New chapel is 'Candler's gym' for preaching practice

Candler School of Theology | Oct. 2, 2014

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For 100 years, Candler School of Theology has been dedicated to preparing great preachers for ministry in local congregations. The opening of the Wesley Teaching Chapel earlier this month demonstrates that ongoing commitment by moving preaching practice out of the classroom and into a space designed for worship.

The new chapel, says Thomas G. Long, Bandy Professor of Preaching, is "Candler's gym" where students will learn to "exercise themselves in godliness" behind the pulpit and the altar. 

"The chapel serves architecturally to reinforce themes I want to teach in my preaching courses," Long says. "It underscores the connection between preaching and liturgy. To study the art and craft of sermon construction in a room with an altar as well as a pulpit visually connects the proclamation of the Word to the celebration of the sacraments."

This quiet, sacred space located in Candler's new building also contains seating so that students can practice their sermons in front of their classmates and professors. Video recording capabilities enable students to analyze their work and record sermons for their boards of ordained ministry. 

As students preach in front of professors and classmates, they also learn more about themselves. This process is pivotal to vocational discernment, says third-year MDiv student Samuel White. "Not only does the chapel allow students to find their voice, but it also offers a sacred space to develop their gift of preaching. This space is paramount for students still discerning their call to ministry."

Third-year MDiv student Colin Bagby sees the chapel as a way to connect, linking the intellectual tone of a classroom with the holy space of the churches he and his classmates will one day serve. "The teaching chapel enables students to practice ministry in a place that incites authentic worship and ministry, as well as thoughtful engagement with the theological questions those practices carry." 

Brandon Harris, a 2nd-year MDiv student, articulates the importance of inward connection, engaging the practical and worshipful elements of ministry: "The life of the mind must be undergirded by a life of prayer," he says. "The Wesley Teaching Chapel is a space where students can unite both mind and heart in prayer, fellowship, and practicing the art of ministry."

While the chapel is in many ways still a classroom where Candler students will learn and practice elements of ministry, third-year MDiv student Cassie Light Boehringer articulates its distinct difference: "Give a student a lectern in a classroom, and she's giving a presentation," she says. "Give a student a pulpit next to an altar, and she's preaching."