Ashley-Seng.jpgWith the intensity of midterms finally passing over, I can still seem to feel the stress and overwhelming amount of responsibility of second year hanging over me. Nearly halfway through the MDiv program at this point, I can look back and reflect from time to time on what I have learned thus far. I’ve learned about everything from the history of Methodism and seven-word sermons to the interpretation of the latter prophets and Pauline letter form. And yet, there is still so much more to learn. Despite my desire to learn and my love of theology and Biblical studies, it can sometimes feel like there is simply too much to read, too much to learn, and too much to do in seminary.

I think this is a common feeling that many of my classmates, and even faculty and staff around Candler, would share. So, we speak of self-care and make sure that we, as students, don’t get burnt out or fall behind. For me, one of the biggest ways that I have found steadiness and replenishing during my Candler experience is through the Contextual Education program. The Con Ed program was one of my top reasons for choosing Candler for seminary. I knew that the hands-on element would be crucial to my learning experience, and that being in ministry, alongside the classroom, would further my discernment process.

I have found that every week, the four-hour commitment of Con Ed I and the eight-hour commitment of Con Ed II, seem to fly by and be a time of solace. On paper, these large time commitments can certainly feel like quite a burden. But, what I have found is that I am constantly looking forward to them every week. When I am doing hands-on ministry, I am not stressed about midterms, papers, or the endless readings I have to keep up with. I am simply present with those I’m with, and learning about ministry in a new way. In a way that is just as important as the academics.

The Con Ed program has shaped my Candler experience because it has given me countless opportunities to practice real ministry with real people. Many times, I am even able to apply or share what I am learn in the classroom with those that I am serving. My Con Ed I placement was working with kids in a refugee community at an after-school care program through Northlake Ministries in Clarkston, Georgia. My Con Ed II placement has taken me to the opposite end, in terms of age, with Wesley Woods Senior Living, where I am serving as a chaplain intern.

This diversity of experience has provided me the ability to discern where my call is leading me and where my ministry skills best line up with a ministry space. Without the Con Ed program, I would still be waiting to practice ministry in the world, and the lack of balance between class and community may have left me uninspired and unmoved. I am so thankful for the supportive staff and endless opportunities available through the Con Ed office that will ultimately make me a better practitioner of faith.