When you support Native American Ministries Sunday, you equip seminary students who will honor and celebrate Native American culture in their ministries. You empower congregations that find fresh, new ways to minister to their communities with Christ’s love. This podcast introduces you to people who benefit from this special day. In today’s episode, we’re pleased to introduce Christy Oxendine.
00:24 // Rich introduces Christy and welcomes her to the show.
00:44 // Christy introduces herself.
01:18 // Christy talks about her background.
01:53 // Christy talks about the Candler Women’s Group.
03:00 // Christy talks about her role in The United Methodist Church.
04:24 // Christy explains why she thinks the church’s partnership has been so successful.
05:19 // Christy talks about teaching elective classes at Lee Arrendale Women’s Prison.
08:21 // Christy tells how teaching at the prison has supported her own personal growth.
10:05 // Christy gives examples of the benefits of becoming involved in Native American Ministries Sunday.
11:45 // Christy tells us why she chose Candler for her seminary.
Rich – Hey everybody, welcome to the podcast. My name’s Rich, so glad that you’ve decided to spend some time with us today. I know there’s lots of other things you could be doing right now, but we’re so thankful, fortunate that you’ve taken some time to tune in today.
We’re in for a real treat today, we’ve got Master of Divinity student Christy Oxendine with us today. Welcome, Christy, to the show.
Christy – Hello, thank you.
Rich – Now, I wish you could hear our pre-interview because we talk to people a little bit ahead of time, and say, “Well what are we going to talk about?” There was about ten things we could talk about. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about where you’re at school and what you’re studying today?
Christy – I’m at Candler School of Theology, which is at Emory University, down in Atlanta Georgia, so this is new for me being in a metropolitan area. I’m studying Masters of Divinity, and I’m actually half way through my program.
Rich – Woo hoo.
Christy – Yeah, so I start my fourth semester January 13th and that’s what I’ve been up to. I’m also working on a certificate in Women in Theology and Ministry, so that’s been kind of a focus for me.
Rich – Nice, now where did you grow up, what’s your background?
Christy – I grew up, born and raised in Lumberton, North Carolina, so that’s southeast. A lot of people know, south of the border, people come through the beach to go that way.
Rich – Yes
Christy – Yeah so that’s where I was born and raised until I was 18. I went to the same church, Branch Street United Methodist Church, and then I went off to college at East Carolina University.
Rich – Very cool.
Christy – So all of my family are still there, and I like to go back and visit.
Rich – Now you’re currently the President of The Women’s Board, is that what it’s called? Tell us a little bit about that.
Christy – Yeah, the Candler Women’s Group, we have different organizations at Candler and that particularly is just a support, Candler Women are specifically for women, so a time for women to come together and have different programs. This year, my exec board and I, we’ve decided to do a mind/body spirit theme. So each meeting kind of has a theme, and we always do a door prize. We’ve done tea and candles and our first one that everybody really liked was kind of a spa kit from Thistle Farms, which is really close to us at Candler.
So that’s what we’ve been working on. We’ll be planning the women’s month celebration in March so we’re looking forward to that in the coming semester as well, but really just a way for us to support the women at Candler.
Rich – Nice now you’ve also, while you’ve been studying, you also have kind of a student ministry opportunity, while don’t you tell us a little bit about that? I’m thrilled or intrigued to hear more about that.
Christy – Well last year I served as a student pastor, this year I’m actually working as a Partnership Director. There’s two churches. There’s a large church in Midtown, it’s a majority white congregation, and then we have a smaller church in Decatur which is kind of the southeast side. There is a smaller African American church, and the two have a partnership that’s actually in their twelfth year. So as a director, I work with them, they have four sub-committees which is a Criminal Justice Committee, they have the Refugee Resettlement Committee, the Presbyterian Women, and then they actually do an international mission in Jamaica.
So the two churches, both of them have a chair for each committee. So my job is kind of just to make sure that every committee knows what’s going on.
Like I talked about before, it’s been good because we talked about, in The UMC vhurch, about collaboration. So it’s really been good to see how these two churches are coming together for their collaboration and the fact that it’s been going on for twelve years. I feel like collaboration has just … we just starting talking about that over the last two or three years. So they’re kind of progressive I would say in kind of their model of what they’re doing.
Rich – Absolutely. Yeah I was amazed when I heard it’s been going on so long, like you say, it seems like that’s a new hip topic.
Christy – Right.
Rich – Now what’s working there? How have they been able to sustain that partnership over those twelve years?
Christy – I think the biggest thing is they’ve had a full-time staff, they’ve had someone working 40 hours a week. The previous person is actually my supervisor now, she moved up as the associate pastor at the large Midtown church, but spending time at both congregations. So the biggest thing is letting people see the staff members.
So being at church, being at meetings, that’s been the biggest things, so you can talk it up really, and then you can talk it up to the administration at both churches but then also talk it up to the members at both churches. I think that’s been the best part of it, that’s what’s most been helpful.
Rich – Yeah that’s encouraging to see, it’s encouraging to see and where there can be division between a lot of different groups, to see a lot of people working together, that’s super encouraging.
Now you’ve also done some work in a prison as well, why don’t you tell us a little bit about that?
Christy – Sure I always like talking about that. It probably sounds strange for people but that’s been …
Rich – Let’s go into prison.
Christy – Right, I’m going to prison, I was there every Friday for twelve weeks, but that has been the highlight of my seminary experience. There’s three seminaries here, Candler, ITC and McAfee that have, in 2008 I do believe it was, they came together and decided to start a Certificate of Theological Studies for the women. It started at Metro Transition Center, but that closed down and then they moved to Lee Arrendale Women’s Prison, which is in outer Georgia. But essentially the women start in the biblical foundations, it’s a yearlong program.
Their first semester, or quarter they call it, their first quarter they take the biblical foundation, so they’re taking New Testament, Old Testament, all in the course of twelve weeks.
Rich – Oh my goodness wow.
Christy – Yes.
Rich – That’s a lot packed in.
Christy – So they take that and they take a research class and then their second and third quarters they can take elective classes.
Rich – Okay.
Christy – So we as students get to teach those elective classes. So I taught a spiritual practices class, I wanted to talk to the women about ministry and a lot of them kind of confirmed about what I was already thinking. A lot of them, when you think about ministry, they think about the pastor in the pulpit or somebody who’s on a formal church staff, but as they talked about … One lady she works in the cosmetology, she does people’s hair, as she talked about that’s ministry.
Rich – Right.
Christy – There’s women who do small group bible studies. There’s women who just give encouragement and things like that. So all of them realize that in some way they in ministry, they’re not in a formal church setting, they’re like, “Oh I don’t want to be a pastor, so I’m not in ministry,” but realizing that every interaction they have with people is ministry.
So we kind of talked about that, we spent time talking about that, probably for the first two or three weeks. Then from there we just got into practices, centering prayer, meditation, journaling, we talked about Lectio Divina, and we just spent some time on how they can see God in their everyday life.
Rich – That is cool.
Christy – So that was really exciting to kind of see them kind of morph what they thought about ministry and how they are in ministry in their own life and a lot of them, since they’re in this theological program they’re seen as leaders, so I wanted them to have those practices, because what I’ve learned in seminary is you have to be intentional about your own practices.
So as I’m preparing to be a pastor, so I’m going to take on other’s, I guess, spiritual development, but I have to have my own spiritual development as well, and that’s the message I wanted to give to them, you know, how are you developing, you’re giving, giving, giving but how are you giving to yourself as well?
Rich – Absolutely. Now how did your own faith grow through that experience? I imagine it would be a fairly stretching experience.
Christy – Well the reason I did it is because I realized, probably in my first year in seminary, I didn’t have those things in place and I heard someone say, she’s actually the author of The Conscious Child, so she’s like a parenting author and she said, “We write and we teach about things we still need to learn.”
So for me it was almost in a selfish sense, because I knew that I needed to be reminded of these things, so for me, teaching this class helped also remind me and then the women are telling me all these great things that they’re doing, so they really helped me with my growth to say, “Yes I need to be instilling these things in my life as well.” So it was really just a reminder for me that I needed to be doing those things and as I’m working with them that I’m also doing those same things in my own life, because not only am I working at my church and I’m the president of my organization but I’m also the teacher for these ladies, so I need to have all of those things in place myself. So it was a good reminder for me.
Rich – Absolutely, well that’s so encouraging. Well obviously the podcast is all about Native American Ministries Sunday. There may be churches that are listening in today that maybe don’t participate in Native American Ministries Sunday or they’re not involved. What would you say to them to say, “Hey maybe you should get involved.”
Obviously today we’ve been talking with a student who is doing all kinds of incredible things, which is just one example of how your participation in this important Sunday in our church calendar, how it is benefiting and really growing and stretching folks, but what would you say to a church that’s maybe not participating, or is hesitating, wondering whether they should participate?
Christy – Well I think the biggest things is just, not a lot of individuals are exposed to Native American ministries or Native American individuals for that matter. I met a first year who’s a Native American student, it’s just the two of us out of 500 students, so I guess just the exposure for other people is important. But then also the things that we get to do, because I can’t say that I would be in seminary if I didn’t have this scholarship and as you can see, I’ve been able to do a variety of things and touch a variety of people and those people are touching me as well, they’re going to make a big impact on my life.
So I would just say, if people are thinking about or hesitant about it, just think about the exposure that we get as students but then what we are able to give to others, because we’re able to celebrate our culture and let people know about things that are going on and all of us have different stories. Any Native American student that you meet that’s in seminary is not going to have the same story. So I think that’s the beautiful thing about it, is we get the opportunity to be in school and we get to do extra things because we’re not working 20, 40 hours a week to help us live. You know, Atlanta’s expensive, use me as an example.
Rich – Exactly.
Christy – So it’s a blessing to have the opportunity and to share my life with other people but also get that back from other people, to be able to share their life with them as well.
Rich – Nice. Thank you so much for that, Christy. Now why did you pick the school you’re at, why did you pick the seminary? There’s a lot of seminaries you could have gone to, why did you end up where you’ve ended up?
Christy – Well I visited three schools, I really liked the social justice aspect that Candler has. The first year at Candler you actually have to pick a social setting, and I had picked the prison and I would have been at the prison every week, but then I took a teaching parish job, so I was a pastor, but I still ended up going to the prison every other week. So I still have that exposure but everyone’s in a different social setting, so some people are working with refugees, some are working at the prison, some are working at … I’ve actually been able to visit this site but it’s a church that works with mentally disabled individuals, that’s their whole congregation, so it’s a beautiful place.
Rich – That is beautiful.
Christy – So we have students working there, but I like that social aspect and even the things about Ferguson, we’re having conversations about that and moving forward. So I think one of the most profound things I’ve had is, Candler participated in [Inaudible: 00:12:47] and so we have this protest but the beautiful thing is, you look around and you see students, you see graduate students, undergraduates, and I saw my professors at Candler, professors and staff members, so that really meant a lot, that we’re all in this together, and I appreciate that even more now.
So I think it’s the social justice and not just doing it but talking about it and discussing how we can move forward, even when we leave Candler. So that’s been important for me.
Rich – Absolutely, well Christy I really appreciate you being on the show today, for taking time out. I know you’re obviously a busy student and doing a lot of things so I’m just so thankful that you’ve taken some time to be with us today.
Christy – Alright, thank you so much.
Rich – Thanks so much.