Opening Convocation Marks 'An Ocean of Celebration'
Fall convocation on August 28 marked the beginning of Candler School of Theology’s 100th academic year with gratitude for the past and anticipation for the future. Highlights of the program included the installation of a new chaired professor, an address by Carl Holladay, a litany of dedication for Phase II of Candler’s new building, and the official start of Candler’s centennial celebration.
In her opening remarks at the standing-room only ceremony in Cannon Chapel, Dean Jan Love welcomed 200 new students to the school, forty of whom are enrolled in four new degree programs.
Emory President James Wagner and Provost Claire Sterk were on hand to install Robert M. Franklin Jr. as the inaugural holder of the James T. and Berta R. Laney Chair in Moral Leadership. After the installation, Franklin received a standing ovation from the audience, which included Ambassador and Mrs. Laney.
Carl R. Holladay, Charles Howard Candler Professor of New Testament Studies, gave the convocation address, “Imagining the Future.” He acknowledged that though fall convocation is an annual tradition, events surrounding this year’s gathering made it particularly noteworthy. With the installation of Robert Franklin, the dedication of Candler’s new building, and the start of the school’s yearlong centennial, Holladay said, “we are swimming in an ocean of celebration.”
As he considered various ways to choose among imagined futures, Holladay cited 19th century Austrian public lawyer Georg Jellinek, who coined the phrase “the normative power of the factual,” the idea that the subtle power of the status quo convinces humans that the way things are is the way they should be.
But knowing which things of the present signal the way things should be in the future requires prophetic discernment that must be cultivated, Holladay asserted. “There are many ways to cultivate such gifts of discernment, but three formative elements can be singled out: a sense of inquiry, dialogue and worship.”
Those three elements, Holladay said, are evident in the new configuration of Candler’s space, with the Rita Anne Rollins Building leading to Pitts Theology Library leading to Cannon Chapel.
“From Dickey Drive, one enters spaces devoted to lectures, discussion, and administration, gradually ascending to space dedicated to learning, inquiry, and investigation, then moving even higher to a place of prayer, praise, and worship,” he said.
Signs of intentional design are everywhere evident in this combined architecture that envisions a rhythm of life in which administration, teaching, learning, and worship flow together naturally rather than competing with each other as unnaturally aligned, competitive domains. One moves from classroom to library to chapel and back again in a natural, mutually reinforcing pattern of formation.”
Establishing this rhythm of life where theological discourse, inquiry, and adoration form an interactive experience “will give our imagined futures…a measure of realistic hope,” he concluded. “And so equipped, we can work to change the way things are to the way they should be.”