2019

Dean's Commentary Archive

  • February

    Tuesday, February 19, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Monday, February 11, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     
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  • Wednesday, February 6, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thursday, January 31, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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