Jayde Rasband We get the word seminary from the Latin word seminarium, meaning “seedbed.” When I think back on my first semester here at Candler, I feel that it was the time when the Great Gardener (my Annual Conference, home church pastor, professors, friends, [insert whoever told me seminary was a great idea here], and the obvious God) threw me and the rest of us first years into the soil that is Candler School of Theology.

Tears, laughs, and everything in between were present in my first semester as I tried to figure out how to plant myself in the soil. The classroom (including the library and various coffee shops), contextual education, and my friend group were the forces that allowed my seedling-self to be planted deeply and firmly in this community. They serve as my roots and thus allow me to benefit from all Candler has provided me.

I am beyond excited for this upcoming semester because I feel it is finally the time I will be able to grow to the point where I leave the soil (I’m definitely not at the budding or blooming stage yet). My roots will remain for this semester and those to come, but it is most importantly the place where I will grow from.

I gained my academic mantras for this new semester from my advisor, Dr. Jacob Wright. Before finals he gave us a much needed pep talk at our advising group’s last meeting. He told us two things:

  1. “Anything can be interesting if you look into it enough.”
  2. “No one is a good writer, there are only good editors.”

These simple sentences gave me the motivation I needed for finals, but also the drive for my coming semesters. I struggled this past semester with staying interesting (the Conquest and rise of scholasticism can only be so interesting), and when you’re writing two papers a week, it is hard to choose to take the time to make things great. But, I realize I’m here to learn in a way that causes me to grow, and sometimes that means immersing myself in a cubicle on the bottom floor of Pitts Library on a regular basis.   

Serving as a chaplain intern at the Helms Facility on the hall for pregnant women who are incarcerated in the state of Georgia was the best part of my first semester. Every day I was surprised to find myself spiritually, emotionally, and mentally filled, yet drained of the three at the same time. My group of eleven chaplain interns and the fabulous Chaplain Bishop have taught me what it means to have a support system. We pray, we laugh, and we cry within the walls of a seemingly dark place that Jesus radiates through every day in the lives of the women and men we spend time with. This semester, I am focusing on how resources can be pulled together so that when the women of Helms are released they aren’t just thrown out with the hope they will fit into their pre-maternity clothes. These women have taught me how to listen, how to speak, and how to make the prison version of a McGriddle. Words cannot begin to express how excited I am to continue to learn from them, my group of students, Chaplain Bishop, and how Dr. Wright will add to our group as he joins us this spring. This root has allowed me to continue growing beneath the surface as a Christian, as a theologian, and as a hopeful United Methodist Elder.

This semester I look forward to getting even closer to the friends I have now and also making new friends with those in my year and program, but also those outside my year and program.  With the emotional rollercoaster that was the first semester, I quickly found that having a friend group is critical for success (and mental stability) in this type of environment. Studying together is important because even if the class doesn’t seem very difficult during the semester, the final will make you feel like Jesus is coming back before you can make the GPA requirement for your scholarship(s). I learned that it’s very hard to be academically successful alone and I need to use the brilliant minds of my friends. Beyond the classroom, we also worship and pray together; my friends have been there for me when I need someone to talk to and remind me I can do this and do well. Lastly, they are simply so much fun. Whether we’re at a karaoke bar with a live band, a local restaurant, hiking in the woods, or hanging out at someone’s apartment, my fellow seminarians give me joy and remind me that seminary is a growing and life giving experience.

The areas of academics, Contextual Education, and community have provided me with the rooting I need to continue in the adventure called “Seminary.” Missing any of the three would have caused an extreme deficit in my ability to plant myself in this community. Each of them continue to provide that comfort zone, but also give me the push to strive for excellence (perfection if you feel like being super-Methodist). So far at Candler I have been blessed beyond measure. I have confidence that God will continue to help me grow during my Candler experience in a way that not only prepares me to be a great pastor, but also a great individual.

(Top photo: Jayde and a Candler friend hiking Vickery Trail in Roswell, just outside of Atlanta.)