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Candler School of Theology

Children's Sabbath at Candler

Driven by a passion to confront the realities of child poverty, racial disparities, inadequate education, and the cradle-to-prison pipeline, the Candler Children's Team in association with the Social Concerns Network and Dr. Luther Smith, Professor of Church and Community, lifted up children on April 9th at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University (Atlanta, GA). This Children’s Sabbath Celebration inspired those in attendance to renew and live out their moral responsibility to care, protect and advocate for all children.

As members of the Candler community entered Cannon Chapel for worship, they viewed the artistic expressions of youth from the United Methodist Children’s Home who have come face-to-face with harsh realities of the world. Rev. Toni Ingram, Pastor of Greater Smith AME Church, urged the community in her sermon to “respond in faith and stop hiding in the sanctuary of the familiar … If you love God, you must love God’s people.” The congregation received a challenge from Rev. Ingram to volunteer one hour per week to “feeding and tending God’s lamb and sheep” as an action response to the needs of faith-based Atlanta organizations that serve children.

“If there was one takeaway from this celebration, we hoped that all were inspired to deepen their involvement with the voiceless within their communities” said Stacey Doremus, Children’s Team Coordinator and recent graduate. Following the worship service, representatives from organizations and churches that are active in caring for children met with seminarians, staff, and faculty to provide information about their service and to offer volunteer opportunities.

Some of the immediate opportunities listed for putting faith in action were:

[June 2013]

Faculty and courses

In Dr. Elizabeth Bound’s contextualized church and community course, Intro to Church and Community, there is a focus on poverty as it affects the children of incarcerated parents and children in homeless families. 

Associate Dean Mary Lou Greenwood Boice is a trained facilitator for the Stewards of Children: adults protecting children from sexual abuse. She offers trainings at Candler, in local churches, and in community organizations.

Dr. David Jenkins uses the Building Communities from the Inside Out (asset-based community development) methods and Training for Transformation materials in his Church and Community Leadership class. Both have sections on engaging children and youth in at-risk communities in the development process. In this course he also focuses on homeless children. In his Church on the Border class, he addresses the effects of migration, with and without documentation, on immigrant children and families.

Dr. Karen Schieb has focused on the sexual exploitation of children in a pastoral care course.

Dr. Luther Smith’s course on Urban Ministries has given considerable attention to poverty and children in poverty (especially those who are homeless). In the spring 2012 he will teach the course, “The Church’s Mission to Children in Poverty.” In 2008, his chapter “When Celebrating Children is not Enough” was published in Children, Youth, and Spirituality in a Troubling World. Edited by Mary Elizabeth Moore and Almeda M. Wright (Chalice Press) 2008. He has been active in the leadership of The Interfaith Children’s Movement, which is an advocacy organization on behalf of children. In recognition for his community work, he has received the “2007 Distinguished Volunteer Award” given by Prevent Child Abuse Georgia, and the “Big Voice for Georgia’s Children Award” given by “Voices for Georgia’s Children, Inc.” (2009). He is the Coordinator for the Pan-Methodist Campaign for Children in Poverty.

Dr. Andrea White had Ann Kruger (Associate Professor of Educational Psychology and Special Education at Georgia State University, and the director of Project Prevent, an intervention program for children, especially African American girls in the Atlanta public school system who are at risk in the sex trafficking industry) to speak to her “Womanist Theology and Narrative Identity” class about the sexualization of girls, the sex trafficking of children in the United States, and the work they are doing with children in Atlanta.

In Dr. Jacob Wright’s “Texts of Terror” and “Jeremiah” courses, he deals with the fate of children in wartime, famine, and political/natural catastrophes.

Contextual Education Placements – 2010/11

Sites working with Children & poverty;

1 – Emmaus House: A center of support for low-income persons in the Peoplestown neighborhood.

2- United Methodist Children's Home: The UMCH is over 130 years old and is committed to providing care for youth and families in need. On its 100 acre campus it provides group care for teens aged 14-18, independent living for teen 18-21, short term family housing for families, and a 24/7 intake facility for youth that have been taken from the home.

3- MUST Ministries: A comprehensive center serving those who are poor.

4- Metro State Prison: A 900 bed maximum-security prison for female inmates.

5- Decatur Cooperative Ministry: Vision: To lead our diverse congregations and community in ending homelessness by: • Providing individualized, comprehensive services to homeless families; • Raising awareness and providing education about homelessness and its systemic causes; • Advocating for social justice and long-term solutions to homelessness.

6- Genesis: A New Life: Genesis serves homeless families with newborns and young children at two locations.

7- Gateway Center: The Gateway Center works to end homelessness, and particularly chronic homelessness, by providing the support and framework people need to achieve self-sufficiency. Through therapeutic programs and services, the Gateway helps homeless individuals in metro Atlanta move into transitional and permanent housing.


Candler’s students have re-established the “Candler Children’s Initiative (CCI).” The organization focuses on becoming informed about the realities of children, and presenting to the Candler community possibilities for service to children in these realities (through congregations and community organizations). CCI has planned a “Children’s Sabbath” worship service, to be held during the seminary’s regular worship hour, to call the Candler community into awareness and activism on behalf of children. [March 2011]

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