formalized through the Contextual Education Program, a four-semester sequence, required for all MDiv students. Contextual Education combines academic instruction with opportunities for formation in ministry and leadership in churches, social service agencies, hospitals and other clinical and social settings. All of these sites require a supervisor or mentor to oversee the training of the more than three hundred students who enroll in Contextual Education each year.

Must Ministries, a comprehensive center serving those who are poor and based in Marietta, GA, is one of the more than one hundred and fifty Contextual Education partners. MUST is a challenging environment, where students offer hospitality and a listening ear to the poor each week. It is a place that cultivates the discipline of compassion and humility.

Rev. Andy Peabody, Director of Programs at MUST Ministries, deacon in the North Georgia United Methodist Conference and Emory alum, is the site mentor for the ten to twelve students who work at MUST each week. For him, partnering with Emory to train future leaders in the church is a natural fit: "As someone who has received degrees from both Emory College (92) and Candler School of Theology (98) - and who also had a grandparent, a parent, and a sibling graduate from Emory - I truly feel like the University is my second home! It remains a source of nurture even now, ten years since I last walked a graduation stage. That's one reason I have stayed involved over the years."

This involvement in the weekly site work is a foundational component for many students training to become leaders and ministers for the church. Current Candler student Ann Lister remarks on her time serving at MUST: "At first, when I heard that I would be going to MUST Ministries, I was concerned. But now, I see that my contextual education experience at MUST is laying the spiritual foundation for my life in pastoral ministry. It is not a perfect community, but, for the most part, the guests live in peace. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve my sisters and brothers in transition." Student's opportunity to witness and cultivate community happens through the weekly support of site mentors like Rev. Peabody.

For more information about the Contextual Education Program at the Candler School of Theology, visit