In Candler’s Formation Communities, Students Learn to ‘Live Well Together’

St. Vedast House
February 16, 2023

No matter where you are on your journey, Candler offers many different ways to build community. From the school’s vibrant Office of Student Life and student organizations to Contextual Education reflection groups, from worship to workshops, there’s a way to forge new connections everywhere you look.

bethany-house-2_web.jpgBut what if community building kept going once you left campus or closed your laptop? What if your own home provided an abundance of possibilities to grow in faith and fellowship, to tackle real world problems, and to find mutual support—not to mention study partners—as you navigate seminary?

Launched in 2019, Candler’s Formation Communities program aims to create and nurture these spaces for deep connection. Centered around spiritual formation and intentional living, formation communities offer a distinctive opportunity for Candler students to live and grow in faith alongside their peers, strengthening internal muscles of empathy, conflict transformation, and collaboration, all in the context of a built-in support system for your seminary journey.

At the start of each academic year, each formation community works together to create a “rule of life” and discerns a shared focus, or “charism,” to guide their daily living. The communities all incorporate elements of common prayer, table, and celebration. These are coordinated by a student rector, who provides day-to-day leadership, and a house chaplain, who offers leadership through worship and spiritual direction. A midyear retreat brings participants together to reassess their focus and prepare for the new semester.

Current and incoming Candler students can apply to three different types of formation communities: chartered, student organized, and nonresidential.

Chartered communities: Candler helps to match students with a student cohort, and match that student cohort with a property owner, property manager, or landlord.

Student organized communities: Students who have already formed a group of housemates or roommates are invited to apply to participate in the formation communities program. Students locate and manage their own housing.

Nonresidential communities: The formation communities program supports nonresidential communities that covenant to a rule of life and shared charism, though they do not live together.

Interested in learning more about what it’s like to live in a formation community? We asked three student rectors about their experiences so far, and their collective opinion is that it’s been life changing.

What drew them to the formation community model

Emily Badgett, Taniecia McFarlane, and Kathryn Powell

Emily Badgett, second-year MDiv, student rector of St. Vedast’s House (left)“I chose to apply to a formation community as an incoming student because I wanted the residential feel of a seminary that did not feel like College 2.0. I’m not from Atlanta, so moving into the house during my first year allowed me to feel more connected and build deeper relationships so much faster.”

Taniecia McFarlane, second-year MTS, student rector of Tubman-Thurman-Tutu (T3) House (middle)“My undergraduate seminary experience was within a community setting, and became the basis of lasting friendships and partnerships in ministry. I thought Candler’s formation communities would provide a similar space—one in which the content and context of our curriculum was incorporated in our daily lives.”

Kathryn Powell, second-year MDiv, student rector of Bethany House (right)“I wanted to be part of starting a formation house for Catholic students because there wasn’t one yet. I reached out to the program director about that potential, and found out that two other women had asked the same question! So we came together and formed our community. I wanted to help create a space where Catholic students could gather together and share the gifts of our tradition.”

Their role as student rector

Bethany House hosts a community brunch.

Bethany House hosts a community brunch.

Badgett: “As the rector, my role within our ‘family’ is as the point person for all house management issues. In my house, that means I am the person who deals with work orders, talking with the landlord, utilities, and more. It also means that I get to organize fun family trips and invite people into our home.”

McFarlane: “The camaraderie with other formation community student rectors facilitates honest conversations about the realities and possibilities for our growth and the advancement of our respective communities.”

Powell: “I take care of the odds and ends that help the community function. I coordinate meet-ups with the house chaplain and our Candler connections. I help organize our community prayer and meal times and keep it in rotation as to who leads prayer or cooks each week. I check in regularly with my housemates. And I keep folks in my community up to date with what’s going on in other formation houses.”

What makes their houses unique

Badgett: “Currently, we have both an ecumenical and international culture in our home—American Episcopalian, Anglican Church of Pakistan, American Methodist, German Baptist, and American Catholic. We ground our lives together in a rhythm of prayer based on the Book of Common Prayer. We also love to eat together. We all come from different food cultures, and we love to share about our days over a good meal. And we love to watch TV or movies together—we have a running list of things to watch as a family.”

McFarlane: “Our space encourages academic excellence, deepened spirituality, and a place called home for Black and international students.”

Powell: “At the beginning of the year, we agree on a few values that are important to us as a house, and then we live into those throughout the year. For us at Bethany House, that’s hospitality, creativity, and generosity. So, we host community meals and bring students and faculty together. We’ve also hosted talks, sing-alongs, and general hangouts—chances for folks to connect. We do this as a team, knowing that it’s part of what holds us together. Then, the prayer and meal together each week give us touchstones to return to, to center ourselves and bring us together.”

Candler formation community selfies.

Candler formation community selfies.


Enriching their seminary experience

Badgett: “One of my favorite parts is being able to come home from either a really exciting class, or a difficult one, and share the experience with my roommates. They are a built-in support system right down the hall. It’s really nice to have other students around to keep me accountable and grounded in my work. Some of my favorite moments are evenings with my roommates doing some combination of homework and eating together.”

McFarlane: “To live in an intentional community is to commit to the pursuit of shared core values, principles, and disciplines. I came into the experience anticipating blessings and challenges. Relationships that I have developed through and within the community have made the seminary journey a little easier. To return home after a hard day of classes to a prepared meal has been a gift of grace on some hard days.”

Powell: “Living in a formation community gave me so many connections right from the start of my Candler experience. I was connected to my housemates in an intentional way, then also to the other formation communities, and then as we hosted events, I was drawn further into the Candler community. This changes everything about my seminary experience because it deepens my understanding of my community of learners—my Candler peers and professors. I also feel more ‘at home’ here and so able to move into deeper questions. It is a gift to know one’s housemates in this way, to live alongside other seminarians and understand a different side to them than you would if you just sat across the room from them in class.”

What it means to be part of this type of intentional community

st.-vedast-22-23_3_web.jpgBadgett: “My first year was extremely hard personally, and I couldn’t thank my housemates enough for the ways they helped support me—whether that was saying there was soup on the stove or marveling at the absurdity of reality dating shows. My favorite time in seminary continues to be around our table. Especially this year, when we got to invite all of the Episcopal and Anglican Studies students and faculty over for an All Souls potluck (pictured right). It is a beautiful example of the way liturgy, food, and fellowship can weave together so nicely.”

McFarlane: “The rich mix of individuals in the immediate community necessitates creativity in building community and navigating conflict. Engaging members of the community has also resulted in uncovering and coming into gifts and graces that I did not know were within me.”

Powell: “Living in a formation community is about sharing daily life together and leaning into the tough, sometimes tense, sometimes mundane, other times endearing, moments where we see our differences and explore what it means to love with curiosity and grace within those differences. The house brings together all sorts of people, and when we eat and pray together, a different bond forms than just being people who happen to live in the same house. There’s a sense of purpose to our living, which also comes in handy when there is conflict because we can remember why we are here together in the first place—we’re here to learn how to live well together.”

What they’d say to interested prospective students

st.-vedast-22-23_2_web.jpgBadgett: “Formation communities are the best way to get integrated and feel connected to both Candler and the greater Atlanta area. We have so many different communities that I am sure you can find a good fit. And if you can’t, there is also an opportunity to develop your own. Whether or not you decide to join ours or another community, we would love to have you over for dinner when you get here!”

McFarlane: “Life in a formation community is not taught in the academy. The commitment to share life with others invites your dedication and openness even as you bring your whole self to the experience. More than just an affordable housing option, prepare to see change and be changed.”

Powell: “Formation communities are a gift and a commitment. They are an invitation to step out of an ‘I’ mindset and think about living as a ‘we.’ Our formation communities witness to the fact that in our walks of life and walks of faith, as we learn what it means to be ministers and disciples, we are not alone. It’s not always a walk in the park, but then again, anything worth doing has some grit to it, eh? Living in a formation community is fun, creative, challenging, hilarious, and enlivening. Do it! It’s an adventure!”

The application for the 2023-2024 formation communities is live! Current and incoming students are welcome to apply.


Apply to Candler chartered communities (you may apply to more than one) by March 15. Students will be notified by April 3.

Apply to be part of a student-organized formation community by April 15, 2023.

Apply to be part of a nonresidential formation community by June 15, 2023.

Questions? Email Formation Communities Program Coordinator Bernadette Naro.

Thanks to current formation community members for submitting their photos!