The Risks of Reaching Out: Pre-Concert Reflection by Dean Ian Markham

The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham

Evangelism, formation, growth: these things require risk. I told the VTS community today that Saturday’s rock concert is the largest event ever hosted by Virginia Theological Seminary. Musicians have been booked. Permits have been filed. Money has been spent. The community has rallied.

And yet in an important sense, it won’t be until Saturday that the real risk begins. When we reach out to the stranger, we never know how our invitation will be received. When we try something new, we never know how it will turn out, how it will change us. God calls us beyond our comfort zones, beyond our ability to control results.

As of this writing, more than 1,700 people have registered to come to the concert and quidditch tournament (after all, each of us is a "seeker"). Many were drawn to a particular band, especially Five Iron Frenzy. Probably not more than a quarter of them are Episcopalians. Some of them come from Christian traditions very different from our own. Others claim no religious faith at all. One thing we can be sure of is that the diversity of belief, of practice, of culture will challenge each person in attendance. There is risk in any such encounter.

It is precisely in that moment of encounter that the Holy Spirit so often works to transform our lives and change the world. Our hope is that our guests will come away from the encounter changed. Perhaps they will discover a new favorite band, or sport. Perhaps they will discover a new way of understanding or engaging their faith in the Lord Jesus. And perhaps they will choose to visit us again in the future.

I pray that Virginia Seminary will come away changed as well. We’ve certainly learned a thing or two about event planning. But I hope we continue to learn how to be vulnerable, how to look beyond the seminary grounds and beyond the Episcopal Church, how to reach out to the stranger, how to risk failure in our attempts to follow where the Spirit leads us.

Let’s enjoy Saturday’s event. And let’s be alert for opportunities to risk a new relationship or experience. It may not be easy, but it’s essential to a lively, deepening faith.

The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
Dean and President

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