2018

Dean's Commentary Archive

  • June

    Tuesday, June 19, 2018

    During this first week of the doctoral summer residency, I’d like to express special appreciation for all of the summer faculty who share their wisdom with our doctoral students. These faculty are a blend of VTS’s full-time residential faculty and practitioners who work elsewhere in full-time ministry and take time each summer to teach. This combination of scholars and practitioners is precisely what makes our doctoral programs so dynamic—it is the heart of our action-reflection model of doctoral learning.
     
    This summer these faculty are offering some remarkable courses: from liturgy and the arts to the beliefs and practices of Islam; from emotional intelligence to voice coaching for liturgists and preachers.
     
    These instructors spend long hours teaching during our summer residency. Once our 4-hour morning classes are over, they join students for worship and lunch, and then prepare for the next day’s instruction. It is demanding work but deeply rewarding. We are grateful for all that they give.
     
    The Rev. Ross Kane, Ph.D.
    Director of Doctoral Programs
    Assistant Professor of Theology, Ethics, and Culture Virginia Theological Seminary
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  • Monday, June 18, 2018

    Today we welcome on campus our doctoral students. 35 students arrived yesterday for a three-week residency that combines intensive coursework, worship, and fellowship. About 30 more doctoral students have already completed their summer residencies and are writing their doctoral theses at home.

    Our doctoral students are remarkable people. All of them are fully engaged in full-time ministry. They serve the church as parish priests, school chaplains, hospital chaplains, and many other ministries. Amid these demanding schedules, they carve out time for the demands of doctoral work. One imagines quite the juggling act in their day to day lives: a parish priest makes a hospital visit, then reads theologian H. Richard Niebuhr over lunch for her doctoral course, then moves to sermon preparation for the upcoming Sunday. Often she might stay up late in the evening to complete an online discussion post before bed. These students’ commitment to learning is an inspiration.

    It is a commitment learning, but more so a commitment to enhancing their ministry of making disciples. These students are eager to learn because they are eager to serve God’s church. We are pleased to welcome them here to VTS and delighted that we can be a place that welcomes and empowers students serving God’s mission.

    The Rev. Ross Kane, Ph.D.
    Director of Doctoral Programs
    Assistant Professor of Theology, Ethics, and Culture
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  • Friday, June 15, 2018

    As the Interim Director of Digital Learning, you might be expecting me to tell you all about how our new Learning Management System will allow us to expand our online course offerings. That might happen, but that is not why VTS invested so much energy over the last year to select and implement Brightspace, our new LMS. The greatest impact Brightspace will have on the VTS community are the ways it will support the faculty and students involved in our residential master’s courses and our summer doctoral courses.

    Three of the things I think VTS faculty and students will appreciate most about Brightspace are:

    (1) Its ascetically pleasing layout allowing faculty to easily include images, videos, and other multimedia resources in their course sites.
    (2) The ability to add files or submit assignments by dragging and dropping them from your desktop directly into the system.
    (3) Flexibility in organizing course sites, so they can be used for everything from weekend workshops to semester-long courses.

    You will be hearing more about Brightspace over the summer. If you want to see it and haven’t, please stop by the Computer Lab or Digital Learning Office and a member of our team will be happy to show it to you. 

    The Rev. Stacy Williams-Duncan
    Interim Director of Digital Learning
    and Trotter Visiting Professor
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  • Thursday, June 14, 2018

    Advent is coming. Advent is always coming. Advent IS coming, it begins on December 2nd.
     
    AdventWord, an initiative first started by the Brothers of Saint John the Evangelist, is in its second season of being guided by Lifelong Learning at VTS. In 2017, this worldwide visual and prayer-filled Advent Calendar reached over 17,000 people via email and then expanded its reach through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In 2018, each of the daily meditations will be translated into at least nine languages, including French, Spanish, ASL, Italian, German, Chinese (and more!). It is awe-inspiring to see how pilgrims from around the globe prayerfully respond to the word of the day in the language of their hearts by additional meditations, pictures, drawings, photos, videos, and poems.
     
    Last year, with great skill and quickness of wit, our very own Barney Hawkins wrote 24 meditations that were distributed to 2017’s #AdventWord followers. For 2018, VTS is reaching out to our global partners, alumni, and on-campus friends to write daily lectionary-infused short reflections. #AdventWord not only shares the possibility of a seasonal discipline, but also a real opportunity to gather a group in prayer and strengthen the understanding of those in the greater Christian community, whether in your own church or of the Anglican Communion.
     
    We began planning for the 24 days of Advent in January with great support from the #AdventWord project manager, Lauren Wilkes Stubblefield. Together, she and I, are coordinating meditation writers, translators, and sending out a world-wide invitation to pause and reflect amidst the demands of everyday life.  
     
    We invite you to join us to be a part of the #AdventWord global prayer network, December 2-24!

    Sarah Stonesifer
    Digital Missioner and Learning Lab Coordinator
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  • Wednesday, June 13, 2018

    Something lovely and lively is stirring across the Episcopal Church. It has been almost three years since the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry was elected and confirmed as the 27th Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church. He quickly became known as the CEO, or Chief Evangelism Officer, for his passionate and convicted preaching. He consistently proclaims, “We are the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement!” And, “if it is not about love, it is not about God.” Presiding Bishop Curry has not only inspired the globe with his hopeful, courageous sermon at the Royal Wedding. Closer to home, he has renewed our denomination’s commitment to Christian discipleship.
     
    People are talking about Jesus, reading their Bibles, and forming intercessory prayer groups in numbers I have never seen in thirty years of ministry across the Church. Independent church organizations, networks, and institutions are collaborating to sponsor revivals and promote faithful practices. A new Facebook group, Episcopal Evangelists, was launched less than a month ago and already has 2300 active members. I participated in a collaborative effort to create formation resources to support this movement, and they will be unveiled by the Presiding Bishop at General Convention 2018!
     
    In ten days, I will host the first Baptized for Life residency to launch a five-year, Lilly Endowment Inc.-funded ministry initiative in six dioceses and 22 congregations. And, guess what? It is all about creating Christian lives of meaning and purpose. The timing couldn’t be better.

    Lisa Kimball, Ph.D.
    Associate Dean of Lifelong Learning
    Professor, Christian Formation & Congregational Leadership
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  • Tuesday, June 12, 2018

    Here is a glimpse into my notes from yesterday’s weekly Lifelong Learning Department Zoom check-in. Dorothy Linthicum – presenting a workshop at the Kanuga Christian Education Conference and promoting her new book (with Janice Hicks, ’17), Redeeming Dementia: Spirituality, Theology and Science. Diane Wright and AnnaMarie Hoos – finalizing the 2018-19 Continuing Education Calendar with not-for-credit classes, webinars, workshops, even Holy Hikes! Bill Roberts and Ellen Johnston – attending and exhibiting at The Association of Anglican Musicians (AAM) meeting in San Antonio, for which Ellen serves as Secretary of the Board. Charlotte Hand Greeson – actively recruiting fall writers for Building Faith, even as she packs to move from California to Guam. Matthew Kozlowski – ensuring that our website redesigns and author policies are complete. Keith Anderson – keynoted the Indiana-Kentucky ELCA Synod gathering and designing a new Episcopal Teacher website to host our research-based content.
     
    Sarah Stonesifer – overseeing the Key Hall move, supervising three gifted student workers (Chris Decatur, ’20; Kate Lawson-Hedger, MA ’19; Allison Pace, MA ’20), wrapping up a successful eFormation online conference, and managing the development of a new AdventWord platform. Stacy Williams-Duncan – putting finishing touches on two grant project poster presentations for the Association of Theological Schools biennial meeting in Denver next week while overseeing the Seminary-wide implementation of Brightspace, our new learning management system. Lisa Kimball with Jenn Baker – establishing new administrative protocols for our department, and with Kim Arakawa – preparing for first Baptized for Life: An Episcopal Discipleship Initiative residency, our Lilly Endowment, Inc. funded program. Phew!

    Lisa Kimball, Ph.D.
    Associate Dean of Lifelong Learning
    Professor, Christian Formation & Congregational Leadership
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  • Monday, June 11, 2018

    “Memory is the residue of thought.” This is one of many great lines from presenters at the second annual online eFormation event on June 7. It was offered in a workshop on Mind Brain Education but captures well the spirit of my department, Lifelong Learning, this summer. As we navigate significant change and discern our way forward, it is essential that memories of the past, institutional and personal be recognized and honored.
     
    Human memory is much more than ordering the facts of the past. Memory is related to, but distinct from learning. It is our ability to encode, store, retain and subsequently recall information and past experiences in our brain in order to effect and shape present behavior. What we remember gives us the ability to learn and adapt from previous experiences and to build relationships. Our memories are not stored in our brains like books on library shelves but are on-the-fly reconstructions from elements scattered throughout various areas of our brains. What we remember is shaped by the emotions that surrounded past experience.
     
    It is no wonder then, that the process of moving the Center for the Ministry of Teaching out of Key Hall and dismantling the resource collection – taking literally every single book off its shelf – has stirred deep memories of “the way Christian education used to be.” We have been telling stories about our early days with founder Locke Bowman, and the hours of research and writing it took to publish the Episcopal Children’s Curriculum, about visions realized and dreams unmet. We have talked about our spiritual mentors, the women and men who shaped the beliefs we hold dear today. We have grieved together, laughed a lot, and recommitted ourselves to a future equipping disciples to make disciples. What memories is your summer stirring? 
     
    Lisa Kimball, Ph.D.
    Associate Dean of Lifelong Learning 
    Director of the Center for the Ministry of Teaching
    Professor of Christian Formation and Congregational Leadership
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  • Friday, June 8, 2018

    One of the outcomes of the annual board meeting this past May was an approved light touch revision to the 2023 strategic plan. VTS does strategic planning well particularly in the areas of implementation and reporting. On a regular basis—monthly from September-June—the board receives a monthly update that includes a report from a specific area of the seminary that highlights their work in implementing the strategic plan. More formally, as part of the November and May report to the board, we provide data and narrative progress reports on implementation. And every 2-3 years the board undertakes a light touch revision to refine the plan so that it remains current and reflects objectives that have been met as well as new and revised objectives. This is particularly important as we prepare for a capital campaign. 
      
    One of the strengths of the VTS board is its willingness to look to the future and think about how VTS is meant to serve the church of tomorrow, just as it has served the church since its founding in 1823. Through my service on the board for the In Trust Center I am a member of the advisory council for their Wise Stewards Initiative which focuses on encouraging boards of theological schools to take a bold step in exploring governance as change agent. I am looking forward to this work and to the opportunity to share the fruits of that experience with the VTS board.  

    Kathryn Glover, M.P.A.
    Vice President for Administration and Institutional Effectiveness and Secretary of the Corporation
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  • Thursday, June 7 ,2018

    Many of us bemoan the lack of time we have to get things done, to read a book, to enjoy family and friends or to just be quiet and enjoy God’s creation. Every program, department and employee at VTS has a unique set of priorities and activities that determines their schedule of work. But just as important as scheduling and observing deadlines and meetings is scheduling time off from work. 
      
    This summer VTS will close for three successive Fridays—July 13, 20 and 27—in order to provide employees an additional opportunity for rest and recreation without the concern that they will miss something or return to hundreds of emails and new tasks demanding attention.  
      
    Articles describing the benefits of vacation abound, yet many of us ignore them to our own detriment and perhaps to the detriment of others. Last summer I spent three weeks preparing for a certification exam. It may not have been a true vacation, but the simple change of pace, focus and routine was rejuvenating. So, if you’re not sure what to do with your summer Fridays or the idea of a “staycation” has you thinking you might as well just go to work. Think again. For the cost of a cup of coffee you can sit in a local coffee shop and read for several hours. Or pack up the kids and go to one of the many free museums in DC. And you will find that you are more relaxed, more creative and maybe even more productive.

    Kathryn Glover, M.P.A.
    Vice President for Administration and Institutional Effectiveness and Secretary of the Corporation
     
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  • Wednesday, June 6, 2018

    Once a week I go over to Butterfly House but it’s usually during teaching time so I don’t get a chance to interact much with the children or the teachers. Last Friday I started my day off at the Caterpillar Club where in one part of the toddler area children were doing an activity meant to develop their fine motor skills. The children were laughing and enjoying the activity while their teacher talked to them about what they were doing, teaching them about shapes, colors and other things. 
      
    Meanwhile over in the Butterfly House older children were slowly arriving and greeting their teachers and fellow students. All the children were engaged in a variety of activities from looking at books to rolling out modeling clay and creating creatures out of special kind of modeling sand. Again, each activity was both developmentally and age appropriate.  
      
    Some of the children know who I am and greet me with a smile, even if they can’t remember my name. While others who don’t recognize me are very quick to ask me who I am and why I am there. Sometimes adults would very much like to ask such fundamental questions but don’t for fear of seeming rude or inhospitable. What fundamental questions are you not asking? What member of the community do you recognize but don’t know by name and what questions can you ask as a means of building a connection and a possible relationship?

    Kathryn Glover, M.P.A.
    Vice President for Administration and Institutional Effectiveness and Secretary of the Corporation

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  • Tuesday, June 5, 2018

    Life hacks are defined as strategies or techniques that can help us manage our time and daily tasks and activities with greater efficiency. An internet search will provide an overwhelming number of them for all aspects of life and work. You almost need to a life hack in order to get through them all. The same is true of the abundant resources available to help us live and work smarter.  
      
    Two of the "daily life and work" resources I read on a regular basis are the New York Times' Smarter Living section and the Management Tip of the Day from the Harvard Business Review.  In early May when I read a smarter living article on the value of hobbies it was a period when the list of work and personal activities was looking a bit long and my hobbies were nowhere to be found on that list. Reading the article reminded me of busy times past when sitting down at the piano, weeding or freshening up a bed in the garden, or just taking the time to plan and cook a nice meal provided me with a new lease on life. The article quotes a 2009 study that shows that there are both physical and psychological benefits to leisure activities. 
      
    What hobby have you been ignoring? What activity have you always wanted to try? What about using your summer Fridays to resume a much-loved hobby or take up a new leisure activity.

    Kathryn Glover, M.P.A.
    Vice President for Administration and Institutional Effectiveness and Secretary of the Corporation
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  • Monday, June 4, 2018

    Here at VTS we encourage and support professional development in a variety of different formats. Employees who are enrolled in a degree program receive financial assistance in paying tuition and other related expenses. We pay for membership fees in professional organizations and make it possible for employees to attend professional conferences as a means of building a network of colleagues and gaining a broader perspective of our specific domain or area of expertise.
     
    Today I would like to highlight our memberships in the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and the In Trust Center. This month several of us will be traveling to Denver for the ATS Biennial where member schools will vote on authorizing the ATS to begin work on redeveloping the Standards and Procedures. A board appointed task force will be taking the lead in this work and VTS is delighted that Mitzi Budde will be serving as a member of the task force.
     
    The mission of In Trust is to strengthen theological schools by connecting their leaders to essential resources for mission vitality. One of the three main focuses of In Trust is resource consulting which In Trust describes as “front-line assistance that offers immediate help and quick answers.” As members of In Trust we—that is all VTS employees—have access to this assistance at no charge.
     
    Consider taking advantage of the many resources available to us through the ATS and In Trust.

    Kathryn Glover, MPA, SHRM-SCP
    Vice President for Administration and Institutional Effectiveness
    Secretary of the Corporation
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  • Friday, June 1, 2018

    CACS is very proud to say that we, and by extension Virginia Theological Seminary, has a direct connection to the royal wedding! The Rev. Prebendary Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Chaplain to her Majesty the Queen and CACS Fellow in Public Theology, read one of the prayers for the royal couple. For the June Anglican Commentary, published today, Rose offers us a “behind the scenes” perspective on the wedding, as well as a reflection on the now-famous sermon by the Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

    “That service in that moment, became a great advertisement for the Anglican Church. It reflected a rich tradition and modernity in words and music; the officiants and the congregation were diverse. The 1.9 billion people who watched around the world could recognise someone who looked like them in attendance at that service. And then there was the sermon. Wow. The sermon delivered by the Most Reverend Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church was unapologetically all about the Good News of the love of God in Christ Jesus; the sacrificial love that set the standards for the love that we should pattern in marriage and in all our relationships.”

    You can read the full Anglican Commentary here.

    The Rev. Robert Heaney, Ph.D.,D.Phil.
    Director of the Center for Anglican Communion Studies and Associate Professor of Christian Mission
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  • May

    Thursday, May 31, 2018

    General Convention will be here in just a little over a month. Along with many of our VTS colleagues, the Center for Anglican Communion Studies will be there, hosting two separate events. The first event will be a Fourth of July barbecue, hosted in partnership with The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepard, where VTS alumna Rev. Shannon Preston is the Priest for Spiritual Formation. This event is to welcome the international guests that the Episcopal Church office has invited to Convention.

    The second CACS event, which is open to everyone, is a panel conversation on “Race in the Communion: Lessons from World Anglicanism.” This discussion will be held on Thursday, July 5th from 2:00-3:30 PM at the JW Marriot Hotel. The panel discussion will feature voices from around the Communion reflecting on how different contexts experience and understand racial discord, as well as how they seek to resource reconciling practices. The Rev. Dr. Robert Heaney, CACS Director, and Mr. Maurice Dyer, VTS M.Div class of 2019, will facilitate the discussion.

    This event is open to all. Please invite your friends and colleagues to join us for this important dialogue. No RSVP is required. Feel free to email the Center at cacs@vts.edu with anyquestions.

    The Rev. Robert Heaney, Ph.D.,D.Phil.
    Director of the Center for Anglican Communion Studies and Associate Professor of Christian Mission
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  • Wednesday, May 30, 2018

    “Mission Theology in the Anglican Communion” (MTC) is a research and book series project started by the former Mission Theologian in the Anglican Communion, Bp. Graham Kings. The vision for the movement was to raise up new doctors for the Church beyond the dominant cultures that are often seen as definitive for Anglican theology and polity.
     
    The next meeting of the MTC is in Dallas, Tx from May 29 – June 3. I have the great privilege of attending the conference and of being a respondent to one of the papers. The papers range over a fascinating set of subjects broadly related to Mission Studies or Intercultural Theology. Scholars from Kenya, India, Singapore, Egypt, Cuba, Turkey, Malaysia, Brazil, and South Africa will address topics including discipleship in the New Testament, evangelism in Africa, the mission of God in multi-faith societies, pastoral care in diversity, witness and the politics of identity, and child and youth formation.

    Not only is the project and the scholarship exciting the process is also intriguing. Participants write chapters, send them to respondents, and then deliver them at the conference. Because space for revising the chapters is built into the program, by the end of the conference a draft of the book is ready.  

    Do not be surprised if the Center for Anglican Communion Studies adopts such a model in the future!

    The Rev. Robert Heaney, Ph.D.,D.Phil.
    Director of the Center for Anglican Communion Studies and Associate Professor of Christian Mission
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  • Tuesday, May 29, 2018

    Before he became world-famous with his sermon at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Most Rev. Michael Curry was here at VTS in February 2018. He was on campus to preach and lecture as part of our Center for Anglican Communion Studies' (CACS) 20th anniversary year addressing the theme, “Why the Episcopal Church Needs World Anglicanism.” As this academic year draws to a close, we look back on the visit of the Presiding Bishop and share this video in which Bishop Curry sat down with me for a conversation about the future of the Center, Church, and Communion. In the video, the Presiding Bishop says, “the tripod that you [CACS] have, of reflection, resourcing and reconciliation, is the present and the future…ultimately, reconciliation is the goal, and it is God’s goal.”

    Along with its commitment to gather people together in theological reflection and developing resources for Episcopalians worldwide, CACS takes seriously this charge from the Presiding Bishop and other key leaders in the Anglican Communion. Reconciliation is not easy. Too often it is cheapened by avoiding the difficult issues related to how history is read, how race is constructed, and how identities become defined over against each other.

    Our Presiding Bishop is not interested in cheap reconciliation and that is a blessing to the seminary and to the Episcopal Church. Bishop Curry, as Primate of the Church, continues to speak love, grace, and peace consistently and eloquently whatever the context. If you only watch one video clip of Bishop Curry today, make it this one!

    The Rev. Robert S. Heaney, Ph.D., D.Phil
    Associate Professor of Christian Mission
    Director, Center for Anglican Communion Studies
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  • Friday, May 25, 2018

    It was fun doing a Roundtable in Richmond last night. This was the city where the whole concept of Roundtables started. It was good to connect with old friends again. Barney Hawkins and I enjoyed the trip.

    As promised at the start of the week, I am continuing to share with the community some of the important Board decisions. So today, let me highlight the decision of the Board around campus security. Approximately $500,000 is being taken from the capital reserve to fund cameras and swipe card access to the main buildings on the campus. The advantage of swipe card access is that we can designate particular cards for particular buildings; we are aware the time and identity of people going in and out of buildings; and we can, at an instant, lock down every major building on the campus from a central location. The cameras would deter and monitor potential attempts to enter buildings illegally. This is the start of a multi-phase improvement to security.

    There is no substitute for being careful and alert around the campus. Personal belongings should not simply be left in an unlocked office. So personal vigilance is good. But these changes are a recognition that we need to work harder to keep everyone safe.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, May 24, 2018

    So almost everyone should have cleared 10,000 steps yesterday. It was nothing like the $100 Amazon voucher to make everyone run like crazy around the campus. There was a good spirit throughout Employee Appreciation Day. The talk on "Family Systems" by the Rev. Dr. Allison St. Louis was outstanding and really helpful. The icebreaker was fun. The food was good. And most importantly, we enjoyed the company of each other.

    It takes considerable work to put together such an imaginative program. So once again thank you to Margarita Pelaez-King, Chris Pote, Asha Lamaalem, Victor Hurtado, and Wendy Bermudez. I can only imagine the hours spent ensuring that we walk to the far reaches of the campus and creating clues inside novels in the library. Quite brilliant.

    The weather was wonderful. The atmosphere fun. The interdepartmental conversations were special. Thank you VTS. May the spirit of the day continue to shape our life together.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, May 23, 2018

    Employee Appreciation Day finally arrives. This is a day when the Seminary closes and all the Staff and Faculty are invited to enjoy the gift of each other. It is a thank you for the remarkable team of women and men who serve in this place.

    If you ask the question: what is VTS? You will get a variety of answers. Yes, it is an Episcopal seminary. Yes, it is a graduate school. Yes, it is 90 acres inside the beltway in northern Virgnia. But in the list of possible answers, one crucial one is this. VTS is the remarkable women and men who serve the seminary and make the seminary the extraordinary place it is.

    There are many reasons why we work. We all need a pay check. We all need health insurance. We all need something to do with our day. But I hope and pray that in the list is this: I work at VTS because it is truly great place to work. The mission is important; the work is interesting; and I want to be part of a institution that truly matters. Enjoy employee appreciation day everyone.

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


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  • Tuesday, May 22, 2018

    As the Faculty gather today, there will be a recognition of the changing nature of our Faculty. As you all know, Dr. Amy Dyer will be taking a much deserved sabbatical before concluding her service in December 2018. Dr. Dyer has shaped this institution in key ways. From highlighting the imperative of children in ministry as a scholar to bringing efficiency and grace to many of the administrative operations, Dr. Dyer has been skilled and effective. Her imaginative capacity is astonishing: she was the one that suggested that that the old auditorium of 400 seats should be filled in with gravel and a flat floor created so that space could become our interim chapel. Initially, I thought the proposal was bizarre. Later, I realized it was inspired. And from that one action much more is following as we think about the redesigns of Addison. I am deeply grateful to Amy: her love for the Seminary runs deep. And she has been a grace filled presence.

    Meanwhile one outcome of the Board meeting last week was the election to the Faculty of Dr. Joseph Thompson as the Assistant Professor of Race and Ethnicity Studies and Director of Multicultural Ministries. Joe has been unique: he has been simultaneously a student on the MA, a staff member in the library, and a visiting professor. Now his status is clarified. And he will bring such gifts to this role. With an impressive raw intelligence, an engaging manner, and a deep commitment to conversation, learning, and justice, Joe can take the Seminary to the next level in anticipating the important work of the kingdom and creating the church that we need to be.

    Dr. Dyer is moving on; Dr. Thompson is arriving. "For everything there is a season," Ecclesiastes reminds us. And so a season of transitions start. May God's grace be in this moment.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Monday, May 21, 2018

    It was good watching the Presiding Bishop of almost every news channel on Saturday morning. Our Primate, the Most Reverend Michael Curry, preached the Gospel to the world - a Gospel coming from Love and offering Love and a Gospel calling on us to transform the world in extraordinary ways. We hope pray and trust that the Royal couple are given the space to grow and enjoy their married life together.

    Meanwhile back on here on the Holy Hill, there is much to share. The Board meeting did considerable work. Perhaps the one which will have most impact on us all was the decision to authorize the next steps in the redesign of Addison and the Refectory. In addition, the idea is that come July 2019 we will do the construction work on both at the same time. There are many obvious questions: where exactly will we hold classes? What will we do about lunch? But the feeling was that it is better to do all this work at once than have several years of construction distruption.

    Naturally the board always does some regular work. The Budget for the forthcoming year was passed. Some money was found for security on the campus. At the urging of some of the students (thanks in particular to Jill Williams), the Board passed a statement of inclusion. But this was just the beginning. Later in the week, I shall share more news from the Board meeting of last week.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, May 18, 2018

    Next week, the commentary will focus on the results of the Board meeting. However, please allow me one last reflection on Commencement yesterday. It was amazing. The sermons at both the Service for the Mission of the Church and Commencement were excellent (and in a very real sense connected). The music at both was great. The organization was good. And our graduates and their families enjoyed the experience.

    There are many to thank. Academic Affairs and Student Life was at the heart of the operation. Thanks in particular are due to Taylor Mather, Rachel Holm, Wendy Bermudez, Mara Sherman, Monica Sloan, Karen Rollins, and Derek Greten-Harrison. Tami Shepherd took some time away from the library to check in on this or that. Meriwether Godsey fed us all very well. And of course almost everyone was volunteering - from handing out umbrellas to helping provide direction, and dashing guests back and forth in the rain on a golf cart. It was the VTS family at our best.

    However, one little episode is worth sharing and highlighting. Cornelia Eaton, our first student from Navajoland under the partnership we signed four years ago, was graduating. A Navajoland flag was sent to the Seminary to the Jon Musser. However, there was no flag pole. Dave Mutscheller got on the case. At 8am, the flag pole kit was picked up. Stuart Dahlinger made his way up in the rain and installed the flag pole. As a result, for the first year in a decade, the Texas flag was replaced by the Navajoland flag. It was a delightful moment; I am sure Texas did not mind. But more importantly, our Facilities team went above and beyond to make this possible. Thank you so very much.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday May 17, 2018

    Commencement is one of my favorite days of the year. I have grown to love each and every student who is graduating today. It has been an extraordinary privilege to be part of the hard work of God in these human lives as they are shaped into vehicles of grace for the world in which they are called to served. This Seminary is involved in holy work. Every faculty member knows that it is a privilege to be part of that work. 

    And this graduating class is great. Dr. James Farwell used the adjective "kind" to describe this class, when the Board voted the degrees. He added it is a "type of care that focuses on justice and inclusion". And in so many ways he is right. This is a great class: they will make a difference to the church.

    Marking this moment is an enormous pressure on the staff of the Seminary. So I am pleased to announce that I am asking those departments which are able to close at 2pm this afternoon. I am grateful to those departments for whom this is difficult; you have work that doesn't enable such flexibility. And I hope those departments which are able to take advantage of this closure enjoy the shorter work day. And please understand I am deeply grateful for everything you are doing.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, May 16, 2018

    Today the Board gathers to do its important governance work. This is quite a marathon. It was yesterday morning at 8am that we started with a Plenary. Serious and major issues were identified; thoughtful discussion followed. Then we went into the Committees. Community Life discussed a possible statement of inclusion; the Trustees Committee did the work of electing a slate of Trustees; Institutional Advancement discussed the capital campaign; Academic Affairs approved the graduates; a joint Buildings and Grounds along with Finance looked at construction projects and approved the funding; and the Honorary Degrees committee met right at the end of the day. Their recommendations will now to the full Board. A full and complicated meeting looms this morning.

    Along with the Board Chair, Dr. David Charlton, I attended every meeting. There is no question that the scrutiny given the administration is appropriate and done well. We need to be held to account. One finished the day feeling that this was an example of good governance.

    I marvel at our volunteer Board. Every member is making a major gift of time to this place. And they do so because of their love of this Seminary. Thank you so very much for the gift of your presence.

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




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  • Tuesday, May 15, 2018

    Bishop Bud Shand is a precious member of the VTS family. He is an alum. Persuaded by Dr. Amy Dyer to do a Masters in Christian Education, he made this the focus of his work as a priest and later as a bishop. As one of the bishops of the founding dioceses, he was always present in my early years - making the journey from Easton to attend this or that committee. And then in 2009, he became the Board Chair. Every week, we talked together on the phone. He gave me counsel on personnel questions and offered guidance as to policy. Every semester he would make the journey to the Seminary to attend the Eucharist at the start of the year. He was with me when the Chapel went up flames. He was with me when the capital campaign started. He was in the chapel for the Senior Class when they wanted to celebrate the first Eucharist in that space even though it wasn't yet built. He opened 1823. He blessed the apartments. He was the person who supported Vice President Melody Knowles when I was on sabbatical. He has been a good friend and a fabulous mentor.

    Tonight the Board of Trustees will celebrate the Bishop Bud Shand years. His distinguished service as a Trustee and Board Chair will be recognized. We will take the opportunity to thank his wife, Lynne, who has been a vital part of VTS. We are grateful for their service. They have both made a difference.

    So any member of the faculty, staff, and students who see Bud around the campus, please pause and say thank you. Bishops are busy people. The gift of their time to make VTS operate well is extraordinary. Thank you Bud. We are grateful.

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

    Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week. We have many teachers on this campus; and we appreciate them all. However, one group that works so hard is our team of outstanding Butterfly House teachers. Every day, they work with the youngest members of our community. They care for the babies; they watch the toddler learning to walk; and they work diligently with children from three to five as they prepare for kindergarten.

    They are some of the most credentialed child care teachers in the region. With our focus on staff development, many of them are getting certification and degrees in their area. As a result, they really do aspire to excellence. It is an exceptionally high quality service that is provided.

    So to our teachers in the Butterfly House, a big thank you to Mildred Corvera, Elsy Cotes Maradei, Gladys Galarza, Shauna Gonzalez, Evelin Lockwood, Judith Harrington, Asha Lamaallem, Michelle Martin, Vera Moore, Henriette Nangui, Kathy Nieves, Isa Pena, Rebecca Scott-Joyner, Tiara Smith, Rahel Weldeyesus Ayotunde, and Erick Whitaker, and to the leadership of Kerry Hual and Juanita Sanchez. We appreciate you all so much.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, May 11, 2018

    We are excited to share the news that a concert recorded in our Seminary will be broadcast by Washington's classical station WETA. A Bach motet will appear on the station’s “Choral Showcase” on Sunday, May 13, at 9:00 p.m. Mentions of the occasion and purpose of the concert will be provided on-air on May 13, as well as on the station’s website. 

    Now the story behind this moment is amazing. On Sunday, April 15, the J. Reilly Lewis Collection was dedicated in our chapel. This collection will be housed in the Bishop Payne Library and will provide scholars and musicians access to a treasure trove of music scores and scholarly materials—12,500 items, gratefully received by head librarian Dr. Mitzi Budde, whose staff will oversee organization and cataloging of the collection. Dr. Lewis was a beloved, distinguished musician in the Washington area, having founded the Washington Bach Consort, as well as conducting the Cathedral Choral Society. In 2014 he was honored by VTS with an honorary doctorate. His grandfather was a graduate of the Seminary.
     
    The dedication of the collection involved a spectacular concert of the works of J.S. Bach, performed by members of the Washington Bach Consort. VTS professor of church music said to me that day, “There was no music-making on the globe today that was better than what we’ve heard. This was world-class.” Most of the selections on the concert will be available as an on-demand audio stream at classicalweta.org for a two-week period, beginning on May 10.
     
    We are glad for this opportunity for VTS to be recognized as a place of music performance and research, for people to hear portions of the glorious April 15 performance, but, beyond that, to honor the life of J. Reilly Lewis and to give thanks to Beth Lewis for bequeathing this important collection to our library.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, May 10, 2018

    This morning we have the Clergy-Police breakfast. This is organized out of the department for Church and Community Engagement. It was the political scientist Dr. Ashutosh Varshney who analyzed social eruptions in different cities in India. And a key finding was when there was a major provocation, those cities where there were strong pre-existing civic organization and partnerships did not disintegrate, but those where these partnerships did not exist did erupt.

    It all makes sense when we build bridges in the moments of calm then when problems arrive there are mechanisms to keep the calm. This ministry of the Seminary is good and healthy. It models a service that every town and city needs. We need vehicles of conversation and mutual learning.

    This all coincides with the good forum yesterday on the so-called "Blue Mass". I appreciated the thoughtful tone, compelling testimony, and different perspectives. We do well as a Seminary in talking through these questions. The secret of being in community is not finding ways to never have problems, because that is impossible, but in finding ways to talk through and resolve our problems. This is why we have a Clergy-Police breakfast. 

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, May 9, 2018

    There is a lovely tradition of class gifts at VTS. The Good Shepherd Labyrinth was precipitated by a class gift. We enjoy the shade of trees which we were given by classes. Teak benches from various classes provide places to rest on campus.
     
    The Class of 2018 has continued this VTS tradition. The spirit of this talented class has been captured in three Navajo rugs which are on display in the Welcome Center. We are all grateful for the ways the Rev. Cornelia Eaton (senior) and Leon Sampson (middler) have opened us to the deep truths of Native American spirituality, especially that which is captured in the Navajo way of weaving rugs using traditional Navajo wool. No stitch is without meaning in these rugs which are icons into the soul of a people yearning to be close to their Creator and the Creation which is beloved.
     
    Each of the rugs chosen by the Class of 2018 tells a story. The rugs are part of “adopt-a-native-elder program” and all proceeds go directly to the weavers.
     
    Thank you, Class of 2018. May you go forth from VTS and be “weavers” for God’s mission in our Church and in the world God loves so much.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Tuesday, May 8, 2018

    The Facilities department has recently welcomed two new remodeling employees. Both will work closely with Fritz Friton, Director of Remodeling and Painting. VTS has an extensive campus and we are constantly remodeling different areas to keep spaces from falling into disrepair.
     
    The new remodeling technician in the department is Jose Reyes. He first began as a carpenter in 1988. He has worked for Williams Painting as a carpenter, Bowen Apartments doing apartment turnover, and World Bank as a carpenter. Jose is married to Rose, he is father of three, and he enjoys soccer and fishing.
     
    Ronnie Saunders is a painting technician referred to us by employee, Victor Hurtado. Ronnie has worked in retail at Sports Authority and at Floor and Décor. There he was a tile specialist and built displays. Ronnie will be training to do drywall installation, finishing, and painting. He likes to spend his spare time upgrading visuals on cars and taking in sports, particularly Oakland Raiders.
     
    Be sure to welcome these two valuable members of the Facilities team!

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

    Seminarians who are seeking to serve Christ should be constantly attentive to potential injustice or actual racism. This is right and proper. And as a Christian, I must be open to those who have questions about this or that decision, class, meeting, or, in this case, book. I really do welcome questions and thoughtful arguments. 
     
    I have heard, although sadly indirectly, that there are students who feel that some of the selections in Words that Listen are inappropriate and wrong. The concern is that the title of Flannery O’Connor’s short story, which uses a word that is rightly considered deeply offensive. Did the editors make a mistake in including an extract from this story in this volume? This is a vitally important Gospel question.
     
    The Rev. Dr. Barney Hawkins and I would love to talk to any students who are interested in this question. We will gather at Flamingo at 7 pm tonight (Monday, May 7). We will share our perspective and invite you to share yours. I am looking forward to the conversation.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, May 4, 2018

    The mail situation is hard. Depending on the day, vast quantities of mail can arrive. It all needs to be picked up from the post office. Most do not have the mail box numbers on. So every item has to be picked up, examined, and the number added. Then in addition there are fifteen to twenty packages arriving from Amazon and elsewhere. It all needs sorting.

    Mr. Wesley Warder does an outstanding job. With his black marker pen in hand, he does the work quickly and well. Rarely making a mistake, it is done as fast it can be done. It is not the most interesting work on planet earth, but it is important. There is much of value in this correspondence and in these packages. This is the last important stage of getting these items into the hands of the right people.

    If you arrive in the Welcome Center around lunchtime, sometimes early afternoon, you can meet Wesley. Do please just pause and say thank you. The Seminary is full of people who play important tasks that make a vital difference to our lives. For Wesley Warder, the Seminary is grateful.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, May 3, 2018

    Tonight is a very special Community Eucharist. At the initiative of the Rev. Jeff Stevenson, our senior who is also the chaplain to the Alexandria police force, we are holding a Blue Mass to honor first responders for their service.  As a seminary, we have had many occasions to be grateful to our first responders. They are attentive and helpful.  From consultancy around security to responding to an emergency, we are grateful to our first responders. The Rev. Jeff Stevenson will be preaching and Rev. Stacy Williams-Duncan will be presiding.  

    So please make your way to the service tomorrow. The normal deal in the Refectory is still available - $5 for a single meal and $10 for a family. This will be a good family opportunity; so we would love to see them well represented.

    I do understand that sometimes individuals are away from the campus. As it happens, the Rev. Dr. Barney Hawkins and I are doing a Baltimore Roundtable tonight. So we will be absent; but I will ask the Rev. Dr. Ruthanna Hooke to convey my gratitude to the first responders who are present.

    The Very Rev. ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, May 2, 2018

    In the Senior Staff retreat yesterday, we had the opportunity to hear from Professor Simon Lee on the topic "Thinking outside the Box". In addition to learning how to connect nine dots with four straight lines (clue you have to think outside the box), we had a fascinating insight into the art of reading institutions. Professor Lee knew the Seminary well, having evaluated the Dean's Office in 2009. The theme then of his proposal was to focus on the bicentennial and think afresh about our identity. He suggested the slogan - From Good to Great and Graceful. The theme of gracefulness picks up some of the good discussions led by the students around hospitality and inclusion.  We need to be a place that says hello to the guest; we need to be the place where people look around a dining room and searches out the person sitting alone, who isn't in the "trendy group"; and we need to be a place that honors the stories of all.

    After the session with Professor Lee, we had a tour of St. Paul's Cathedral with Canon Mark Oakley. I marveled at the way the Cathedral is supplementing the images that celebrate war triumphs and empire with powerful images that capture the agony of war. From an altar hanging constructed by veterans of World War One while in treatment for trauma; and a cross, which is simply remarkable, capturing the tragedy of Syria and Palestine at the points of the wounds of Jesus. These were very powerful.

    This all becomes material. Material for us as a community to think about as we go forward.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Dean's Cross for Servant Leadership Awarded to Author Susan Howatch

    Last night the Seminary presented the Dean's Cross for Servant Leadership to the novelist Mrs. Susan Howatch. At an event at King's College London, the Dean's Cross was presented by Bishop Bud Shand. The Dean's Cross is the highest award of the Seminary. The goal is to honor the well-formed life - the life shaped by the values of faith. Given formation is the goal of the Seminary, this is an appropriate honor for the Seminary to bestow.

    With Susan Howatch, this was particularly true. Her Starbridge series is all about the formation of priests. She captures in her novels the struggles as a human life with all its complexity is taken by the grace of God and transformed into a vehicle of redemption. Spiritual direction is central in her novels. Her characters are all flawed, yet all hopeful. God triumphs as the spiritual ultimately engages with the human psyche. With the characters all taken from the history of Anglican clerics, the work of formation is all located in the world of Anglican spirituality.

    Her novels are very readable. They are deeply profound and powerful beach reading. For every seminarian, Susan Howatch should be required reading. I commend her work to you; and I am grateful that Susan Howatch has accepted the honor of the Dean's Cross from Virginia Theological Seminary.

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

    Monday, April 30, 2018

    One of my interests is how do we provide resources that combine traditional scholarship with the more innovative, challenging scholarship, often provoked by the liberation movements. So when I saw the book called The Hebrew Bible: Feminist and Intersectional Perspectives, edited by Gale. A. Yee, I was interested. My interest was heightened when I saw that the fourth section of the book was written by the Rev. Dr. Judy Fentress-William and the Rev. Dr. Melody D. Knowles. They had contributed a substantial essay called "Affirming and Contradicting Gender Stereotypes". The chapter starts with female protagonists - Ruth and Esther, then we move to women and sexuality, with particular focus on Song of Songs and Ben Sira, then we have the wisdom books - Proverbs, Job, Wisdom of Solomon, this is followed by the Psalms, and then the chapter concludes with Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and 1-2 Maccabees. It is an impressive chapter: touching on so much of the Hebrew Bible.

    In a world where patriarchy continues to damage so many lives of women, this book is a refreshing critique and journey into the ways in which the Biblical witness sees women. The reader becomes conscious of a set of questions that are often totally ignored or, at least, not given major consideration. This essay by Judy and Melody opens a door into vitally important questions.

    I finished reading this essay with a sense of gratitude. I am grateful that this essay has been written; I am also grateful that this Seminary has two dynamic and important scholars asking and exploring these questions. Thank you Judy and Melody.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, April 27, 2018

    It was our alum Jackie Pippin who reminded me that this was the week designated Administrative Professionals Week. It was Vannessa McCormick who reminded me again that it would be good if the Commentary honored the service of our Administrative Professionals, which I am pleased to do.

    Everything is complicated. Everything has a thousand moving parts. From ensuring a room is booked to putting on a dinner, there is an army of committed women and men operating behind the scenes. Effective administration is complex. One arrives at work expecting to do A, B, C, and by 10.30am, you are focusing on X, Y, Z. As a result one has to be adaptable and flexible. With all areas of our life being dependent on technology, our Administrative Professionals are constantly updating their skill set by learning how to use this new program or that service.

    Quite literally, nothing would happen at VTS without our amazing Administrative Professionals. So as they enjoy their much deserved special luncheon today, let me say, on behalf of everyone connected to the Seminary, thank you. Thank you for helping everything to happen.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, April 26, 2018

    I like pieces that are gently provocative. So I read and really enjoyed the article by the Rev. Dr. Ross Kane in The Christian Century (probably the best known mainline magazine) on ancestor veneration. In an article that appeared on-line on April 5, 2018 called "The wisdom of the African Christian practice of reverencing the dead", Ross makes the argument that honoring the ancestors can be appropriate expression of the Communion of Saints. The argument is well made. It even concludes with the suggestion that perhaps we should encourage congregations on All Saints Sunday to bring photographs of their ancestors and include them around the altar. He commends both the theory of inclusion and suggests a practice to embody that inclusion.

    It is an achievement to have an article in The Christian Century. So I congratulate Dr. Kane. But it is, perhaps, more of an achievement to write something so compelling and important for the Church. Anglicans are a global family. If we can start attracting just 10% of those immigrants coming to the United States from Anglican strong countries, then the entire narrative of decline would disappear. I marveled at this contribution. This is important work.

    Ross holds a busy administrative Faculty position. It is good to see him writing at every level. So thank you Ross as you combine your many roles.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, April 25, 2018

    Close readers of the commentary (for which I am grateful) will know that I always like to write about my travel. It is partly to explain my absence from the campus. However, today I want to share with you the news that I have asked Senior Staff to join me on a trip to London. So for Friday through next Wednesday, the Rev. Dr. James Farwell, our Acting Vice President for Academic Affairs, will be in charge.
     
    A trip to London for the Senior Staff is a significant Seminary undertaking and, of course, expense. So, there needs to be a good reason. And there is. I am delighted to announce that the novelist Susan Howatch, author of the brilliant Starbridge series, has agreed to accept the Dean’s Cross for Servant Leadership from VTS. It will be my privilege to confer the Dean’s Cross on Susan Howatch at a ceremony at King’s College London on Monday night. As she put it, her “traveling days are over”, so we needed to bring VTS to London for the occasion.
     
    With the support of the Board Chair, Dr. David Charlton, we are combining this event with a Senior Staff retreat. We will be meeting with representatives of the Anglican Communion to discuss ways forward with our VTS presence in the “marketplace” for Lambeth 2020. Some will be taking advantage of the British Library for research; others are visiting alums elsewhere in Britain. We will be connecting with our Convocation speaker for the Fall. Some will be meeting with donors and friends of the Seminary. So the trip is coming together nicely and will be an important opportunity for us to think about the future of the Seminary.
     
    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Tuesday, April 24, 2018

    Perhaps three times a week, I manage to get into the Flamingo and order myself a soy latte (and depending on time of day, sometimes a decaf one). On a typical visit there will be five or six people there, which is a very comfortable number for the space. William Campbell (our senior, not the head of FORMA) might be finishing a puzzle, Colin Taylor will normally be trying to write an assignment on his laptop, and perhaps Margie Baker might be there with her children James and Eden. It is an important place of relaxation and socializing.

    In today's commentary, I would like to honor the managerial team of the Flamingo. Anna Broadbent and Michaelene Miller have served as our baristas for the academic year 2017-2018. This was the first year without the presence of the Rev. Alyse Viggiano (the founder). And they took the responsibility seriously. The coffee was still good. The tradition of providing a space for important conversations continued. The feel of the place remained strong and intimate. They have done outstanding work. Thank you Anna and Michaelene. 

    A new team is in place. Josh Barrett is the program manager; Brooks Boylan is the inventory manager; and Ashley Mather is the staff manager. They are taking over from Anna and Michaelene. I am confident that they will keep the great traditions of the Flamingo going. I am grateful that they have stepped forward to play this important role.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Monday, April 23, 2018

    Like much of America, I tuned into CNN on Saturday to watch our alum the Rev. Russell Levenson organize and participate in an exceptional liturgy to celebrate the life of Mrs. Barbara Bush. The sermon in so many ways was vintage VTS. The Gospel was preached; and he faithfully connected the remarkable life with the Gospel and readings. It was the Episcopal Church at its best.

    Mrs. Barbara Bush was a remarkable lady. Wife of one president and the mother of another, she took her faith with her into the world of politics. She worked hard to overcome prejudice against persons with AIDS; she campaigned for literacy; and she has had good relationships across the political divide. In an age when the political is so ugly, Barbara Bush is a reminder of a previous, gentler age. In so many ways, she brought the Anglican ethos into the realm of the political.

    Mrs.Barbara Bush was a Dean's Cross Recipent. When we heard of her death, Mr. Curtis Prather, director of communications, encouraged me to issue a statement, which then was put out on social media. The interest in our statement was considerable, without any promotion, it reached over 50,000 people, with over 1300 engagements, 50 shares, and resulted for the Seminary in 100 new followers. I was grateful to Curtis who oversaw the annoucement. And it was a powerful reminder of the power of social media and the ways in which people are engaged by the medium. Effective ministry depends on us all becoming social media literate. It is inescapable.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, April 20, 2018

    I do understand. Sometimes, seminarians decide that their work life balance requires more sleep in the morning. Sometimes, there is a sense that the liturgy is not "feeding me". Sometimes, it is frustration with the institution that leads to the decision to be absent from worship as a protest. Sometimes there is a decision to participate in personal devotions in one's apartment and then attend an evening office (perhaps Sung Evensong) once a week. Sometimes it is this sense that an Ordo Eucharist was so inappropriate that one has decided to VTS is just theologically unsound and going elsewhere for the Eucharist is the right thing to do. I really do understand how these modes of thinking take over; and the discipline of one daily act of corporate worship is broken.

    So today, I invite all our seminarians into the following exercise. Everyone, both lay and ordained, will be involved in parish leadership. In your congregation, there will be members of the parish reasoning in the same way. "We need Sunday as family time" or "I prefer to walk in a park rather than attend church" or "I really can't attend church after that General Convention". The task as a leader of the congregation will be to respond to those sentiments. The obligation will be to explain why worship is a rest from busyness, a gift to family, a vehicle that supports the spiritual dimension of nature, and why disagreement cannot justify denying our role in the Body of Christ. This is the task of ministry.

    After doing this exercise, I invite us all to renew our attendance. Sometimes we have to be away. But when we are on campus, let us persuade ourselves that the habit of a daily corporate act of worship does matter. It matters for us; and it matters for those we will be called to serve. 

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D
    Dean and President 
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  • Thursday, April 19, 2018

    Travel does have a downside. It involves lots of airports, tons of waiting, and adjusting to different time zones. But it does have a significant perk. When the weather is cold and damp in Alexandria, it is a delight to be enjoying delightful weather in San Antonio, Texas. Vice President Linda Dienno, the Rev. Dr. Barney Hawkins, and I have been cultivating new friends in San Antonio, Texas. Part of the diocese of West Texas, we are seeking to make sure the Seminary is connected with this dynamic and growing part of the Episcopal Church.

    Yesterday, in a good meeting with Bishop David Reed, we talked about the future of theological education. He sees the diocese as a mission diocese, where church planting needs to be the future. He was excited to hear about our new Mission Practices track, with alternative forms of field education. He sees this as a priority. He was pleased to hear about Church and Community Engagement, where different ways of doing church are explored and taught.

    Developing a new track in our MDiv is hard work. So it was helpful to listen to a Bishop endorse our efforts. We are here to serve the church: in the end, it is not what we would like to do that matters, it is what the church needs that matters.

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


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  • Wednesday, April 18, 2018

    Thriving in Ministry, a new initiative at VTS, brings to clergy leaders peer group learning, trained facilitators and in the process support the vitality of the congregations, schools, and institutions they serve. The Thriving Initiative, supported by the Lilly Endowment, Inc., will initially focus on five ministry contexts: Ethnic Missioners, Church Planters, Clergy Couples, School Chaplains, and Women Clergy seeking to expand into new leadership roles. Thriving will serve as a catalyst to form Peer Learning Groups by providing tools so that potential participants can identify their learning goals, Thriving will also train a cohort of Group Facilitators. In addition, Thriving will train a cohort of mentors so that along with the peer group learning experience each participant may choose to have a mentor. Facilitators and Mentors are recruited from proven leaders in the Episcopal Church. Thriving in Ministry is built upon the foundation of other Lilly grants known to VTS such as Transition in Ministry and the Second Three Years.
     
    Thriving in Ministry call for the collaboration of church practitioners and church academics. The Rev. Dr. David Gortner is the Principal Investigator for the grant. His experience with the five focus ministry contexts brings depth of knowledge and of practice. The Rev. Dr. Carol Pinkham Oak is the Program Director drawing upon her experience in parish ministry as well as the unfolding of the Transition into Ministry projects. Imani Kane is the Program Administrator for the grant with her knowledge of community organizing, mentoring teens, and not for profit scholarship programs. Imani is currently completing her Masters in Theological Studies at Wesley Seminary.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Tuesday, April 17, 2018

    On Saturday, April 21 VTS is holding a Daring Way Workshop. One staff member said to me, "If I hadn't planned months ago to be traveling internationally, I would definitely sign up. I'm really disappointed to miss it." Her enthusiasm speaks to the great volumes of support behind The Daring Way™ research and tools done by Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW and her team. The workshop will explore topics such as vulnerability, courage, shame, and worthiness. Participants will examine the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that hold us back and work to identify the new choices and practices that will move us toward more authentic and wholehearted ways of living, loving, parenting, and leading. 

    Adding to the appeal of the workshop is the fantastic team leading it. Licensed professional counselor and VTS seminarian, Anna Broadbent is a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator-Candidate. David Hoover, LCSW is also a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator-Candidate, and he serves as one of the spiritual directors who work with VTS community members. Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator, the Rev. Beth Magill spent a number of years sharing this work with communities throughout the Diocese of Texas before coming to Arlington, where she now serves as the rector of St. Michael's Episcopal Church. The Rev. Stacy Williams-Duncan, a visiting professor at VTS, is a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator who has found this work to be transforming both personally and professionally. 

    Do consider signing up to attend. And if you're not able to do so, I still recommend perusing the work of Dr. Brown and her team, as many cite it as a means of transforming communities in schools, faith groups, businesses, and sectors of all sorts.

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

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  • Monday, February 16, 2018

    Yesterday evening was special. The Washington Bach Consort performed. The music was sublime. The atmosphere was a celebration of the work of J. Reilly Lewis, whose music collection was given to the Bishop Payne Library. The homily by our Professor of Church Music, the Rev. Dr. William Roberts, was an affectionate portrait of a remarkable man.

    Despite the wet weather, we had over 250 in the chapel. I was so impressed by the VTS operation as we shifted arrangements to accommodate the weather. The reception was no longer on the north Terrace but in the Lettie Pate Multipurpose Room. Guides help guests to park. The program was beautiful. And the dinner was delightful. 

    Lots of people worked hard behind the scenes. I am grateful to them all. However, I would like to just mention the work of Ms. Ann Roebuck and Dr. Mitzi Budde. For Ann, these occasions are a work of art. From name tags to flowers, Ann creates beautiful spaces and does the hard work of attending to details with passion. And Dr. Mitzi Budde has made the growth of special collections in the area of choral music her mission. Her strategic sense is remarkable: she wants to ensure that our library is a mecca for research resources in this area. Her hand hovered over the entire event. For her hard work and strategic sense, I am deeply grateful.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, April 13, 2018

    “I believe in the power of music to create community— to touch, to heal, and to transform.” These words of J. Reilly Lewis will come to life once more on Sunday, April 15, 2018, when Virginia Seminary gratefully dedicates the J. Reilly Lewis Music Collection at the Bishop Payne Library to the glory of God.
     
    Recognized internationally as a leading conductor and gifted keyboard artist as well as a foremost specialist of baroque music, J. Reilly Lewis (1944-2016) was the founder and artistic director of the Washington Bach Consort, long-time music director of the Cathedral Choral Society, and organist and choirmaster at Clarendon United Methodist Church in Arlington, Virginia. His widow, Beth Lewis, donated his collection of over 12,500 discrete items to Bishop Payne Library. Among its holdings are his annotated conductor’s scores, piano-vocal scores, octavos, books, CDs, and his extensive Bach library.
     
    Bishop Payne Library has mounted an exhibit of some of the highlights of the Lewis collection, including his conducting baton, his annotations on Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor and Britten’s War Requiem, and Reilly’s original composition of a fugue on “Happy Birthday.” This exhibit will be up through graduation. The scores that have been cataloged may be searched at http://vtsbpl-eresources.us/SpecialMusic/
     
    On Sunday at 3:00 p.m., a dedicatory concert will be presented in the chapel by Todd Fickley, organist, and seven instrumentalists and singers from the Washington Bach Consort. The concert is sold out, but some seats may be available to non-ticket holders after 2:50 p.m. The concert will include a brief liturgy of dedication and a homily by the Rev. William Bradley Roberts, D.M.A.
     
    We are enormously grateful to Mrs. Beth Lewis for making this amazing collection of materials available for students, musicians, and researchers for posterity at Bishop Payne Library.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, April 12, 2018

    The Holy Land pilgrimage experience is a highlight for many of our students during their time at seminary. Some have the chance to return after graduation for study or to bring groups of pilgrims from their parishes. I have often thought a Holy Land pilgrimage for our alumni would be a wonderful program for VTS to offer and I am delighted that we will do so this fall.
     
    The inaugural VTS Alumni Holy Land pilgrimage is scheduled for October 25-November 2, 2018, at St. George’s College Jerusalem, where our alum and trustee member, the Rev. Dr. Susan Lukens (DMin ’11) serves as Associate Dean. She and other St. George’s staff will be joined by our own VTS faculty members Katherine Grieb and Judy Fentress-Williams in leading the pilgrimage.
     
    The pilgrimage will include such sites as Bethlehem, Nazareth, Ein Karem, Galilee and Capernaum, Nablus, the Jordan River, and much more.  In Jerusalem, pilgrims will visit both ancient sacred sites and churches, and the modern-day city and her people.  Participants will worship together at the Cathedral of St. George’s, located next door to St. George’s College.
     
    More information can be found here and I encourage you to register early. This is an experience not to be missed. 

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, April 11, 2018

    It is Easter. This is the perfect season to think about mission and the spreading of Good News. So it is good that from Wednesday through Friday, April 11-13, VTS will host the Global Episcopal Mission Network conference. I would like to take an opportunity today to highlight some of the excellent keynote speakers and conference features that attendees can look forward to:

    Wednesday April 11:
    10:00 a.m. Topic: Mission Connects Us – I: Without a theology of mission we perish
    The Rev. Dr. Robert Heaney, Director of the Center for Anglican Communion Studies
    The Rev Canon John Kafwanka, Director for Mission, Anglican Communion
    7:00-8:30 pm: Virginia Theological Seminary - Welcome Reception
    Location: Scott Lounge

    Thursday, April 12:
    9:00 am: Second Plenary Session Keynote Speakers-- Topic: Mission: A Spiritual Journey amid the People into the Heart of God
    Ms. Monica Vega and Ms. Heidi Schmidt, Former Missionaries to South Africa & Brazil
    7:00pm: Global Partnerships & International Mission Fair-- Topic: “Mission as Mutual Transformation”
    The Rev. David Copley, Dir. Global Partnerships & Mission Personnel, The Episcopal Church

    Friday, April 13:
    9:30 a.m. Third Plenary Session Keynote-- Topic: Mission Connects Us – II: Without partnership in mission we perish
    The Rev Canon John Kafwanka, Dir. for Mission, Anglican Communion
    The Rev. Dr. Robert Heaney, CACS Director

    This is a distinguished line up. We welcome our guests to the campus, as well as all the conference participants; may God bless your time with us. 

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
     
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  • Tuesday, April 10, 2018

    It was a musical feast. There was education: I didn't realize just how much William Byrd was shaped by John Sheppard. There was a vintage classic: Zadok the Priest, by Handel, was sung with vigor. There was a delightful solo, followed by a duet, sung by two boys - one eleven, one much younger. My personal favorite was the Henry Purcell, "Thou knowest, Lord". And the piece that provoked research (I looked up the words of the Auden poem "The Twelve: Anthem for the Feast of Any Apostle) was the William Walton composition for "The Twelve". It was a fabulous concert.

    I am grateful to all those who worked so hard to host the Christ Church Cathedral Choir. Key people include Melesa Skoglund, Katherine Malloy, Jeffri Harre, and the volunteers who stood in the damp, cold weather making sure that cars were parked appropriately. A big thank you to you all.

    It is lovely to have Dean Martyn Percy, the dean of the Cathedral and the Head of House, on the campus. This afternoon at 4pm in the Flamingo there will be an opportunity to hear from Martyn as we celebrate a collection of essays and a reader based on his work. Edited by Joshua Daniels and myself, Reasonable Radical is an critical engagement with the imaginative Percy projects. Do please come.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Monday, April 9, 2018

    Today marks the beginning of VTS’ Annual Spring Phonathon. Thank you to those students, faculty, and staff who have volunteered to call our alumni and friends this week.  You are part of a rich history of VTS community involvement in this important endeavor, and I am personally grateful for your help.
     
    If you have not yet volunteered, there is still time. Please sign up here to make calls on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday (April 9-11) from 6:00-9:00 p.m. Your commitment of just a few hours to thank and encourage our generous donors nurtures these treasured relationships.  Our friends and alumni love to hear from those of us who benefit from their generosity, and they will be delighted to share their stories about how much VTS means to them.
    Volunteering for the phonathon is formative.  It is important to for all of us to be able to talk to people about how they invest in the future of the Episcopal Church. In the words of Henri Nouwen in The Spirituality of Fundraising, “Whether we are asking for money or giving money, we are drawn together by God who is about to do a new thing through our collaboration.”  Join us.
     
    If you have any questions, please contact Jennifer Greiner, Director of the Annual Fund at jgreiner@vts.edu

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, April 6, 2018

    The publisher of the Episcopal Church is Church Publishing. And the recent Fall 2018, "New Releases from Church Publishing" makes for interesting reading. On page four, we find A Man Called Mark: The Biography of Bishop Mark Dyer, written by Tom Linthicum, with a forward by Rowan William, which tells the remarkable story of Bishop Dyer. Not to be outdone, in the same catalogue, Dorothy Linthicum teams up with Janice Hicks to write Redeeming Dementia. Robert W. Prichard is here with Issues in Prayer Book Revision, Volume 1. Jenifer Gamber (teaming up with Bill Lewellis) Your Faith, Your Life is on page 21. Timothy Sedgwick has his What does it mean to be Holy Whole? listed. And Kathryn Glover keeps me company with a forthcoming book called Community Rules

    Alums of VTS figure prominently. Sharon Ely Pearson, Sam Portaro, C. Andrew Doyle, Gregory Millikin, C.K. Robertson, and Ragan Sutterfield (with his wife, Emily Sutterfield). All in all, it is pretty impressive. One institution in the Episcopal Church is the publishing hub of the Episcopal Church. Given our size, our status, and our reach, it is perhaps not surprising, but it is reassuring.

    So on this day, let us congratulate ourselves. This is impressive. We are doing good work.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, April 5, 2018

    It is my pleasure to welcome the Rev. Canon John Kafwanka to VTS for the next few weeks. Canon Kafwanka is the Director for Mission at the Anglican Communion Office in London. In this role, he promotes Communion-wide initiatives related to intentional discipleship, empowerment of young people and women in the Church, and care for the environment.

    Canon Kafwanka is participating in the Communion Sabbaticals program hosted by the Center for Anglican Communion Studies. Next week, he will join Dr. Robert Heaney as one of the keynote speakers at the Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEMN) conference, here at VTS April 11-13. VTS students, staff, and faculty will also have an opportunity to converse with Canon Kafwanka at a lunchtime forum on Monday, April 16.

    I do hope you will join me in welcoming Canon Kafwanka to VTS and take the opportunity to get to know him.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, April 4, 2018

    One must be careful with words. To describe a moment or a person as "racist" is momentous. The allegation speaks to a deep moral blindness. It means that the moment or the person is unable to see the intrinsic dignity of all people. It is deeply serious.

    It is also puzzling. Why is it that racism persists? Why are there groups, websites, movements that deny the fundamental equality of all people? Why do conspiracy theories abound that America is for white people? Why is that most white people do know others who harbor racist attitudes? These questions are important. Much as we want to shy away from these questions, we need to confront them. For the sake of justice and peace, these are vitally important Gospel questions.

    So today is important. The Eucharist this morning at 8.25am. The Silent Reflection, preceded by 50 tolls of the chapel bells at the time Dr. King was shot, is important. The presentation by Dr. David Pilgrim on the "The persistance of racial caricatures and stereotypes: lessons from the Jim Crow Museum" is important. This is important work sisters and brothers. Let us do it together.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Honored at VTS

    Fifty years have elapsed since the world lost that prophetic leader, that courageous presence, that agile mind, that sonorous voice, that man of God—the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.   This week, we pause to remember him, giving thanks to God for his indelible legacy and grieving the hatred that brought his life to an untimely end.
     
    But let us waste no time in posing the question that is, in a sense, at the heart of this commemoration:  “What do we want our society and our world to look like fifty years from now?”  For we look around us and see that, in spite of all of our progress on the “isms” that plague us, we have a very long way to go.
     
    With these reflections in mind, I invite you to join in a series of events honoring Dr. King that extend through the first two weeks of April.  Tomorrow evening at 7 pm in Immanuel Chapel, we will hear from our first speaker, Dr. David Pilgrim.  Dr. Pilgrim is the Director of the Jim Crow Museum, which uses racist images from the past to promote tolerance and empathy in the present.   For a complete schedule of all the events, please click here. For a flyer that you can share, please click here.
     
    I would be remiss if I did not also mention the exciting A.C.T. To End Racism events that will be held in DC this week, sponsored by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA.
     
    Dr. King’s was a life of profound meaning, purpose, and service.  May we take this opportunity to consider how we too may find purpose in helping to bring about a more just and equitable future. 

    Joe Thompson, Ph.D.
    Director of Multicultural Ministries and Visiting Professor of African American Studies
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  • March

    Thursday, March 29, 2018

    For Good Friday and for Easter Monday, the Seminary is closed. Good Friday is perhaps the hardest and holiest day in the Church Calendar. This is the day when innocence is killed, when hatred seeks to kill love, and when the consequences of human sinfulness are confronted. The Incarnation of God hangs on the cross and dies. God is seen right at the heart of sin and suffering; and properly, we see in Christ every abused child, every victim of war, and tear that has fallen. 

    On Sunday, we celebrate new life. We celebrate resurrection. We are invited to feel the liberating power of the Spirit. Cosmic possibilities abound. And given for many in our community, Holy Week and Easter weekend are packed and full, we take the Monday as a rest day.

    The heart of the Christian Gospel is captured in these days. The reality of sin is confronted; the resurrection possibilities are celebrated. Let us accept the gift of the space to live into the reality of the next few days.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, March 28, 2018

    Dr. Timothy Sedgwick's book What Does It Mean to be Holy Whole? is quite brilliant. One senses that it is in many ways a summary of so many Sedgwick themes. Starting with the concept of the holy, Tim locates the idea within the context of the whole - the stream of consciousness, where memory is central. Then, in conversation with the work of Charles Taylor, the secular experience, where the holy often appears inaccessible and opaque, is explored. In response, the distinctively Christian sense of the holy - grounded in the witness of Scripture and the memory of Christ - is developed. An invitation is issued to transcend the limiting of the holy to Sunday (the limitation being part of the secular challenge). Then Tim takes us through sets of practices, with their ethical implications, that create persons who are holy and who are truly connecting the holy to the rest of their lives.

    As I put down the book, it was in many ways a riveting gallop. It was an argument and a survey. It was vast in its scope and yet just 44 pages (excluding the very helpful bibliography). It was profound and life-changing. The core duty of allowing the experience of God to transform our life is encapsulated in this remarkable book.

    This is a very fine book. It is the type of book that takes years to write. By this, I mean that although the book did not take long to write (after all, it is just 44 pages), it takes decades of reading. Otto, Augustine, Bellah, and Taylor are all clearly present. It is book where one can see that these great texts have been digested and lived with. If you want a sense of where the mature Tim is in his thought, then this is the book to read. It really is, to conclude where I started, quite brilliant.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Tuesday, March 27, 2018

    It was fun having a deanery evening with Pastor Leanor Ortega Till. She was part of the Christian Rock Concert back in 2013. She is a talented musician and a good and innovative pastor. Much of her work at Urban Skye focuses on doing church differently. Urban Skye is an umbrella non-profit which supports what they call "spiritual entrepreneurs." Her work is "apartment church" and serving in a maximum security women's prison. She really does trust the Lord in her ministry: she raises her own salary every year. She steps out and simply trusts that what is of God will be supported by God.

    As our seniors prepare to be placed, there is an understandable desire to ensure that package is appropriate and fair. Along with the seniors, I am relieved that the Seminary has the resources to pay me a salary. But from time to time, it is good to be challenged. The Gospel exhortation to "take up the cross" does not always mean job security, a great pension, and really good benefits.

    This is Holy Week. Our worship is an invitation to walk this week with Jesus. At a very fundamental level to us there, Pastor Leanor is a good challenge. At the very least let us respond with gratitude, and perhaps we should all be open to Pastor Leanor being a model.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Monday, March 26, 2018

    From April 11-13 the Seminary will welcome the Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEMN) conference. This is an opportunity we should not miss and to encourage the community take part, GEMN has generously offered significantly reduced rates for our community. All current students, faculty, and staff may register for the nominal fee of $12 enabling them to attend all programs and events during the conference. Register here.
     
    GEMN consists of dioceses, churches, organizations, and individuals throughout our church who are passionate about connecting their faith in Christ with the world. The 2018 conference will focus on the theme “Mission Connects Us: God, World, Church.” VTS seminarians will be involved in the conference offering workshops, and Dr. Robert Heaney will be the keynote speaker along with the Anglican Communion's director of mission, the Rev. Canon John Kafwanka. 
     
    Virginia Seminary has a strong tradition of mission theology and mission practice. This conference, especially through the keynote addresses, gives us all a unique opportunity to hear contemporary Anglican perspectives on Christian mission for today's church and world. We are grateful to our Center for Anglican Communion Studies for partnering with GEMN in this conference.
     
    Register today!
     
    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, March 23, 2018

    The March for Our Lives is tomorrow morning. The Bishops of the Episcopal Church are encouraging us to participate. Naturally, some will be hesitant or not persuaded by the arguments represented by the march, which of course we entirely respect; however, others are making plans to get into DC and join the campaign for some form of gun control.

    The Episcopal Church has taken a position on this question. The position is simple: we believe that some form of gun regulation is compatible with the second amendment. We understand someone in rural America, where the police are further away, needing a handgun for self-defense or a rifle for hunting. But we do not understand the need for assault rifles or bump stocks or for a 19-year-old to have access to these weapons. We do not understand why the state cannot insist on a proper background check to ensure that guns are not in the hands of those not suitable. These regulations might not stop all school shootings, but a reduction is good and an important step in the right direction.

    This is also a movement of the young. And we honor those voices today. Some will be sleeping on the ground in Addison and taking showers in Sparrow. So we welcome our guests and we support their march for our lives.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, March 22, 2018

    Please allow me to start by recognizing that it is not by design. But as snow descended on the campus, I was down in Charleston. The sky was blue; and the temperature sufficiently warm to enable me to sit in the courtyard of the hotel and drink coffee. The Rev. Dr. Barney Hawkins and I had a roundtable in Charleston. We had 34 guests interested in the Seminary. This friend making is a crucial part of building up the philanthropic basis of the Seminary.

    Despite feeling appropriately guilty, I did keep tabs on the situation on the campus. I was pleased to see the leadership of Vice President Katie Glover as she handled the messaging; and I was delighted with the hard working team in Facilities and especially with the work of Mr. Steven Slominski as he ensured that the grounds were safe and monitored. For the start of Spring, this was hard work for the Seminary community.

    When these challenges hit the campus, I am always impressed with the depth of the community. There were staff working from home to change travel arrangements (thank you Ms. Ann Roebuck); there were other staff holding conference calls from home (thank you Ms. Elizabeth Osborne); and then there was the core of the community making sure the campus was safe and the community knew what was happening (thank you Katie, Steve, and everyone else).

    The Very Rev. ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, March 21, 2018

    For many of our international students, this is their first trip to the United States. Given their limited resources, most of their time will be spent on our ninety acres, with occasional trips into DC. So I am always pleased to learn that we do take our students to New York. This is an annual event, organized jointly by CACS and the Cross-Cultural Colloquy. This year the trip is being led by Ms. Molly O'Brien. 

    The trip to New York enables our international students, not simply to see one of the world's greatest cities, but also engage with the Church Center. Typically, the students meet with the staff in Episcopal Relief and Development and, sometimes, with the Presiding Bishop. Our international students are often called to positions of leadership in theological education and in the Church. Connections at this stage in their training with the Episcopal Church are important. 

    CACS is very visible on the campus. This 30-year celebration has led to some fabulous visits and events. However, this trip to New York City is an example of some of the behind-the-scenes work by CACS. This is important behind the scenes work that can enrich the experience of our international students and build bridges for years to come.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President 
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  • Tuesday, March 20, 2018

    As a Seminary, a significant amount of time is spent reflecting on the danger and damage that clergy misconduct can do. We spend less time reflecting on bad congregational behavior. This conference that is being hosted by the "Church and Community Engagement" team is important. The title is How Clergy Are Harmed. A group of courageous clergy are sharing their stories; the stories document cases of bad congregational behavior, which have led to the severing of clergy-congregation relationships and in some cases to wrongful termination. It is an impressive group gathering. We have some senior leaders in the Episcopal Church at this conference. 

    As anyone organizing a conference knows, they are intensive and exhausting experiences. The Rev. Jon Musser has done the hard work of organizing logistics and hospitality, and the Hospitality team and the refectory staff are working hard to ensure that this is a good conference.

    This is important work. This is, to the best of knowledge, the first explicit conference dedicated to this topic. It takes both vision and courage to strike out and organize such a conference. So thank you to the Rev. Dr. David Gortner. This is just a small part of the work of the Church and Community Engagement, but a vitally important part. 

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Monday, March 19, 2018

    The campus goes quiet for one week. Spring Break is upon us. There are no classes; many students head home. It is a pause in our busyness. A much-needed pause. But while things are easier for the students and faculty, our staff find that nothing has really changed. Instead, this can be a busy time of year.

    Each department has a slightly different pattern. Facilities is handling new projects, office moves, and the regular pattern of grounds and maintenance. Life Long Learning is easing in a grant and continuing to work on imaginative programming. Church and Community Engagement is moving into its new home, progressing program, and also setting up the grant. Academic Administration and Student Life is in the hectic admissions season. CACS is facilitating a spring visit with the international students and members of the Cross-Cultural Colloquy in New York City, where among other things, they will visit the UN and our Church Center. Finance is finalizing the budget and preparing for the Finance Committee meeting. Hospitality has a new reception desk being built. Institutional Advancement is in the midst of a feasibility study for the capital campaign. Human Resources and Institutional Effectiveness is (yes it is singular because it is the name of the department) working on the light touch Strategic Plan review and has several vacancies to progress. There is no break in work for these and other departments.

    It is important for us to learn to be sensitive to the different work cycles of different departments. Just because it is Spring Break for some, it is not for everyone. There is still so much going on. I want to thank all those who will hear the words "Spring Break" and have to cope with a reality that definitely is not a break. I am grateful for the way you handle this tension. 

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, March 16, 2018

    As Dr. Meg Warner and the Rev. Dr. Richard Burridge packed their bags to depart from the campus, it was interesting to learn from them the aspects of Seminary life that they had enjoyed most. For Meg, it was the teaching and space to progress a book on Joseph. For Richard, it was the writing. He had nothing but praise for the quality of the library. "It is just outstanding", he said to me more than once.

    Dr. Burridge's thesis about the genre of the Gospel has largely persuaded the academy. He argued that the correct way to read the Gospel is as Graeco-Roman biography. As he worked on various projects around the issue of genre, he was looking at every commentary published after the year 2000. On one particular day in the library, he was checking out 32 commentaries on Mark's Gospel. Each one was published after 2000 and had his name in the index. One student met him at the check out desk. After observing that "oh that was where the book I wanted was", he seized the opportunity to shake Dr. Burridge by the hand. Anyone cited in that many commentaries deserves appropriate recognition.

    Every user of our library says the same thing. Our library is simply outstanding. The books are there on the shelves. This is skillful and difficult work. So thank you to the team in the library. You are a great gift to this place.

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

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  • Thursday, March 15, 2018

    The Rev. Dr. Richard Jones, our professor emeritus of mission, had kindly agreed to give the two speakers at the Taha Al-Alwani Lectures in Muslim-Christian Dialogue a ride to the El Hibri Foundation in DC. As I sat in the car with Dr. Mualla Selcuk, Professor at Ankara University, Turkey, I took the opportunity to ask about her stay at Virginia Theological Seminary. Dr. Selcuk explained that she was very impressed by the Seminary. "Everyone has a sense of a community; everyone thinks it is important to introduce themselves to me," she explained. She went on to explain that her impression was that community is a value here; the Seminary really wants to make the guest welcome.

    It is perhaps inevitable that during Lent we will focus on our weaknesses and failings. And we are aware of those moments, when we have failed each other and failed the guest. We work hard at naming such moments; and we work hard at striving to rectify these moments. But we are allowed to pause and hear the praise as well. Here is a distinguished specialist in Education, who is formulating a powerful Islamic account that affirms the imperative of engaging with diversity, who is really enjoying her stay at Virginia Theological Seminary.

    As I discussed her experience, the credit for this moment ranged widely. Students are making the effort to talk to her at breakfast; staff have been welcoming; her questions have been answered promptly; and she has enjoyed the Flamingo. So well done VTS. For a moment, let us enjoy the recognition and gratitude from an utterly delightful guest.

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

    Today at 10:00 a.m., anyone interested (faculty, staff, and students) in participating in the "National Walk Out" is invited to do so. For seventeen minutes, we will stand in silence on the North Terrace of the Chapel. Today is the one month anniversary of the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen lives were taken. The bell will toll for seventeen times both at the beginning of the silence and then again at the end.

    The loss of human life is always tragic. To have lives taken in a setting which should be safe compounds the tragedy. Parents send children to school trusting that the children will come home safely in the evening. It is a major social failure when the young are not safe in school.

    The ripples of destruction will touch many lives. There are parents, siblings, and friends who will never know a normal life again. Typically, after such tragedies, marriages will fail, addictions will increase, and the aching gap of loss never heals. We pause on this day to pray; we pause trusting that God's grace will touch the pain of those suffering; and we pause to ask the civic question - what can we do to reduce the number of mass shootings?

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Tuesday, March 13, 2018

    The third quarter of the academic year is always the hardest. The cycle of the academic year has always been the same. We return from the joys of a vacation and a break and embark on the Fall with zeal and energy. Then as the nights get longer, we are blessed with the gifts of the finest American holiday invention, namely Thanksgiving, followed by the joy of the arrival of the Christ Child. Then we hit January. February and March are brutal. It is Lent; we are very conscious of our brokenness. We are tired, exhausted, and anxious.

    It is always the same. Every Rector, every leader of a major organization, will tell you. An incident in October can create a problem; the same size incident in March can create a massive problem. In addition, we behave less well. We will give up on worship because it doesn't suit; we will cease making the effort to talk to those we find hard; and instead we form a little bubble of our own.

    Dr. James Farwell invited the Faculty into a powerful Lenten discipline at the last Faculty meeting. He had listed all the Faculty and set their names against each day of Lent. He wanted us to deliberately and consciously lift each other up in prayer. It was a wonderful idea. What better way to sweep away the March blues than place each other into the presence of God. Prayer is the best antidote to this seasonal dip in energy.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Monday, March 12, 2018

    Katherine Malloy had just taken the phone call. "The standing committee of the diocese of Virginia wants you to attend their next meeting," she explained. So I made the journey to Fredericksburg, VA and spent a fascinating two hours with the committee.

    Their issue was profound and yet simple. "Why is it that postulants for Holy Orders find talking about Jesus so difficult?", they asked. Without exception, the Standing Committee wanted priests who can talk about their love for Jesus. They wanted the language to come easily to their congregational leadership; they wanted seminarians who can explain why Jesus matters and do so using illustrations from their life.

    The Episcopal Church might be socially liberal (and even here there is much more diversity than people imagine), but it is not theologically liberal. Some are tempted to imagine that love language for Jesus is confined to evangelicals, and that Episcopalians can stay away from such talk. However, the truth is that this is a feature of a solid devotional life that is Christ-centered. And plenty of Episcopalians expect a well-formed priest to have the capacity to talk about Jesus. So over to you: may we all learn how to speak about Christ in our lives.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, February 9, 2018

    The phone rang. I was expecting it. It was Ms. Heather Zdancewicz calling from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. We chatted about news from our respective institutions and about our families for some time. And then she got down to business. "Why were there no applications from VTS to the Episcopal Evangelism Society (EES)?" she asked.

    It was a good question. Our sister seminaries were making applications, but not VTS. As she was talking she googled our website - apparently we have one mention of the EES and it wasn't even properly identified. Here is a grant awarding organization; one that is eager to hear from seminarians who want to do imaginative, mission-orientated stuff; and here is a Seminary that believes that we must "Go ye in to the world and preach the Gospel". "What is wrong", asked Heather.

    So here is a challenge to all our seminarians. EES want really good applications. They want applications that are mission orientated. So let us get imaginative. May there be ten applications from VTS in the next round. This is, after all, who we are.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, March 8, 2018

    It was an interesting discussion. The Worship Committee was musing on the best way to handle the psalm. The singers in the group wanted to participate and listening to a cantor was not sufficient; for others (like me), the joy of listening to a solo voice fill that space was literally divine. When Ms. Margie Baker sang the psalm at the Tuesday Eucharist, it was the moment when I prayed hardest. I loved it.

    I do admire musicians. We have been singing the lovely arrangement of the Lord's Prayer, composed by Dr. David Gortner. And I freely confess I covet the skill. Creating music is such a divine activity; the tune is out there to be discovered; and it takes a deeply spiritual person to find it. I marvel. I appreciate the achievement.

    We are blessed with many talented musicians. The Rev. Dr. Bill Roberts is good at encouraging the talents of the community to blossom; and of course, he is, himself, a talented composer (the gift of a composition in my honor remains one of the most memorable gifts ever). So today, let us celebrate our musicians - the exceptional gift of Schola, the Prayer and Praise band, and yes to Margie singing the psalm and David Gortner's Lord's Prayer. All of you touch the heavens with your gifts. Thank you.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham PhD.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, March 7, 2018

    I looked around the table at the Alumni and Alumnae Executive Committee (AAEC), I knew everyone there. And so many had graduated during my tenure as Dean. It was a lovely moment. Here were a talented group of women and men serving the Seminary and serving the Church.

    Our conversation ranged widely. They mused thoughtfully on the challenge of searches and the danger of so many talented people being overlooked. It was clear that the agenda of the meeting thus far had been rich. Much of the conversation had focused on Strategic Planning for the AAEC. There was widespread appreciation of the hard work of Ms. Shelagh Casey Brown. 

    Our alums really matter. They are the bridge between the present and the past. These are human lives that have been formed in this place. They appreciate the work that the Seminary is doing. And they are deeply interested in supporting that work going forward. I enjoyed my brief time with them; and I am delighted that they are with us.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Tuesday, March 6, 2018

    The Preaching Excellence Program (PEP) has already had a significant impact on the Episcopal Church. It is a program focused on improving the quality of preaching; preaching still very much matters. It is a fabulous opportunity to join groups of students from the other seminaries. It is a space for intensive preaching. One both learns to listen and learns to deliver. It is an extraordinary gift, which is heavily subsidized by the Program.

    I am pleased to announce that our participants for the program this year are as follows: Brit Bjurstrom Frazier, John Lein, Crystal Hardin, Daniel Johnson, Melesa Skoglund, and Andrew Rutledge. Congratulations and thank you for representing VTS at this prestigious conference.

    Preaching a cosmically significant moment. Grounded in the context of the liturgy, addressing the congregation just after they have heard the Gospel, the preacher aspires to proclaim the Word needed at that moment. We have an obligation to take the moment deeply seriously. I am delighted that PEP provides this vitally important service to our Church.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Monday, March 5, 2018

    From time to time, it is good to be reminded that stable infrastructure is a privilege. Parts of the world live with intermittent electricity all the time. And with the storms of Thursday through to Saturday, we experienced that reality here at Virginia Theological Seminary. On Friday, we had to close the school. Temperatures dropped. We had to be imaginative to find a way through it all.

    It was Adam Pierce who expressed the gratitude of the community when he wrote, "I just wanted to take a second to say thank you to Jim Mathes for keeping us all updated on the power situation and making spaces available for people to charge their devices and everything else you were doing behind the scenes.  Thank you to Mary Margaret and the Junior class for hosting Full Stop last night, and again to Mary Margaret for all the extra running around that meant.  Thank you to everyone who kept fires going in Scott Lounge and to everyone who brought power strips so we could all plug in for a bit.  Thank you for the kitchen staff that served breakfast and lunch yesterday and brunch again today, For everyone that opened their homes up to the community and for neighbors who get coffee.  Thanks everyone, you're all wonderful."

    Please allow me to add to the list those who offered accommodations - showers, spaces that were warm - from our alum - Peter Ackerman, from off-campus students - Philene Ware Dunn, Colleen Schiefelbein, Stephen Crippen, Jeryl Mitchell, from staff - Linda Dienno, Elizabeth Osborne - and I am sure others. I know people were grateful to those who reached out. As it happens I was in Chapel Hill (in a rather nice hotel - sorry everyone) as the drama unfolded. But I sense from the emails that the VTS community came through well. Thank you everyone.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President 
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  • Friday, March 2, 2018

    Worship matters. It really does. And this is why the work of the Center for Liturgy and Music is so important. They provide tools and resources to enliven music, liturgy, and preaching in the parish. They also provide workshop-type events to educate clergy and laity, and even consultation. Tomorrow the CLM is offering Worship Matters: The Art of Psalm Singing, led by William Bradley Roberts, Professor of Church Music and Ellen Johnston, Director of the Center for Liturgy and Music. It is too late to register for this great event but fear not, there is more to come. 

    On Saturday, March 10 the CLM is offering Worship Matters: The Ritual Use of Incense, led by James Farwell, Professor of Liturgics. This two-hour event will explore the history of the practice as well as an introduction on how to use incense neatly and safely. The workshop is free and a great way to learn about the ritual use of incense. 

    Be sure to check out the CLM's resources and consider attending the event next Saturday. Not every time/space is safe to practice swinging a thurible, but this one is!

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, March 1, 2018

    There are times when it is important to slow down and take notice. Knowing where we have been informs our experience of the present and decisions we make about the future. When I assumed responsibility for oversight of the Office of Lifetime Theological Education (LTE), I began to ask a lot of questions. I quickly discovered that one person, Anne Karoly, the Associate Director of LTE, carried an extraordinary amount of institutional memory. Together we embarked on a journey to tell the story of Continuing Education at VTS. We discovered that 2017 was the 50th year of intentional programming beyond the formal seminary experience. This needed to be celebrated!
     
    With the publication of a special issue of News from the Hill chronicling five decades of non-degree theological education for lay and clergy leaders, a festive dinner with the seminary trustees, faculty and invited guests, and a provocative lecture by the Rev. Dr. Roger Ferlo, “The Word Became Flesh: Living Truth in Untruthful Times,” we have taken notice that this seminary cares about forming faithful leaders for a healthy church. We have also committed ourselves to the next 50 years of relevant, imaginative, accessible, and theologically-rich continuing education.
     
    This future would not be possible without the 10 years of steady program development and management by Anne Karoly. As we look toward the future, deeply grateful for the past, Anne will be moving to California to be closer to her family and to provide primary support her mother, Marilyn.
     
    Anne—VTS alum (1997), fabric artist, playful and prayerful colleague and friend—will be greatly missed, although her wisdom and support will continue to shape our future programming. Watch for an announcement of a celebration event to honor Anne. Characteristically, she has requested that it be “fun!”

    Elisabeth M. Kimball, Ph.D.
    Associate Dean of Lifelong Learning, Director of the Center for the Ministry of Teaching, and Professor of Christian Formation and Congregational Leadership
    Read More
  • February

    Wednesday, February 28, 2018

    Today we bid a fond farewell to Leslie Chadwick, Program Coordinator of Deep Calls to Deep, VTS’s program to nurture preaching passion. Leslie has accepted a call to be the Lower School Chaplain at St. Alban’s School in Washington, DC. St. Alban’s is blessed to have her, and we will certainly miss her here at VTS.

    It is no exaggeration to say that Deep Calls to Deep would not exist if it were not for Leslie. She came on board three years ago when this program was just beginning, and it was her task to take the vision for the program and make it a reality. To accomplish this, she worked tirelessly to publicize the program, recruit applicants, orient participants, train staff, oversee the budget, and manage the day-to-day operation of the program. She also planned and executed two week-long on-campus residencies of 35-60 people, which involved managing countless details pertaining to scheduling, hospitality, planning meals, orienting staff, and troubleshooting throughout the residencies. In all of this, the most important thing Leslie has done is to share her passion for this program, which has proven irresistible and has made this vision a reality.

    We are delighted that the Rev. Anne Turner will be taking over as Program Coordinator for Deep Calls to Deep. Anne helped to write the initial grant application for Deep Calls to Deep, and
    was a peer group facilitator in the first cohort of the program. Formerly Associate Rector at St. Mary’s, Arlington, Anne is a gifted preacher, and a recipient of VTS’s John Hines Preaching Award. Welcome, Anne—and Godspeed, Leslie.  
     
    Ruthanna Hooke
    Associate Dean of Chapel
    Associate Professor of Homiletics
    Director, Deep Calls to Deep
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  • Tuesday, February 27, 2018

    The Roundtable in Charlottesville was wonderful. Our host was our alum, Fr. Zachary Fleetwood. The venue was the beautiful St. Paul's Church in Ivy. The event was well attended. It was a three-course meal with a presentation that involved inviting guests to muse on admissions policy and conveying the exciting opportunities facing the Seminary.

    It is hard work to organize a fabulous meal from a distance. I am grateful for the extraordinary skill of Ms. Ann Roebuck. Given the busy nature of people's lives, you can expect a response rate of approximately 20% to invitations to an event. So you do the maths - forty people were present last night, must have meant .... Then follow up is crucial. Each person present will receive a letter; each person who was invited is sent a letter; and plans to persuade our Roundtable friends to visit the Seminary need to be made.

    Visiting the campus is crucial. We know from the CCMC (Customer Care Measurement and Consulting) data that if people visit the campus at least four times (this is the tipping point) then they feel very familiar with the Seminary. We also know from CCMC that those who are very familiar are six times more likely to give. So the science of philanthropy makes the work of Ann vitally important. Our mission and ministry depend on our friends. Our health and vitality as an organization depend on widening and strengthening our network of friends. So on an evening when friend making was the theme, let me just pause and thank the hard work of Ms. Ann Roebuck. It is much appreciated.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Monday, February 26, 2018

    Travel is an important part of my work. Last week I was in San Antonio, at the meeting of the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes (CEEP). It was a good event, with some excellent presentations involving Dr. Lisa Kimball and Dr. Robert Heaney. Around these events, I had a variety of meetings; it was an important opportunity to connect. One meeting in particular involved the Board of CEEP and the Council of Deans. It was exciting to learn that every member of the VTS community is a member of CEEP; I will ask Ms. Shelagh Casey Brown (who is on the Board) to share the details of how to access the CEEP resources.

    The weekend was spent down in Charlottesville, VA. I preached and did Adult Education at the Episcopal Church in Ivy, VA. Then today the Rev. Dr. Barney Hawkins and I will host a Roundtable. These meetings are important. The network of friends is a key indicator of our strength. And it takes time to create friends.

    Travel can be hard work. Do please sympathize with Dr. Robert Heaney. Due to the weather, Robert had to find a hotel in Dallas on Thursday night; his flight to San Antonio was canceled. He arrived bleary eyed and exhausted just in time for his talk. Fortunately it was still a good talk!

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


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  • Friday, February 23

    Over the six years since she joined the VTS community, Cassandra Gravina has truly become a fixture here. Sandra has served in various roles, moving her way up through Meriwether Godsey, the dining service provider here on campus. Most recently her title has been Account Manager. Sandra brings an eye for detail and passion for service that is second to none. 

    As she departs, we celebrate with Sandra. She is going to join the lovely team at Christ Church, Georgetown. Sandra will be serving as the Parish Coordinator, which means we will certainly see and hear from Sandra from time-to-time. Her kind heart and skill in coordinating events will undoubtedly serve the community there well. Sandra, do not be a stranger to us. As I like to say, once you are a part of VTS, you are always a part of VTS. 

    I also want to take this opportunity to thank all those who serve this community as Meriwether Godsey employees. Friends, we thank you for more than the food in our bellies. We thank you for the refreshment we receive from encountering your bright spirits each day. We thank you for your example of servant leadership, from which we can all learn. And we thank you for entering into this community, for living with us, caring for us, and allowing us to care for you. 

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, February 22, 2018

    The Spring Semester Thursday Community Eucharist Planning Team is committed to offering a worship experience that will be inviting and meaningful for all members of the VTS community. We hope to model a form of service that naturally honors the diverse ages, theologies, and liturgical preferences that inhabit most Episcopal congregations.  By emphasizing stability and consistency across each liturgical season (Lent and Easter), our goal is to provide opportunities for all present - the assembly and liturgical leaders – to be richly formed in the context of worship.  
     
    We will keep the Thursday services during Lent simple and contemplative. Most of the service will be said. Families will be sent information in advance so that they can begin or reinforce children’s participation in the Lord’s Prayer, the Nicene Creed and the hymns that will be sung.  Additional guidelines will be provided to the Rug shepherds to integrate the children’s time on the rugs more fully with the flow of the Eucharist.
     
    In sum, there will be seven Community Eucharists that reflect our planning process and we are in consultation with the other worship teams planning the services that will be interspersed with ours.
     
    We hope you will participate fully in Thursday Community Eucharists this semester.

    Amy and Lisa

    Amelia J. Dyer, Ph.D.
    James Maxwell Professor of Christian Education and Pastoral Theology

    Elisabeth M. Kimball, Ph.D.
    Associate Dean of Lifelong Learning, Director of the Center for the Ministry of Teaching, and Professor of Christian Formation and Congregational Leadership
    Read More
  • Wednesday, February 21, 2018

    I am pleased to share with you that effective Monday, February 12, Monica Sloan has joined our staff as Administrative Coordinator for Academic Administration and Student Life. Monica comes to us after over seventeen years of service at the American Federation of Teachers as Executive Assistant and Human Resources Assistant. She brings considerable skills in office management and a passion for our mission of formation of church leaders.

    As Monica assumes her responsibilities, I want to share with you that Rachel Holm has been appointed as Registrar for the Seminary. As you know, Rachel has previously served the Seminary as Assistant Director of Admissions and Financial Aid and most recently as Interim Registrar. She has proven once again to be a dedicated and gifted employee. I am pleased to remove “interim” from her title!
     
    Finally, you may have noticed some construction on the first floor of Aspinwall. Two work stations are being created for administrative assistants on the south side of the building adjacent. Once completed, we will shift Dr. Ross Kane and his assistant, Mara Sherman, from Bohlen Hall to the first floor of Aspinwall. This will mean that the entire Academic Administration and Student Life team, including Doctoral Programs, will be in the same area.

    While these shifts have meant a bit of dust and some movement of people, we believe they will assist us in serving the community better in the days ahead.

    The Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes
    Associate Dean of Students and Director of Anglican Studies
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  • Tuesday, February 20, 2018

    This week we welcomed a new member of the VTS community. Eliza Gesten from CCS Fundraising is joining us as the Study Coordinator for our Feasibility and Planning Study for the Bicentennial Campaign. Her office is Sparrow 201, and she can be reached at 703-461-1877 or EGesten@ccsfundraising.com.
     
    Eliza attended Colby College and earned a B.A. in Economics and Education. She hails from the Boston area and lived in Los Angeles for several years before moving to Northern Virginia. Eliza is a strong believer in the ability of non-profit institutions to change the world for the better. Her work in fundraising was inspired by her grandfather, the co-founder of a non-profit that provides valuable job training for people who are at-risk and unemployed.
     
    This will not be Eliza’s first time working with an Episcopal institution. Previously, Eliza conducted a planning study and capital campaign for Christ and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Norfolk, VA. That campaign raised over $3,800,000, exceeding their goal of $2,500,000. She has also recently conducted a planning study for the Baltimore Animal Care and Rescue Shelter and capital campaign for Chanco on the James Camp and Conference Center, a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia.
     
    I’m sure that Eliza will be a valuable addition to our team. Please be sure to give her a warm welcome when you see her around campus!

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, February 16, 2018

    Welcome, friends! We are delighted to have you with us for the 2018 Spring Visit Weekend. Over the next 36-48 hours, you will receive an abundance of information. We don't mean to overwhelm you; we just want to be sure you have all the information you need to prayerfully discern where God is calling you at this point in the journey. Please do not hesitate to ask us questions now or when they come to you following your visit. 

    Please be sure to welcome our many guests on campus today. They may need some help navigating things as they enter into the VTS community with us. We look forward to sharing worship, class, information sessions, and plenty of time for fellowship. 

    I also want to thank the invaluable team in AASL and the many students who have worked tirelessly to make this SVW possible. Derek Greten-Harrison, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, headed up the planning and execution of the weekend. He has been supported by Wendy Bermudez, Jim Mathes, Taylor Mather, Rachel Holm, and so many others. Senior students DeWayne Cope and Michaelene Miller have served as the Co-Chairpersons of SVW. Literally dozens of other students helped by serving on various committees, offering their gifts of hospitality, and sharing their experiences with our guests. Thank you all for making this SVW so special. 

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, February 15, 2018

    “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Sam. 3:10) As a community, we spend a lot of time talking about God, and a certain amount of time talking to God, but how much time do we spend listening to God?

    Quiet Day is a precious opportunity to spend time listening to God. It is a day set apart from our ordinary lives, a day to spend in silence and prayer. It may be that God has been trying to get your attention for some time now; today invites you to open up space and time to allow that voice to be heard. To create this space requires the discipline of setting aside work and unplugging from distractions so that we can simply be still and know that God is God. (Ps 46:10) This takes courage, for often we surround ourselves with distractions so as not to hear that voice which calls us to our true selves in sometimes challenging but ultimately liberating ways.

    There is also an intimacy to spending a day in silence with others; it can break down barriers and enable reconciliation in surprising ways. Practices like eating lunch in silence allow us to experience the essence of our life in a community.

    Our schedule for Quiet Day begins with Morning Prayer at 8:00 a.m., followed by the first meditation. Then, a noonday prayer service with the healing rite. Finally, the second meditation is at 4:00 p.m., followed by the Holy Eucharist. Our Quiet Day speaker is the Rev. Dr. Kate Sonderegger.

    As faculty and students enter into Quiet Day today, we offer gratitude to the staff, as we know that their work continues on this day.         
                   
    Ruthanna Hooke
    Associate Dean of Chapel and
    Associate Professor of Homiletics
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  • Wednesday, February 14, 2018

    So Ash Wednesday meets Valentine's Day. It is one of the quirks of the movable date of Easter. However, perhaps repentance meeting love isn't a bad combo. This is the season when we invite the liturgies of Lent to be the vehicle whereby God transforms our lives. Let us as we ease into this Lent recommit to our daily act of corporate worship as a key part of God's work in our lives.

    I am also grateful when I am present on the campus for the gift of Morning Prayer. It is the pause in my busyness - the space to offer the day to God. Last Friday was especially poignant. As I entered the day I was very conscious of the crippling and debilitating disease of depression. A friend had recently taken his own life. And so I entered into the discipline of Morning Prayer. It was Psalm 88 that spoke to me. The arrangement by our own Bill Roberts was powerful in its simplicity; and the words were full of despair. Our talented organist Tom Smith was taking us into the depth of that despair as the volume increased with the words "blazing anger" and the volume mellowed as the Psalm reached its tragic culmination "darkness is my only companion". It was the message I needed to hear as I started that day.

    Habits come from discipline. The temptation (and it is a temptation) is to decide that sleep, work, or the lack of enjoyment are good reasons for breaking the habit. Let us this Lent relearn a habit; and let us ground that habit in a discipline. And let us do all this out of love for the God who first loved us.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Tuesday, February 13, 2018

    On Saturday, February 10, VTS hosted a wonderful event, a dinner for refugee families. The refectory team did a beautiful job providing a halal meal that was delicious. There were over 160 people present.
     
    This is an emerging ministry of Christ Church, Alexandria, done "on the side" on a shoe-string budget, that is a great demonstration of dynamic, emergent partnership. CC partners with Catholic Charities, Alexandria City offices for housing, and other organizations and churches (including Hope UCC and Good Shepherd ELCA) to bring together people who want to invest time, money, and talent in helping approved refugee families get their feet under them, begin to make sense of this complex American society, find resources and opportunities, navigate various challenges, and find community. 
     
    VTS is delighted to join with this dynamic network. We were thrilled to host the event and provide an opportunity for 27 VTS students, faculty, and family members to meet these refugee families.
     
    Key people involved included Melanie Grey (social ministries director at CC), Jon Musser, Zeyneb Sayilgan, and me -- and students who volunteered, including students whose TPM501 placement are with CC's Lazarus Ministry, ALIVE!, and Carpenter's Shelter in Old Town Alexandria. Benjamin Judd and the entire Meriwether-Godsey team deserve extra kudos for their amazing hospitality and excellent food.
     
    This is a great example of how VTS can enter vigorously into Church and Community Engagement, and model for the Church how such partnerships can develop.

    The Rev. David T. Gortner, Ph.D.
    Associate Dean of Church and Community Engagement and Professor of Evangelism and Congregational Leadership
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  • Monday, February 12, 2018

    For the past several months the Worship Committee has been discussing the possibility of using in our corporate worship a form of the Nicene Creed that omits the phrase “and the Son” (the filioque clause) from the third paragraph of the Creed, and that incorporates somewhat more inclusive language in reference to God. This change was approved by General Convention in 1994, to take effect in the next revision of the Book of Common Prayer.
     
    The Worship Committee plans to host two forums on this topic this Spring. The first one, which will be held today, focuses on the use of inclusive language in worship. The second forum, to be held on February 28th, considers theological issues around the retention or omission of the filioque clause. Both forums will be held at 1:00 pm in Addison 101, and will include faculty presentations and opportunities for conversation.
     
    Questions concerning the language we use in worship to refer to God are of course crucial for leaders in the church to consider. Our language shapes how we think about God, how we pray, and how we engage persons of other faith and of no faith. Especially in the Anglican tradition, in which praying shapes believing in a particularly profound way, interrogating the language of our prayer is an ongoing and vital task. We hope you will join us for today’s forum.
     
    Ruthanna Hooke
    Associate Dean of Chapel
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  • Friday, February 9, 2018

    The joy of Virginia Theological Seminary is that there are extraordinary opportunities for learning and conversation. And today we welcome Bishop Grant LeMarquand - a Bishop who served recently in the diocese of Egypt with particular responsibilities for Ethiopia - to the Seminary. Bishop LeMarquand is moving back to Trinity School for Ministry to serve as the Professor of New Testament and Christian Mission.

    This event is co-sponsored by CACS and AFRECS (American Friends of the Episcopal Church of the Sudans). The Bishop is an evangelical, deeply sensitive to African concerns with the progressive direction of the Episcopal Church, who is committed to the imperative of conversation. He is thoughtful, dynamic, and has been willing to do what he can to support the witness of world Anglicanism in some of the most challenging parts of the world.

    So today, this lunchtime at 12:30 PM, this is an invite that is worth accepting. You will meet a remarkable man, who loves the Lord Jesus, and is striving to be a constructive presence in our historic moment. Please give the Bishop a warm welcome and attend his talk if able.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, February 8, 2018

    Yesterday the Board of Trustees finished its February meeting. The Tuesday afternoon was spent reflecting on project priorities. Four groups explored the areas of curriculum, physical plant, centers, and distance and satellite campuses. Some ten priorities emerged for the Seminary to further consider between now and the May Board meeting. In addition, the tuition fees for the next academic year were voted; and the partnership with Ming Hua was approved in principle. It was a rich and complex discussion.

    Much of the discussion concentrated on the vision we have for our future. The Board's view is that we are here to make a difference. Our task is to create possibilities that will support Christianity in general and the Episcopal Church in particular. So ideas circulating included a "Think Tank for congregational and theological studies" and a greater focus on encouraging the learning of Spanish and other non-English languages.

    We now have our marching orders. The Board has set the direction. It is now up to us to do the work of delivery.

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

    Last night was special. The Rev. Dr. Roger Ferlo gave an excellent talk to celebrate the 50th year of Lifetime Theological Education. One theme emerging from Dr. Ferlo's presentation is that a good training at Seminary must involve seizing opportunities to learn beyond the traditional curriculum. Continuing education needs to be part of the regular education. And so today, we invite us all to consider the opportunity to learn from Sybil MacBeth.

    Praying in Color
    sounds like a fun spiritual practice, doesn't it? And indeed it can be. This practice provides a tangible way to engage with the Divine. Often in prayer our minds wander, our bodies are restless, our words seem inadequate, and so many other barriers make it difficult for us to enjoy quality time with our God. Sybil MacBeth is providing two opportunities this week to learn about this embodied prayer practice. At 8:00 PM today, February 7, Sybil will lead a workshop in Praying in Color in our coffee shop on the lower level of Addison, the Flamingo. Another session will take place at 1:00 PM in the Flamingo tomorrow, February 8. 

    One of the great gifts of this place is the opportunities provided to us to learn new spiritual practices, engage in conversation, and learn from other people of faith. Consider taking advantage of one of these opportunities to learn from Sybil MacBeth about the practice of Praying in Color. 

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Tuesday, February 6, 2018

    The Rev. Robert C Hooper (1995) sat in my office at 6pm. "You need to know that this has been a really good trip." Bob Hooper is here on the campus interviewing candidates for a position at St. James's Episcopal Church in West Hartford CT. He explained that our Director of Alumni and Church Relations, Ms. Shelagh Casey Brown, had been remarkable. Accommodation was booked, meal tickets provided, interviews were set, and bottles of water were provided during the day. Then he went on: "Every seminarian has arrived on time for his or her interview (which matters to Bob because those who are late are automatically impossible to appoint) and all have been likable." This was encouraging. Shelagh has worked hard on placement (she is understandably proud of our 100% placement rate); and our seminarians make a good impression. This is really good.

    As the Board of Trustees gather on the campus, this impression from an alumnus who is running a strong, vibrant congregation in West Hartford, CT is really helpful. We strive to produce women and men who can make a difference to the Church. As the Board makes decisions about the priorities of the Seminary, this data from Bob will be shared; we need to continue to produce graduates that impress Rectors who are searching for persons who can support their ministry.

    It is lovely to welcome the Board to the campus. They are generous with their time. We value their presence with us. Please do greet and meet our Board members.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D. 
    Dean and President
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  • Monday, February 5, 2018

    I am pleased to announce that Elizabeth Osborn will be stepping into a new role in Institutional Advancement as the Capital Campaign Associate, as of February 1. She will be supporting me in my new role as the Co-Director of the Capital Campaign and helping to plan the Bicentennial Celebration activities. Her new position will also include the curation of the campus’ interior spaces and organizing art events on campus.
     
    Elizabeth has previously served as the Development Associate, managing VTS’ Raiser’s Edge database, beginning in October 2016. She has actively sought out new training opportunities to expand her Raiser’s Edge skills and she attended a CASE conference on development last year. Elizabeth has improved the state of our database and streamlined many of our processes, helping to increase our readiness for the Campaign.
     
    Elizabeth has grown well into her role here, assisting with many campus events, such as the Phonathon and Alumni Convocation. We are delighted to have her on our Bicentennial Campaign team and to see her stepping up to this new challenge!
     
     
    The Rev. James Barney Hawkins IV, Ph.D.
    Co-Director, Bicentennial Campaign
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  • Friday, February 2, 2018

    A well-run organization relies on timely, correct information. The Communications Department, recently brought under my supervision, has been burning the midnight oil to keep the community on the Holy Hill and friends around the world informed and involved in recent happenings. We recognize that more and more, the most effective way to reach friends near and far is online.

    The Weekly Communiqué is a wonderful weekly email curated by communications associate, Elizabeth Panox-Leach. Sent out every Friday to students, faculty, and staff, it notes events, job opportunities for students and spouses, and features a photo of the week, recapping the goings-on at the Seminary. It, along with the Dean's Commentary, is often a first line of information to the Community.

    Students have embraced “the Kay,” as it is informally known, and regularly forward their own small group events and opportunities. Events for the Seminarians of Color Union, worship schedules, and the yearly call for forums have all been included. Even I have joined in, submitting invitations to my Deanery Dinners.
     
    But we want to spread the word even further. Are you interested? Please subscribe by filling out this form. Submissions are accepted via email at editor@vts.edu.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, February 1, 2018

    Today, the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, the Rt. Rev. Michael B. Curry will be on campus. He is here as part of our Center for Anglican Communion Studies’ 20th anniversary year and will give a lecture on the theme of, “Why the Episcopal Church Needs World Anglicanism” at 7:30 p.m. in the Multipurpose Room.
     
    We are delighted that he will also preach and preside, and will bless our new stained-glass windows at the 5:20 p.m. Community Eucharist.
     
    For Bishop Curry, the diversity of our Communion is “representative of the family of God.” He describes it as a “…fellowship and union in Christ…” a fellowship and union “…that is bigger than any difference…” But why, amidst such diversity and disagreement is the Communion important? That is precisely the subject our Presiding bishop will address this evening.
     
    A panel of VTS faculty and students will respond and engage with the Presiding Bishop’s remarks. The panel will be moderated by CACS Director and Associate Professor of Christian Mission, the Rev. Robert Heaney Ph.D., D.Phil, and will include the Rev. Katherine Grieb Ph.D., the Rev. Kathy Walker ’18, and the Rev. Halim Shukair, ’18.
     
    Registration for the lecture is now closed, and seats are unavailable. However, both the Center for Anglican Communion Studies 20th Anniversary Lecture and the Community Eucharist will be streamed live. For more information visit our website www.vts.edu or follow these links directly:
     
    Today is another special day at Virginia Seminary. Today is another opportunity to experience, more fully, what it means to be part of a global and growing Jesus movement.  
     
    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D
    Dean and President
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  • January

    Wednesday, January 31, 2018

    One of our indicators of impact and reach is the data around website taffic. And the recent data from the Rev. Matthew Kozlowski and Ms. Charlotte Greeson about Building Faith is impressive. Currently, Building Faith has 2,536 subscribed; it looks likely that they will add a hundred extra subscribers for this month alone. For the period from September 25th to January 25th, they had 106,720 users. These are visitors to the site who read at least one article. It peaked around Christmas with over 4,000 users. Most of the audience is female; and most are distributed fairly evenly across the ages of 30-75. Increasingly users are accessing the site on smartphones and tablets.

    These statistics are really important. We focus much of our energy on the 150 or so residential students. And we love you all. However, the reach of VTS extends far beyond this holy hill. Our 2,536 subscribers and 106,720 users are women and men who are seeking to get ideas to enhance christian formation. They are doing ministry on the ground. And we are making a difference. This website is a high quality experience, with well-written and accessible articles. This is improtant work.

    For those of us living here on the Holy Hill, I invite you to make a trip to the CMT, to visit the website, and to learn about the resources that in time you will need. And for Associate Dean Lisa Kimball and in particular the work of Matthew and Charlotte, we celebrate the growing and remarkable success of this ministry. Thank you for making a difference. 

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Tuesday, January 30, 2018

    It is lovely to welcome Dr. Megan Warner back on the campus. Dr. Warner is  teaching Hebrew with Dr. Stephen Cook. She is currently working on a Templeton project at the University of Exeter, entitled "Tragedy and Congregations Project". She has an impressive resume, including some key publications which are both popular and very specialized. At the accessible end of the spectrum is the fabulous Lent book called Abraham: A journey through Lent (and yes Lent is coming up); at the specialized end of the spectrum is the very recent publication entitled Re-Imagining Abraham: A Re-Assessment of the Influence of Deuteronomism in Genesis. She is in demand as a speaker having spoken at the Greenbelt Festival, as well as Grahamstown South Africa, Canterbury, Mexico City, and Cologne. 

    Meg brings an exceptional theological mind, a delightful spirit, and a deep faith. She is here living on the campus with her husband the Rev. Dr. Richard Burridge. Do please reach out to them both and make them welcome.

    At Virginia Theological Seminary, part of the richness of this experience is the presence of visiting faculty. We aspire to bring to the campus those who have deep church experience (such as Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori) and deep academic experience (such as Professor Keith Ward). In Meg, we have both - a lay person with deep church experience and a remarkable academic resume. 

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


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  • Monday, January 29, 2018

    The Spring semester is upon us. We start with our traditional Faculty procession and gathering of the community at the Eucharist. 8.15am this morning; our honorary chair, Bishop Shand, will be the celebrant. It is always a lovely occasion.

    Starting a semester with worship is right. This is our primary duty and joy. In worship we center our lives upon God; and in so doing, we ensure that the rest of our life is in balance. We put everything in context - career, relationships, worries, hopes, and fears are all orientated around a foundation that is grounded in the eternal. Worship helps us to live aware of the transcendent and therefore live with a sense of responsibility (we will be held accountable) and with a sense of obligation (we are called to live out our calling where God has placed us to serve).

    So let us lift up our lives to God in worship. Let us vow that this will be my focus. And let us sing, listen, and receive afresh the good news of God in Christ.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, January 26, 2018

    Today we offer a very special welcome to new employee Mara Sherman, who joins Virginia Theological Seminary as the Administrative Coordinator of our doctoral programs. Mara brings with her a deep commitment to serving others, having joined us from the Jewish War Veterans of America. She is a warm and collegial presence here at the Seminary. In a few short weeks has already shown what a gift she will be to our doctoral programs and to the Academic Affairs and Student Life department.

    “Mara has established herself as a wonderful colleague,” says Ross Kane, Director of Doctoral Programs. “She brings a high level of professionalism as well as a caring heart to our programs.”
     
    Our doctoral students make up about one-third of the VTS student body. These programs are low-residency degrees, with students working full-time in places like parishes, schools, and hospitals while pursuing their doctorates. The students display remarkable commitment, continuing their education while in their ministry vocations. Mara not only brings the skills to administer various aspects of the doctoral programs, but also the warmth and grace to connect with our students even when they live far beyond our campus. 

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, January 25, 2018

    Wednesday through Friday this week at VTS, we are hosting a writing retreat for Doctor of Ministry students in their first year of thesis writing. While this is the first such retreat we’ve hosted, we hope that it will become an annual event to support students completing their theses. Students have traveled from as far away as Canada ad Hawaii to be part of this event.
     
    The writing retreat provides a number of helpful offerings—from workshops on best writing practices to opportunities to connect with faculty advisors. Most importantly for our doctoral students who have demanding jobs in places like parishes and schools, it gives intentional time and space away from their daily tasks to reflect and write. I’m grateful to those who have coordinated this event: Ross Kane and Melody Knowles, who proposed and followed through on this idea, Mara Sherman, who organized the event, and Sharon Heaney and Beth Friend, who have provided invaluable instruction.
     
    These students remind us of the gift that the space of VTS can be for those in full-time ministry. We provide a beautiful place to write, ample library resources, and opportunities for sharing ideas with others. In future years we hope to open this writing retreat to pastors working on their own writing projects. If you’re interested in participating in future years, email our doctoral programs at dmin@vts.edu.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, January 24, 2018

    On Sunday night my wife, Lesley, realized she had a very unpleasant bug. On Monday, she was so unwell she was unable to eat and had no choice but to stay in bed. Although the plan was for the Meade Room in the Deanery to host the gathering of Rectors, I called Katherine Malloy and asked for the venue to move both for the sessions and for dinner.

    This is where VTS is impressive. It isn't simply when the planned events go well, but when we scramble to adjust to a new reality. Rooms were booked; a sign went up on the Deanery door; Taryn Habberley let Santino Dut know that the set up was no longer in the deanery; Benjamin Judd had to think about how to organize a lovely dinner in the chapel parlor; and so the list of changes goes on. It was all hands on deck. 

    And the result yesterday was excellence. I marveled afresh at the behind the scenes effectiveness of VTS. Our guests did not see the complications; everything was good. So yesterday I thanked all those who organized this meeting; today I thank all those who helped us reorganize this meeting. 

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • January, Tuesday 23, 2018

    The Strategic Plan committed us to conversations with rectors of parishes. Today, we welcome a group of rectors of Episcopal churches who are all part of the Anglican Communion parishes. Between these rectors they have a membership combined which is larger than many dioceses. They are committed to mission and to growth. We are excited that they are with us.

    The Seminary strives to learn from these thriving congregations. What they get right is what we need to get right in our training. We are excited to listen, learn, and support. 

    Moments like this take considerable organization. I am grateful to Katherine Malloy and Melesa Skoglund, who did many of the logistics. Benjamin Judd of Meriwhether Godsey will be providing many of the meals. Jeff Harre in Hospitality has assisted with the organization of accommodation. Once again the great VTS welcome goes into operation. If you see a wandering Rector, then please do say hello.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Monday January 22, 2018

    Faculty colleagues gathered at the Claggett Center for the annual Faculty retreat. There were lots of new faces - Jacqui Ballou, Linda Dienno, Mark Jefferson, Ross Kane, and Jim Mathes. Last night, while sitting around a warm fire, our administrators shared their sense of vocation and vision for the Seminary. It was lovely to hear how administration can be seen as ministry. One of our newer priests on the Faculty, Bill Roberts, presided at the Eucharist. It was a good moment as we settled into being together.

    The main topic is the Curriculum Review. We are still putting in place the building blocks for discussion. Learning from stakeholders and examining alternative MDiv programs from other seminaries. Our goal is to create the MDiv which is both excellent and at the same effective in making our graduates ready for ministry.

    Naturally, these occasions involve considerable laughter. There are deep bonds of affection that connect people together. It was good to be with these remarkable women and men as we strive to ensure that the Seminary goes from strength to strength.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, January 19, 2018

    Among the Bishop Payne Library’s many treasures is the African American Episcopal Historical Collection (AAEHC), which is a joint project of VTS and the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church.  Curating the AAEHC not only involves attending to “big picture” matters such as soliciting collection donors and coming up with interesting exhibits but it also involves managing a host of details that ensure collections are accessioned and preserved according to standard archival principles and are readily accessible when patrons need them.

    The AAEHC’s Processing Archivist is essential to accomplishing these activities.  We are pleased to announce that Ms. Ebonee Davis became the Processing Archivist in early November.  With a Bachelor of Arts in History from Howard University and a Master of Arts in Museum Studies and Historical Preservation from Morgan State University, Ebonee brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the AAEHC.  She has worked with the National Park Service, the Maryland Park Service, and the Montgomery County Parks, among other organizations.  In addition to her experience processing collections, she has also helped several organizations develop and implement their educational programs.   For example, she interpreted African American history at Montgomery County’s historical sites, and she has led Underground Railroad Experience hikes. 

    Ebonee’s passion for history and the archival profession is clear.  We are thrilled to have someone with her impressive educational and professional background working in the AAEHC.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, January 18, 2018

    Tonight I am in Pensacola doing a talk on "Transforming relationships between Christians and Muslims". Yesterday I had a delightful visit with Bishop Russell Kendrick. It is exciting to visit other parts of the country. It is good to see what our alums are doing as they shape the future of the church.

    Seminary is like a stone being thrown into the middle of a lake. It is a moment of drama; water moves to one side; human lives are shaped, formed, and changed; and women and men are prepared for decades of service. And the initial waves, created by the stone, become ripples that radiate from the moment of impact. So as I tour different congregations - some big, some small - I see the waves and ripples radiating out from the Seminary. Their biblical knowledge is shared; their pastoral skills are utilized; and their sense of the craft of ministry is realized.

    For every life educated on the holy hill, thousands of lives are impacted. As people handle moments of joy (the birth of a child, the decision to get married) and moments of deep sadness (loss, illness, and divorce), so a priest formed at Virginia Theological Seminary is present. At moments - these life changing moments - all of us working at Virginia Theological Seminary are having a dramatic impact on the world.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, January 17, 2018

    Any on-campus event truly embodies the phrase “it takes a village.” The eFormation 2018 Flagship Gathering on January 12th and 13th once again relied on the different pieces of the VTS system moving together to welcome the 80+ in-person participants to the refectory, Addison, guest housing, and more.
     
    The Hospitality Team, including Jeffri Harre and Tayrn Habberly, were instrumental in scheduling, organizing, and coordinating Addison and other spaces. Many thanks to Santino Dut and the Sodexho helpers and their ability to flip, set-up and maintain all of our various rooms and day-of needs. Reggie Gravina and Nick Evancho (VTS ’18) were webinar rockstars, helping to bridge connect in-person and distance attendees. Benjamin Judd, Cassandra Gravina and the Merriwether-Godsey staff aided in keeping our attendees fueled; full stomachs allowed their brain cells to keep firing.
    The Flamingo staff of Anna Broadbent (VTS ’18), Ashley Mather (VTS ’19), Kyle Mackey (VTS '18), Brian Bechtel (VTS '19) and Emily Colette Linton (VTS '20) provided caffeine and excellent space for conversation. In fine form, the Business and Communications Offices supported our financial end to allow us to put our best foot forward online and in-person, both essential to conferences!
     
    Sarah Stonesifer, the VTS digital minister, is the center of all of this activity, while the eFormation learning community heartbeat and lifeblood is in the Lifelong Learning and CMT teams. Logistics, hands-on assignments and go-fer help thanks go to AnnaMarie Hoos (VTS ’19), Sarah Bentley Allred (VTS ’19), Chris Decatur (VTS ’20), Shayna Watson (Anglican Studies), Dorothy Linthicum, Matthew Kozlowski, Stacy Williams-Duncan, and Amy Dyer. Lisa Kimball continues to guide the vision of the eFormation community, pushing it to new possibilities. eFormation illustrates the power of people working together – and VTS is a wonderful and supportive place to do just that! 

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Dean Markham Writes About the Sin of Racism

    Yesterday the Seminary was closed to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We mark the journey that America has made as we confront our racist past and pray that the future might be different. However, this particular MLK Day was especially poignant as our country continues to struggle with diversity.

    Given we want to celebrate our political diversity, the Seminary seeks to be careful with our political pronouncements, but on some topics we have an obligation to speak. In my time at Virginia Theological Seminary, we have had staff and students from countries as diverse as Haiti, Sudan, Ghana, Dominican Republic, Tanzania, Kenya, El Salvador, Liberia, and so the list goes on. We have enjoyed the relationships and friendships that have formed. Every country in the world is a mixture of charm and challenges. And in my visits to some of these countries, I have fallen in love with the vibrant witness of the church that I have found there. As the dean speaking on behalf of the Board and the Faculty, I need to make it clear: we appreciate deeply the gifts of those who come from Haiti, El Salvador, Africa, and elsewhere. We always want you to know that you are welcome; and we are delighted when you feel that this place is indeed home for you.

    The question MLK Day always poses is this: does America prefer white people? If this country does, then racism is still very much in our midst. And on racism, there are no Christian choices. We are either opposed to racism or we are heretics. The Imago Dei, the Incarnation, and the redemption of the whole world in Christ - all require us to take a stand. Our witness is clear: we condemn unequivocally all those who advocate or even just flirt with racism. We name it for what it is - a deeply destructive sin. May God forgive us all.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, January 12, 2018

    What we now call the eFormation Learning Community first started in 2012 with a small gathering of Christian formation leaders who wanted to meet the challenge of new technologies that were becoming more available. They focused on ways to integrate the theological, formation, and pastoral needs of the faithful with the growing presence of online connection and communications.
     
    Since then, eFormation has been at the forefront of conversations, exploring what it means to be church in the 21st century. This year, the Flagship Gathering occurs on-campus today and tomorrow.
     
    Friday’s Leadership Summit includes forward-thinking conversations about topics facing digital ministry leaders. These facilitated discussions of our convened gathering allow the eFormation community to learn from each other as it embarks into a new collective mission.
     
    Saturday’s hands-on workshops are a signature of almost any eFormation event, providing practical and up-to-date tools and resources for attendees. Six workshops will be simulcast with distance participants to allow more people to engage in the event.
     
    The next two days are a wonderful opportunity to learn from digital leaders – whether you’re searching for new ways to tell stories, or hoping to learn how digital ministry is REAL ministry.
     
    Take advantage of the conversations and workshops happening in Addison and around campus over the next 48 hours to discover how and why digital ministry is transformational for so many.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, January 11, 2018

    Today I am heading to Phoenix, Arizona. I am traveling with the co-director of the capital campaign, the Rev. Dr. Barney Hawkins. This is the first trip of a busy spring. As we start gearing up for a capital campaign, there is no substitute for face-to-face meetings with our alums, friends, and potential donors.

    It is an important trip. Preparations have been laid by Vice President Dienno (she has visited twice) and by an alum event organized by the Rev. Dr. Judy Fentress-Williams. Now is the time to tell the story of the Seminary and offer a compelling vision of our role in the ecology of theological education.

    Most of us have many causes that we like to support. In a world where there are many needs, the Seminary has to work hard to explain precisely why we are worth a gift. And in the end the reason is simple: we are aspiring to change the trajectory of the Episcopal Church. It is true that we are blessed with resources that can keep our physical operations here on the campus going (buildings, etc.); but we need resources to support programs that will produce leaders who can grow the church (e-Formation, lectures by renowned scholars, etc.). So as Deep Calls to the Deep starts making a difference to the quality of preaching in congregations, the program needs resources to continue beyond the funding of the grant from the Lilly Endowment. If you believe that a generous thoughtful faith is needed in the United States, then you need to believe in Virginia Theological Seminary. This is the message we are sharing this Spring - in Phoenix today and on other occasions around the country.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, January 10, 2018

    Hartley Wensing has worked at Virginia Theological Seminary since 2014 as the Special Projects Coordinator in our Center for Anglican Communion Studies (CACS). I am delighted to announce that, this month, Hartley becomes Director of Special Projects in CACS.
     
    Hartley holds a B.A. in Religion and Anthropology from Princeton University and a M.S. in Educational Policy Studies/Intercultural Development Education from Florida State University. She brings to her work a wealth of expertise and experience from international and inter-cultural teaching, leadership development, and project management. 
     
    As Special Projects Coordinator Hartley provided logistical and organizational support for the Director, as CACS serves the larger vision of the Seminary particularly through discrete and developing projects and relationships. As the work and reputation of CACS has grown in the wider church and Communion, so too the responsibilities of the Special Projects Coordinator have grown. It is right, then, that as Hartley has taken on a more strategic role in the department’s work, and also has taken on a representational role for the director and for the institution that her job title reflect such development.
     
    Commenting on her contribution, director of CACS, the Rev. Robert S. Heaney Ph.D, D.Phil, says, “Hartley has a proven track record of outstanding service to Virginia Seminary. She brings to her work a calm competence that instills confidence in the vision and work of VTS throughout the Communion. She is an invaluable colleague with a range of gifts that have graced our work together.”  
     
    Please take a moment today to recognize and congratulate our greatly valued and much-loved colleague!
     
    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D
    Dean and President
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  • Tuesday, January 9, 2018

    A second commentary on the Council of Deans meeting is unusual. But yesterday was extremely interesting and worth sharing with the community. The focus was on recruitment. We had Mr. Chris Meinzer, Senior Director of the Association Theological Schools, address the Council about recruitment trends. The data was interesting. Most ATS schools are shifting to shorter professional ministry MA degrees and away from the MDiv. The focus over the last decade on lay education has largely failed. There is no growth in this area. There are currently 500 MDiv students at Episcopal Seminaries. In response, the Deans considered a proposal from the Bishop of Texas, our alum, Bishop Andy Doyle, for the seminaries to partner with dioceses in the raising up of vocations. And then the Rev. Alan Bentrup, again our alum, shared the work of and learnings from the Missional Voices conference. 
     
    After our discussions, we toured the media center here at Trinity School of Ministry. I am hoping that representatives from Lifelong Learning might make a trip to visit; as the dean of Trinity observed, “you can learn from our mistakes, as well as our progress.” It was an impressive complex, which is all set up for podcasts, lectures, and live casting. 
     
    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President

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  • Monday, January 8, 2018

    Pittsburgh in -7 degrees is a tad chilly. I am attending the Council of Deans meeting at Ambridge, PA. We are being hosted by Trinity School of Ministry. It is an opportunity for the leadership of the seminaries to compare notes. Our agenda is rich. Bishop Andy Doyle of Texas is attending; his idea of the seminaries getting more involved in the raising up of vocations is going to be discussed. Mr. Gary Shilling, the founder of the Episcopal Preaching Foundation, is here. Our concern is the same: how can we get this holy work for the future of the church?

    Predictions of the demise of seminaries are widespread. However, in truth, the seminaries are much more robust than the critics imagine. Almost everything that commentators in the Church would like to see the seminaries do is happening; we have distance options; we have intensives; we have partnerships with counseling degrees; and we have opportunities to study abroad. There is plenty of innovation embedded in the seminaries.

    It is good to connect with my fellow deans. We are all trying our best. They are friends in ministry: we all trust and hope that God will take our labors and use them to God's glory.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Friday, January 5, 2018

    It might be bitterly cold. It might be the season of the GOEs. It might be hard to get to work. But actually, today is a very exciting time on the campus. At 6am this morning a team of specialist installers arrived on the campus. Working in the darkness in the Chapel, three remarkable stained glass windows are being installed.

    It was Robert Stern who suggested the stained glass specialist for our Chapel. The BBC had made two documentaries on this designer. He was the man who took stained glass out of churches and put it everywhere - in office buildings, shopping malls, and conference centers. He solicits commissions from around the world. His exhibitions attract considerable media interest. We were delighted when he accepted our commission. Brian Clarke was to be the designer for our windows.

    Thanks to three generous donors, the windows have been designed. They are spectacular. The dove - almost moving at high speed - hovers over the baptismal font on the west wing; the oak leaves - representing the Father, the genesis of all that is - sits dignified in the north transept; and the parable of the sower from Canterbury Cathedral as it is refracted by the light onto the ground of the Cathedral represents the power of the Incarnation mediated to us through Canterbury to the Episcopal Church in the United States. 

    Hopefully later today you will be able to go into the Chapel and see the windows. Try and pick a sunny moment; and as you do so marvel at the great art and the gift it brings to worshippers for generations to come.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, January 4, 2018

    This morning the campus is white; the wind makes it very cold. Other schools are closing; the federal government is on a two hour delay. So naturally, everyone wonders what the Seminary will do. So let me set out some principles which will shape our decision making.

    In terms of educational program, the vast majority of the students and faculty live on the campus. Provided the campus is safe for walking, we are hoping that even in a major storm the cancellation of classes will be unnecessary. If the professor and students can get to the class, then the class should go ahead. Now for our staff who commute to the campus, we always invite staff to consider the conditions they face and to take safety into account. If you live out in rural Virginia, then the commute might be impossible; if you live at Cameron Station in Alexandria, then the commute is perfectly possible. So once again, we will tend to have the school open for basic services and invite any individual staff person to contact his or her supervisor if there is a particular problem.

    These decisions are always controversial. Constantly closing is very disruptive; but being open can be challenging to some staff. I invite us all into a space of thoughtful consideration. The announcement from Jim Mathes today invited users of the Butterfly House to consider the reduced staffing levels and perhaps have family time instead of childcare. This is the right attitude. Let us do what we can as we live through these periodic storms.

    The Very Rev. ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, January 3, 2018

    General Ordination Examinations (GOE's) dominate the lives (and fears) of our senior M.Div. students this week. And well they should, to an extent. The GOE's are administered by the General Board of Examining Chaplains (GBEC) which aims to standardize the process of examination for ordination. Candidates are tested in the areas of the Holy Scriptures, History of the Christian Church, Christian Theology, Christian Ethics and Moral Theology, Christian Worship, and the Practice of Ministry.

    It is understandable that the GOE's tend to be a source of anxiety, however our students are well-prepared. Faculty members teach in ways that help students to reach across disciplines, integrating both knowledge and resources. They are practicing ministry in diverse contexts throughout their time as students. And throughout the fall semester Seniors met on Friday afternoons for GOE review sessions on various topics. 

    Please pray for our students this week. Seniors, be gentle with one another. Remember that the GOE's are a tool, but not the only tool, used to examine those seeking ordination. And you are well-prepared. 

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Tuesday, January 2, 2018

    2018 is upon us. The second decade of the 21st century is nearly over. This is going to be an exciting and interesting year. The building blocks of a capital campaign are being put in place; the curriculum review is underway; our worship life is continuing to develop; three major multi-million dollar grants are going to be implemented; Center of Anglican Communion Studies continues to mark its 20th year; and all the regular work of the seminary continues in the library, Butterfly House, Facilities, AASL, DMin, Communications, Life Long Learning, LTE, CLM, CMT, Hospitality, CACS, Church and Community Engagement, Field Education, Human Resources, Catering, Cleaning, Housekeeping, and so the list goes on. Together we advance the mission of the Seminary.

    This start to the new year includes the funeral of Murray Newman. Today we will celebrate a distinguished professor who served this seminary for decades in the past. Our past created our present. Our strength is due to those whose seved in the past. Our duty is to make sure that we leave a seminary strong for the future. As Murray Newman did in the past, may we do the future. This is our goal for 2018.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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< 2018
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