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2020

Dean's Commentary Archive

  • February

    Tuesday, February 25, 2020

    It is that time of year again. We are working through the budget discussions. With a Board remit for a 4% draw from the endowment and conscious that our revenue streams in recent years have been overestimated, these budget discussions are tricky. Yesterday Vice President Jacqui Ballou and I met with Academic Administration and Student Life, Contextual Ministry, Lifelong Learning, Trytank, Alumni, Institutional Advancement, Library, and the Center for Anglican Communion Studies. These were difficult meetings. Priorities were discussed. Much loved programs were reduced. It was hard.

    It is puzzling how the budget is so tight yet the campaign is going so well. The difference between the "operating budget" (the reoccurring annual budget of the Seminary that depends on investment income and endowment) and the "capital budget" (the budgets dedicated to the "one-off" expenses such as the renovation of a building) is difficult to understand. The capital campaign is funding the construction and some program endowment; the operating budget needs to be supported by existing annual revenue streams.

    Compared to the overwhelming majority of seminaries, VTS remains very fortunate. Although there will be some things we will do differently in the future, our core work is secure. And one advantage of taking action now to have a sound budget is that we can be confident we will withstand future potential problems. When the bull market finally comes to end, we will be better able to accommodate that challenge. This will be good.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Monday, February 24, 2020

    Ann Roebuck is retiring this Friday! Remember the “farewell” for Ann on Tuesday, February 25, in the Coffield Refectory, 12:00-1:00 p.m.

    Ann joined VTS on June 20, 2008, after serving 19 years at Christchurch School in Christchurch, Virginia. In the Dean’s Commentary on June 26, 2008, Dean Markham welcomed our new Director of Special Events and Constituent Outreach. He said she would be responsible for “organizing and implementing events for alumni and friends of the Seminary both on campus and around the country.” Dean Markham concluded by saying that “her excellent organizational skills will be an asset in meeting the Seminary’s advancement, outreach and philanthropic objectives.”

    Little did we know how right the Dean would be! Ann has excelled in her faithful ministry at VTS. The Dean’s Roundtables have been successful because of Ann’s “excellent organizational skills.” No detail goes unattended with Ann Roebuck.

    For me, I will always think of the Dean’s Cross when I think of Ann. She made each Advent presentation a truly special event. She got to know each person being honored. She was concerned about everything, from “soup to nuts.”

    The Dean often says that once part of VTS, always part of VTS. That’s our hope for you, Ann. And as you often end your emails with “Take care,” that is what we wish for you, too. 

    The Rev. J. Barney Hawkins IV, Ph.D.
    Co-Director, Bicentennial Campaign
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  • Friday, February 21, 2020

    Faith speaks through music in many settings, from worship to concert halls to classrooms. This Sunday evening, several members of our VTS community are presenting a recital of music inspired by faith. Just over the past year, soprano Corey Raquel Lovelace has performed around the world, including the ISING! International Opera Festival in China last summer, Opera Carolina in North Carolina in January, and as a featured artist in concert with international operatic star Andrea Bocelli this past weekend. She is married to Logan Lovelace, M.Div. student and junior class president. Pianist Cara Ellen Modisett is a junior M.Div. student at VTS, and much of her professional work before coming to VTS was in church music and collaborative piano. Joining them on the viola for the Vivaldi will be VTS senior Clint Brown, also a vocalist and composer/arranger.

    The program will include music composed by names familiar and less familiar – Mozart, Vivaldi, Leonard Bernstein, Moses Hogan, John Jacob Niles, and Undine Smith Moore. It begins with Mozart’s Alleluia, moving through settings of spirituals and Appalachian hymns, to end with Moore’s “Come Down Angels (Trouble The Water).” You might say the program starts in Epiphany and moves into Lent, with angels at the end.

    The music is eclectic. “Vivaldi’s Gloria is a musical setting of one of the oldest Christian liturgical texts,” Corey says. “Like the Mozart, it is a wonderful example of the vital role music plays in the religious experience. Vivaldi’s music still has the power to move the soul, nearly 400 years later, that is the power of sacred music.” Most of the program is music from the 20th century. Some of it will be familiar from our hymnbooks, including “I Wonder as I Wander” (a mainstay in both Advent and Lent), “Wayfaring Stranger” and “Were You There?” Leonard Bernstein may be most familiar to audiences as the composer of West Side Story, but his works also include a Mass (and you can hear bits of jazz in it). Corey and Cara will perform one piece from that. “‘A Simple Song’ shows yet another facet of our Creator,” says Corey. “This is what links all of these pieces; they are all inspired by the wonder of our Creator.”

    I encourage you to experience this program of sacred music this Sunday evening at 6:00 p.m. in Immanuel Chapel. Admission is free, and the program will last no more than an hour.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, February 20, 2020

    One of the joys of being at Virginia Theological Seminary is the number of rich opportunities available to our community in the Washington D.C. area. We are in close proximity to three dioceses, and students, faculty, and staff can access many formation events offered in the wider community. One of these very special events is this Sunday when Rowan Williams will be speaking at Church of the Ascension and Saint Agnes in Washington D.C. Many of you will know that Rowan was the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, and is a renowned Anglican theologian. His conversation on "Incarnation and Passion" will open the Lent 2020 series of the School of Theology and Prayer at Ascension and Saint Agnes.

    The intention of the School of Theology and Prayer is to explore the theological and moral themes in the Christian tradition, including regular workshops on the theology and practice of prayer. Later sessions of the Lenten series will feature Rev. Dr. Nicholas Lombardo (Dominican House of Studies and CUA), VTS’s very own Rev. Dr. Kathy Grieb, and Rev. Professor Sarah Coakley (assisting priest and theologian-in-residence at ASA).

    If you are able to attend Sunday’s event, I commend this opportunity to you. It will be an incredible opportunity to hear from a significant Anglican theologian whose work informs many of our courses at VTS. Afternoon tea will begin at 3:00 p.m., with Rowan’s discussion beginning at 3:30 p.m. For more information, visit the Facebook event page here.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President 
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  • Wednesday, February 19, 2020

    Now that the capital campaign is public, one of our goals is to make the "Screen of Recognition" amazing. Every single donor, from $1 up, will be featured on this screen, to be located at the back of the new Addison. Each donor will be invited to include a photograph and a quote. If the donor is a parish, then we'll feature a picture of the church with the Rector and Senior Warden. If it is a bishop, then a picture of the bishop standing outside the diocesan office. We are setting ourselves an ambitious goal. We want a minimum of 25% of parishes and dioceses on our Screen of Recogntion. We want our Bicentennial Screen of Recognition to be a remarkable record of our moment. The world will know the extent of the support of the Seminary. The screen will be interactive. You will be able to explore the screen through geography and relationship to the Seminary.

    So please reach out to Vice President Linda Dienno. Pick up a case statement and a pledge form. Invite your sending parish and your contextual ministry site to be on our Screen of Recognition. Generations in years to come will make their way to this screen and find connection to this moment.

    To promote this reach, the co-chair of the capital campaign, the Rev. Dr. Barney Hawkins, and I are making a trip to New York and then heading to CEEP (the Consortium of Episcopal Endowed Parishes). We are going to collect parishes who want to be connected with the Seminary in this historic moment. This is exciting; it is a moment of extraordinary connection with our church.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D
    Dean and President
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  • Tuesday, February 18, 2020

    Every year VTS nominates several student preachers from the middler class to attend the annual Preaching Excellence Program, which is sponsored by the Episcopal Preaching Foundation (EPF). The EPF’s mission is to foster outstanding preaching in the Episcopal church, and they do this by offering conferences and workshops both for seminarians and for working preachers. One of their signature initiatives is the Preaching Excellence Program, which is an intensive preaching program held every summer for Episcopal seminarians, and also for students in local formation programs. Each year the conference features presentations from distinguished preachers and homileticians. This year the speakers and group leaders include the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Rev. Gary Jones (St. Stephen’s, Richmond); the Right Reverend Laurence Provenzano, and Episcopal Preaching Foundation Board members Charles Cesaretti, Mark Richardson, Stephen Smith, and chairman Gary Shilling.

    In addition to the plenary presentations, much of the time in the program is devoted to workshops on particular aspects of the preaching task, and small group sessions in which students preach and listen to other student preachers. One of the greatest benefits of the conference is an opportunity to get to know students from other Episcopal seminaries, and to find common ground amidst diversity, in a common commitment to the importance of the preaching task.


    This year, we are delighted to announce that the students attending the conference from VTS are Sarah Cowan, Susan Gage, Meg Goldstein, Hailey Jacobsen, Joshua Paget, and Lydia Simmons.

    The Rev. Ruthanna Hooke, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor of Homiletics
    Associate Dean of Chapel
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  • Friday, February 14, 2020

    Today we welcome 22 prospective students—many with spouses and children—to VTS’s annual Spring Visit Weekend (although we realize the weather seems more wintry this year than spring-like). Students, faculty, and staff have all worked hard to put together a program of events that will allow our visitors experience what it is like to live and study on the Holy Hill. Some visitors are already admitted students, while others are in the application process or discerning if they might wish to apply. To everyone, we wish a very warm welcome!

    The weekend officially kicks off this afternoon with sample classes taught by Judy Fentress-Williams and Ian Markham, followed at 5 p.m. by an introduction to worship at VTS led by Ruthanna Hooke and an Evensong service with Schola. Dinner will take place in faculty homes, and all participants will then come together for fellowship and dessert in Scott Lounge at 8 p.m. All are welcome to attend the Dessert Reception, so we hope to see everyone there!

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who served as co-chairs for their respective classes in planning this special event: Emily Collette, Joshua Barrett, Dillon Green, Katie Beaver, Amanda Dosher, and William Yagel. A big thanks also to the faculty who have generously offered to host dinners in their homes and those who are participating by teaching classes, serving on panels, and interviewing prospective students.

    Please be sure to wear your nametags and greet/assist any visitors you might see around campus!

    Derek Greten-Harrison
    Director of Admissions and Financial Aid
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  • Thursday, February 13, 2020

    In 2015, Brian Baker went from General Convention, where he co-chaired the Special Committee on Marriage, to West Point, his alma mater, to visit his son who was just beginning his time as a cadet, and then to his first experience of Burning Man. His hippie, young-adult daughter had invited him to join her in her world. Burning Man seeks to bring experiences to people in grand, awe-inspiring and joyful ways that lift the human spirit, address social problems, and inspire a sense of culture, community, and civic engagement.

    Brian was struck by the generosity, openness, and non-judgment he encountered at this artistic, playful temporary community centered around principles such as radical inclusion, gift-giving, decommodification, and participation. With lots of dancing and partying, and a dizzying array of activities all offered for free by over 1400 themed camps, Burning Man is wild. And holy. While most people may go for the partying and play, they are also there, enduring the harsh environment, expecting something to happen that will transform them.

    Brian discovered the kind of community he had been trying to create in the Church. And he encountered a deep spiritual hunger from people who were eager to engage him as a priest. In 2016, a group of Episcopalians held a Eucharist at the Temple. When it was over, multiple guests asked expectantly, “Are you doing this every day?” That was the genesis of an explicitly Christian themed camp that offers daily Morning Prayer, Temple services, blessings, and conversation.

    After 28 years deeply involved in the institutional church, including 12 years as a cathedral dean, deputy to 5 General Conventions, and serving on the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, Brian is serving as the priest-in-charge of a small rural church in Kentucky and focusing much of his efforts exploring ministry with the global Burning Man community. I welcome Brian to VTS and urge you all to sign up and join us tonight at the Deanery at 7:00 p.m. for coffee, desserts, and an interesting conversation about a new way to bring God to the world.
     
    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, February 12, 2020

    Our Board of Trustees is in town. Last night they gathered to bless the new spaces in the Refectory and to launch the Bicentennial Capital Campaign. Thanks to the hard work of Ann Roebuck, the spaces were ready and prepared. The food was lovely and the setting was perfect.

    We also announced our Lego building project. The goal is to raise $120,000, through the purchase (or sponsoring) of individual bricks. I was grateful to Beowulf Rutherford, son of semiarian Timothy Rutherford ('22), who helped me construct a key part of the Aspinwall grounds. It is complicated -- you have to get the Lego pieces exactly right. It was fun. Our plan is to build Aspinwall Hall, Meade, and Bohlen. We are honoring those who did the work originally. It is an important remembrance of their achievement.

    Today we have the Board meeting. The Board will receive reports from the key committees. The news is good. The capital campaign is going well; the construction is going well; and the program is developing well. I am grateful to all those who are making this possible.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Tuesday, February 11, 2020

    VTS has long supported the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. It’s part of our Christian witness in the world. Recently, TryTank, the experimental lab that is our partnership with General Seminary, wanted to try an experiment in using the power of video to advance social justice causes. It seemed like a natural fit with the work of the Virginia Interfaith Center. The end result is a video supporting a bill to have paid sick days here in Virginia. And what a powerful video of one person’s story it is. You can see it here.
     
    Since it is an experiment, it will be A/B tested with the 25,000 subscribers of the Virginia Interfaith Center’s “action alert” email list. Half will get the video and half will get a regular email asking them to take action. Then we can track the impact of the video.

    Best of all, while a video like this would have normally cost over $10,000 to make, it was made for less than a quarter of that. And that’s what the experiment is about. If it does indeed make a difference in the legislation, we will have figured a way to advance social justice causes using video for a fraction of the normal cost. And that could make a big difference

    I encourage you to watch the video, and if you live in Virginia, to take action. Likewise, if you have friends in Virginia, please share it with them.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
     
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  • Monday, February 10, 2020

    This is the start of a busy and complicated week. We have the Board of Trustees gathering on the campus. We have the launch of the Bicentennial Campaign. We have the formal opening of Coffield Refectory. We have the announcement of the Lego fund raiser (we are hoping to raise $120,000 - thanks to the match). 

    This is also the Monday after a full weekend. Many students made the journey to be with Valerie Mayo at the funeral of her loved ones. We continue to pray for Valerie. Dr. Mark Jefferson, on Sunday, preached in the historic pulpit of the Washington National Cathedral. And I was in Louisville, Kentucky at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church as their Dimensions of Faith Lecturer. I was hosted by the Rev. Kelly Kirby and the Rev. Benjamin Hart (class of 2015). The topic they had asked me to address was "Reparations and the Seminary." These are just illustrations: I am sure that there are many other moments of significance in the lives of other faculty, staff, and students that occurred this weekend.

    All human lives need the occasional pause. For many of us, we are conscious that we are moving from a full weekend to a full week. So let us acknowledge this dynamic, and as we interact with each other, do so knowing that we have not had space to pause. This is all part of learning to live in community: it the art of sensitive mutual consideration. May God help us learn this skill.

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




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  • Friday, February 7, 2020

    On Sunday, February 9 at 3:00 p.m. in the Washington National Cathedral’s Perry Auditorium, Associate Professor of Christian Mission and Center for Anglican Communion Studies (CACS) Director Robert Heaney will moderate “Finding Promise Amid Division,” a panel discussion based on The Promise of Anglicanism, a recent book by Dr. Heaney and the Rev. Dr. William Sachs.
     
    Amid their own challenges, Episcopalians and the wider Anglican world are finding fresh promise despite genuine division. In addition to Heaney and Sachs, Sunday’s panel will include: 
    • Dr. Joanildo Burity – Senior Researcher, Professor and Coordinator of the Professional Master's in Sociology at the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife, Brazil 
    • Canon Sarah Snyder – Archbishop of Canterbury’s Special Adviser for Reconciliation and Founding Director, Rose Castle Foundation, Cumbria, United Kingdom 
    • Dr. Wanjiru Gitau – Senior Research Scholar and Co-Director, Spirituality, Pluralism, and Progress Project, St. Thomas University, Florida 
     
    Both Dr. Burity and Canon Snyder are currently visiting VTS; Dr. Burity as a CACS Communion Sabbatical guest, and Canon Snyder as a Dean’s Scholar. Rev. Dr. Sachs is Senior Research Fellow with CACS, and Dr. Gitau is CACS Fellow for International Ecumenism. By attracting such scholars and convening conversations on how Anglicans and Episcopalians can find promise and new energy amidst our divisions, our Center for Anglican Communion Studies is living into their stated goal of “promoting and practicing better community for the Communion.”  
     
    I am especially pleased that they are partnering with the Washington National Cathedral to host this event, thus inviting an even wider audience into the conversation. Please do make time on Sunday afternoon for this special event.  

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President 
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  • Thursday, February 6, 2020

    Everyone who has spoken to me about the newly renovated Coffield Refectory, Scott Lounge, and Cafe 1823 has been so positive. I have had many conversations and emails about it. This one from Allen Gaye was lovely. He wrote: "Epiphany greetings and my thanks and appreciation to you, the faculty, and the VTS Staff for such a magnificent refectory that represents the VTS culture and symbol of reflection. Such a massive development in time gives us options on the varieties of meals and an arena to enjoy the weekends and engage others." I am glad, Allen, that you are enjoying the new refectory.

    As we live into the space, I do hope we will learn to take care of it. If you spill something or drop something, then please clear it up. Pick up your trash; clear up you games; leave all the spaces as you found them. It is a temptation to imagine that "someone can clear up after me." But it is kinder and more appropriate to do the clearing up ourselves.

    I love going to lunch in the Refectory. I am glad you do, too. Let us continue to keep these places lovely, so that future users will get as much pleasure out of the space as we do.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, February 5, 2020

    As the Spring term begins, it’s a good time to remember that learning at VTS extends beyond our Masters and Doctoral classes. Our Lifelong Learning Department offers a wide variety of programs open to all learners, within and outside our VTS community. Students in these programs include seminarians, staff, spouses, and lifelong learners from all over the DC area, bringing together a rich mix of experiences and backgrounds to the classroom.

    I am especially grateful to the eleven members of our faculty and staff who are sharing their time and passions through our Lifelong Learning offerings. You will find them teaching on topics such as preaching, adult formation, evangelism, church administration, family systems, and discernment. These programs are offered in a variety of contexts, including evening classes and conversations, Saturday workshops and trainings, and online courses and webinars.

    Take advantage of these “extracurricular” offerings, as they are great opportunities for learning without the added pressure we associate with grading. And remember that most of these offerings are free for VTS faculty, staff, students, and spouses. To learn more about VTS events and programs offered on campus or online, visit our VTS Eventbrite page (for webinars, click here). To stay informed about future offerings, sign up for Lifelong Learning monthly newsletters here.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph. D.
    Dean and President
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  • Tuesday, February 4, 2020

    We are pleased to welcome to campus Dr. Joanildo Burity from Brazil as part of the Center for Anglican Communion Studies’ Sabbatical program. Dr. Burity is the Senior Researcher, Professor and Coordinator of the Professional Master's in Sociology at the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation.
     
    He is a committed Anglican, having served as a provincial representative to the Anglican Consultative Council and as a member of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion. Dr. Burity will be visiting VTS until February 26.
     
    On Sunday, February 9, Dr. Burity will join CACS Director Robert Heaney, CACS Senior Research Fellow William Sachs, CACS Fellow Wanjiru Gitau, and Canon Sarah Snyder (Lambeth Palace, Rose Castle Foundation) for “Finding Promise Amid Division,” a panel conversation at Washington National Cathedral about Dr. Heaney and Dr. Sachs’s recent book, The Promise of Anglicanism (SCM 2019).
     
    The CACS Communion Sabbaticals program allows guests from the Anglican Communion to visit VTS for an extended stay of 2-4 weeks. I am delighted to welcome Dr. Burity to campus in this capacity. Please make him feel welcome when you meet him on campus, and please do consider attending the event at the National Cathedral. You can sign up via Eventbrite.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President 
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  • Monday February 3, 2020

    The VTS mantra "class, chapel, lunch" has real meaning. We study together; we worship together; and we take table fellowship together. In respect to chapel and lunch, there are some changes that I wish to share.

    Participating in an act of corporate worship is important. For all those - lay and ordained - who believe that God is calling to them to congregational leadership, chapel is the setting in which we anticipate that future. When we lead, we will want to encourage a habit; to encourage a habit, we need to learn the habit. And it is so good when the people of God experience the energy of corporate worship. Our faculty, at their retreat, did determine that participating in the act of corporate worship can be any service - Morning Prayer, Eucharist, Evening Prayer, or Compline (when that happens in the Flamingo). We are hoping that we learn the discipline in a way that works with our other commitments.

    Lunch is important because it is the venue where we eat with others in the community. Learning to read the room is an important skill. As you collect your meal, look around. Search for the table where someone is sitting alone. Find the table where there are people you do not know. And of course this now all happens in the new Coffield Refectory. It looks beautiful. We are excited as we make our journey back into the Refectory.

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

    Friday, January 31, 2019

    On Monday, February 3rd, we return to what we will now call the Coffield Refectory for our community meals. It is a blessing to have a brilliant team to ensure this renovation project is completed and ready for service. The newly renovated kitchen is furnished with new equipment and servery. The main dining room is elevated with new flooring, rendering, and furniture. And Scott Lounge is enhanced with new furniture that will allow our community to study, pray, and gather.

    Many will recall the challenges we faced during the temporary closure of the refectory. During this time, meals were relocated in spaces like the Flamingo, the Welcome Center, and the tent. Other locations like the Goodwin Board Room, Bohlen, and the Hub were also used.

    I am truly grateful for your patience during this renovation period, as I have longed for your laughter and conversation during mealtime. The pressure is now lifted and we shall gather in the Coffield Refectory at 11:30 a.m. on Monday for lunch. I am looking forward to seeing you there.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, January 30, 2020

    We have all heard of the coronavirus. As of Tuesday, 5,997 cases have been reported in China, with an additional 68 cases around the world. There have been 132 deaths thus far.

    Every community should pause when these potential pandemics emerge. We should not overreact; it remains true that driving around the Beltway is more dangerous than the coronavirus. We should also not be complacent. Keeping an eye on our health is appropriate. Going to the doctor when certain symptoms occur makes sense. Taking precautions in this flu season is wise. Frequently washing your hands for twenty seconds is wise, as is using hand sanitizer. Normal healthy routines should be sufficient, even with coronavirus.

    Even so, these moments are a reminder:  Life is fragile. Every day is a gift. And sadly, it can all change so suddenly. Never presume that one will grow old. Live fully in the moments that God gives you. And thank God daily for the gift of another day.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, January 29, 2020

    Yesterday, we gathered for our Quarterly Staff Meeting. It was not a typical meeting. After an appropriate process, I shared our plans for a Seminary reorganization. We needed to trim our expenses by 8% or so. We were committed to no layoffs, so this meant that we had to find alternatives. Ultimately, we decided to reduce the size of the Seminary by sixteen positions through a combination of leaving vacancies open, merging some positions as a result of the Early Retirement Incentive Program, and not renewing contracts. This, along with reducing the non-salary lines by approximately 12%, will get us there. 

    The news was hard. Naturally, there will be questions and comments over the next few weeks. This is right and proper. We will be working with each department to develop position descriptions for the new structure. Supervisory arrangements will need clarification. There is much to do.

    Many who opted into the Early Retirement Incentive Program have chosen to leave at the end of December 2020. So this will be the year of the "long goodbye." Without exception, all those who are in this program have been remarkable servants of the Seminary. They have been faithful and effective. They have seen significant change; they have been part of the success of the Seminary over these years. I honor their contribution today. I am grateful for them. And I invite them into a journey of reflection with the Seminary as we seek to get the new structure right for the future.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Tuesday, January 28, 2020

    Starting on Sunday night, all day Monday, and continuing this morning, the Faculty have been on retreat. We have met primarily at Episcopal High School. It was a good venue for deep and serious conversation. The issues ranged widely. We reviewed the MA degree; we discussed "Core Values;" and we shared laughter and collegiality.

    The whole occasion was framed in worship. It started with an Eucharist on Sunday night; and it continued with an abridged Daily Office on Monday. We are very conscious that our work is the work of eternity. We want God to be in our deliberations and conversations.

    We have an impressive Faculty. Around the table, there were many distinguished scholars who are committed to theological education. This is a Faculty that is published; it is a Faculty that attracts multi-million Lilly grants; it is a Faculty that chooses to be at VTS because they believe in the mission of VTS. For their presence, I am deeply grateful.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Monday, January 27, 2020

    Professional Development is a priority at VTS. Last Wednesday, Cassandra Gravina, Margarita Pelaez-King, Molly O'Brien, and Veena Khanna attended a conference called HigHer. This conference, provided by Wisr was an all-day program for professional development designed to empower women in higher education.
     
    The conference was divided into three main sections: Reflection, Inspiration, and Action. Our staff members were surrounded by different types of women from various backgrounds and roles. Reflection allowed for sharing stories with each other and conversation on the definition of success. Inspiration was provided by three women from prominent institutions: Dr. Adanna J. Johnson, Associate Vice President for Student Equity and Inclusion at Georgetown University; Dr. Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, Dean, School of Education at American University; and Donna Harper, Vice President for Access and Enrollment Management at James Madison University. These women shared insights on how to thrive in a career in higher education and uplift other women along the way. The last section, Action, encouraged attendess to take what they had learned to share with other women in the workplace.
     
    This was a good example of staff members seeking professional development. The program was good; and it has enabled them to expand their networks and be more reflective on their work.  I encourage others to seek out programs and create the space in their lives to participate in these kinds of programs. It is important; it is both good for the employee and good for the Seminary. 

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, January 24, 2020

    On January 15, 2020, The Christian Century chose, as their cover, the image of our very own William Meade Professor in Systematic Theology. The Rev. Dr. Kate Sonderegger had been honored with an interview inside the issue and had pride of place on the cover. For mainline Christianity, The Christian Century is our magazine. To be honored on the cover is the equivalent of being honored on Time magazine. 

    Kate is being honored because her work in Systematic Theology is extraordinary. There is a depth to her writing. She has lived with these theologians, intimately, for decades. She knows their strengths and their weaknesses. She has embraced the complexity of doctrine. She has formed her own views, which are a result of a lifetime of deep reflection.

    Kate's achievement is that her writing is both rigorously academic and yet highly devotional. The reader is invited to embark on a journey of love, where you seek to speak of the God who loves us. There is a deep reverence in the text: nothing is glib; this is holy work. Her legacy is now in print: she is offering to the future a text that will become a classic. It is an honor to have Kate as a colleague. Along with The Christian Century, we marvel at her achievements.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, January 23, 2020

    The idea is neat. Instead of countless small conferences, why not just hold one large one? We all reduce our carbon footprint (fewer flights to fewer conferences); we have a deeper synergy between the different organizations; and we can bring in a better range of guests. So we have "Rooted In Jesus," which runs from January 21-24. Over a thousand participants are present at this major conference.

    Naturally, Virginia Theological Seminary is well represented. Dr. Lisa Kimball and the Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija are both featured speakers. We have a VTS "stage" at the conference. Along with some students and plenty of alums, Derek Greten-Harrison is making connections for recruitment purposes. This is good and exciting.

    I am grateful for those who are making this journey. They are not simply representing the Seminary, but serving the Church. Traveling in January can be hard. So we pray for smooth flights; and we are grateful for their work.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, January 22, 2020

    The brand new VTS Journal 2018-2019 is now available. With a superb drone view of the campus on the cover, the Journal captures all the key moments of the academic year. This is where certain lectures and key sermons are published. It is an impressive list: Senator George Mitchell, Most Rev. Suheil Dawani, the Rev. Canon Kelly Brown Douglas, Bishop Carlye Hughes, the Rev. Fleming Rutledge, and Bishop Sean Rowe. We also feature some contributions by our own, including  Dr. Lisa Kimball's "The Gospel of Formation," the Rev. Dr. Judy Fentress-William's MLK Commemoration Lecture, the Rev. Dr. Bob Prichard's Quiet Day Meditations, and the Rev. Dr. Barney Hawkins' Bowers Lecture on "Preaching as Pastoral Presence." These are texts which are worth revisiting and rereading. These are texts that need to be preseved for the record.

    The editors worked together to produce this important volume. Dorothy Pearson and Curtis Prather did the hard work. The result is a polished, impressive, well-organized and elegant book. On behalf of the Seminary community, thank you.

    Anyone can order a copy of the Journal from Amazon. But any member of the community can go to the Communications Department and pick up a free copy. This arrangement means that national distribution is made possible by Amazon, while the community can just collect a copy if they wish. This will be the first of many issues.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Tuesday, January 21, 2020

    I do marvel at our talented staff. I might know something about writing books and lecturing in theology and ethics, but I know nothing about the challenge of installing a new furnace, air conditioning system, and water heater. Yet on our campus, these are vitally important skills that require training and expertise, helped with some good "on the job" experience. So today I want to celebrate the work of Mohamed H. Mohamed, our Maintenance III Technician.

    Before Christmas, Vice President Linda Dienno moved on to the campus. Her house needed a new furnace, air conditioning system, and water heater, which Mohamed installed. This month, Mohamed also installed a new furnace and water heater in house #57, which is being prepared for Dr. Liz DeGaynor. This is important and skilled work. Mohamed does not draw attention to his achievements; yet this is complex work which needs to be done right. We are grateful to Mohamed for everything that he does.

    Keeping VTS going depends on many people like Mohamed. It is worth pausing on this day and honoring their contribution. If you find yourself walking past the Facilities complex, perhaps heading to the Butterfly House or to the Flamingo, please take a moment and pop into the Facilities building. Do find Mohamed and say thank you.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D. 
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, January 17, 2020

    The Seminary will close for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, January 20. It is an appropriate pause in the year to remember the sacrifice of a man who gave his life for civil rights. It is worth remembering that the creation of this federal holiday was itself a struggle. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, but it was not until 1983 that the legislation was passed, with the first observation being 1986. But even then, national recognition took many more years.

    It is worth pausing over this long weekend to reflect on the journey that King started and that we must continue. We are country that lives with the legacy of racism. In recent years, white supremacist groups have become much more visible. And in countless ways, African Americans and other persons of color have to handle inappropriate assumptions, bias, and explicit racism.

    The Seminary recognizes that we have much work to do. We need to face up to a past where much of the labor on this campus was provided by enslaved persons and those who were subject to segregation. When the Seminary admitted African Americans in the 1950s, it was a difficult place to be. And as we listen to African Americans and students of color today, we discover that life at the Seminary can still be brutal and hard. So I will be spending much of this weekend thinking about how we can change the present to make sure that the future is different. I invite you to join me.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, January 16, 2020

    As campus renovations continue, the next space to be addressed is the library. Designs are underway; we are within budget; so the plan is to start work in the summer.

    Naturally, we will need a “library in exile.” Vice President Knowles speaks movingly about the way the exile can be a season of renewal and growth. Under the exceptional leadership of Dr. Mitzi Budde, we are confident that we can provide a good library service that covers all the courses being offered during the next academic year. The library staff members are ready to make this happen.

    In terms of spaces for the library, our choices are limited. So after a careful evaluation of the options, we will be moving the library into the Welcome Center. Naturally, this has implications for the current work of the Welcome Center. So watch this space for more news.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, January 15, 2020

    When a conference comes to town, there is much to do. From the organization of the conference itself, to AV, to meals, to room set up, to reception in the Welcome Center, to housekeeping, there are many people who ensure that a visit goes well. And one of the most important teams finds that as the conference ends, they still have much to do.
     
    The remarkable team in Housekeeping is responsible for cleaning the rooms, preparing them for the next guests, and ensuring that everything is tidy and in its place. Typically, with a conference, there can be literally twenty rooms needing this attention.

    So today we honor them: A big thank you to Cristina Hurtado, Head Housekeeper; Teresa Canales, Housekeeper; and Ana Portillo, Housekeeper. I know the conference participants were grateful -- and we are grateful for all your hard work.
     
    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D. 
    Dean and President
     
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  • Tuesday, January 14, 2020

    January is one of my favorite times at VTS for a myriad of reasons: the campus looks so elegant in the snow, we have lots of visitors and prospective students, and everybody feels refreshed after the winter break. It’s also time for the annual Doctoral Writing Retreat!

    The second full week of January, doctoral students in the thesis-writing phase of their education return to campus for four days to have dedicated time to work on their thesis, read, pray, and reconnect with each other. Their time here is facilitated by the hard work of many VTS faculty and staff. Sharon Heaney and Beth Friend have put together an excellent schedule that expertly balances our students' need for both focused writing time and fellowship. Jeff Harre, Taryn Habberly, and Vannessa McCormick have coordinated their on-campus stay, so students know they’ll have a comfortable place to rest and good food while they’re here. Mitzi Budde is leading a refresher session on library research methods, and many faculty members will be taking an hour or two to meet with those students whose theses they supervise.

    It really is a huge community effort to pull together an event like this, and we are very grateful. Thank you, everyone!

    Mara Sherman
    Administrative Coordinator, Doctoral Programs
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  • Monday, January 13, 2020

    Today and tomorrow we host an important conversation. “When Churches in Communion Disagree” is a consultation organized by our Center for Anglican Communion Studies in partnership with the Dioceses of Dallas and Texas, the House of Bishops Ecclesiology Committee, and the Living Church Institute. The consultation brings together bishops and scholars from the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion. The consultation will explore visions of the Church and practices for common witness amidst difference and conflict. Virginia Seminary exists to serve the Church and I am delighted that, once more, important conversations and deepening relationships are being forged on the holy hill.

    This consultation is open only to invited guests but the participants will join the wider seminary community at the 5:15 p.m. Eucharist tonight. The Rt. Rev. Andrew Doyle, Bishop of the Diocese of Texas, will preach, and the Rt. Rev. Susan Goff, Bishop Suffragan and Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese of Virginia, will preside.

    Please join me and CACS in welcoming these special guests to campus today and tomorrow.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, January 10, 2020

    At the beginning of a new year, we often reflect on what has been and what is to come, asking ourselves questions about the journey ahead – questions like “Should I take this path or another?” or “How can I follow Christ more faithfully?” Tomorrow, Lifelong Learning is offering a one-day discernment workshop led by Dr. Kathy Staudt providing a framework as well as time to sit with questions like these and listen for God’s gentle direction. This year’s retreat, "Listening to God: Discerning Vocation in Everyday Living," sold out in December and the waitlist reached capacity. Fortunately, Dr. Staudt will provide a second opportunity for this retreat on April 18. I suggest you register now based on how quickly the last one sold out.

    In addition to this popular retreat, Dr. Staudt will teach two courses at VTS this Spring pertaining to discernment. Through Lifelong Learning, she will teach a five-week course, Why Be a Christian?: Claiming Christian Identity in a Post-Christian Culture, exploring questions of faith and practice. And through our Pathways to Ministry program, she will guide the Pathway students in a structured program of discernment.

    As people of faith, we strive to listen to God and discern how to follow Christ more faithfully. These and other offerings from VTS are meant to support you on this journey whether you are lay or clergy, a seminarian, or a curious individual.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D. 
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, January 9, 2020

    January is a time when many VTS students and a few of our faculty participate in Cross-Cultural Education Programs (CCEPs). These opportunities often bring an openness to the perspectives and cultures of others; they also bring an openness to hear more deeply the voice of God. They are often the most significant experiences one has at Seminary, so please join me in praying for all those involved.
     
    Dillon Green is traveling to Costa Rica with the Rev. Kathy Grieb, Ph.D., to work with El Buen Pastor Anglican Cathedral in San Jose as they more fully develop the Anglican presence in the area. Christian Basel, Melina Dezhbod, Joshua Paget, and Celal Kamran are traveling to Cuba. They will be staying at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Matanzas, working directly with surrounding churches, and learning about asset-based community development in the Cuban context. The Rev. Altagracia Pérez-Bullard, Ph.D., is the faculty advisor for this CCEP.

    Traveling to the Holy Land as part of the annual course offered by our partners at St. George’s College in Jerusalem are Larry Civale, Catherine Cox, Gwynn Crichton, Donna Hines, Pete Nunnally, Allison Pace, Tumaini Sarakikya, Colleen Schiefelbein, Sam Sheridan, Suresh Shantakumar, and Doug Worthington. Our Vice President for Academic Affairs, the Rev. Melody Knowles, Ph.D., is the faculty advisor for this course.
     
    We look forward to hearing more about these enriching experiences when they return.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, January 8, 2020

    Today is a rest day for the students taking the General Ordination Examinations. Two days down and now a breather before it all starts again tomorrow. I've seen many Facebook posts about the GOEs; I found Sarah Condon's honesty compelling. She wrote, "Seminarians, I failed Ethics on the GOEs and was still ordained. Also, I'm an okay priest. Which is the best I could hope for." Let me be clear, I am not proposing that our seniors and Anglican Studies students resign themselves to failing ethics, but I do think it is wise counsel that one's entire priestly identity should not be wrapped up in the result of this one examination.

    Sarah is married to Josh Condon (our alum). She is also a contributor the book that Crystal Hardin and I have edited called Prophetic Preaching. During my trip to Sewanee, I worked through the proofs of Prophetic Preaching. It was lovely to reread Sarah's essay; I appreciated the clarity of her voice, even if the essay is taking issue with the position I argue for in the book. Hopefully, this book will be released in the next three months or so.

    Meanwhile, we had our first snow related closure of the year. I was grateful for the thoughtful decision and the way it was conveyed to the community. There are many factors to balance when these decisions are made. We won't all agree, because these are difficult calls. We will use email and our website to let people know. Please do keep yourself informed as weather challenges arise.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Tuesday, January 7, 2020

    This is the time when the Council of Deans gather together. The meeting this year is at Sewanee. All the deans of the Episcopal Seminaries take the opportunity to discuss shared issues, the state of the Episcopal Church, and possible shared initiatives. It has been an important meeting. Yesterday we had a presentation from the leadership of Trinity Wall Street and of CDSP about their partnership and the hopes they have for the future. It was an important moment as we acknowledged this exciting partnership between a seminary and a major congregation.

    Overall the news from the seminaries is good. Two are in the middle of a capital campaign; almost all have seen an increase in admissions; and placement rates are high across the board. There is a sense of hopefulness as we start the third decade of the 21st century.

    Inevitably, leadership positions in theological education can be hard. There is stress and anxiety as one seeks to "get the work right" for the institution and the future. I admire all the deans who are giving their working lives to support theological education in the Episcopal Church. For their leadership and friendship, I am grateful.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Monday, January 6, 2020

    Today I am pleased to welcome to campus Canon Sarah Snyder, Archbishop of Canterbury’s Special Adviser for Reconciliation, and founding Director of the Rose Castle Foundation. Canon Snyder will be with us for the rest of January and February as a Dean’s Scholar, and she will be teaching a January term course, Reconciliation in the Midst of Conflict: Biblical and Practical Approaches, Monday through Thursday evenings next week, January 13-16.  

    As a trained mediator and theologian who specializes in Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations, Canon Snyder has worked for many years with international communities and senior religious leaders to promote faith-based reconciliation and peace-building. As the Special Adviser for Reconciliation, she works with Archbishop 
    Welby and international leaders to support reconciliation in some of the most difficult situations in the church and the world. She also serves as the founding director of the Rose Castle Foundation, an international center of reconciliation in the north of England and resources initiatives such as the Reconciling Leaders Network. 

    I am grateful to my colleagues in the Center for Anglican Communion Studies, who have partnered with Canon Sarah on several initiatives since her first visit here in 2016
    , and to Lifelong Learning, who helped bring next week’s course to fruition as a continuing education offering. Please join me in welcoming Canon Sarah to VTS once again.    

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, January 3, 2020

    I took the General Ordination Examinations in January 2007. It was less high tech then. I had to pick up the question from the Diocesan Office in a sealed envelope; then I wrote my answer, printed it out, and then returned the answer to the Diocesan Office. I am pleased to report that I did pass all the canonical areas, although I had plenty of 4s and even a 3 among the grades (3 was a passing grade). I remember the anxiety as I opened that question; and I remembered the exhaustion as the days passed and the questions continued.

    So today I will praying for our Seniors and Anglican Studies students. This is a tool - one of several that will be used by Bishops for determining preparedness for ministry. I ask the community to be gentle. With time differences across the United States, Seniors are required to resist talking about the content of questions. So check in on their wellbeing, but please resist the desire to offer feedback on the quality of their answers.

    I am pleased that those taking the GOEs are planning to share worship together. Placing this moment in the context of the eternal is right and appropriate. Everything is placed in perspective when we bring these things to God in prayer.

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

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  • Thursday, January 2, 2020

    Happy New Year! And a warm welcome to the third decade of the 21st century. I know that technically the new decade begins in 2021; but given we all made an appropriate fuss of the year 2000, I think it makes sense to treat the date change as the moment that we mark. 

    Many of us take stock at the end of a year. This makes sense. It is healthy to be reflective about our lives. However, as Christians, it is important that our goals are appropriate. Of course, it is perfectly understandable that we think about the material and the immediate; but it is also healthy to pause and think about our commitments to reconcilation or to peace making or to the cultivation of virtue.

    So do please use this time to reflect on both the material and the eternal. In the end we will be judged to the extent that we are reflecting Christ like virtues. This is always our work as disciples of Jesus Christ.

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