2018

Dean's Commentary Archive

  • February

    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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