2019

Dean's Commentary Archive

  • April

    Tuesday, April 23, 2019

    Easter Sunday was a difficult day. We learned of the horrendous slaughter of Christians in Sri Lanka that killed 290 people. We have deep connections with Sri Lanka. We have two students with us now; we know and love Bishop Duleep De Chickera. When one part of the body of Christ is hurting, we are all hurting.

    Sometimes it is hard to see hope. We all live with some pain. We are often consumed with fear and anxiety. The Cross assures us that God is right in the midst of that pain. And Easter reassures us that ultimately love and hope do triumph. Even if the route to that love and hope is through death, we worship a God that has triumphed over death. Hopelessness and despair are forbidden: we will come through. 

    We recognize this truth while at the same time we are invited to be agents of resurrection hope and love to others. This is the challenge of Easter: we are here to be change agents. So as we step into the challenge of Easter. We live into the season with a sense of appropriate joy, yet recognizing all along that God is at work in this season. We have a world to change. Let us settle down and do that work knowing we do so in the power of the resurrected Lord.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, April 18, 2019

    Tomorrow the Seminary will close and it will not reopen until Tuesday. We are, of course, entering some of the holiest days of the Christian calendar. As we journey through Lent, we know that this journey will end at Jerusalem. And with Jerusalem, we know that the cross looms for our Lord. There is an inevitability about the end.

    There is a deep puzzle at this moment. How did divine providence intersect with human agency? How is it possible that the God in control brings about the redemption of the world through the ruthless exercise of the power of the Empire? Yet this is the Christian conviction; the purposes of God are worked out in this paradoxical way. Tomorrow, on Good Friday, we will weep. Of course, the Seminary must be closed.

    But on Sunday, we celebrate. The Christian conviction is that death has been overcome. There is resurrection hope. Possibilities have opened up with Easter. On Tuesday, we return to the campus aware that the world has changed. And God has done the changing. A happy and blessed Easter to everyone.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, April 17, 2019

    Inside the classrooms and offices of Virginia Theological Seminary, administrators and professors run the institution, but there is another important component that keeps the seminary running smoothly—student workers. They are essential in the smooth operation of the Seminary’s many events and activities. Whether running the Flamingo or helping the Dean’s Office, students are highly valued people in campus life.

    The Office of the Dean and President requires at least one student to support the Executive Assistant to meet the demand of all its activities. The current student worker is junior Leslie Flom, who works primarily with the Dean’s events. She handles all areas related to seminary events including invitations, room reservations, catering requests, etc. Her organizational skills have helped me navigate the ins and outs of the Dean’s Office. She brings professionalism, positive energy, and a “can do” attitude that makes working with her enjoyable.

    To all student workers, we thank you! You inspire us to do our best.

    Cassandra Gravina
    Executive Assistant to the Dean and President
    Read More
  • Tuesday, April 16, 2019

    We all know that one of the greatest ways to connect with each other is over food. Today at 12:30 p.m. in Scott Lounge the Center for Anglican Communion Studies will gather those who participated in Cross-Cultural Education Programs (CCEPs) in January to share stories of their learnings and to answer questions from those who are interested in next year’s opportunities. And, here’s the hook: the stories will be accompanied by delicious desserts representing the destinations to which students traveled - Oman, Jerusalem, Italy, and India.

    In Window One of the 2023 Strategic Plan, it states, “The Center for Anglican Communion Studies will continue to develop the Cross-Cultural Education Programs (CCEPs) to ensure a more globally and culturally aware student body.” The CCEP in Oman was new this year, and the CCEP in Rome was innovative in that it was a collaboration between VTS, Nashotah House, and the Living Church. CACS is indeed living into their mandate to help provide a global education experience at VTS, and what better way to engage with that than over the globally diverse sweets that the talented staff of Meriwether Godsey have promised. If abstaining from sugar was part of your Lenten discipline, then at least come to feast on the richness of stories!

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
    Read More
  • Monday, April 15, 2019

    This construction affords certain opportunities that are good and healthy for the Seminary. During the work on the Refectory, all the portraits will have to be removed. So we can think afresh about messaging and our “look” to the world as seen in those things that we value and are given prominence on our walls.
     
    The primary message just at the moment is we value our past. This is not a bad message; there is an achievement in “keeping on keeping on”. However, our past is embedded with a history that includes racism. So we do need to think rather more about our messaging.
     
    We do have a Bicentennial Celebration Committee; this mix of staff, faculty, student, and Board committee is working hard to think about the best way of marking these 200 years. The subgroup within that committee that will work on Art around the campus is: the Rev. Dr. Joe Thompson, Rev. Ginny Wilder, Vice President Katie Glover, Chair of the Finance Committee, Ms. Amy Curtis, and the chair is our “curator” (yes we do have one) - the Rev. Dr. Barney Hawkins. This group will be charged with making recommendations for spaces around the campus and for conversations with the graduating seniors around their class gift.

    Art is an area where many have an interest. Please do reach out to some or all of them and share your thoughts. We really do welcome that.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, April 12, 2019

    It is my pleasure to announce that Zeyneb Sayilgan, Ph.D., visiting professor at VTS, has been awarded a First Book Grant for Scholars of Color from the Louisville Institute. These grants, awarded to only a few people each year, enable early career, tenure track religion scholars of color to complete a major study that contributes to the vitality of Christianity in North America. They provide salary replacement so that the awardees can spend an entire academic year devoted to a research project while free of other professional responsibilities such as teaching and committee work. 

    During the award period next year, Zeyneb will be writing a book-length text tentatively entitled “Islam and Immigration: Building a Resource for Christians to Minister to Muslim Refugees.” She describes the project as a resource that aims to equip Christians ministering to Muslim refugees and immigrants. At the core, the research will investigate the following question: How can Islamic theology and Christian–Muslim history constructively and creatively inform the current public discourse and practices on immigration? Or in other words: How can non-Muslims who serve and minister to Muslim refugee and immigrant communities draw on Islamic theological resources to empower and guide those whose attitudes and worldviews are informed by the Islamic tradition?

    The Louisville Institute is funded by the Religion Division of Lilly Endowment and based at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary in Louisville, KY. The Institute’s fundamental mission is to enrich the religious life of North American Christians and to encourage the revitalization of their institutions by bringing together those who lead religious institutions with those who study them, so that the work of each might inform and strengthen the other.

    Since she is on maternity leave for this spring semester, Zeyneb is not quite as visible on campus as usual. But if you get a chance to see her or to send her an email, please congratulate her on this significant achievement.

    The Rev. Melody D. Knowles, Ph.D.
    Vice President of Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Old Testament
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  • Thursday, April 11, 2019

    “[Jesus] recognized with authentic realism that anyone who permits another to determine the quality of his inner life gives into the hands of the other the keys to his destiny. If a man knows precisely what he can do to you or what epithet he can hurl against you in order to make you lose your temper, your equilibrium, then he can always keep you under subjection.”
         --The Rev. Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited

    This evening at 7:00 p.m. in the Multipurpose Room, we are privileged to screen the new documentary Backs Against the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story, produced by Journey Films, which happens to be headquartered in Old Town Alexandria. Thurman’s theological and spiritual writings, such as the quotation above, exerted a strong influence on the non-violent orientation of the Civil Rights Movement. The truth of his voice and witness resonate to this day. Backs Against the Wall offers a glimpse into Thurman’s ministry and includes powerful footage of the man himself.

    Please join us to learn more about this unique twentieth-century prophet. Be sure to visit the following link and register beforehand: https://vts-thurman-screening.eventbrite.com . This event is free and open to the public.

    The Rev. Joseph D. Thompson, Jr., Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Race and Ethnicity Studies
    Director of Multicultural Ministries
    Read More
  • Wednesday, April 10, 2019

    According to the Association of Theological Schools, all Master of Divinity degrees require a supervised experience of ministry of sufficient duration and intensity to allow students to "gain expertise in the tasks of ministerial leadership." As a core part of the M.Div. program, I have been so very proud and grateful for the Rev. Allison St. Louis, Ph.D., who has led the Contextual Ministry office so long and so well. Building on the work of her predecessors and assisted by Carol Jubinski, she worked with countless students and congregations to craft an educational program that was deep and challenging.

    As Allison moves into other areas of ministry, I am pleased to announce that this significant role will be taken up by the Rt. Rev. Jim Mathes '91. A VTS graduate, Jim has been the Associate Dean of Students since the summer of 2017 and knows our community deeply. He has led students through good times and hard ones, and helped to ensure that our academic programs stay connected and responsive to the needs of the church. With his pastoral gifts and administrative acumen, he is exactly the right person to lead our Contextual Ministry program as we engage the new M.Div. curriculum.

    As Jim leads this area for the near future, he will also continue as Associate Dean of Students. To accommodate this, various responsibilities will shift. Beginning July 1, Dr. James Farwell will become the Director of Anglican Studies, and Dean Markham will oversee Admissions.

    I am so very grateful for the gifts and devotion that all of the faculty bring to their roles at VTS, and encourage you to pray for them as they move into new responsibilities.

    The Rev. Melody D. Knowles, Ph.D.
    Vice President of Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Old Testament
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  • Tuesday, April 9, 2019

    “Professional,” “friendly,” “enthusiastic,” “patient,” “generous,” “kind,” and “insightful.” When the faculty were recently asked to comment on the work of the Bishop Payne Library staff, these were the adjectives they used again and again. As we celebrate National Library Workers Day on April 9, it’s a delight to share their comments in the Dean’s Commentary. 
     
    Many of the faculty commented on the strategic role the staff plays in teaching and learning at VTS: “They provide physical space to study and work, and also relational space for faculty and students to reflect, seek advice, ask questions, and grow.” "The staff and the resources in The African American Historical Episcopal Collection are exceptional." “The minute I request a book, it appears!” Again and again, they spoke of the “extra mile” that the staff go to support students and faculty: when one faculty member realized that, due to a learning difference, one student was not able to read the scanned text posted on the course site, a BPL staff member immediately placed the reading on reserve at the end of her working day: “It was a quick move at an ‘off’ time to serve a student and back-up the faculty.”  
     
    Of particular note were the many details that we experience at BPL that the staff have considered and on which we have come to rely: “The Displays acknowledge visitors, lectures, and special events here and around us. They are splendid!” “I’m grateful for all the little touches  such as the earbuds and the umbrellas.”  The following comments sum up our deep admiration and appreciation for all those who work at the Bishop Payne Library: They are “the quiet squad of learned angels,” and a “graced team who do a graced work.” “I really can’t thank the staff enough for everything that they do.”
     
    The Rev. Melody D. Knowles, Ph.D.
    Vice President of Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Old Testament 
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  • Monday, April 8, 2019

    From Wednesday, March 6 through Saturday, March 9, seminarians of color from across The Episcopal Church gathered in Miami, Florida for the annual Seminarians of Color Conference. Thirteen seminarians from Virginia Theological Seminary were represented at the conference, and two seminarians (Maurice Dyer ’19, Yoimel Gonzalez Hernandez and Leon Sampson ’19) were represented on this year’s design team.
    The theme this year was “Building Bridges, Tearing Down Walls.” 
     
    Missioners for Ethnic Ministries of The Episcopal Church and keynote speakers including The Rev. Kathy Walker ’18 and The Rev. Nancy Frausto, led us in conversation to discuss the walls and “gaps” that exist in our Church and in our society and how we may become bridges to those gaps and tear down those divisions.

    This conference allows for seminarians of color to be in fellowship with one another, to worship with one another, to share common experiences, and to dream, imagine, and ignite a future for the Church--- at a time when some may still find themselves as the only, the first, or one of few racial minorities in their seminary and their diocese.
    As seminarians in attendance imposed ashes and prayed with many throughout the city on Ash Wednesday, we too were reminded that we were all but dust. As we journey through the wildernesses of our lives, it is conversation with one another, and building bridges with God’s help, that gives us the strength and courage as we go into the world being God-bearers to all.

    On behalf of the seminarians who attended the 2019 conference, I would like to thank Virginia Theological Seminary for your ongoing support and dedication to forming bridges in The Episcopal Church & world.
     
    Chris Decatur '20
    Diocese of Ohio
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  • Friday, April 5, 2019

    Virginia Theological Seminary has placed theological education in the context of residential community marked by common life and worship. In order to keep the common life side of things running smoothly, the Seminary relies on the outstanding work of our housing Proctors. Our Proctors help students with a variety of things, including maintenance requests, lock-outs, and helping students move into their new residence at the beginning of the academic year.

    The Office of Academic Administration and Student Life would like to formally acknowledge and appreciate the hard work of our current proctors, Emily Collette in Silver Maple Apartments, Pete Nunnally in Price Hall, Sam Sheridan in Madison Hall, and especially our graduating proctors, Gaelyn Evangreene in St. George Hall, KC Robertson in Moore Hall, Melesa Skoglund in White Oak Apartments, and Tanya Watt in Vickery and Murray Apartments.

    Any returning students who are interested in serving in this vital role should contact me, Taylor Mather, the Student Services Associate, by Friday, April 12 to apply. If you have any questions about the position and the specific duties involved, you can reach out to me or any of our current proctors.

    Taylor Mather
    Student Services Associate
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  • Thursday, April 4, 2019

    Our annual commemoration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. concludes this evening with a special Eucharist at 5:15 pm in Immanuel Chapel. The guest preacher is the Very Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, Ph.D., who is Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary, Canon Theologian at the Washington National Cathedral, and Theologian in Residence at Trinity Church Wall Street.

    Among her many achievements, Dr. Douglas’s book Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God (Orbis Books, 2015) has been widely read and discussed. All are invited to hear the powerful word that she will bring this evening. Please note that incense will be used at the Eucharist, which will also be livestreamed at https://youtu.be/fJFxZc-8hwU.

    I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those who had a hand in organizing this year’s commemoration: The Rev. Maurice Dyer, Elizabeth Panox-Leach, Curtis Prather, Reggie Gravina, the VTS sacristans, The Rev. Gus Chrysson, the Rev. Shawn Strout, Vannessa McCormick, and Taryn Habberley. As I like to say: if I’ve omitted anyone, please charge it to my head and not my heart. It is a privilege to work with such dedicated individuals to bring this meaningful program to the seminary community every year.

    The Rev. Joseph D. Thompson, Jr., Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Race and Ethnicity Studies
    Director of Multicultural Ministries
     
    Read More
  • Wednesday, April 3, 2019

    Today and tomorrow, we commemorate the life, ministry, and martyrdom of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Our events commence this evening with the keynote address from the Rev. Judy Fentress-Williams, Ph.D., Professor of Old Testament, at 7:00 pm in Immanuel Chapel. This event is free and open to the public. It will also be live streamed on YouTube

    The title of Dr. Fentress-Williams’s lecture is “Remembering Dinah and Her Sisters: The Black Church and the ‘Me Too’ Movement,” indicating that the talk will deal with the intersections of race and gender. This is indeed the beauty of Dr. King’s legacy of working for justice--it continually inspires us to look for the injustices that are in need of transformation and to look for the ways that those injustices intersect with one another.

    The topic is surely in excellent hands with Dr. Fentress-Williams. She is a brilliant scholar and teacher. Her love of the Bible and her passion for its relevance today is infectious. The author of “Ruth,” a commentary by Abingdon Press, she received her Ph.D. from Yale University and her A.B. from Princeton University. Please join us to hear what is certain to be an insightful lecture.

    The Rev. Joseph D. Thompson, Jr., Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Race and Ethnicity Studies
    Director of Multicultural Ministries
    Read More
  • Tuesday, April 2, 2019

    Please remember these dates and information which were shared in the Dean’s Commentary on March 25:
    1. The last day of operation for Cafe 1823 will be May 15, 2019. On May 10, there will be an event at Cafe 1823 for our neighbors, friends, and the VTS family.
    2. The last day of operation for the Refectory is May 16, 2019.
    3. There will be no lunch provided for staff/faculty from Friday, May 17- Sunday, August 4. Lunch services will resume Monday, August 5 for students, faculty, and staff in an alternative location on campus.

    NEW INFORMATION

    During the construction, 1823 will not operate. The Flamingo will be in The Wilderness, 1220 Wilmer Lane, but the opening date is yet to be determined.

    When lunch resumes on August 5, it will be prepared and served in a portable kitchen with a big tent (which will have a floor) on the east end of the Grove. This area will be removed from the construction in Addison and the Refectory/Scott Lounge/1823/Kitchen. By late summer, the renovation of Key Hall should be in the “home stretch.” The temporary Refectory will be near where most classes will be taking place.

    As Addison Academic Center is renovated, we will continue with all classes in different parts of the campus. Larger classes will be held in the Goodwin Board Room, Gibbs Room, and Sparrow Hall. For smaller classes, we will make use of the Aspinwall Conference Room and the Library’s Large Group Study Room. In some cases, existing furniture will be replaced by more flexible and moveable furniture, so that the spaces can be easily configured in different ways. All rooms will be outfitted with portable whiteboards and appropriate AV equipment. The appropriateness of the space for each course will be the first consideration, followed by anticipated class size and other class needs within the same timeslot.

    With advanced planning and creative thinking, classes will be appropriately supported in these new, temporary spaces. The basic rhythm of our community life will continue—but it will be different! Our days will still be defined by Chapel, Coffee, Class, and Lunch. There will be exciting new venues for Class, Coffee, and Lunch.

    The Rev. J. Barney Hawkins IV, Ph.D.
    Co-Director, Bicentennial Campaign
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  • Monday, April 1, 2019

    In his article, "Best Practices in M.Div. Curriculum Reviews," Jack Seymour emphasizes that the best program reviews involve the entire faculty who bring their whole selves to the task: "[it should be] the collegial, common task of the faculty rooted in their vocation and vision for the school and of their lives and work."

    While working on the educational program to which we have devoted our lives, the faculty engaged the curriculum review as a way to learn more about each other. Over the time of the review, we took time to listen to each other describe their vocation at VTS, their vision for the M.Div. program, the way that they see their academic area promoting this, and the joys and challenges of teaching here.

    When asked to bring in an artifact that represented their answers, the items ranged from a crucifix to a belt buckle, a chapel bulletin and a mirror. And when asked to reflect on the artifact, we heard everything from stories of early engagement with God to current questions with which a colleague struggles. Together we talked about our roles in inviting students to engage a tradition that is deep and rich and multivocal and so much larger than any one participant. As experts in a single area, in our lives together we model curiosity as much as skill, courage as much as tidy answers.

    At the beginning of the curriculum review, facing a process that we knew would involve conflict and disciplinary posturing and the re-examination of old wounds and old assumptions, it was Robert Heaney who wondered how we make our work together humane. Over the last two years of curriculum review, the faculty have grown together as colleagues, eager to bring their whole selves to the task of theological education at VTS.

    The Rev. Melody D. Knowles, Ph.D.
    Vice President of Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Old Testament
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  • March

    Friday, March 29, 2018

    While building on the strengths of our traditional programming, the new curriculum will more robustly promote integration and diversity.

    For example, it aims for fuller integration of theory with praxis and interdisciplinary thinking by:

    - teaching the foundational theology and history courses together in the first year so that theological concepts are seen in the historical contexts from which they emerged,
    - increasing the number of hours that middlers spend in their field placement sites so that they have a fuller experience of ministry throughout the week, and
    - shaping a robust and intentional rotation of Cross-Cultural Engagement Programs so that students can immerse themselves in different communities across the world to live and learn together

    It also promotes more diversity in vocational outcomes, pedagogy, and course content by:

    - giving students more choice in course selection and sequencing via distributed electives,
    - offering concentrations in New Mission Practices, Christian spirituality, and (through the Washington Theological Consortium) Religion and Ecology, Ecumenism, Christian-Muslim Relations, and Criminal-Justice and Reconciliation,
    - incorporating issues of justice and ecumenism more fully in course work, including the required workshop in intercultural competency and electives such as Race in America, Intro to Islam, and Reading the Psalms in Prison, and
    - offering more courses offered in hybrid or weekend intensive formats.
     
    The Rev. Melody D. Knowles, Ph.D.
    Vice President of Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Old Testament
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  • Thursday, March 28, 2019

    The M.Div. curriculum at Virginia Theological Seminary will continue to emphasize the degree program standards recommended by the Association of Theological Schools: religious heritage, cultural context, personal and spiritual formation, ministerial and public leadership. In addition, VTS has chosen to include an additional SLO that relates to our role in educating leaders for the Episcopal Church: liturgical formation and leadership.

    To accomplish these SLOs, the new curriculum will continue to require a robust number of required classes, distributed within the areas of Practical Theology, Bible, Worship, and Theology, History, Ethics and Mission. Within these requirements, students can choose electives to focus their study in areas where they need to grow.

    The new curriculum will also build upon the opportunities present in a residential educational community. It will continue our daily rhythm of going to “chapel, class, lunch,” with students and faculty also serving on worship planning teams, meeting in weekly formation groups, participating in quiet days and a rich selection of forum hours, and sharing table fellowship together.

    The Rev. Melody D. Knowles, Ph.D.
    Vice President of Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Old Testament


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  • Wednesday, March 27, 2019

    We began with our students. Beginning in the spring of 2016, the faculty launched their review of the M.Div. program by re-reading the Strategic Plan’s description of the kind of students that we wish to nurture, and conferring about what we want students in our M.Div. program to be, to do, and to know. As a result of this conversation, we agreed that our “ideal student” was:
    • an integrated learner who put less emphasis on mastery of material and more on formation via bodies of knowledge and practice during the M.Div. program and beyond, and
    • someone who would seek opportunities for active engagement, reflection, and inter-cultural experiences.
    Beginning with these conversations, we moved to include as many additional voices as possible. In the summer of 2016, Dr. Mitzi Budde was asked to chair the Masters Committee, and, being a committee that included faculty from all fields as well as student representatives, it was determined that this body would be the committee that would lead the review. Representatives from this committee then went out to talk with Field Education Supervisors, the Board of Trustees, alums, and current students, and brought reports back to the committee. Together the faculty also reviewed M.Div. programs at other seminaries. Once new initiatives for our program were crafted, all decisions were voted by the faculty. In May 2019, the Board of Trustees will receive the final version of the curriculum for a final vote.

    The Rev. Melody D. Knowles, Ph.D.
    Vice President of Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Old Testament
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  • Tuesday, March 26, 2019

    In the assessment report submitted to the Association of Theological Schools in 2014, the faculty and board of VTS committed to a review of the M.Div. curriculum that would consist of “a comprehensive report which summarizes program data, the annual report suggestions, and makes recommendations to sustain or change the scope, sequence, and requirements of a program” to be undertaken every three years. In this review we said that we would:

    - clarify our core principles and values for the program,
    - ascertain and strengthen what we are currently doing well,
    - ascertain and eliminate or shore up areas of weakness, and
    - ascertain our needs for future faculty hires, course offerings, etc.

    The faculty also determined that we wanted to deepen our ownership of the curriculum so that together we could collaborate and advise students in a program of studies that would best serve God and the church in the 21st century.

    The last major redesign of the M.Div. curriculum at VTS occurred in 1999-2000, so we knew that we had our work cut out for us! Over the next several days, the Dean's Commentary will highlight major aspects of the process.

    The Rev. Melody Knowles, Ph.D.
    Vice President of Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Old Testament 


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  • Monday, March 25, 2019

    The VTS Campus is under construction for the future! That will mean confusion, chaos, and change in the present. Until the spring of 2020, we must work together to minimize the unavoidable disruption of our community life. It will be very important for us to communicate often and well about the Bicentennial Campus Construction. So, every other Monday the Dean’s Commentary will be an update about the construction in Key Hall, Addison Academic Center and the Refectory/Scott Lounge/Café 1823/Kitchen. News about the campus construction will be communicated through the Weekly Communiqué and the monthly eNews.

    For now, please take note of these important dates:
    1. The last day of operation for Café 1823 will be May 15, 2019. On May 10, there will be an event at Café 1823 for our neighbors, friends, and the VTS family.
    2. The last day of operation for the Refectory is May 16, 2019.
    3. There will be no lunch provided for staff/faculty from Friday, May 17- Sunday, August 4. Lunch services will resume Monday, August 5 for students, faculty, and staff in an alternative location on campus. Most likely that alternative location will be a BIG TENT on the east end of the Grove. Stay tuned.

    VTS is getting ready for its third century of service in 2023. Let us count our blessings daily as we work together to give the future a campus ready to serve the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

    The Rev. J. Barney Hawkins IV, Ph.D.
    Co-Director, Bicentennial Campaign

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  • Friday, March 22, 2019

    It is warm, although overcast, in Los Angeles. But this is an important trip. The work of cultivation continues. I have made the journey yesterday with Fr. Barney Hawkins and will be returning today back to Washington DC. This is what is involved in a capital campaign. The goal is a major ask.

    Our church is everywhere. We offer a distinctive disposition. You can think and, at the same time, love Jesus. In LA I have learned about how to link faith with the movie world. Innovative church is made easier in the diverse setting of LA.

    Every absence from the campus is hard. But I am grateful to my senior team. I want to recognize today my Vice President and good friend the Rev. Dr. Melody Knowles. When I am away, I know she is in charge. And I know that she loves theological education and the Seminary. She brings intelligence, competence, and charm. I am grateful for Melody.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham. Ph.D
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, March 21, 2019

    Friends, thank you all for giving me a warm welcome back to the Seminary. The overwhelming response to my return is greatly appreciated. As Dean Markham always says, “Once you are a part of VTS, you’re always a part of VTS.” It is so good to be home!

    As many of you know, I left my role as the Account Manager for Meriwether Godsey in 2017. I was fortunate enough to find a great company led by strong women who made a huge impact in my career. I started as one of the first waiters in 1823 Café, then was given an opportunity to be Catering Manager and finally, Account Manager. The team I helped develop with the former Dining Director will always hold a special place in my heart. It is a treat to see them every day for lunch!

    My transition from Meriwether Godsey to Christ Church, Georgetown last year was difficult. As a student at George Mason University, being with MG made it very challenging to balance school and work. And my role at Christ Church, Georgetown as the Parish Coordinator was the stepping stone I needed to be the Executive Assistant to the Dean and President. My understanding of how the Episcopal Church functions was enhanced during my time there.

    My contact information is cgravina@vts.edu and phone extension, x1701. Please stop by my office to say hello or have lunch sometime.

    Cassandra Gravina
    Executive Assistant to the Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, March 20, 2019

    During this Spring Break, it’s important to reflect and meditate. Whether if you are a student, staff, or faculty member—a moment of self-reflection is essential to our mind, body, and soul. As you enjoy this break, notice a few new faces around the campus. On Monday and Tuesday, VTS hosted the Prophetic Preaching Conference, discussing the topic considered one of the most controversial in the Episcopal Church—politics.

    Opening a conversation about politics within the church is one of the more difficult decisions many preachers face today. The complexity of the subject needs full compassion and understanding for both the preacher and the congregation. Conferences such as these give us an opportunity to understand our world better. But amid the competing views, preachers must remember to preach the Gospel.

    I was fortunate enough to host this important conversation with my colleagues and students to help create a positive approach to this form of teaching. The contribution from conference attendees will result in a book called Preaching Politics: the Hope or the Curse of the Episcopal Church. I encourage you to say hello to our guests on campus and make them feel welcome during their stay at the Seminary. If you would like more information about the Prophetic Preaching Conference, please connect with one of our seminarians, the Rev. Crystal J. Hardin '19.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Tuesday, March 19, 2019

    It has been 77 days since the launch of the TryTank Experimental lab - our collaborative initiative with General Seminary - and we are thrilled to announce the first "success story" to emerge: the Alexa Skill Episcopal Prayer app. For those of you with an Alexa, just go to Amazon to download the app. Once it is downloaded, then all you need to do is say, "Alexa, open Episcopal Prayer," and you are then greeted and guided through the prayer for the day. It's amazing!

    The theory behind the Alexa Skill is simple: research proves that people who engage with scripture regularly (at least four times a week) are happier, more generous, and even more civic-minded citizens. We hope that it also translates into more church attendance. And it is pretty cool that the Episcopal Church can claim a place in this high-tech landscape. And this is just the beginning!

    As of today, the TryTank, lead by the Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija, has 16 experiments in different stages, including a total of 4 in active mode, meaning that they are operating, and they are gathering data to gauge the success or failure of the individual experiment. With all the announced experiments, they anticipate working with some 180 congregations across the country. You can see the full list of experiments on the TryTank website, and you can see where they are on any of them each week by subscribing to their newsletter on the same site. Every Monday you'll get an insider's view of their work.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Monday, March 18, 2019

    The news came in an email. I was delighted. The Rev. Allison St. Louis, Ph.D. was engaged to be married. "Who is the lucky guy?" I asked. And the answer is Jonathan Hansen. Jonathan was born at Emerson Hospital in Concord, MA.  After high school and before college, he entered the U.S. Navy, where he served on the U.S.S Remora and the U.S.S Isle Royale. After being honorably discharged, he began raising a family and volunteering with the United Church of Christ.  He initially worked in research and development and later as a Field Technical Representative in the construction manufacturing industry.  In 1988, he led the team that replaced the roof on the Empire State Building.

    Jonathan is a self-taught musician who plays the Native American flute, piano, guitar, and harmonica.  He is a classic car enthusiast and an avid fan of Boston’s professional sports teams.  In addition to biking, walking, and photography, he enjoys creating stained glass projects and spending time with his family.

    Reflecting on their relationship, Allison says: “Jonathan and I are witnesses to God’s sense of humor.  We are as different as can be in appearance, but we share similar core values, and we are just different enough to make our relationship interesting and fun.  He’s one of the wisest and funniest people I know.”

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, March 15, 2019

    This Sunday VTS will send an email with a Lenten meditation from the Rt. Rev. James Mathes, associate dean of students. Jim is participating in our Lenten Meditations series, curated and organized by Institutional Advancement and Communications. Lent provides us space to prepare our minds and hearts as we walk toward resurrection and the renewal of our baptismal covenant. It is a time for reflection that can pull us into silence and provide us rest from the myriad distractions of this world.

    Because the thoughts and words of others can be helpful in our Lenten practices, Virginia Theological Seminary is sharing Lenten meditations from many VTS “voices." We began with Ash Wednesday and are continuing weekly throughout the Lenten Season, culminating in daily offerings during the Triduum and on Easter Sunday. In addition to Jim, participants include VTS colleagues, students, alumni, and members of our board, including myself; Lisa Kimball, Ph.D.; Mitzi Budde, D.Min.; the Rev. Judy Fentress-Williams, Ph.D.; the Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija; Jared Grant '20; Suresh Shanthakumar '20; Alumni Association Executive Council president, the Rev. Ginny Wilder '12; and Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees, the Rev. Phoebe Roaf '08.

    We live life at such a pace that often we fail to be reflective or thoughtful about living. The gift of Lent is a pause in our frantic, treadmill existence. I invite you to take the pause and see where the holy spirit leads you. To be included, please click here to receive these meditations.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, March 14, 2019

    The Church and Community Engagement Office at VTS has as one of its five main prerogatives the call to advance community care and justice partnerships. This is lived out in the relationships developed between VTS and key metropolitan organizations and agencies engaged in community relief, development, advocacy, and action. In short, the CCE Office leads the seminary in strengthening our bonds with the community around us, and this work would not be possible without our many partners in the metropolitan area.
     
    In celebration of this work and these partnerships, a special Eucharist will be held tonight at 5:15 p.m. in Immanuel Chapel. This will be a service of thanksgiving and recognition for leaders and representatives from different arenas of public service with whom VTS has developed relationships. During the Eucharist we will ask leaders and representatives to come forward to offer thanks for them and to pray for them.
     
    Do please join us this evening as we recognize the important work of this office and the important contributions of the many agencies and organizations that we support and work alongside.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, March 13, 2019

    I had the privilege of being the Episcopal advisor to the five-year, ecumenical, Lilly Endowment Inc.-funded study, The Confirmation Project to learn the extent to which confirmation and equivalent practices are effective for strengthening discipleship in youth. Now it is time to put the findings into practice.
     
    Enter the Confirmation Collaborative of the Episcopal Church, a diverse group of Christian formation leaders representing all orders of ministry, and co-sponsored by VTS and Church Publishing Incorporated! We believe, and the research confirms, that confirmation is the claiming of baptism and an invitation to a life of deeper discipleship lived in community. When confirmation preparation is done intentionally and well on the local and diocesan level as baptismal affirmation, it has a positive impact on the spiritual lives of youth and the adults around them as part of a lifelong call to discipleship.
     
    The Collaborative will be sharing resources, best practices, rites of passage liturgies, and models for baptismal affirmation in partnership with our Baptized for Life initiative. These will include the importance of intergenerational and community involvement in confirmation preparation, examples of good practice and strategies that are effective in helping young Christians grow as disciples of Jesus Christ, and how to recognize that confirmation in the Episcopal Church provides a critical moment pastorally and theologically for affirmation of baptism. To join the conversation with the Confirmation Collaborative please contact VTS alum, Sharon Ely Pearson spearson@cpg.org or me.

    Lisa Kimball, Ph.D.
    Associate Dean Lifelong Learning
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  • Tuesday, March 12, 2019

    Pathway to Ministry is an exciting new opportunity the Seminary is offering for those who desire to explore an opportunity for deeper theological study, but who have not yet pursued a discernment process. It is designed to be a one-year program of study, tuition-free, where students will be immersed in an academically challenging and spiritually nurturing environment. At the end of the first year, the student may receive the Diploma in Theology or continue on with his or her studies for a subsequent year or two to earn a Master of Arts or Master of Divinity.
     
    Pathway to Ministry students may chose to enter the ordination process during their year of study, and if a call is determined the student can continue the process of completing their theological education concurrently with the discernment and ordination process. A student and diocese that decides a lay ministry is the appropriate direction may still move forward to earn any of the degree options.
     
    I am very pleased the Seminary is offering this wonderful and unique program. Be sure to check out the VTS website for more information and instructions on how and when to apply to Pathway to Ministry. I look forward to seeing how God will use this new opportunity for those who might otherwise never have considered pursuing study at VTS.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Monday March 11, 2019

    Ann Roebuck began working at VTS in 2008. She has seen it all! She has worn many hats. Her deep devotion to the Seminary is an inspiration.

    As VTS prepares for its historic Bicentennial in 2023, it is only fitting that Ann becomes our Executive Assistant for the Bicentennial. She will be assisting the Dean and me with the Bicentennial Campaign, the Bicentennial Campus Projects and the actual Bicentennial Celebration. From her vast experience with “special events,” she will continue to organize the Dean’s Cross each year, even as she coordinates the VTS presence at Lambeth 2020. She will also help with trips associated with VTS for alums and friends.

    No one knows the Dean’s Roundtables as well as Ann. She will continue to make each Dean’s Roundtable a very “special event.” No detail is too small! Having Ann by my side in this exciting chapter at VTS will be quite a gift. She never meets a problem she cannot solve; no challenge is daunting; and VTS is always first. VTS is strong because of its dedicated staff. Ann helps make that happen. Please do congratulate her as she takes on a new role, one more time.

    The Rev. J. Barney Hawkins IV, Ph.D.
    Co-Director, Bicentennial Campaign
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  • Friday, March 8, 2019

    At the end of this month—March 31st—the little white post office located on the Seminary campus will officially close. The decision to close the post office was made by the board of trustees at their November 2018 meeting in order to address several concerns in particular:

    - First, the need to facilitate a more expedited arrival of US mail to the campus;
    - Secondly, the additional stress on a small postal operation on campus as the result of the increase in the number of residents living on the seminary campus;
    - And finally, the identified need to use the building currently used for the post office to accommodate an expanding seminary program, which will be clarified in the coming months.

    Once the post office has been closed, USPS will begin delivering US mail directly to campus 6 days a week. To ensure delivery, all mail must be addressed as follows:
    Name (individual/department name)
    3737 Seminary Road, PMB# (which is your internal VTS box number)
    Alexandria, VA 22304
     
    We are looking into the possibility of enabling the purchase of stamps from the Welcome Center. However, you will be required to go to a US post office for all other services—including the mailing of packages.
     
    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, March 7, 2019

    Today is our Quiet Day. So silence will be kept on the campus. The staff are permitted to stay at home; so many of the offices will be closes. The seminarians and the Faculty are expected to observe this day. This is the moment when we cut out the noise and live in a world of quiet.

    Many human lives are unaccustomed to the experience of sustained quiet. A television, a radio, the iPhone - they all provide sound that can become company. Living with silence is a healthy discipline. Disconnecting from the tech (to allude to the first rule of "Faith Rules") is an invitation to let God fill the silence. 

    I am delighted our dear friend and distinguished colleague - the Rev. Dr. Robert Prichard - will be leading the Quiet Day meditations. He has been a giant on this Faculty. As his retirement looms, we know we will miss him. And for a time, today, we will hear afresh from this distinguished scholar and teacher, as he shares his faith.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, March 6, 2019

    It is Ash Wednesday - the start of Lent. Many seminarians find this day busy. Along with regular classes, there are field ed congregations expecting some help from their seminarian. Therefore it is easy to lose the significance of the day in the busyness. This is a common problem for clergy. Easter and Christmas are just hectic and the holy significance of these festivals can be lost.

    So today I invite us all into living with the significance of this day. Themes of morality, death, and brokenness hover over this day. It is a reminder that this life is finite - time passes, we age, and finally we will die. It is a reminder that we fail often - fail to honor those close to us and those further away. It is a reminder that we have been damaged and therefore often end up being damaging. All this comes to the fore on this day.

    So live today conscious of its significance. Take it slowly. Appreciate its significance. And offer in the grabbed moments between this and that appropriate prayer to God for healing, hope, and love. 

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Tuesday, March 5, 2019

    Tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, we will have a special guest preacher at morning Eucharist. The Rt. Rev. Michael Lewis is the bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf and is visiting VTS along with the Ven. William Schwartz. The Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf is a fascinating and diverse context in which to minister covering Cyprus, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.
     
    On Wednesday, March 6 at 12:30 p.m. in the Gibbs Room they will share what it means to be Church in this part of the Communion in a CACS lunchtime conversation. Do come and learn from “Anglican Perspectives from the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf.”
     
    I am grateful to our Center for Anglican Communion Studies, who have partnered with the Episcopal Church’s Global Partnerships office to bring Bishop Lewis and Archdeacon Schwartz here as they continue to focus attention on the Anglican Communion in the Middle East.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Monday, March 4, 2019

    Tomorrow’s chapel will be different from the usual—we will be celebrating a very special occasion. On behalf of the Rt. Rev. Zache Duracin of the Diocese of Haiti, the Rt. Rev. James Mathes will ordain Guimond Pierre Louis into the Sacred Order of Priests.

    Coming to us from Haiti, Guimond worked as an accountant before responding to the call of the ministry and beginning his preparation for the priesthood. Since starting his seminary education, he founded the Jean Wilfrid Albert Foundation, whose mission is providing education and empowerment to the disenfranchised. He has a deep passion for peace building and reconciliation within the Church and the community at large. Guimond will be a great gift to his diocese.

    This is the joyful, solemn celebration of an event preceded by careful selection, discernment, and study. Please come to honor Guimond on the culmination of his years of preparation to serve God in accordance with the calling on his life.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, March 1, 2019

    About a year ago, I sat down at a table full of MDiv students and fellow staff members – some of whom I didn’t know at all – and opened the conversation with “What does the Episcopal church say about Ghosts?” I was delighted when this kicked off 45 minutes of spirited (pun absolutely intended) conversation about the after-life, church teachings, and English social history. It was a quintessential VTS moment – a group of people with wildly different life experiences coming together to share a meal and talk about their common interests. 

    I don’t think I told anybody at that table that I asked that question as part of my background research for A Two Woman Hamlet. I was still feeling a little shy about sharing that I have an “extra-curricular” activity that has such a big place in my life and heart. I had nothing to be nervous about, of course, and have since learned that everybody here is more than happy to talk about their passion projects with each other, and that this is a community that cares about the whole person.

    I am utterly gobsmacked by the material (and emotional!) support the Seminary community has shown A Two Woman Hamlet. Hannah, Nicola, and I are thrilled that we can “come home” to Scott Lounge later this week to perform for you. It all happens next Friday (March 1) and Saturday (March 2). Please, enjoy the show! https://www.eventbrite.com/e/two-woman-hamlet-at-vts-tickets-55214406777 

    Mara Sherman
    Administrative Coordinator of the Doctoral Programs
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  • February

    Thursday, February 28, 2019

    The campus is a lovely place to live and work. However, effective ministry sometimes requires travel. So on Tuesday night the Rev. Dr. Barney Hawkins and I were in Charlottesville, cultivating friends for the Seminary. Today the Rev. Dr. Joe Thompson is down at Duke University for a conference on Latino ministry in the Episcopal Church. This is an area that is vital for the future of the Episcopal Church. America is changing around us; the Church will either change or disappear. We are grateful that he is making the journey to learn more about this key area.

    Meanwhile, as some travel away from the campus, others travel to the campus. The Rev. Nic Mather (yes the relative of Taylor, here in AASL) is visiting the campus. His Masters' thesis was not only good, but was highly innovative. He was struggling with the question of how should Episcopalians relate to the language of the demonic in our tradition; he wanted to avoid the two extremes of ignoring the language or getting obsessed with the language. His return is an invitation to all students to see a possible future where they bring the wisdom learned in a thesis at VTS back to subsequent classes of students here at VTS. It is lovely to have him with us. Do sign up for the session, which is at 7:00 p.m. in the Deanery tonight. 

    We travel away; we receive travelers to the campus. Travel builds connection. This is important.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, February 27, 2019

    Dr. Mitzi Budde will receive the Washington Theological Consortium’s annual Ecumenism Award tonight at Wesley Theological Seminary. She will also be presenting the annual Figel lecture, Communing with God and One Another: A Theology for Lived Ecumenism. She is a leader in the National Council of Churches’ projects on racism and mass incarceration, as well as co-editor and author of numerous books and articles on ecumenical dialogue, ethics, and congregational practice. This lecture promises to challenge attendees to explore aspects of ecumenism that will deepen every Christian’s life and every congregation’s practice.

    Before joining the faculty at VTS in 1991, Mitzi served as the library director at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. She is a deacon of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and serves under the call of the ELCA to ecumenical ministry at VTS. I am so proud and pleased she will be honored tonight.

    I encourage you to take this opportunity to come into DC this evening to see her awarded and hear her presentation. You won’t be disappointed.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Tuesday, February 26, 2019

    We have an opportunity to participate in a very important Ecumenical training that is becoming increasingly relevant and important to the Church—Healthy Boundaries in Ministry: Professional Ethics and Sexuality. This day-long workshop, sponsored by the Washington Theological Consortium, is being hosted at Howard University School of Divinity in Washington, DC on March 2. It will focus on healthy boundaries and relationships in ministry, theological and ethical framing of the issues, and skills and resources for responding to situations of boundary crossings.

    The workshop leaders are two nationally known trainers, Dr. Kate Ott, Associate Professor of Christian Social Ethics, Drew University and School of Theology and Rev. Dr. Stephen Rossetti, Professor of Pastoral Theology, Catholic University School of Theology and Religious Studies. They will be leading this interactive workshop where students will explore the serious ecumenical nature of the challenge and share strategies to create safe churches and ministries.

    I encourage you to consider signing up for and attending this valuable workshop. We need to be better equipped at recognizing and preventing sexual misconduct in the Church. This will be a unique event where you will learn strategies which could very well have a significant impact on the future of your ministry. You can find more details and register for Healthy Boundaries at this link.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Monday, February 25, 2019

    At this morning’s Eucharist, our guest preacher is the Rev. Canon Fuad Dagher, Canon for Reconciliation in the Diocese of Jerusalem. He is visiting VTS as part of the Center for Anglican Communion Studies’ year-long focus on the Anglican Communion in the Middle East. Canon Dagher is deeply committed to the work of reconciliation and peacebuilding in the Holy Land. He will also be participating with the band that provides music for the Monday evening Prayer and Praise, joining them on guitar. So today will be book-ended by Canon Dagher’s homiletical and musical gifts.  

    The VTS community will have an opportunity to learn more about his work in the Diocese of Jerusalem at a lunch forum, “Perspective on Peacebuilding in Jerusalem” on Wednesday, February 27, 12:30 p.m. in the Gibbs Room. For questions about this lunch event, please email Molly O’Brien, CACS Administrative Coordinator.

    Canon Dagher is part of the Building Dialogue Project team based at St. George’s College, Jerusalem. Building Dialogue is a 3-year joint project, funded by Trinity Wall Street, between St. George’s College, Jerusalem, Virginia Theological Seminary, Cuttington University in Liberia, and Msalato Theological College in Tanzania. Teams at each of these four institutions are working to develop theological and cultural resources for reconciliation across conflict. For more information about the Building Dialogue project, please contact Hartley Wensing, CACS Director of Communion Projects. Canon Dagher will be with us all week so please join me in welcoming him and do take advantage of the opportunities that his visit brings.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, February 22, 2019

    This week more than 700 will gather at the annual conference of the Consortium for Endowed Episcopal Parishes (CEEP) in Boston. The hosting parish is Trinity Church in Boston, sending parish for seminarian, Hailey Jacobsen. She will be a VTS presence at CEEP along with senior class gift coordinator, Shawn Evelyn. Also representing VTS will be the Rev. Lorenzo Lebrijia who will be promoting The TryTank at the VTS exhibit and Friday luncheon.
     
    CEEP, a premier organization in the Episcopal Church, is a wonderful resource and springboard for conversations and partnerships. Like Virginia Theological Seminary, the Consortium is committed to a bright and hopeful future for the Church. And it brings resources together in ways that positively impact our mission and ministry.  I am especially pleased that our own, Shelagh Casey Brown, Director of Alumni and Church Relations, will assume the position of president of the CEEP board. She has been on the program planning committee and the board, so her knowledge of CEEP’s workings is deep. As board president, she will partner with executive director, Joe Swimmer, in achieving CEEP’s mission of building strategic partnerships. I am very proud of Shelagh for this achievement.
     
    VTS is a member of CEEP and as such, every member of the VTS community is a member of CEEP! Visit the CEEP website to learn more about the resources offered and how you can become better connected. Be sure to also check out our VTS Facebook posts from CEEP – especially those from Hailey, Shawn, and Lorenzo.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, February 21, 2019

    The weather wasn’t a surprise—there was ample warning a snowstorm was heading our way. It didn’t faze the Seminary’s Facilities team however, they have been there and done that many times before. According to Steve Slominski, Director of Grounds, a meeting to discuss the plan to clear snow and make the grounds safe was not necessary, text messages would suffice. Everyone knew their job and what was waiting for them on Wednesday morning.

    On Tuesday, equipment was checked and prepped for the busy day ahead. Steve, Victor Hurtado, and Ronnie Saunders spent the night on campus. Everyone else reported early Wednesday morning to begin a long day of plowing roads, scraping and salting sidewalks and steps, and making the campus safe for students and faculty, whose classes went on as scheduled. What made it more challenging was the fact the snowstorm continued throughout the day. It was not a case of one pass and it’s done. The weather was calling the shots.

    We are blessed by the flexibility, willingness, and skill of our dedicated Facilities staff who spent a blustery day outside for our benefit. We appreciate Steve, Ronnie, Victor, Stuart Dahlinger, John Erbe, Fritz Friton, Timothy Lawhorn, Tom Leake, Mohamed Mohamed, Jose Reyes, Juan Rivera, and Griffin Warder for their dedication and hard work. Thank you!

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
     
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  • Wednesday, February 20, 2019

    Vice President Linda Dienno and I presented last night on the challenge and opportunity of fundraising. Congregations depend on philanthropy. We need men and women to give. Finding ways to ask for money is key to successful ministry. However, awkward this might be, it is essential. It was a fun and rich conversation.
     
    As it happens the Spring Phonathon is looming. This is the opportunity for everyone to practice the craft of the ask. One can learn how to connect with a friend or an alum of the Seminary. One shares the news and, in the process, invite them to support the Seminary now. If this is the first time that you have ever asked for money, then this is the best and most gentle way to learn how to do it.
     
    Giving is highly relational work. We all get fundraising letters; and almost all of them are recycled. The telephone call (or even better – the visit) is the most effective way. A real human being, with whom one has a connection, asking another human being for a gift works really well. So do please sign up for the Phonathon. This is formation at its most practical.
     
    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Tuesday, February 19, 2019

    A Christian Community should be known for gracious and abundant hospitality.  By that standard, VTS hit the mark this past weekend. Over Spring Visit Weekend, we welcomed 27 prospective students, many with spouses, and a few with children.  
     
    It was a busy time and a labor of love by all parts of this community. On Friday, the Welcome Center was abuzz, beautiful music poured from the Chapel at Evensong thanks to Schola, and laughter and joy came from Faculty Homes and later Scott Lounge.  Saturday was a time for our guests to learn about this community through a faculty panel, financial aid discussion, apartment and residence hall tours, and library tours.  KC Robertson preached at noon giving these prospective students a glimpse of their possible future.  And on Sunday, the weekend wound to a close with worship in the grace and beauty of Washington National Cathedral.  
     
    This all happened because this community of fellowship and formation came together and opened heart and home. On Friday, the Seminary community will give a well-earned thank-you to all who helped by listing those who worked this weekend in the weekly Communique. However, I do want to recognize Shawn Evelyn, Melesa Skoglund, Joshua Barrett, Emily Collette, Dillon Green, and Katie Beaver, who served as co-chairs for their respective classes. I also want to recognize the efforts of our faculty who hosted in their homes, served on panels, or interviewed prospective students. And finally, I want to offer abundant thanks to our staff members, who simply do so very much so that VTS is at its best for moments like this.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, February 15, 2019

    Despite what the weather may indicate, this is Spring Visit Weekend where Virginia Theological Seminary welcomes prospective students. Every year around this time we throw open our doors and our hearts to those who are exploring the call to prepare for more intentional service to the Church and God’s world.

    There are numerous events and activities prepared to introduce you to the Seminary, its stellar faculty, community of students, and the programs of study offered. Attend a sample class, join us in worship at the Immanuel Chapel, walk our historical grounds and imagine yourself joining those who have walked here over the past 200 years as they prepared for lives of service to God.

    This year 22 Dioceses will be represented by the 28 prospective students and their guests. Some are coming from around the corner in Washington, DC. Others are traveling from Texas, Colorado, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and places in between. These men and women come from many different walks in life: professors, healthcare workers, bankers, social workers, and other occupations. Some of you will like what you see and hear God’s affirmation you’ve come to the right place. But in any case, we are eager to help you discover God’s next step for you.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, February 14, 2019

    Most Thursday evenings of the semester, including this evening, if you enter the chapel at 5:15 p.m., you will hear the opening chime of a Thursday Night Live service.
     
    There is silence and there is noise. There is adoration and there are wiggles. There is powerful preaching and holy encounter. It is a service that invites participation from all. There is a sense that this service is probably the one that replicates most closely a Sunday service in a parish, with all ages represented.
     
    Thank you for those who have helped to make it happen. For all who pray and read, serve and greet, ring bells and carry oblations. For every presider and preacher, who has offered their gifts to build up the worship of the body. For the sacristans who have creatively explored ways to use our chapel space. For the chapel team members: Lydia Simmons, Chris Decatur, Colleen Schiefelbein, Amanda Kotval, Ashley Mather, Tom Clement, Larry Civale, Daniel Johnson, and AnnaMarie Hoos. For the vision and leadership of the Rev. Ruthanna Hooke, Ph.D., the Rev. Shawn Strout, Sarah Bentley Allred, Elizabeth Henry McKeever, and Andrew Rutledge.
     
    The music - often unaccompanied, often sung by heart - is an important part of the service, and many have volunteered their gifts and leadership: AnnaMarie Hoos, Gus Chrysson, Margie Baker, Clint Brown, Christian Basel, Kevin Newell, Lydia Simmons.
     
    Many gifts have come together to create this new worship service. Students, I do hope you’ll consider applying to be a coordinator of this offering in the 2019-2020 school year. It is a special place in our common life together, a place for all of God’s people to come together. Do come and participate.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, February 13, 2019

    The Center for Anglican Communion Studies is pleased to welcome a delegation from Bishop Williams Seminary in Kyoto, Japan to campus this week. I hope you will join us this afternoon for two lectures that highlight some of the historical connections between the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Japan. 

    At 11:00 a.m. in Addison 113, our own the Rev. Robert Prichard, Ph.D. will talk about the history of the Episcopal mission to Japan, and then at 1:00 p.m. in Addison 101, the Very Rev. Akira Peter Iwaki will talk about the importance of Bishop Williams in the foundation of the Anglican Church in Japan (Nippon Sei Ko Kai.) 

    As you see our Japanese guests around campus this week and next, I hope you will join us in welcoming them in the unconditional love that the Very Rev. Yutaka John Kuroda spoke about in his sermon this morning. 

    Bishop Williams Theological Seminary is named after the Rt. Rev. Channing Moore Williams, a graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary, who later founded the Nippon Sei Ko Kai, the Anglican Church in Japan. Amongst the seminary professors in the delegation currently visiting us, we have Dean Iwaki, who is the retired dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Osaka, the first church that Bishop Williams started. We also have with us the Rev. Atsuko Fumoto, a priest at the very last church that Bishop Williams planted before he died. 

    The story behind this visit is a testament to the global impact that graduates of Virginia Theological Seminary have, and the beauty of finding connections to a shared history in the family of God, even across continents and language barriers. We are honored to be able to welcome the faculty and seminarians of Bishop Williams Theological Seminary to a place that played a role in the theological formation of their church’s founder. We thank the Rev. John Yieh, Ph.D. for leading the planning for this visit and acting as host for their two-week-long stay.

    Molly O'Brien
    Administrative Coordinator
    The Center for Anglican Communion Studies
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  • Tuesday, February 12, 2019

    The Butterfly House, so aptly named. It is brimming with precious little ones who are stretching their wings each day to see what new things they can discover. Just as much as it is the children who make it bright, the dedicated women who spend their days with these children are the ones who provide a safe, loving, nurturing environment for them.

    Director, Kerry Hual, leads a team of excellent women to care for the children of the Butterfly House. One of these is Mildred Corvera. Originally from Bolivia, Mildred has received her Associate's Degree from Northern Virginia Community College and will complete her B.S. in Community Health at George Mason University this fall. She is an Assistant Teacher whose desire is to teach children about basic hygiene. TBH has been blessed to have her these past two years.

    There is usually someone behind the scenes who makes an operation run smoothly. For the Butterfly House, that would be Juanita Sanchez. As the Associate Director, she works tirelessly to make sure the organization runs efficiently, not only looking out for the needs of the children, but taking care of the teachers who work there. She has numerous childcare certifications and has worked in the childcare field since 2001 as a teacher and program coordinator, as well as in her current position.

    There are many more committed, experienced women who are entrusted with the care of the Butterfly House children. The Seminary is blessed to have such an exceptional team to teach and nurture our little ones.

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

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  • Monday, February 11, 2019

    I write this commentary from Phoenix, Arizona. Last night the Rev. Dr. Barney Hawkins and I spent the evening with the Very Rev. Troy Mendez, dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. We talked church; we talked life as a priest, and we talked about the future. Troy is doing amazing work. It is fabulous connecting with our alums. Yesterday morning, we watched three of our alums serve at the altar. This is the work of VTS at its most basic. This work of service is where it all happens.

    Tonight we have a Roundtable. This is our opportunity to connect with current and potential friends of the Seminary. The Seminary depends on a deep well of affection. We cannot survive without women and men believing in this place. One of my responsibilities is to ensure that we develop this well of affection.

    Our Roundtable tonight turns the dinner party into an Admissions Committee. We create four potential students. It is our way of describing the challenge and joy of theological education. How do you educate the future of the Church? How do you handle the diversity of our world and the church? This is our obligation. This is our joy.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, February 8, 2019

    The Winter 2019 edition of the Episcopal Teacher is now available. It is a special edition for several reasons. First, it focuses on the Center for the Ministry of Teaching (CMT) at the Seminary. A history of CMT, written by George Kroupa, provides a snapshot of the effort undertaken to revive Christian education in Episcopal parishes.

    Second, there are numerous articles on educators and theologians who greatly influenced and guided our approach to Christian formation. They include Maria Harris, who published Fashion Me a People: Curriculum in the Church; John Westerhoff, who wrote Will Our Children Have Faith?; and gifted teacher and educator, Verna Dozier, who helped create the Episcopal Children’s Curriculum. Other articles feature vignettes of numerous colleagues, partners, and collaborators who contributed to the work of the CMT. They include Jerome Berryman, Anthony Guillen, Mary Hess, and Kyle Oliver, among others.

    The edition concludes with an article by Lisa Kimball, associate dean for Lifelong Learning (LLL). She describes how LLL will build on the legacy of the past and continue the work of CMT to teach Christians how to make disciples and pass their faith on to those they love and the world at large.

    This is the last printed edition of Episcopal Teacher. Visit their new website, EpiscopalTeacher.org to view featured articles from the past five years as well as new reports on what is happening with the Lifelong Learning Team.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, February 7, 2018

    It is a great joy to welcome the Rev. Richard Sewell, Dean of St. George’s College, Jerusalem to campus today. Hosted by our Center for Anglican Communion Studies (CACS), Dean Sewell will share his vision for the college in a lunchtime conversation tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. in the Gibbs Room.

    In January, twelve students from VTS, as well as the Rev. Dr. Katherine Grieb, participated in a course at St. George’s as part of a long-standing partnership between the two institutions. For many, the opportunity to visit the Holy Land is a transformational part of their seminary education. I am grateful to the faculty and staff of St. George’s for facilitating these experiences for our students and alums

    This is Dean Sewell 's first visit to Virginia Theological Seminary.
    Please do welcome him and join the conversation, facilitated by Dr. Grieb, tomorrow afternoon. This is another important opportunity in CACS' year-long focus on the Communion in the Middle East. Those interested in attending should contact Molly O’Brien, CACS Administrative Coordinator.

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

     
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  • Wednesday, February 6, 2019

    This morning we have a Board meeting. We work our Board hard. Yesterday, they listened to two presentations from architects; and then they went into groups to consider the viability and appropriateness of the projects. Today, we have some business to do. Tuition fees will be set. Budget parameters will be determined. A review of the three approved construction projects - Key Hall, the Refectory, and Addison - will take place. We will learn about our difficult December in the endowment (it fell by $12 million dollars). Once again this exceptional group of women and men will work hard to make the best possible decisions for the Seminary.

    I am always amazed at the willingness of our Board to give so generously of their time. Our trustees come from every part of the country. These are busy people. But this place matters. They want to work with us to find the best way forward. It is truly an honor to work with such a dedicated Board.

    The Seminary is fortunate in many ways. And one of those ways is the Board. We do governance well here at Virginia Theological Seminary. Please today thank a Board member for their service.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Tuesday, February 5, 2019

    It has long been a dream of mine to utilize our beautiful seminary spaces in new and inspiring ways as well as to foster more art in and around the campus. Therefore, it gives me great delight to announce our second imported theatrical production of the academic year. This time the imaginative mind behind it is our very own Mara Sherman, Administrative Coordinator of the Doctoral Programs.

    On Friday, March 1 and Saturday, March 2 at 7:30 p.m. in Scott Lounge, we will host her critically acclaimed show, A Two Woman Hamlet. No matter how many versions of Shakespeare’s Hamlet you've seen, you have never seen it like this: Mara, along with two gifted Washington actresses, came up with the brilliant idea of doing the entire play (well, nearly all of it) performed by only two women. Armed with nothing but a fake skull, a real shovel, and a lot of imagination, Shakespeare’s classic comes to life in daring and hilarious new ways.  The play which is preceded by a festive reception in the refectory will last 90 minutes with no intermission. Seating is limited so be sure to register early

    We are seeking to model modes and strategies for congregations. It is amazing how many great shows are out there, which a congregation could invite to perform in their parish. So please come and think about ministry in the future.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Monday, February 4, 2019

    I have a great appreciation for In Trust, which aims to strengthen theological schools by connecting leaders to essential resources for mission vitality. Sharing of ideas is an important part of continued development, both individually and institutionally. I was particularly pleased, though, to see the “Mastering digital teaching tools” article by Patricia Paddey in the New Year 2019 issue of In Trust magazine.
     
    In the article, three members of our community are specifically named for their work in digital learning: the Rev. Keith Anderson, a Lutheran minister serving as associate for digital content in Lifelong Learning. The article highlighted his participation in eFormation for the past eight years and his recent completion of the certificate programs, Fundamentals of Online Teaching for Theological Educators and Designing Digital Teaching and Learning for Theological Educators. The article also noted Sarah Stonesifer, manager of operations and digital missioner, as the current leader of the eFormation program. Finally, it lifts up the Rev. Stacy Williams-Duncan, interim director of digital learning at VTS. It recognizes that she was the driving force behind customizing the University of Wisconsin’s Fundamentals of Online Teaching course for theological educators.
     
    One of my favorite quotes from the article was from Stacy, “Digital learning is about all 21st-century learning…So even if you have a completely residential course, in which students come into your classroom every day for a lecture, you should still be utilizing digital tools and resources. To not utilize them would be like not using the printed Bible, post-Gutenberg.”

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, February 1, 2019

    Former M.Div. student and VTS Adjunct Instructor, Kyle Oliver, has just had an article published in the Wiley Online Library in Teaching Theology and Religion. It is about his experience teaching Digital Media for Ministry (now titled Digital Literacies for Ministry) at the Seminary. The piece on “Networked religion meets digital geographies: Pedagogical principles for exploring new spaces and roles in the seminary classroom” interprets Heidi Campbell’s “networked religion” framework in light of new theories of literacy studies. Kyle examines some of the teaching practices from the VTS course and demonstrates why this mode of instruction matters for students. In his article, he elaborates on principles for implementing this approach more widely.

    Currently located in San Francisco, Kyle is pursuing doctoral studies in educational media at Teachers College, Columbia University. His website, Creative Commons Prayer, provides multimedia prayer prompts to use and remix and is freely available. It includes music selections, prayers, and other related media. He also publishes a Learning, Faith and Media newsletter that provides ideas from cutting edge educational research and communication best practices to be used in communicating the faith.

    Kyle has made the most of digital availability—using platforms ranging from Facebook to WordPress to Pinterest. Stop by his about.me page online to catch up with everything he’s doing, and you will probably learn a thing or two along the way.

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

    Thursday, January 31, 2019

    The Winter 2019 edition of the Virginia Theological Seminary magazine is now available! It was lovely when in the Faculty meeting on Tuesday, the Rev. A. Katherine Grieb, Ph.D. entered into the record that she was so impressed by the latest issue. Many thanks to the hard work of Curtis Prather and Elizabeth Panox-Leach for another fine edition. There are numerous interesting features in this publication.

    An article on TryTank, led by the Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija of Los Angeles, describes an exciting, innovative project focused on the future of the church. It’s the first such joint project between Virginia Theological Seminary and the General Theological Seminary in decades. If you would like to read about a bold, improbable project one of our local parishes is embarking upon, check out the article written by the Rev. Jonathan Musser. You will be challenged and inspired to read how this Alexandria congregation is planning to reach their community.

    Seminary student Valerie Mayo '19, writes about the power of God’s presence in her description of the two-day Public Theology seminar hosted by the Center for Anglican Communion Studies. The Rev. Joseph Thompson, Ph.D.,  director of Multicultural Ministries, relates the dedication of the Rev. Pauli Murray building at VTS. Self-described as “America’s problem child,” she became the first African-American woman to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church. The Seminary is proud to be able to honor an individual who allowed nothing to hinder her determination to follow after God.

    And if you wondered what Dorothy Linthicum is up to since her recent retirement, you can find out whether she has decided to go wide or go deep in this new phase of her life. These are just a few offerings from the latest edition you will not want to miss.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, January 30, 2019

    As the light of Epiphany grows in our world, I can't help but remember the wonderful moment before Christmas when the community of VTS really shone. And now the students are back on the campus, I want to honor that moment.

    The staff of Bishop Payne Library, working with the office of Church and Community Engagement, designed a way for us to support Project Christmas Angel, a project of OAR (Offender Aid and Restoration). The idea was to ask members of VTS if they might contribute toys and gift cards that could be given to children of incarcerated parents. Spending Christmas in jail instead of at home with one's children, and not having the financial resources to buy even a small gift for a child, is a hard fate indeed. And having the opportunity to share one's own bounty with others less fortunate is its own special gift.  

    The VTS community responded with gusto, filling an enormous collection box to overflowing with toys, puzzles, and books and 26 gift cards for these children. At least one VTS child asked his friends attending his 13th birthday party to bring a gift for Project Christmas Angel instead of a gift for him. Many VTS community children selected and donated gifts for the project. It was a generous outpouring of love from VTS students, families, staff, and faculty. This outreach project in observance of Theological Libraries Month lived up to its motto: “Theological Research Leads to Gospel Action!”  As the Light of the world continues to shine in our hearts, thank you VTS for your generosity to those in need at Christmas. 

    The Rev. Melody Knowles, Ph.D.
    Vice President for Academic Affairs
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  • Tuesday, January 29, 2018

    Budget season is looming. This is one of the hardest moments of the year. Even in a Seminary that is so fortunate in so many ways, things can get tricky. So as we approach the budget preparation for 2019-2020, there are certain parameters that are hard. Endowment dependent institutions need to make sure that we do not steal from the future. An endowment must grow by the amount drawn down plus inflation. So our draw rate is currently 4.4% and inflation is 2.5%. So if the purchasing power of the endowment is going to be the same in the future, then the endowment must grow by at least 6.7%. 

    This is very hard to do. Markets are very volatile. So the Board has instructed the administration to reduce the draw-rate from 4.4% down to 4%. This we are permitted to do in stages. But even a 0.05% reduction takes about $100,000 out of the operating budget. This is the equivalent of a staff position plus some program money.

    This pressure coincides with a community aware that the capital campaign is going well. However, budgets make a careful distinction between capital and operating. Capital refers to assets (such as building projects or computers - that in principle one could sell if things got hard), while operating refers to the day-to-day budget of salaries and program money. Even though the capital campaign is going well, discipline is required with the operating budget. So we are in for a difficult budget round. Meanwhile, all those seminarians who are planning to be involved in congregations, do please read this commentary carefully. This is a major part of your future.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Monday, January 28, 2019

    A new semester starts today. We will gather at 8am in the Chapel for a start of semester service, with a procession of Faculty. Worship creates the frame for our semester. We offer this moment to God; we want these precious moments to be for the "glory of God".

    This is the semester that is the calm before the storm. Plans for construction are already far advanced. As summer arrives, we are anticipating that both Addison and the Refectory will be undergoing transformation. So we need to prepare ourselves for the challenges of the summer and fall. And let us really enjoy this season which is pre-construction and everywhere is still accessible and functioning. 

    As normal, this semester is the last semester for some in this place. To those students as their heads shift to the future, let me just say this. May this be a semester where you really build on the relationships and friendships in your class and beyond. A gift that this place gives you is a network. This is the moment, when you celebrate and enjoy that gift.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, January 25, 2019

    It’s not only the books and digital resources at Bishop Payne Library that can expand your horizons and stretch you mind. Several displays, which are thoughtfully prepared by BPL staff, are exhibited for patrons’ reflection. The themes of the displays are inspired by the seasons, the liturgical calendar, or notable events. Currently there are several available for your mini-tour.

    Upon entry, there is a presentation celebrating 15 years of The African American Episcopal Historical Collection put together by Chris Pote and Ebonee Davis. The selection of documents reflects a slice of the history of African Americans in Anglicanism. Beside that display is the art of Allan Crite, a well respected artist known for his depictions of urban, African-American life in Boston during the earlier part of the 20th century. A devout Episcopalian, he later concentrated on religious themes in beautiful pen and ink drawings, as well as lithographs. There are some of both to be seen in the first-floor display case and upstairs. The center piece of the second-floor display is a powerful depiction of the Adoration of the Shepherds with Choirs of Angels. Interestingly, Crite has included himself amongst the witnesses. Thanks to Chris, Ebonee, and Peggy Parker for a thoughtfully arranged presentation of Crite’s works.

    As you head back downstairs, don’t forget to check out Karen Madigan’s book displays that contain “Resources on Peace and Reconciliation” and “Resources on Jail Ministry.” They include books on reconciliation and peacemaking in local conflicts on our earth, as well as in the distress of our souls. All this goes to show that the Library is a place worth visiting not simply for the outstanding book collection, but for these imaginative displays.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, January 24, 2019

    Tonight, Lifelong Learning will host an event here at VTS that occurs at the beginning of each semester: A “Taste” of Lifelong Learning. This year 80 people have registered to attend the reception and program following. Participants will get a “taste” of what Lifelong Learning can offer through continuing education here at VTS.

    We are pleased to have the brothers of The Society of St. John the Evangelist to present tonight’s program: Praying Our Lives: An Evening Conversation with the SSJE Brothers. Brothers Keith and Luke are part of this monastic community of the Episcopal Church who seek to know and share an authentic experience of God’s love and mercy. At this special evening event, the Brothers will offer words of encouragement and guidance on showing up with God as we truly are, in the midst of our stressful and busy lives. It will be an evening of reflection and conversation in our journey with God.

    We will also be celebrating Jeff Dienno, who will be receiving his Diploma in Theological Studies after completing the requirements in continuing education courses. Congratulations, Jeff, on your accomplishment and setting an example of a Lifelong Learner!
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  • Wednesday, January 23, 2019

    Last week, Episcopal News Service highlighted a wonderful story featuring one of our doctoral students, Sari Ateek. The story talks about how Sari’s parish, St. John’s Norwood, came together with other churches in Washington, DC “to support an Anglican hospital thousands of miles away in the West Bank city of Nablus, where the loss of an ambulance could cost the charity hospital its accreditation, forcing it to close its doors.”
     
    St. Luke’s Hospital in the West Bank, run by the Episcopal Diocese of the Jerusalem, is the only charitable hospital in the West Bank of Palestine. Its only ambulance broke down, threatening accreditation. Sari saw an opportunity to help.
     
    While thousands of miles away, the Diocese of Jerusalem is very close to him in other respects. Sari is a Palestinian Christian whose father is also an Episcopal priest. Sari said, “At first, I was amazed that the hospital only had one ambulance. … It just became very clear that this was something we needed to do.” Between St. John’s and other donors, they raised enough to purchase a new ambulance.
     
    I encourage you read this uplifting story in full, found here
     
    VTS’s doctoral students are doing inspiring work across the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion. Like Sari, so many of them are bringing hope and relief to a hurting world.

    The Rev. Ross Kane, Ph.D.
    Director of the Doctoral Programs
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  • Tuesday, January 22, 2019

    Virginia Theological Seminary is honored and pleased to host the Episcopal Latino Ministry Competency course, an innovative eight-day intensive course offered by the Episcopal Church Office of Latino/Hispanic Ministries. This course provides lay and clergy leaders an opportunity to learn cultural competency for Latino ministry. The Rev. Canon Anthony Guillén, Episcopal Church Missioner for Latino/Hispanic Ministries, notes “this course provides the foundational tools necessary for church leaders to discern and explore the type of Latino/Hispanic ministry that best fits a congregational setting and its context.”

    As the United States changes, this is a key and important area. Offering these opportunities are a vital part of our work and ministry and this time. Thirty participants, including 8 VTS seminarians, are partaking in this immersive experience in Latino ministry within our metropolitan area through this coming Saturday. We are delighted they are here. When you see them at breakfast or walking around the campus, please give them a very warm welcome.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, January 18, 2019

    Everyone is at VTS for a season. The institution is bigger than any single individual. Nevertheless, we do miss those who decide it is time to move on. The Rev. Dr. Allison St. Louis has decided that 2019 will be her last year of full time service at the Seminary. We are anticipating that she will continue to be connected and work in various ways for the Seminary and this will combine with her private practice. Allison has been here nine years as of March 2019. She has been a priceless, gracious, and outstanding friend and colleague.

    She has been responsible for the Contextual Ministry Department (CXM). With skill and talent, Allison has engaged with students as they decide what is their best placement. As issues have arisen, she has spent time with students helping them process the moment or crisis. As a Faculty colleague, she offers wise counsel and guidance.

    Allison is a great believer in the community. She would "turn up". She enjoyed getting to know students. She loved our alums. She took an interest in this or that opportunity. As an alum of this Seminary, she came home to be a Faculty member. As she moves on, she know that this place will always be home. 

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, January 17, 2019

    Facebook at this time is great. Our students are traveling. I end up browsing the images of this or that cross-cultural immersion. It is impressive. Students are around the world; they tell their stories and they provide their first impressions. It is good to see the impact that travel has on the soul. 

    Facebook is also a tool for information. We all knew that the General Ordination Examinations were over; but it lovely to see the moment of celebration captured at the home of our Associate Dean - Bishop Jim Mathes. From time to time, romance flourishes on the campus. It is lovely to see our Senior Brooks Boylan announce his engagement to Sarah Stonesifer. And what a venue for a proposal - fireworks at Disney. Congratulations to them both. 

    Social media matters. Thanks to Elizabeth Panox-Leach, we are working hard to get our presence right on social media. But for today, I just highlight the good news. In a world that often feels hard, it is good to highlight the "good news."

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, January 16, 2019

    "O Lord, as your Son came not to be served but to serve, may this deacon share in Christ's service, and come to the unending glory of him who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever."

    Decembers are always happy months at Episcopal Seminaries as so many graduating students are ordained Deacons. December 2018 was especially stirring as one of our students joined with one of our faculty members to be consecrated into their new ministry: Dr. Joe Thompson and Martin Geiger.

    I know that his faculty colleagues have relished walking with Joe as he discerned his call over the last several years. Graduating from Yale with a Ph.D. and getting a tenure-track position at a prestigious university usually means that the next decade will be full of demanding research projects and the creation of courses. In the midst of this full and successful life, Joe heard the call of God upon his life and came to seminary. While at VTS, he realized that God's call included his ongoing participation in an academic community, and we were proud to appoint him Assistant Professor of Race and Ethnicity Studies and Director of Multicultural Ministries. The Lord willing and the people consenting, both Joe and Martin plan to be ordained as priests this spring. 
     
    Please join me in praying for the ongoing ministry of the Rev. Dr. Joe Thompson as he continues to participate in Christ's service as a faculty member at VTS. 

    The Rev. Melody Knowles, Ph.D.
    Vice President for Academic Affairs
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  • Tuesday, January 15, 2019

    It was an impressive snow storm in the end. Initially, predictions were modest. But when the storm came, it was a good ten inches of snow across the campus. And so the children of the Seminary discovered old fashioned play. Snow does not involve an X-box or a screen. Instead, you take a sled and go from the top of the slope to the bottom.

    Meanwhile, we all moved around the campus. Roads had to be cleared. Salt had to be put down. The campus needed to be as safe as a campus can be in these conditions. So once again, the staff in Facilities arrived early and stayed late. They know the drill. Many of them have done this many times before.

    So on this day after the snow storm, let us make sure every single time we walk pass someone from Facilities please say "thank you". They have worked hard. 

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Monday, January 14, 2018

    On Ash Wednesday, the faithful are called to “the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial.” A holy Lent does not happen by accident. We should prepare to prepare.

    From Monday through noon on Thursday, the bishops of Province III will be on campus to do just that as they gather for their Pre-Lenten Retreat. Province III is comprised of the dioceses in the Virginia, Maryland, DC, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. As you might imagine, many of our seminarians come from these dioceses. So, some of you may see your bishop.

    During their time here, the bishops will receive three reflections based on Walter Brueggemann’s Spirituality of the Psalms. In this work, Brueggemann offers a three-fold scheme of considering the psalms:  orientation, disorientation, new orientation. The bishops will ponder how this movement provides a lens of prayer and reflection for considering the pastoral and prophetic work of the church in our time. 
    Please know that the bishops, while on retreat, are not cloistered but simply in a time of reflection and collegial conversation within our community. Please take the time to welcome them to our community.
     
    Jim Mathes
    Associate Dean of Students
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  • Friday, January 11, 2019

    Since February of 2018, Elizabeth Osborn has served as Capital Campaign Associate and Campus Curator in the Office of Institutional Advancement. Elizabeth has decided to pursue other interests, and her last day at VTS will be Friday, January 18.
     
    Elizabeth Osborn joined VTS in October of 2016. She was hired as the development associate to work in our Raiser’s Edge database. She worked with IA and other VTS departments. She processed donor thank you letters; updated the database; produced donor reports; and maintained donor record files.  She also researched and analyzed data; assisted with preparations and follow-up for special events; mailing projects; and the Phonathon.
     
    As Capital Campaign Associate and Campus Curator, Elizabeth has been on the ground floor as VTS works with its consultant, Community Counseling Service (CCS), to plan the Bicentennial Campaign and the Bicentennial Celebration in 2023. She has helped coordinate various campus projects, such as the current renovation of Key Hall and working with architects as plans emerge for Addison, the Bishop Payne Library, the Refectory, and the Deanery. As Campus Curator, she has assisted with several projects, including art for the guest rooms in Wilmer Hall.
     
    To express our heartfelt thanks and to wish Elizabeth well, the Office of Institutional Advancement will gather for a farewell.
     
    Linda Dienno
    Barney Hawkins
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  • Thursday, January 10, 2019

    Please allow me a moment of personal privilege. I want to just let all the readers of the commentary know how touched I was by the various notes, emails, and expressions of condolence that I received. It was touching and supportive. My stepmother - Mrs. Shireen Markham - died just before Christmas. She had a heart attack, followed by an operation from which she never recovered. She left a major gap in the lives of her family. 

    Of the many cards and notes I received, I must admit the card from the Caterpillar Club was delightful. Lots of two year old children, under instructions to be appropriately somber, sending their condolences. It was special. I sent it to my Father. He was grateful.

    At moments like this, I hope, pray and trust that all members of the VTS community discover the depth of care in this place. We journey life together. Death will touch us all. Let us always remember that this is a place that seeks to be there for each other. For all this, I am deeply grateful. Thank you VTS.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, January 9, 2019

    Although it operates quietly behind the scenes and is staffed with individuals who identify as introverts, the Finance Department at VTS employs dedicated professionals whose attention to detail is second to none and who strive to be available and helpful in whatever financial matter presents itself. Headed by Jacqui Ballou, VP for Finance and Operations, the finance department also includes Olivine Pilling (Comptroller), Terrell Whitaker (Finance & Accounting Manager), Veena Khanna (Accounts Receivable Associate), Karen Anderson (Accounts Payable Associate), Reggie Gravina (Technology Coordinator) and Carolina Moreno (Administrative Assistant). As their titles imply, together they make sure information for budget development is provided, donations are received and accounted for, bills are paid and VTS staff, faculty, and students are reimbursed for expenses, as well as all things financial are attended to with the utmost care.

    After a successful audit in late summer, members of the Finance team have recently worked with those in AASL to develop a financial aid model. In December, the Finance department, in partnership with IA, processed 524 donations. Reimbursement payments to faculty, staff and students, as well as non-employee payments to consultants, were streamlined by implementing direct deposit payments rather than preparing and mailing checks. In the new year, W-2s, 1099s, 1098s and all things related to IRS filings are being prepared.

    The Finance department does a wonderful job of providing management, oversight and accountability into the finances of VTS. Friendly and responsive, someone is always available to respond to financial questions.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Tuesday, January 8, 2019

    This week some VTS doctoral students are back on campus for our annual doctoral writing week. These students have completed all of their coursework and are now working on their project theses. This week gives them an opportunity to have dedicated time and space to write, away from the many demands of their full-time ministry.

    As part of this offering, VTS provides workshops on writing to help our students make real progress toward completing their thesis. Dr. Sharon Heaney, our Director of Academic Writing, ably leads this effort with her passion and encouragement—it’s wonderful to see her and the students come alive when she talks about the process of making theological arguments. Along with Sharon, doctoral Senior Lecturer Elizabeth Ford Friend provides a vital perspective from Christian Spirituality on the art of theological writing. From Beth our students see that writing is a spiritual discipline, not only a means toward the end of completing a doctorate. The Bishop Payne Library staff are also vital to this writing week, providing research guidance to students and pointing them toward resources they did not know to consult.

    We are pleased that our doctoral students will return home energized and empowered to complete their theses, for each thesis is a gift to their community and the wider church.

    The Rev. Ross Kane, Ph.D.
    Director of Doctoral Programs
    Assistant Professor of Theology, Ethics, and Culture
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  • Monday, January 7, 2019

    Each year the Deans of Episcopal seminaries gather for fellowship, mutual development, and collaboration. Oftentimes the Academic Deans are also invited to gather simultaneously. This year VTS is hosting the Council of Deans and the Academic Deans of the seminaries as well. Participants arrived on campus yesterday and are settled in the Guest House. Last night, we had dinner in our peer groups; I hosted the Deans and Presidents and Melody Knowles hosted the Academic Deans. We shared updates on our work, ministries, and lives with one another. 

    In the same way as Rectors appreciate a peer group, so do the deans and academic deans. There is a shared experience that brings a helpful empathy and mutual understanding. This is, therefore, a precious time. Theological Education continues to be challenging. We are all very aware of the issues facing our denomination; we all recognize our responsibility to do what we can to ameliorate those issues. So we gather, talk through the issues, and seek to learn from each other.

    I admire my fellow deans. From balancing a budget to creating innovative programming, we are all in the business of finding a way forward. Virginia Theological Seminary is honored and pleased to host them. When you see them in breakfast or walking around the campus, please give them a very warm welcome.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, January 4, 2019

    So often the Dean’s Commentary is properly filled with words of thanks to various members of the VTS community such as Librarians, members of Institutional Advancement, the team in Maintenance, faculty, Board of Trustees — the list (thankfully!) goes on and on.

    But there are so many others for whom VTS is properly grateful who never set foot on this campus. Recently, I was reading the admissions essays of our entering class of Masters-level students. This document forms the first artifact of their portfolios which will fill up over the years with additional papers and projects from courses and experiences at VTS. The admissions essay is something of a “baseline” by which we can see growth during the next several years of life at seminary.

    Again and again, the essays tell of significant experiences with those who have pointed our current students towards the pursuit of their present call. Parents who prayed with them from an early age, Sunday school teachers who taught them to memorize Psalm 23, Altar Guilds who tended to the fabric of buildings from Pakistan to Pittsburgh in which they palpably felt the presence of God, fellow pilgrims on the way to Santiago de Compostela, teachers who engaged their intellectual and spiritual curiosity, and priests and chaplains and friends and Bishops who asked the kinds of deep questions that couldn’t be ignored.

    So to all those whom we never see but whose thoughtful engagement with others results in a transformative decision to apply to VTS and pursue the calling of God upon their lives, thank you.

    The Rev. Melody D. Knowles, Ph.D.
    Vice President of Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Old Testament
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  • Thursday, January 3, 2019

    It's General Ordination Examination (GOE) time. The General Board of Examining Chaplains (GBEC) creates, administers and evaluates the General Ordination Examination for people seeking to be ordained in The Episcopal Church.The 1970 General Convention of The Episcopal Church canonically established the GBEC to standardize the process of examination for ordination (III.15). The GBEC administered the first GOE in 1972 and has given it annually since. Prior to that, candidates were subject to diocesan examination processes, which varied widely across the church. The GOE is the same for all candidates and is both created and evaluated by a group that has no connection to the candidates' Commissions on Ministry, their seminaries, or their bishops.

    The canons (III.8) require that before ordination a Candidate must be examined and show proficiency in (1) The Holy Scriptures; (2) History of the Christian Church; (3) Christian Theology; (4) Christian Ethics and Moral Theology; (5) Christian Worship according to the use of the Book of Common Prayer, the Hymnal, and authorized supplemental texts; and (6) The Practice of Ministry in contemporary society. These are known as the six canonical areas. Accordingly, candidates complete six General Ordination Examinations, one in each area. 

    Naturally, there is some anxiety that comes with processes of examination. Be gentle with one another and with yourselves. Please know that these exams are not meant to trip you up, but to give you an opportunity to demonstrate applied knowledge of the material and contextual sensitivity. Just show what you know and rest assured that we are praying for you and rooting you on. 

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, January 2, 2019

    So we are now into the twelve days of Christmas. The story of the incarnation is the focus of this moment. As the weather grows cold and winter is upon us, may this offer some solace from the damp, cold days.

    Seasonally Affective Disorder (otherwise known as SAD) is a real condition. It means that the lack of sunshine makes us unhappy or moody. There are lamps you can get for your office or home if you suspect this might be affecting you. It can also be helpful to allow time in our schedules for midday walks outside, as many of us find that it is dark when we leave home in the morning and dark when we return in the evening. 

    We are entering the difficult session of the academic year. Summer is a long way off and we don’t have Thanksgiving and Christmas to look forward to. So let us all be sensitive and aware. Little things can feel much bigger at this time of year. We can help one another through this long, cold, dark season with grace, patience, and encouragement. 

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