2018

Dean's Commentary Archive

  • December

    Tuesday, December 11, 2018

    So the Student Body President - K.C. Robertson and the Student Body President Elect - Jared Grant met with me yesterday. We had a good change over. We discussed the issues facing the community as we come to the end of 2018. One interesting issue was the closure of Mission Lane. So I took the opportunity to brief Jared on this hot topic.

    Originally the designs envisaged the widening of Mission Lane in 2016. But there was a significant reaction to that proposal from the parents of the children in the apartments. (Jared shared that the memory of some was that the scale of the reaction was less than I recalled). My memory was that there was a "Town Hall" meeting where with a show of hands everyone except two people voted to close Mission Lane. The arguments in favor of closing were strong. All Quaker Lane traffic heading towards the apartments goes past the playground. It is a narrow lane. Cars drive too quickly around the campus. Uber drivers get lost in this part of the campus. And parents from Episcopal High School use the lane as a cut through to Quaker Lane. The risk of an injury to a child is real.

    Some students think the decision should be revisited. Perhaps the current occupants would feel differently from the earlier classes. Herein lies one of the many challenges of leadership. With finely balanced decisions (and this is finely balanced), there are always good arguments on both sides. However, I am persuaded that safety is a higher priority than the inconvenience of a longer drive around the campus. The arguments of that Town Hall meeting in 2016 were good arguments. But do remember this moment in your formation. When you are in ministry (whether lay or ordained) and you make a call, don't be surprised that the decision generates strong feelings on both sides and don't be surprised that there is often a desire to revisit a decision.

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

    The service last night was magical. Advent was on display in all its richness. There is such a beautiful simplicity in it all. It is just the reading of Scripture and Advent Carols. Let me start by thanking all those involved - the organizers in Institutional Advancement (especially Ms. Ann Roebuck), the musicians and singers (led by our so talented leader the Rev. Dr. Bill Roberts), and the readers of the lessons. Thank you all.

    It was also an occasion when we honored Mr. David Booth Beers. David has been involved with the Seminary for decades. His love and passion for the Episcopal Church are considerable. Both professionally and personally, he has given his life to our tradition. 

    As Chancellor of our Church, David served with distinction during the tenures of Presiding Bishops Browning, Griswold, Jefferts Shori and Curry. Without a doubt, David’s legal mind made a difference during the recent years of litigation and turmoil. As he leaves office, however, he leaves a “big tent” Episcopal Church, one which welcomes conservatives and liberal. That’s a precious gift! David gave our Church all he had, and we will ever be grateful.

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

    It has been a good day. As one travels, one meets alums. Tonight, in Los Angeles, there were some thirty friends and alums gathered at the Refectory of All Saints Beverly Hills. The last time I did a talk in the Refectory was many years ago. In fact, a certain Greg Milliken was an aspirant in the process who was at that event. This time, there were alums from as long ago as 1957 to as recent as 2015. The Rev. Dr. Barney Hawkins shared the news about the Bicentennial Celebration and Campaign. The response was positive.

    Perhaps the remarkable funeral at the Washington National Cathedral, followed by St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston, were factors. These were occasions when VTS alums were very visible. The preacher at both occasions was our alum the Rev. Russ Levenson. Both sermons were amazing. The Gospel was preached; the 41st President was honored. This is the VTS gift.

    The Association of Theological Schools stresses that a good school should be judged by the quality of the outcomes. On this measure, this week has been good. Our alums in Los Angeles and our alums serving to mark the life of a President have performed well. Tonight I celebrate our Seminary. We are doing remarkable work. Thanks be to God.

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

    I think perhaps, if I am honest, that one of my favorite services of the year is this Sunday’s service for Nine Lessons and Carols and the Presentation of the Dean's Cross. It is completely special. The music is just sublime; the pattern of Scripture and carols is just delightful. It is a real moment to literally prepare for Christmas. From Genesis to the nativity narrative in one service - it is the best way to celebrate the Advent season.

    And it is an opportunity for the Seminary to honor the well-formed life. The Dean's Cross recognizes outstanding leaders who embody their baptismal vows to “strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.” We will be honoring David Booth Beers, Susan Howatch (in absentia) and Mark A. McIntosh (in absentia).

    I have already sent a community email inviting you to participate in this Sunday’s Advent I with a reception at 3:15 p.m. in Scott Lounge followed by Lessons & Carols at 4:30 p.m. This is a busy time of the year. Those papers do have to be written, but a break to remind us of the significance of this season is really worth it. I look forward to you joining me this Sunday.

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

    This is a traveling week. The Rev. Dr. Barney Hawkins (the Co-Director of the Capital Campaign) and I made the journey up to Philadelphia to meet with Bishop Frank Griswold; he agreed to be one of our two Chaplains in our Bicentennial Celebration and Campaign. Then we traveled on to Newark to meet with Bishop Carlye Hughes; she agreed to be the second Chaplain. Then one night at home (but fortunately coinciding with our weekly Wednesday Eucharist) before Barney and I fly away to Los Angeles on further campaign travel.

    Campaigns require travel. The story of the Seminary needs to be shared. The vision for the next 100 years needs to be outlined. And the story and the vision are exciting. We will continue to raise up leaders of congregations; we will continue to connect with the wider church through Lifelong Learning, the Center for Anglican Communion Studies, and Church and Community Engagement. It is an honor to do this work.

    Meanwhile back at the ranch, I am grateful for those who continue to keep the operation of the Seminary functioning so well. Of the many employees who do that work so well, today I would like to recognize Vice President Katie Glover. I have asked her to take responsibility for the Policy Administrative Meeting. I will do everything I can to be present, but Katie is now the chair. She will work with this important group to ensure that issues are aired and decisions are made. Thank you Katie.

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

    Schools believe in learning. This is a fundamental part of our ethos. We all should be growing, all the time. There is more to know, more to understand, and even more ways things can be done in a better or improved way. So it was lovely to learn that two weeks ago, the entire staff of TBH/TCC attended The National Association for the Education of Young Children conference that was being held in DC. The Director of the Butterfly House shared with me the observation of one of her teachers: “It is so wonderful to work for an institution that allows it’s staff not only the time, but also the funds to be able to attend such training in person. To be able to attend myself, and not have to rely just on what the director brings back from the training, is such an amazing experience. I can’t wait to use what I have learned at the conference with my little students.”

    We strive for excellence at VTS. And these moments of professional development are really important. Our Butterfly House and Caterpillar Club are all the more effective because of these opportunities. Care for children at this crucial stage of development is an institutional priority. I am grateful to our dedicated teachers who do this hard work.

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

    Some times the commentary needs to work hard. There are several matters that need to be highlighted. So as we start this Advent season, we should pause and acknowledge the new Church year (yes Happy New Year everyone - this moment is much more important than the secular January 1); we learn to be patient as we await the coming of the Christ Child. Then I want to recognize the passing of President George H. W. Bush. The Seminary has close connections with the President and his family. Here was faithfulness personified: he was regular in his attendance at St. Martin's Episcopal Church (where our alum the Rev. Dr. Russ Levenson serves); and he modeled the life that always recognized that he was answerable to a power greater than the President of the United - the power of God. Then I also want to recognize the success of the play Lady Misrule that attracted more first time guests to the campus than any other comparable event. With over thirty scenes in the first Act, the play formed a powerful mosaic that captured the depths of human (and elf) depravity, yet saw potential and hope in the "resuscitation" of Nora who became the next St. Nicholas. It was a play that introduced theology in a form that touched the heart rather than the head.

    We have three disparate themes for the commentary today. Yet there is a link. It is the vantage point. The Church calendar lifts us to the level of the eternal; the death of a President lifts us to the level of the historic; and the play lifts us to the level of the deep abiding themes of sin, hope, and redemption. And this is the work of a Seminary, it is to lift our eyes constantly away from the ephemeral and the immediate to the level of the transcendent. 

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

    Friday, November 30, 2018

    During Advent we enter into a period of preparing ourselves for the arrival of the Christ Child. Over the last few years the Lifelong Learning department at VTS has provided space for people to enter into prayerful reflection through AdventWord.

    Participants can sign up to receive a brief visual and written meditation from December 2 through Christmas Day. They can post their own images or reflections via their personal social media accounts using #AdventWord and the word of the day hashtags to add to the multitude of prayers related to the reflection for the day. Please consider connecting with the AdventWord community via Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. You can subscribe here to receive the emails directly to your inbox.

    I would be remiss if I failed to mention that formation opportunities like this don’t just happen. They require a great deal of planning and work to pave the way for formation to take place. A whole team has contributed to the meditations including alumni, faculty and staff, and friends of VTS. Sarah Stonesifer, Manager of Operations and Digital Missioner for Lifelong Learning, has been heading up AdventWord. Thank you, Sarah, and to all those who have contributed. We are grateful and look forward to engaging with this worldwide advent calendar.
     
    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, November 29, 2018

    At the Eucharist on Friday November 30, we shall take the opportunity to commission and send forth the students who will be participating in Cross-Cultural Educational Programs (CCEPs) in January (and June, in the case of Building Dialogue group going to Jerusalem). The theme of "sending out" is deep in the DNA of the Seminary. "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel" is on the wall of the chapel. A CCEP is a window where a seminarian can taste the challenge and gift of encounter and journey.

    Creating a liturgical moment to prepare for the trip is a gift. One wants travel surrounded in prayer. One wants the sense of the journey being much more than tourism, but instead a holy act of travel - more like a pilgrimage. So we have a commissioning. And we do so knowing that all travel involves some risk. From the journey from the Seminary to your home to the journey overseas, we seek the presence of God in that journey.

    I am grateful for the remarkable team in the Center for Anglican Communion Studies that oversees the CCEPs. There is a rich array of opportunities at the Seminary. I am proud of those who arrange the opportunity; and I'm proud of those who seize the opportunity. 

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

    Our strength in the present is made possible by our strength in the past. And so today we lay to rest a much-loved teacher and a gracious and thoughtful presence. The Rev. Dr. Frank VanDevelder received a Master of Divinity from VTS in 1963. He later served as professor of Old Testament and Theology from 1969 until 1994. Upon retirement he was awarded emeritus faculty status. 

    Dr. VanDevelder leaves a lasting legacy. Serving for 25 years, he had a hand in the education of countless Episcopal clergy and laity who have been formed by VTS. According to Dr. Richard Jones, Dr. VanDevelder was the first professor from VTS to take a group of students to St. George's College, Jerusalem. 

    The Burial Office with Eucharist will take place at 1:00 PM in Immanuel Chapel. It will be followed by a Committal in the Cemetery on campus. The Rev. Dr. Richard Jones will provide the homily at the service. Dr. Jones was once a student of Dr. VanDevelder's here at VTS. And so things come full circle; the student will speak to the life and ministry of the teacher, and he will also preside at the graveside committal.

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

    As an alum, I remember just how dark the descent into Advent and the end of the 2nd quarter can feel. We have just the antidote for you. In my role here as Consultant for Ministry and the Arts, I am delighted to be able to share with you the dramatic gifts of Paul Sapp, playwright, director, and producer of the Tiny Engine Theatre Company, located in Durham, North Carolina. We are lucky to host Paul and nine actors this weekend in the world premiere of his latest play. Lady Misrule is a dark tale from the jolliest of places. When disgraced ad man Stephen Wurth learns of his daughter’s death, the only thing more shocking than the news is where he must go to retrieve her: the North Pole. There he’ll be embroiled in a battle for the meaning of Christmas with Santa Claus, Santa’s estranged daughter, a one-time bully, an enigmatic elf and a host of merry eccentrics. Paul Sapp’s Noir-ish mystery explores issues of belief, faith, and the dirty work of doing good deeds. It will be performed for two nights in the Multipurpose room in Addison Academic Center, November 30 and December 1 at 7:30 p.m. There will be a festive wine and cheese reception at 6:45 p.m. for each performance and a talk-back with the actors and director after Saturday night’s performance. This is an opportunity to set down your books, venture out for a night of wry commentary on our dark times and dispense with Christmas during Advent once and for all.  It is not appropriate for young children especially if they still believe in Santa Claus! The play depicts alcohol and pot consumption, sexual inference on stage, as well as some profanity. While this event is free, registration is required through Eventbrite.

    The Rev. Ann H Gillespie
    Consultant, Lifelong Learning
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  • Monday, November 26, 2018

    Right in the middle of our case for the capital campaign is the decision to create a TryTank.  The idea is simple: instead of a "think tank" that sits around thinking (and in the case of the Episcopal Church, the focus is often the challenges we face), we are creating a laboratory that will try new ideas out. This is an exciting initiative that is being shared by our sister seminary - General Theological Seminary in New York.

    The Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija has been appointed the first director of the TryTank. Lorenzo will remain based in Los Angeles, but will make frequent visits to the campus. He starts on January 3, 2019. He brings concrete experience of congregational renewal; he is well known to the team in LifeLong Learning (he has been a regular speaker at eformation); and he is an ideas machine. We are excited that he is part of the VTS experience going forward.

    All of this is a tangible outcome of the hard work of the Rev. Dr. David Gortner. David has been responsible for new ways of doing church; he has taught the courses in this area; and he built partnerships that could be part of the seminarian's experience. The Board remains of the view that this aspect of our work must remain a priority. Our task is to the strength the Episcopal Church: this is an important aspect.

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

    I love Thanksgiving. I will be closing the Seminary early today because all the staff and many of the Faculty need to be on the road early. Personally, Lesley and I will be driving to Delaware to spend Thanksgiving with my family. It is an important time. And as part of my relaxation, I will take a break from writing the commentary until the Seminary reopens on Monday.

    Thanksgiving is the moment when everything is put into perspective. We are reminded afresh of what really matters. Family matters, friendship matters, love matters, good health matters, a tasty meal matters, a chance to have a break matters. And all these things are privileges. They are not universal. There are aching hearts and lives everywhere. Taking a moment, taking a pause, to give thanks is just right.

    So dear friends enjoy this Thanksgiving. Be grateful for the normal. It is precious. 

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

    Of the many decisions that emerged from the Board Meeting, I am excited to share with you the important news that Dr. Amy Dyer was elected Faculty emerita. This is an honor that needs to be voted by both Faculty and the Board. Both did so with acclaim.

    There is something remarkable about sustained service to the institution. Dr. Dyer has been a shining example. She was not only a dedicated teacher and scholar (she was the pioneering hand behind the influential Episcopal Church Curriculum); but she was also willing to serve the institution where needed. In her time, she was the Associate Dean of Students, the Director of the Butterfly House, and the Director of the Center for the Ministry of Teaching - to just take a sample. She always participated in the life of the Faculty: she loved connecting with students.

    Dr. Dyer is currently on sabbatical; she formally finishes at the end of December. Right now, she is at Gladstone's Library in North Wales. But from afar, we reach out to Amy. Congratulations and thank you. You are a gracious presence; we appreciate everything you have done.

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

    It is a true pleasure to announce that the Board recently approved the hire of two new faculty members: The Reverend Canon Altagracia Perez-Bullard, Ph.D., and Elizabeth DeGaynor, Th.D.

    Dr. DeGaynor comes from directing the Master of Arts in Christian Practice degree program at Duke Divinity School. She received her Th.D. from Duke in 2015, and her dissertation was an ethnographic study of the theology and pedagogy at play in Grand Rapids Christian schools in the twentieth century. Since that time, she has written and taught on online pedagogies, the education of children, and Christian formation in congregations.

    Dr. Perez-Bullard is currently the Canon for Congregational Vitality in the Diocese of New York. She received her Ph.D. from Claremont School of Theology in 2015, and has written on pastoral care, post-traumatic public theology, leadership, and practical theology in a Latinx context. During our conversations, she emphasized the close relationship of role of the community to pedagogy: “education is always a project that allows selves and communities to survive and thrive. It is a life gift for a group.”

    VTS’s newest faculty members will move onto campus in the summer of 2019 to teach our masters and doctoral students, and design creative courses for our thriving continuing education program. Please join me in welcoming them.

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

    In alignment with our strategic plan and after an illuminating and successful Convocation that powerfully explored the intersection of the arts and theology, we are excited to dive into another of the arts. For the first-time ever at VTS, we are bringing in the world premiere of a play called Lady Misrule: a Dark Tale from the Jolliest of Places.

    When disgraced ad man Stephen Wurth learns of his daughter’s death, the only thing more shocking than the news is where he must go to retrieve her: the North Pole. There he’ll be embroiled in a battle for the meaning of Christmas with Santa Claus, Santa’s estranged daughter, a one-time bully, an enigmatic elf and a host of merry eccentrics. Paul Sapp’s Noir-ish mystery explores issues of belief, faith, and the dirty work of doing good deeds. It will be performed for two nights in the Multipurpose room in Addison Academic Center, November 30 and December 1 at 7:30 p.m. There will be a festive reception at 6:45 p.m. before each performance with a Q and A with the actors and director after Saturday night’s performance.

    This play is a wry commentary on our dark times. It is not appropriate for young children, so please heed this warning.The play depicts alcohol and marijuana consumption, sexual inference on stage, as well as some profanity. We hope those of you on the hill will take advantage of having original, provocative theater in our own backyard and we hope to welcome many from the community at large who will experience theater at VTS for the very first time. This is a free event, but registration through Eventbrite is required. Save the dates and come support art at VTS.

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

    So it is official. We are now in what is called the quiet phase of the capital campaign. We are aiming for $45,000,000. It is part program; it is part capital. The program focuses on innovative church (through the Try Tank - more about that in subsequent commentaries) and reaching the four billion users who live primarily in the cyber world. The capital focuses on refreshing the campus - Key Hall, Addison, Refectory, and the Library - all need attention.

    Over the next weeks and months you will hear about the campaign. For students, it is cool to be so close to a campaign. Every congregation, in the end, has to do one at some point. So do see this as a moment of formation - how do you do this work? How do you inspire interest? How do you organize?

    Naturally, we love participation. This is a vitally important ingredient in a successful campaign. We want people to feel part of the moment. And we need those who are closest to participate; after all, if we don't believe in the campaign, then how can we expect those further away to do so?

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

    So much is going on. Along with the normal business of the Board, we have honored a Bishop and introduced the Board to the proposed capital campaign. So starting with the business, this morning we have the regular Business Meeting of the Board of Trustees. Thanks to the hard work of the committees, we are expecting several very significant resolutions to come forth. Academic Affairs Committee will bring forward the names of two professors (one in Christian Formation and the other in Practical Theology) to be elected to the Faculty. Institutional Advancement committee will bring forward a capital campaign case with a target goal. The Finance Committee will recommend that certain caps for building projects should be ratified. There is a reason why the commentary for several days after the Board meeting is preoccupied with the decisions taken by the Board.

    Turning to Bishop Shannon and Capital Campaign: at the reception last night, the Board honored Bishop Shannon Johnston. In his remarks, he mused on how energized and positive he found the spirit of the Seminary. "This is a missional place", he exclaimed. Bishop Shannon has stepped down as the Bishop of Virginia; however, he did promise me that he is looking forward to visiting the campus on his trips to northern Virginia. At the dinner, afterward, we heard from our capital campaign consultants. For the students present, it really was an opportunity to hear about the inside mechanics of the campaign. As I mused on the day, I found myself thinking, in the end, we are doing the campaign to keep the spirit so ably captured by Bishop Shannon going in this place. This is exciting work.

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

    Sitting in the Refectory, perhaps in 1823, perhaps in the Flamingo, you will find members of the Board of Trustees. These women and men travel in from around the country to serve in a volunteer capacity and ensure that this Seminary is appropriately governed. Their task is simple: they need to ensure that the strong institution we inherited from the past is equally strong going into the future. 

    Today starts with a plenary where the broad contours of Seminary life is discussed. The Bicentennial Campaign will be the focus of deliberation and attention. Then the various committees meet. Finance will receive an unmodified or clean audit (well done, our staff in Finance); Buildings and Grounds will deliberate on the state of the campus; the Trustees Committee will consider future Board members; and so the list goes on. Every aspect of the Seminary is considered and examined.

    I am proud of the hardworking Trustees that we have at Virginia Theological Seminary. They really care about the place. For that, I am deeply grateful.

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

    Today is Veterans Day.  We pause and recognize the debt we owe to those who served our country. This particular year is especially important as we remember 100 years after the ending of the First World War. It was in many ways a pivotal war - one that had a deep impact on the map of the Middle East. So it is especially poignant that this anniversary coincides with a special visit.

    Tomorrow, Virginia Theological Seminary has the distinct pleasure of welcoming Archbishop Suheil Dawani to campus. Abp. Dawani will address the community this Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 7 pm in the multipurpose room. He will address a topic that remains close to our hearts as Episcopalians: "The Challenges for Christianity in the Holy Land Today. The lecture (7pm) and reception (8:30pm) is free but registration is required. Tickets are available via Eventbrite. This marks the celebratory launch of a year-long focus for our Center for Anglican Communion Studies on "The Communion in the Middle East." 

    After his address, Abp. Dawani will join in conversation with a panel of VTS faculty that will include Dr. Stephen L. Cook, Dr. Hannah Matis, and Dr. Zeyneb Sayilgan. Abp. Suheil Dawani has served as the Primate of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East since 2017 having been installed as Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem in 2007. He is a leader committed to strengthening the role of the Church as a community of life giving love amidst conflict and complexity. It is a great gift that VTS can spend time with Abp. Dawani and learn from his testimony to graceful leadership in a richly diverse diocese of the Communion.

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

    Today is the Fall Visit Day. Prospective students arrive on campus. Academic Administration and Student Life (AASL) has been working hard to organize this day. The prospective students are nervously considering the possibility of Seminary. For almost all of them, this has been a season of deep prayer. Is Seminary in their future? Is this what God wants them to do?

    Every student in the community has been there. We all remember what it was like. The campus is in so many ways confusing. The Welcome Center, the Flamingo, the Refectory, Admissions - where exactly are these places? If you are in one, then how do you get to another? The campus can be puzzling; Sparrow looks just like the Welcome Center, but it is in the wrong place.

    So as we receive our guests, we start by welcoming them. We make sure every person we pass, we acknowledge. We ask if we can help. And we pray. We pray that this moment of discernment in a human life is a season of grace and hope. We pray that if we are going to part of their future, then this initial impression is reassuring and positive. And to those who are visiting, welcome to this Fall Visit Day.

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

    I must admit I am really looking forward to meeting her. We are honored to have her as a guest on the campus. She is the Most Rev. Antje Jackelén. I am in awe of anyone educated in Lutheran theology from the University of Tübingen, as well as being a specialist in science and religion and, at the same time, is the Lutheran Archbishop of Sweden. She has a Ph.D. from Lund University; and she is the first female Archbishop of Sweden.

    It is an honor that the Seminary is able to confer on her an honorary doctorate. This will happen tonight in the Eucharist. We will gather at 5.15pm and have the opportunity to hear the Archbishop preach followed by the conferral of the honorary doctorate. Here is an accomplished theologian, author, and churchperson. She is having a major impact on the Lutheran church in Sweden.  We are so pleased that she made the long journey to be present with us.

    There is so much happening all the time on this campus. However, as you muse on your alternatives for this evening, I do invite you to consider that this will be one of those occasions when you can say "I was there". The Archbishop has a long string of firsts (among them the first woman Archbishop to have an official audience with Pope Francis in Rome). This is a real opportunity.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • VTS Announces Publication of "Redeeming Dementia: Spirituality, Theology, and Science"

    I had been waiting for this book for some time. Finally, a copy appeared in my office. Redeeming Dementia: Spirituality, Theology, and Science is co-written by Dorothy Linthicum and Janice Hicks. One joy of traveling is that it gives me time to read (I am currently in Richmond today). Redeeming Dementia is quite brilliant. The book starts with the science - two chapters explore the nature of the brain and the way in which dementia impacts the brain. Then the next two chapters locate the issues theologically - the first captures the theology of personhood and the second captured the theology of dementia. Then the final three invite us to engage positively with this reality - with chapters on spirituality, embracing, and serving. At the end of the book, one's worldview has been changed. For the 47 million people in the world suffering with dementia, here is a rich resource that locates dementia in a transcendent and spiritual context.

    Dorothy gave me a copy of the book and wrote a note inside "VTS made this book possible. Thank you." Reading the acknowledgments, one could see why. Janice Hicks (a recent graduate of VTS) did a senior thesis with the Rev. Dr. Kate Sonderegger; this senior thesis became part of this book. Dorothy had opportunities to teach and, perhaps more importantly, enjoy the company of Marilyn (Anne Karoly's mother), who had dementia. The classroom, the senior thesis, and a staff member's mother - all combined to create a book of exquisite beauty.

    Congratulations to both Janice and Dorothy. Janice has written this book as she transitioned into ministry. Dorothy has written this book while working in that energetic Lifelong Learning team. Faculty colleagues are given time for such scholarly outputs. Staff fit writing around their busy and full days. This is a remarkable achievement. For a busy staff member to produce a book of such excellence reflects that core mixture of passion and determination. This is a life-changing book which really is a gift that makes the Seminary proud to have the privilege of having Dorothy's rich contribution within our community.

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

    Episcopalians believe that voting matters. Participation in our democracy is a civic and Christian duty. It is the moment when "we the people" take responsibility for those who govern us. Please do find the time today to vote.

    Tonight we will learn the results of the election. We have an obligation to remember we are in a diverse community. Feelings run deep; and we have an obligation to be appropriately sensitive to the feelings of those who do not share our vantage point. Let us live into this moment offering a Christian witness to the possibility of living in community with different viewpoints.

    Finally, last night, we had a Bowers' Evening with the Rev. Dr. Barney Hawkins at the Deanery. It was a rich and interesting evening. Dr. Hawkins really does have a philosophy of preaching; and in the discussion, he shaped and framed the role and nature of preaching quite brilliantly. Tomorrow night, there will be the Bowers' Lecture. This will be worth attending.

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


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  • Monday, November 5, 2018

    Quiet Day is one of those days when we really are Seminary. One task of Seminary is to provide some space for each of us to be present with God. All relationships require time; and our relationship with God is no exception. Too many of our conversations are one-sided - they are often fleeting, offered in a rush. So setting some time for a serious conversation is important.

    The conventions of this day are simple. We observe silence right after the first meditation for the day. We may walk; we may read; we may just sit quietly somewhere. We should not study or write a paper. We should spend the time with God.

    We welcome Brother David Vryhof to the campus to lead our meditations. It is an honor to have him with us.

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

    Last night I marked All Saints' Day by attending Thursday Night Live (TNL). It was an interesting service. TNL is striving to be intergenerational. Sermons should address the entire congregation, but also feed those who are younger. The music is piano and often unaccompanied. Given the occasion, we had a baptism in the chapel - an occasion when children were invited to come nearer and watch the moment. And during the Great Thanksgiving, the names of those whose passing was especially was significant to members of the congregation were read out. There were even little electric candles, which by the end of the Eucharistic prayer were sparkling all over the altar.

    It was a fabulous service. There is a sense that this service is probably the one that replicates most closely a successful family service in a parish. And it is done so well. It is imaginative, compelling, and attractive. Worship is made possible. Families can be present.

    I was grateful to our Associate Dean of Chapel, the Rev. Dr. Ruthanna Hooke, who was the preacher and celebrant yesterday. And I was grateful to the group of students who are imaginatively putting together a liturgy that really is worship and, at the same time, models a fabulous intergenerational service. The service was a learning for me; for this I am grateful.

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

    In the 1840s famed archaeologist, Sir Austen Henry Layard, received permission from the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Sultan to excavate carvings discovered in Nimrud. Three of these reliefs were shipped to VTS in 1859 and for decades they were displayed. In 2017, a routine insurance audit revealed the value of the 3,000 year old tablets had more than quadrupled, raising insurance premiums, as well as our concerns about their unsecured location.As caretakers for these reliefs for almost 180 years, the Board of Trustees weighed every option, ultimately deciding that in order to respectfully retain any of the tablets, one needed to be sold.

    Yesterday was bittersweet. I was in New York for the selling of the largest of the three reliefs - the so-called "Bearded Genius." Bidding was rapid. It took little more than five minutes. At the end, the "Hammer Price" (the amount we receive) was $27,250,000. Funds will be used for conservation and display of a remaining pair of carvings, which will be the subject of a scholarly symposium next summer. This is good. Additional proceeds will underwrite Bicentennial initiatives such as scholarship funds, an endowment tithe of the proceeds for outreach, and other Board priorities.

    We are those living at this crucial time in our Church’s history to get the Seminary right for the future. This is our challenge and our privilege.

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

    Wednesday, October 31, 2018

    I left the campus on Sunday morning. This is a week of traveling. First I was in Houston, hosting a Round table. Now I am in New York. I come home Thursday to only pop down to Richmond before heading back to New York to preach on Sunday.

    If I had to pick the single thing I miss most on campus, then I would say Chapel. Naturally, I am assuming that my wife, home, and the pillows that give me a good night's sleep are not counted. They would come ahead of even chapel. But of the Seminary activities, I would pick the pause in my day, when I collect my thoughts, offer my anxieties to God, and start the day ready to face the opportunities and challenges. I love the space offered by worship.

    When I travel I always say page 137 in the Book of Common Prayer - Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families. It is a space in which I offer the day to God; it affords plenty of moments for silent prayer. It is precisely what I need. But it isn't the same as the corporate Morning Prayer. I miss that act of sharing with a community who are seeking to let God make a difference to their lives.

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

    The rain came down; the weather was cold; but the spirits were high. Once again VTS made the journey to Gettysburg for the Luther Bowl. This is now a regular gathering of seminaries for a flag football competition. The Fighting Friars came in third. We loss in the first game against Lutheran Chicago; we came back and won and the second game against ULS; we lost to Trinity (our sister Seminary) 22-0; and then we were awarded third because team four did a forfeit. 

    I was unable to attend. But the Twitter feed was reassuring. I am grateful to Associate Dean Jim Mathes who made the journey to support the team. I loved the email from the student body President, KC Robertson, that made special mention of two staff members - Tim and Victor - who played in the team. Although it was a mud bath, it was very much a community mud bath.

    These moments are special. And it is a gift that next year - next year - will be the one when VTS wins the Luther Bowl.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Monday, October 29, 2018

    Yesterday, Virginia Theological Seminary was pleased to host the northern Virginia farewell to Bishop Shannon Johnson. Bishop Shannon and I arrived at virtually the same time. At our first meeting, he gave me his business card with every conceivable number on it. "I want to support you and the Seminary," he said to me.

    And he has supported both the Seminary and me. Perhaps his major legacy was his appropriate guidance that the Seminary needed a chapel that reflects the center of the Episcopal Church. He understood that our low church sensibilities will mean that the new chapel will not have a icons on every wall, but he did press for an ambry for the reserved sacrament. The issue of the ambry went to the Board of Trustees; his voice, counseling that this was essential, was key in the debate. On many other questions, he has been supportive. He was pleased that the Seminary had a connection with the Rev. Dr. Tory Baucum; he advocated for the Center for Liturgy and Music; he was delighted when Dr. James Farwell was added to the Faculty; and he liked the way the Seminary was "orthodox" and "open" - mainly because this reflected exactly his own theological position.

    Bishop Shannon became our Honorary Chair and presided at the opening Eucharist of the semester in September. His presence at the altar was striking and powerful. Perhaps it was as the celebrant that he was most at home. And for that witness in a community that strives to form many in our community to feel comparably at home behind the altar, I am grateful.

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

    I have been traveling. Last night as I made my way through the door of the Deanery, I was pleased to find the North American Committee of St. George's College, Jerusalem, (NAC) on the campus. I am always pleased to see NAC. These are volunteers that work hard to support St. George's College. This meeting coincided with our first alumni/ae pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The Rev. Dr. Judy Fentress William and Rev. Dr. Kathy Grieb are the leaders of this group. Our alums are enjoying the hospitality of St. George's, while the fund-raising arm of the College is enjoying the hospitality of VTS. Rather poetic, I found myself thinking.

    St. George's College is vitally important. We have an obligation to support these institutions. The world is fragile. Yet the work that is done through the Anglican Communion is remarkable. The Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem is still a major provider of educational, medical, and pilgrimage opportunities. And the future of these institutions depends on each generation stepping forward to support them. Others founded them; we have to keep them going. We make a difference over there; let us do our bit to continue to make a difference.

    So over breakfast, perhaps at worship, do say hello to the new face. And when you do so, do please thank them.

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

    Every day I track the markets. This is a seminary that is 80% dependent on endowments. Our endowments are in the market. When the market falls, the Seminary gets poorer. Naturally, I worry.

    We are also at the end of a long bull market. Corrections are inevitable. It is possible that this drop in the Dow is part of a major economic shift. So one seeks to think through possibilities about the way forward if the worst happens. It is called risk management: we need to think through scenarios that prepare us for the worst case outcome.

    I want to take this opportunity to thank those on the board for their oversight of our financial health. The Investment Committee in particular does its work so well: it makes sure that our portfolio is diverse so that if one part of is weak, other parts are stronger. This is important. The Seminary literally depends on these decisions. I am especially grateful to Ms. Elizabeth Cabell Jennings; she is our Chair of the Investment Committee; and she is dedicated and thoughtful in this work. Thank you Elizabeth.

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

    Please allow me to lift up the new book by the Rev. Gregory L. Millikin. It is called Being Called, Being Gay. Our recent alum, who is married to Andrew Rutledge, our senior, has written a powerful and thoughtful book that invites our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters into deep holistic discernment as they consider the vocation of Holy Orders. Greg brings himself, imaginatively and fully, to the narrative. Wisdom abounds on every page, yet, simultaneously, there is an informed sense of the processes involved in ordination. It has been published by Church Publishing and is available now for purchase from Amazon.

    In the 1970s, as the ordination of women to the priesthood was affirmed, Virginia Theological Seminary saw an increase in applications from women, who finally felt able to make themselves available for Holy Orders. We are seeing a similar process today with the LGBT community. Persons who were excluded from going through the process with their sexual integrity honored are now eligible. This book is intended to support this opportunity of discernment for LGBT persons.

    Greg writes well. By this, I mean it is not just well-written (although it is), but it has a depth of theological and ecclesiological reading that makes this book quite remarkable. Congratulations on this book, Greg.

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

    Last night, I joined the end of the Brahms concert in the Chapel. It was amazing. The Baltimore Choral Arts Society took beautiful music and performed it with real skill.  The Music Director, Anthony Blake Clark, was remarkable. It was a musical feast.

    Some of the members of the congregations were from the Class of 1968. They were holding their reunion. It is always an honor to welcome family back to the Holy Hill. As I often say, "Once you are part of VTS, you always part of VTS." So welcome home to the following members of our VTS family: Ernie and Roz Bennett, Ormond Beach, FL, Roger Bowen, Staunton, VA, Mike Coram, Ellicott City, MD, Buddy and Emilie Dugan, Altus, OK, Bob and Nancy Hobgood, Ocean Isle Beach, NC, David and Kay Jones, Burke, VA, Tim Parsons, Norway, ME, William Pike, British Columbia, Canada, Grady Richardson, Hoover, AL, Jo Tartt, Warrenton, VA, Arnold and Lilian Taylor, Washington, DC, Martin and Barbara Townsend, Springfield, WV, Jim and Kay Wilkinson, Louisville, KY.

    This class spent last night eating together. For the rest of their stay, they are planning to join the community. So friends, please give them a warm welcome. One day, this will be you. Treat others as you hope to be treated.

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

    On Friday night I was in Cleveland, Ohio. The Rev. Sharon Williams, my teaching assistant in Systematics for 2016-17, had a service of celebration of her new ministry at the historic St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. She had invited me to be the preacher. This historic African American church was ready for a relaunch. And Sharon is ready to do the hard work. The atmosphere was positive and energetic. From a soloist with a remarkable voice to liturgical dance, the service had a positive energy. It was a privilege to preach.

    I love visiting our alums. Ministry in the church is hard work. There are the complexities of endless liturgies; there is the ongoing work of pastoral presence; there is the complexity of governance both in respect to the diocese and with the vestry, and there is a need for outreach and service. Those initial years are difficult. It takes depth of character to handle the many challenges of the work.

    Yet it is also deeply satisfying. There is a deep affection for Sharon at historic St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. She has clearly already had an impact. This is a congregation excited. And with Sharon's leadership, I am confident this congregation will do well.

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

    Last night was great fun. We worked hard to recreate 1823. We also worked hard to recognize change. So the celebrant (who found it so difficult not to move her hands) was the Rev. Ginny Wilder. It would not have been a women behind the altar in 1823. But the sermon from William Douglas reminded us that there are many continuities - a love of Jesus, a love of the sacrament, and a love of the church.

    This special moment came in the middle of exam week. I was grateful to those that attended; and I understood those that did not. It is entirely appropriate that study was a priority. The fact that 1,823 days coincided with the Ethics exam still means that the Ethics exam matters.

    Much of life is making these calls. Moments pass. We all have to balance the competing demands of the moment. Give to God these moments and decisions. Time is a gift: we need to recognize that there are many moments when we are deciding between competing goods and we have to trust that we make the right call for us in any given moment.

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

    Today is a special day. We are 1823 days from our bicentennial. There is something remarkable about 200 years. In 1823, James Monroe was the President; the Monroe Doctrine was formulated - a speech which forbade European interference here in the States and promised neutrality in respects to conflicts in Europe. This was the year when the United States recognizes the rights of indigenous landholders. We are just 11 years from the war of 1812; we are just 47 years from the Declaration of Independence. America is a nation still finding its way in 1823.

    It is now 200 years later. The world has changed in countless ways. One theme of tonight's service is "continuity and change". The Seminary that was founded in 1823 was committed to witnessing to the power of our tradition to bring Christ to a hurting world. We believed that learning together in community was a key to effective formation. We believed in deep connections between the place of learning and the congregations we seek to serve. All of this we continue to believe. In these respects, we are committed to continuity.

    Yet we are also committed to change. No one knew about the Internet, social media, or email in 1823. Now we need a tech-savvy church. No one knew about the theory of evolution or DNA in 1823. Now we need to be the tradition that can witness to the ways in which science and faith can coexist. And most importantly, we were a Seminary where some Faculty (the majority) had slaves; now we know the slavery is a deep evil - an evil that requires repentance and a commitment to radically different future. In these respects, we are committed to change.

    So Continuity and Change: this is what we mark as we move towards our 200th anniversary. This is the theme of tonight's 1823 Eucharist.

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


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  • Wednesday, October 17, 2018

    The Giving Day was a great success. It created a animated buzz across the campus, around the church, and even across the country. It made giving fun. And every one of these gifts will make a difference. Our operating budget depends on a strong annual fund. We are grateful to all those who contributed. And the organizers, in particular Ms. Jennifer Greiner and Ms. Elizabeth Panox-Leach, were brilliant. It was a social media giving day in so many ways. We are pressing ahead with new ways to do this work.

    On Thursday, i.e. tomorrow, we have a special service. We will travel back in time to 1823. We will participate in a liturgy from the time; and we will partake in a meal of the time. It will be a moment of learning and reflection. For parents with children, there will be souvenir puzzle (one per family please); and for the rest of us, a champagne glass (which can be filled up with non-alcoholic cider) will be the remembrance of the moment.

    The Giving Day marks change: new ways of doing the old work of fundraising. The Bicentennial service that marks 1823 days to our anniversary is the first step on a journey - a journey of continuity and change. Enjoy this week: it is special.

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

    Hospitality is a spiritual disciple of the highest order in the Christian tradition.  The Rule of St. Benedict is particularly apt our community: “Let all guests who arrive be received as Christ, because He will say: "I was a stranger and you took Me in" (Mt 25:35). And let due honor be shown to all, especially to those "of the household of the faith" (Gal 6:10) and to wayfarers.”(RB 53) These ministrations in our home can be hard work. Entertaining requires preparation. Spaces that one enjoys for oneself are shared. It can be difficult. It is even harder when a guest that arrives at an inconvenient time or that is particularly challenging. One of the realities of serving as Dean and President, is that our home is very much a place of hospitality for students, faculty, and outside guests. I find myself experiencing both the challenges and joys of this hospitality.

    As a seminary community, we are committed to the act of hospitality. We have guest houses, great venue spaces, and lots of green space. These spaces should be used for mission and ministry. So Scott Lounge might not be available; one might have to dress for breakfast; we have all the inconveniences of hospitality. We take these steps because it is what we are called to do through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  However, I am keenly aware that this seminary is home to our students and faculty and that you share burdens that can feel heavy and untimely.

    Having the right balance between openness and boundaries in a community of faith.  As we exercise this work of welcome, I invite all of us to note our feelings. How might do we feel about the unexpected intrusion?  What is the spiritual, interior work required?  I also welcome your suggestions on how we can balance this essential ministry of welcome and honoring this place as your home. “Meanwhile, Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it’ (Hebrews 13:2).

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

    This is an exciting day for the VTS community! Today we celebrate the anniversary of our founding in 1823 with our first-ever giving day! This 24-hour event will raise money for the mission and ministry of VTS through the Annual Fund. Today we come together to support VTS and the future of the Episcopal Church, while highlighting the importance of individual donors.

    Please join in the fun on campus:
    • Grab a free Duck Donut starting at 9:00 am in Addison
    • Stop for a photo op in Scott Lounge over lunch
    • Enjoy an afternoon snack on us in Addison at 2:00
    • Join us for a celebratory Happy Hour in 1823 from 5:30-7:30. The first drink is on us and snacks will be provided!
    We want to know what inspires you about VTS. Print the “I’m inspired by…” card and share a picture of yourself holding your message on social media using our hashtag #VTSinspires to join the conversation. Free t-shirts will be given to the first 100 people who fill in and share their card on campus today.

    Make a gift of any size today and it will be matched—dollar for dollar up to $10,000—by an anonymous donor who wants to double your impact! Every gift matters. Get inspired! Please contact Jennifer Greiner, Director of the Annual Fund at jgreiner@vts.edu or 703.461.1712 if you have questions about Giving Day or the Annual Fund.

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

    This week was “homecoming” for our alumni. We welcomed many back to the Holy Hill for Class Steward meetings, Alumni Convocation, and the Alumni Association Executive Committee (AAEC) meetings. During Convocation, we welcomed two wonderful speakers, Brian Clarke and Kiki McGrath. Thanks go to Barney Hawkins, co-director of the Bicentennial Campaign, for helping secure these amazing keynoters. The Evensong service was lovely with a great preacher, AAEC President, the Rev. Ginny Wilder ‘12.
     
    From the mums in the ground by the sidewalk leading to the Refectory, to the special meal set ups in Scott Lounge, many staff, faculty, and students worked tirelessly to make everything happen. It takes many hands for such complicated events to appear seamless.
     
    Linda Dienno and the Institutional Advancement team including Shelagh Casey Brown, Ann Roebuck, Monina Pangan, Jennifer Greiner, Elizabeth Osborn, Debbie Townsend, and Devin Jacobsen headed up the events.
     
    The Communications department—Curtis Prather and Elizabeth Panox-Leach—along with Pete Burgess and Shawn Evelyn, helped promote and capture special moments. They worked closely with the Audio-Visual team of Reggie Gravina and contractors Duane Lomis and Danny Olewine, who made live streaming possible.
     
    Ruthanna Hooke and Bill Roberts headed up Worship and Music along with the Episcopal Community Choir, Jon Musser, and Margie Baker. Our fabulous Sacristan team members -- Andrew Arakawa, Stephen Crippen, Jeryl Mitchell, Andrew Rutledge, Randy Sellers, Dave Wyly -- were a huge help as well. Thanks also to Jason Abel and Thomas Smith, our organists for the events. The special attention paid in choosing music and scripture for the celebration of naming Red Bud the Pauli Murray building was deeply appreciated.
     
    IA worked with Jim Mathes, Monica Sloan, and Rachel Holm in Academic Affairs & Student Life to coordinate the Honorary Degree recipients.
     
    The Library, Archives, and AAEHC staff with Peggy Parker devoted much time to making sure the Allan Rohan Crite exhibit was up in time for Convocation and then made themselves available for those visiting the exhibit. Thanks to Mitzi Buddy, Chris Pote, and Ebonee Davis. 
     
    It is essential for our guests and those returning home to VTS to feel welcomed. We give our thanks to Jeff Harre, Teresa Canales, Santino Dut, Reggie Gravina, Taryn Habberley, Cristina Hurtado, Vannessa McCormick, Christina Messenger, Margaret Messenger, and Ana Portillo.
     
    The facilities and grounds of VTS are always lovely. But the team works especially hard to prepare for the many guests we welcome to campus during times like Convocation and Commencement. Colleagues, we are grateful to you: Dave Mutscheller, Stuart Dahlinger, John Erbe, Fritz Friton, Victor Hurtado, Roberto Johnson, Timothy Lawhorn, Tom Leake, Nathan Neufer, Jose Reyes, Ronnie Saunders, Steve Slominski, Griffin Warder and Wesley Warder. Special thanks to John Erbe for taking the lead on set-ups this week with the many spaces needing to be rearranged and attending to those details.
     
    And of course, we must keep the people hydrated and fed! Under the direction of Sara Thompson, Meriwether-Godsey provided excellent care in the way of food and beverages. Thank you to the whole team including Andrew Gilmartin, Sheena Brown, Milton Burgess, John Clark, Quantina Edwards, David Clements, Treana Curry, Star Goodwin, Marcellos Johnson, Michael Williamson, Ana Parada, Antonio Hendley, Jack Cotting, Theo Singleton, Carl Tardy, and Lee Valerio.
     
    Colleagues, we are grateful for all that you have done to make this week possible. Even if I failed to mention you here, your contributions matter! Wearing your nametag, parking further away, staying a few minutes later than usual to set up a special display, providing hospitality and directions to our guests are important matters. Please accept my sincere gratitude.
     
    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham
    Dean and President
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  • Thursday, October 11, 2018

    It is lovely to welcome Sen. George Mitchell, former United States Special Envoy for Northern Ireland 1995-2001) and for Middle East Peace (2009-2011), to the campus today. He will give a keynote address on peacemaking, reconciliation, and how a grounding in faith can inform work in international arenas. This is being organized by the Center for Anglican Communion Studies. We are excited to hear Senator Mitchell.

    It has been a rich week week for guests. Following Brian Clarke and Kiki McGrath, we have also had Dean Robert Willis from Canterbury Cathedral speaking. The connections between the Seminary and Canterbury are rich and deep. Seminarians enjoy the program in the summer; the Rev. Dr. A. Katherine Grieb is a regular speaker; we have a Canterbury stone in our altar; and as Brian Clarke explained, we have a window based on the famous 12th century Sower window from Canterbury. To hear Dean Willis speak was a real treat.

    Inevitably, the pressing paper deadline is hard. It is hard slotting something else in. But these opportunities to learn from these distinguished guests can be crucial moments of formation. It is, of course, a balance. But I have heard all the lectures thus far; and I am definitely adding Senator Mitchell to my list.

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

    For all the technical problems, Brian Clarke's lecture was fascinating. He is probably the most admired stain glass maker in the world. He talked movingly about the way he likes to confuse the sacred and the secular; he was after all the artist who took the stained glass out of churches into office buildings and shopping malls. He spoke about his frustration with churches that have the temerity to place mediocre windows alongside the great medieval windows and how that meant for 35 years he did not accept commissions from congregations. He explained how he returned to church buildings because he appreciated the sheer range of human emotions that can be expressed - corporate America just wants windows of happiness, while churches welcome despair and judgment. And in a fabulous moment right at the end, he explained that his inspiration comes from both the best of him and the worse of him: art is born of struggle and comes from the soul. It is forced out of one, compelled by the moment to speak.

    It was so impressive. There are things he said, which will be with me for the rest of my life. And as he moved from slide to slide, a few words explained an achievement in a way that made you change the way you see.

    It was lovely to see our second speaker Kiki McGrath sitting next to Brian at dinner last night. Kiki will speak this morning at 11am. Art is a vitally important tool for the communication of theology. I sensed that was true before this convocation; now I know it is true as we go through this convocation. My worldview is changing. This is exciting.

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

    I spent an important hour with our class stewards yesterday. It was a survey covering everything from the Bicentennial Anniversary to the D.Ed.Min in Hong Kong. There was some interest in the news story about voting registration that appeared on NPR yesterday morning. It was lovely to see so many friends back home.

    Home is, of course, the heart of the convocation experience. For our Academic Convocation, we will honor five giants in their field. The liturgy will classic; the music will be special; and the Faculty will process. It is a lovely moment when the existing community connects with a wider community to celebrate our VTS connection. Do please come to the service tonight.

    As guests gather, I do want to alert all our guests to some important news. Yesterday Nathan Neufer on the grounds staff found a Black Widow Spider near a bench, which was in front of Addison. Perhaps it is the humidity and the moisture, but we do need to be alert to our surroundings. Before taking a seat do check. Please be safe and careful as you enjoy the warm weather and the campus.

    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D
    Dean and President
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  • Alumni Convocation 2018 Focuses on Art in our Sacred Spaces

    This week we welcome our alumni back to campus for the 2018 Alumni Convocation. Last week, I mentioned our Convocation keynoters – Brian Clarke, a stained glass artist often referred to as “the Tiffany of his generation” and designer of our windows in Immanuel Chapel, who will speak Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. on Art in ’Sacred’ Spaces; and on Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. we will hear from Kiki McGrath, artist and curator of Dadian Gallery at Wesley Seminary who will speak on Embodied Theology: Art and Praxis. Two opportunities not to be missed.
     
    Highlighting this week is also the opportunity to view several exhibits of art and sculpture around campus: Kiki McGrath’s art in the Chapel Parlor and sculpture in the Octagon Room; an exhibit in the Welcome Center with works by Peggy Parker and Heidi Christensen ’07; the Allan Rohan Crite exhibit in its new home in the Bishop Payne Library; and the Navaho rugs which were the gift of the Class of 2018, now hanging in the entrance foyer of Aspinwall.  
     
    Convocation week also includes the awarding of honorary degrees during Convocation Evensong on Tuesday at 5:15 p.m., one of the highlight worship services of the academic year. Other sessions are detailed in the full schedule which can be found here.
     
    Bookending Convocation week is the annual gathering of Class Stewards which takes place today, and the fall meeting of the Alumni Association Executive Committee (AAEC), held immediately following Convocation. 
     
    Please join in welcoming our alumni who are coming from near and far, and enjoy this week’s focus on Art in our Sacred Spaces.

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

    On Thursday, October 11, from 1:00-3:00 p.m. in Addison 101, the Center for Anglican Communion Studies will host the 2018 Mollegen Forum, “Reconceiving Reconciliation: Work that Gives Life to the World.” We are delighted to be partnering with the National Cathedral and the Northern Ireland Bureau in this venture.
     
    The keynote lecture will be given by Senator George Mitchell, Former United States Special Envoy for Northern Ireland (1995-2001) and for Middle East Peace (2009-2011). The panelists responding to Senator Mitchell will be:
     
    * Baroness May Blood - Campaign Chair, Integrated Education Fund and former Labour Party Peer in the House of Lords, Westminster
    * Mr. Earl James - Coordinator of Cultural Agility and Advocacy, The Reformed Church in America
    * The Rt. Rev. Anthony Poggo - Archbishop of Canterbury’s Advisor for Anglican Communion Affairs
    * Mrs. Jane Basa N. Poggo - Episcopal Church of Sudan and South Sudan’s reconciliation ministry and Archbishop of Canterbury’s Women on the Frontline ministry
     
    I will moderate the panel along with Canon Sarah Snyder, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Adviser for Reconciliation. 
     
    There are still a few spaces left! Please RSVP on Eventbrite.
     
    The Mollegen Forum lecture also serves as the first event in a two-day consultation CACS is organizing. We will bring together 24 emerging leaders in globally focused government or non-governmental organizations in the DC area. After attending the Mollegen Forum, the participants will gather on Thursday afternoon and all day on Friday to explore the ways theological approaches to reconciliation and peacebuilding might inform their careers and vocations.
     
    The Rev. Robert Heaney, Ph.D., D.Phil.
    Director of the Center for Anglican Communion Studies
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  • Thursday, October 4, 2018

    It was odd. At the end of September, I had to share the bad news with the Dean's Table that I will not be present at any other Dean's Tables for this entire semester. So for example tomorrow there is a lunch marking an agreement with Aspen House and then I am on a train heading to New York for a meeting with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. It is just the way the calendar is falling.

    As my calendar unfolds, I am grateful for the senior team. Bishop Jim Mathes will continue to navigate the complexities of campus life. His grace and experience are remarkable. One always feels with him that he has already been with someone who has had this or that problem. Vice President Melody Knowles hosts a Meade seminar one night (opportunities for Faculty to share a chapter of a book they are writing) and then is organizing a Faculty search the next. She works so hard: and does the work so well. Vice President Katie Glover totally gets the mission and ministry of VTS and always wants to be consistent with the values of the school (and let it be said, especially as I am seeking to expound those values); she does her work so well. Vice President Jacqui Ballou is able to read the institution with new eyes and has worked in famous institutions where excellence is the constant focus. She brings remarkable energy to some of the oldest challenges facing the seminary.  And Vice President Linda Dienno is both a good manager of her team and a good model: she always strives to put the Seminary first: her heart is always in the right place. 

    Dean's Table will always have other members of the senior team present. It is knowing this that helps me have my fundraising and profile raising focus. Thank you Dean's Table for understanding my absence; thank you Senior Team for being present.

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

    This time next week, we will be in the middle of Convocation. The theme is Art in our Sacred Spaces. As the Church seeks to witness to the transcendent in a world increasing unable to imagine anything beyond the material, art is perhaps one the primary vehicles. And we have two extraordinary speakers coming to the campus. Brian Clarke is perhaps one of the most talented stain glass artists in the world today. He is colorful, imaginative, and engaging. The BBC has made two documentaries on this life. He rarely gives public lectures; so this is an historic opportunity to hear from an exceptional talent. Meanwhile Kiki McGrath, the curator of the Dadian Gallery at Wesley, has worked with art in a seminary setting for many years. She is a compellling and important voice. She understands how art can transform understanding and vision.

    As one looks ahead towards the end of this quarter. It is worth knowing about the significance of these convocation speakers. It is worth blocking off the time now. Anyone in ministry will have to create spaces that elevate the soul and raise the vision. This is an opportunity to think this all though.

    It was Professor Sarah Coakley last week. It is Brian Clarke and Kiki McGrath next week. This is a special time to be at VTS.

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

    Yesterday Jonathan Pucik sent me an email. He was delighted that Deacon Shayna Watson (she was ordained the day after the conference) was given appropriate credit for "TheoCon: Where Theology Meets Pop Culture", but he wanted me to know that others were playing significant leadership role. He pointed out that Amanda Bourne, in particular, deserved recognition. So let me amend the record: this very successful conference was made possible by an array of people who played key roles in support. Thank you to them all.

    I was grateful to Jonathan for sending me the email. The Dean's Commentary is inevitably the picture of the world from the Dean's Office. This is, in fact, a very limited horizon. It is a world of meetings. Although I love talking to staff and students, I only have an hazy impression of what is really going on.

    So I do welcome commentary suggestions. Do feel free to reach out and let me know that this or that is happening. Let me know that this or that has happened and it would be good for Amanda Bourne, or whomever, to get appropriate recognition. The commentary is a communication tool. I cannot promise that every suggestion will appear: we are a busy place. But I can promise that I will acknowledge each suggestion and act on some. VTS is an exciting place to be: there is lots going on. And I want the commentary to capture some of that.

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

    It is pretty impressive. A student had an idea. She wanted to do a conference on theology and popular culture. She needed to raise some money; she needed to persuade some distinguished speakers to come; and then she needed to advertise and ensure that people were there. And she did it: she did all this.

    Congratulations then to Shayna Watson for organizing Theo-Con. Unfortunately I was at another day conference on Public Theology, which was organized by CACS and taking place in the Deanery. So I was not able to attend. However, the reports are really good. Jean Cotting wrote on Facebook "it was AWESOME! ... I found myself getting drawn in to one breakout session after another. They were really that engaging."

    Perhaps the most important moments of formation do not happen in the classroom. Perhaps having the idea, making it happen - perhaps that is a key moment in Shayna's formation.  In Shayna's case, it wasn't something the Seminary did for her, but something she did for the Seminary. It really is impressive. Thank you Shayna for the model and for the challenge.

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

    Friday, September 28, 2018

    As of checking right now, I am 32nd out of 52 people in the pedometer challenge. Since Monday I have walked 29,129; my team - Steppin' Wolf - is in fourth place out of six, with average steps of 8.946.  The idea is simple: let us encourage walking and exercise within the community. Little things - like standing every hour, taking the stairs rather than the elevator, walking to the Welcome Center for coffee rather than using your local coffee stations - can make all the difference. We are more likely to have a better quality life, to be in a better mood, and be more alert and productive. 

    Wellness really matters. We commit to wellness because every human life at VTS matters. We are all made in the Image of God. And yes, we also commit to wellness because a healthy community will take fewer days sick and the quality of our health insurance pool improves which leads to cheaper premiums. 

    The Human Resources department has designed a really good competition, with appropriate incentives for both teams and individuals. Thank you to HR and thank you to all those who are participating. I appreciate the spirit of participation here at VTS.

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

    I must admit the Costan Lectures are fabulous. Professor Sarah Coakley is developing a highly distinctive thesis, which is quite riveting. The series started biographically: there she is serving in a jail. She is discovering both the fundamental injustice of the judicial system (persons of color are disproportionately present) and how contemplation can become a form of resistance. Then in the second lecture, the systematic theologians comes to fore. How do you define sin? For Calvin, it would be disobedience. For Augustine, the major sin is pride. For Gregory of Nyssa, the primary sin is envy. However, read the text closely, the key word is 'desire'. Sin is a misaligned desire - it is desire missing its true mark. The category "sin" captures a complexity - an inherent tension - that is not captured in secular alternatives, such as "economic deprivation". Then in the nineteenth century, we see the language of sin get associated in evolutionary theory with a racist rendition of sin. And the lecture concludes with the wisdom of Howard Thurman opening up the possibility of contemplation as a form of resistance and hope.

    She is, observed the Rev. Dr. Kate Sonderegger quietly to me (probably not expecting the comment to appear in the commentary), a "rock star". And as Kate's introduction yesterday so ably illustrated that truth: it is creative, deeply compelling and challenging, theology. 

    I enjoy the discipline of listening to a piece of academic writing being read. The Costan Lectures require this of us. It is not intended to be easily accessible teaching. Instead it is an invitation to learn to listen attentively and carefully to a great mind expound a creative argument that will indeed contribute in significant ways to the literature. This is what we are witnessing. It is indeed a privilege.

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

    It has been three years since we first issued the invitation to Professor Sarah Coakley to come to VTS as a lecturer. And now we are delighted to have her on campus to deliver the 2018 Costan Lectures with the overall topic: Sin, Racism and the Challenge of Contemplation: A Theological Proposal. Last evening, she addressed, In the Jail: Systemic Racism, Contemplation, and the Problem of "Seeing." This evening she will discuss Reconsidering the Fall: Desire Gone Awry and Its Consequences and on Thursday, On the Way to Union? How "Divine Darkness" Convicts the Sin of Racism. 

    Do consider joining us tonight and tomorrow for Professor Coakley's remaining two lectures. It is a privilege to learn from her insights on Sin, Racism, and the Contemplative Life. 

    The Costan Lecture Series is an opportunity for a distinguished scholar to provide a set of lectures that connect the genesis of faith to the contemporary issues in spiritual practice. The annual three-part lecture series was established in 2014, by the generosity of Ms. Margaret H. Costan with the intent of strengthening the educational offerings of Virginia Theological Seminary.

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

    Virginia Theological Seminary’s Center for Anglican Communion Studies is guided by three imperatives, Resource. Reconcile. Reflect. We seek to be a resource to the seminary, the Church, and the Communion, and to provide a space for reconciliation and theological reflection though intercultural and interfaith work. To advance our work on the “three R’s” we appoint Fellows with gifts to enrich our formation.

    The current CACS Fellows are:
    Dr. Najah Nadi Ahmad, Fellow in Peace and Reconciliation. Dr. Ahmad is the Aziz Foundation Lecturer in Islamic Studies at the Cambridge Muslim College, UK
    The Rev. Prebendary Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Fellow in Public Theology. Prebendary Hudson-Wilkin is the 79th Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons in the UK Parliament. A priest ordained in the Church of England she is a chaplain to Her Majesty the Queen.
    Dr. Lucinda Allen Mosher, Fellow in World Anglicanism. Dr. Mosher is a moral theologian with expertise and experience in inter-religious dialogue. She is Assistant Academic Director of the Building Bridges Seminar (an international Christian-Muslim dialog initiated by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2002) and Faculty Associate in Interfaith Studies at Hartford Seminary (CT).
    You may read more about our Fellows here.

    All three of these fellows will be visiting VTS this week, September 24-29. The Fellows will also be contributing papers to a Public Theology Seminar with VTS faculty on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 28 and 29.

    It is an honor to have Dr. Ahmad, Prebendary Hudson-Wilkin, and Dr. Mosher as part of our VTS community this week and I do hope you have a chance to meet them.

    Hartley Wensing
    Director of Communion Projects
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  • Monday, September 24, 2018

    One reassuring feature of the Deans' Table last week was that the reports from the classes were positive. This is normal for this time of the year. We are returning from the delights of a summer away. We are refreshed. And the processes of learning are exciting and good. Typically, we flow out of these initial weeks into the experience of Thanksgiving and then Christmas. Normally this is a good semester.

    When we return for the winter/spring semester, things are much harder. The weather is cold; the days are short; and we are moving out of Epiphany into Lent. Trust me, the church calendar is organized around the weather systems of the northern hemisphere. By late February, we are all miserable. And so we should be. We are marching through Lent.

    A consciousness of the shape of the academic year and the church calendar is helpful. We enjoy these weeks as we ease into an - admittedly rather damp - Fall. So live into those weeks. But as you do so, do please anticipate and recognize that February is going to be much harder. This is the pattern. It is worth learning. It shapes ministry for the rest of your lives.

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

    Guess what? VTS is almost 200 years old. I am hoping this piece of news isn't a surprise. Thanks to the hard work of Mr. Curtis Prather, the campus is now having a refresh in terms of banners. Dr. Judy Fentress-Williams is in an animated teaching pose with the words 200 years of teaching underneath. The Student Body President KC Robertson has the joy of looking out of her dorm room at a banner that celebrates 200 years of student leadership. Above all the banners is the bicentennial logo - looking through the 1881 window frame you see the new Immanuel Chapel windows. Yes VTS is getting ready for a celebration.

    A bicentennial is an opportunity to celebrate. It is also an opportunity to think a little about our identity. Along with the recognition of faithful service for centuries, there is work of repentance necessary: there is the necessary work of envisaging a different future. The future will be and should be different from the past. We have to be ready to conceive and realize that future.

    So enjoy the new banners. And as you do so do pause. Enter into the challenge of this amazing anniversary. What should we be doing in the future? What is God calling us to do? How do we take the eternal verities realized in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and witness ever more deeply to those truths?

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

    Yesterday, I was touched by the countless friends within the community who remembered my birthday. Thank you. It was a rich and interesting day. As I was making my way home, I found myself walking past the chapel at 5.13pm. "Just in time for Prayer and Praise", I thought. So despite the emails that were waiting and the gentle email from Dr. Heaney that I must finish a paper on public theology, I decided that a pause to reflect, pray, and be grateful was a good thing to do on my birthday. So I went in.

    It was a fabulous liturgy. It was the Rev. Dr. Bob Prichard who worked so hard on this paperless, evening office with contemporary music. It was an uplifting and magical moment - uplifting because those amazing collects "give your angels charge over those who sleep" combined with "How Great Thou Art" and magical because the light in the evening forms a beautiful blue tone as the setting sun comes through the Spirit window. It was the perfect way to prepare for an evening with my wife as we celebrated my birthday. 

    I am always relieved to discover every year that the Seminary has the musical talent to sustain that service. And this year's praise band is as good as any in previous years. A big thank you to Margie Baker (she really can sing), Pete Nunnally, Claire Elser, Jared Grant, and Jonathan Pucik. They led us in worship - the greatest privilege of any human life - and did it well. Thank you. 

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

    Virginia Theological Seminary has an important history of being called on to serve the Anglican Communion. It was Archbishop Rowan Williams who reached out to Bishop Mark Dyer for the Windsor Report. Later in 2006 Archbishop Williams reached out to the Rev. Dr. A. Katherine Grieb to serve on the Anglican Communion Covenant. Now as Archbishop Justin Welby starts preparing for Lambeth 2020, he has reached out to the Rev. Dr. Katherine Sonderegger and the Rev. Dr. Robert Heaney to serve on the St. Augustine's Seminary to create resources for those participating in the conference. 

    The focus of the group is to prepare biblical resources for the meeting. Our two colleagues will play a pivotal role in making sure the Bishops and participants are resourced for thoughtful and Biblical reflection. 

    Needless to say (but I will anyway), this is a great honor. This is a select group drawn from throughout the Communion who are invited to serve in this role. With Dr. Heaney, we have an authority on intercultural theology; with Dr. Sonderegger, we have one of the leading American systematic theologians. They are exceptional scholars and priests. We are delighted that they have been selected; and we look forward to the result.

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

    On Saturday, I attended the 75th Anniversary Celebration Concert of the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra. The plan was to hold it outside. But with the weather fears provoked by Florence, it was moved into the Chapel. It was stunning. I had never been this close to a symphony orchestra before. It was a very accessible program - Tchaikovsky Swan Lake and Rodgers and Hammerstein Sound of Music. It was fun. 

    It is good that we provide this service to the community. We are a tax-exempt organization so providing a venue to city organizations is a lovely way of giving back. It brings people on to the campus. We know that just four visits from a guest creates a person who feels "very familiar" with the Seminary; and these people are the core of our support. And it is good to have these spaces being used; empty buildings doing nothing do not advance the kingdom of service and love.

    Ann Roebuck and Taryn Habberley helped make this moment possible. With events in general, the sacristans often play their part. Facilities often have to come in to help organize the space and then return the space back to normal. I am very grateful to all those who make these moments of hospitality possible. I appreciate that it is hard work; hospitality alway is. And I am grateful that we have staff and students who put themselves out to make something good happen.

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

    A sabbatical is a major gift. It is an extraordinary privilege to be paid and, simultaneously, to have a break from the regular routines of the workday. Naturally, those who have this gift are required to use it well. And so I enjoyed the sabbatical reports captured and described back in August. A close reading of those commentaries really did describe how a sabbatical enhances the depth of the scholar and teacher - how it helps a Faculty member to be even more effective.

    However, please may I use this commentary to recognize one colleague in particular who is returning from sabbatical. It is lovely to have Vice President Melody Knowles back in her office. Dr. James Farwell did an excellent job as the interim. He struck the perfect balance; he progressed the necessities while honoring his temporary occupancy. And as Melody as returned she is bringing a renewed energy, a range of insights, and a thoughtfulness that comes from the gift of a much-deserved break.

    As I look back on the last three years, the gift of my year away was remarkable. The books that are appearing in recent months are all a result of the gift of that year. My sabbatical was made possible by the willingness of Melody to be the interim and, like James Farwell, to get that balance between progressing appropriately and honoring the temporary occupancy.  Melody deserved and needed this sabbatical. She had earned it. And her return is much welcome. Her passion for theological education is total; and her capacity to think for the total institution is remarkable. She is a colleague and a friend; I am deeply grateful for her presence. Welcome back Melody. And thank you.

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

    Our continuing education programs are an important part of our offerings. My wife, Lesley Markham, decided to take the class "That's What She Said..." Biblical Characters in Culture and Art. It is an impressive teaching team: the Rev. Dr. Judy Fentress-Williams, Peggy Parker (MFA), Lisa Smith (MTS), Dr. Kathy Staudt and the Rev. Dr. Bill Roberts. It is such a fabulous idea for a course. One learns about Scripture and one learns about poetry, music, and art. Given the all embracing of the religious in our cultural heritage, it is just the best possible way of developing an appreciation for these areas.

    Ms. Diane Wright is the coordinator of these programs. It is hard work to create imaginative programming, which will generate interest. The offerings this fall have been good. I am grateful for all her work. She is one of many dedicated staff members who commit to excellence at VTS.

    Finally, the staff at VTS are very much on my mind. I enjoyed the Staff Meeting yesterday. However, please let me correct the record in one crucial way: I am confident our library staff will do very well in the pedometer challenge. It is a large library; they work hard. And I should not have implied otherwise. Sorry.

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

    At the Emergency Response Meeting yesterday, the agreed expectation was that the Seminary is unlikely to be impacted by Florence. So the community should expect all classes, worship services, and events to proceed. 

    So tonight I will be the preacher in the "Thursday Night LIVE" Eucharist. I have admired the way in which a student-led team has worked with the Rev. Dr. Ruthanna Hooke to design an imaginative intergenerational liturgical experience. It is stretching the chapel in a good way. For families attending this liturgy, for $10 through 1823 ($5 for an individual), you can enjoy dinner in the Refectory. Hopefully, a pattern will emerge of good, pioneering, imaginative church followed by dinner in the Refectory. We want our spouses and children to look back on Thursday night as one of the highlights of their Seminary journey.

    These services are intentionally crafted to be family-friendly. As such, services are short, with 40-45 minutes being the goal. The sermon should be no longer than 5-7 minutes. As the preacher this evening, I met yesterday with a member of the planning team, Elizabeth Henry McKeever. We talked about balancing scholarship with stories and analogies, using vocabulary that is easily understood by middle schoolers to explain complex ideas, and so on. It was a helpful conversation as I prepared and I look forward to the debrief after preaching.

    The little ones have much to teach us about faith and life. It is important for us to welcome them into our life of worship here at VTS and to honor the unique gifts they bring. Please join us for this weekly service.

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

    Today the Emergency Preparedness Committee will meet. It has all the key departments represented. We are, of course, making our own preparations for Hurricane Florence. Safety is the priority. It is likely that we will lose power. So we will make a contingency plan for that scenario. At the Eucharist today, I will instruct the Community to download “Crisis Manager”. This will enable us to communicate with the community in the midst of disasters, such as Hurricane Florence. This will help us ensure that everyone is kept informed.

    We are on the edge of this hurricane. Yesterday I sent a message to our alums who are in the direct path of the hurricane. These moments are a crucial reminder of how little control humans have over events. We trust our alums are making appropriate preparations; and we pray that God might keep them safe and support them in their endeavors.

    The Very Rev. Ian S.Markham
    Dean and President
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  • Tuesday, September 11, 2018

    Welcome to Tuesday. As it happens, I am in Houston. Provided you are discreet, I will share a secret. The Seminary is in the quiet phase of the capital campaign. This means that for the next two years, I will be traveling ten to fifteen days a month. Last week, I was in Chapel Hill; this week it is Houston.

    When I travel, I learn about the Episcopal Church. And the news is good. Our alums are highly regarded. Their ministry is appreciated. They are learning the craft and doing the work well. They baptize, marry, and bury the faithful. This is good and important work.

    I envy you back on the holy hill. May this week be a week of learning and growth. May there be moments of surprise and questioning. VTS is a good place to be: do please enjoy it.

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

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  • Monday, September 10, 2018

    Part of the vision of Virginia Theological Seminary is “to provide an ecumenical, international, and cross-cultural context for theological education.” One way we do this is through Cross-Cultural Education Programs or CCEPs. These courses allow students to reflect theologically in spaces and cultures very different from their own, and thus deepen their understanding of what it means to be a member of the Body of Christ.
     
    Through participation in CCEPs, VTS students have walked, studied and prayed in the Holy Land, Latin America, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Italy, Myanmar, and Tanzania, to name just a few. Some CCEPs, such as the Jerusalem course, are the result of long-standing institutional partnerships (St. George’s College, Jerusalem), while others (El Salvador) can emerge from students designing an independent study. There are currently courses planned for January 2019 in Rome, Italy, Jerusalem, and Muscat, Oman (a new course this year).
     
    To help students learn about all the different types of CCEPs, how to design an independent study, and how to apply for funding, the Center for Anglican Communion Studies (CACS) will be hosting an information reception in Scott Lounge on Tuesday, September 11, from 12:00-2:00 p.m. I encourage all students to stop by on their way to or from lunch and speak with CACS staff to learn more about the cross-cultural offerings at VTS.
     
    As Dean Markham says, “We are internationalists, and we believe that the best leaders are internationalists. Virginia Theological Seminary provides a global context for Christian formation.”
     
    Molly O'Brien 
    Administrative Coordinator
    Center for Anglican Communion Studies
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  • Friday, September 7, 2018

    No matter the size of the community, communication is important. Without it, community ceases to exist, and of course, people get grumpy. Please allow me to highlight a few key means of communication within our community and how they are important to our living together. 

    Over the last several months, many worked long and hard to get the VTS Hub up and running. Special thanks, by the way, go to Elizabeth Panox-Leach, Curtis Prather, Stacy Williams-Duncan, Rachel Holm, Emily Collette, KC Robertson, and a number of contractors for their work on this. On the Hub you'll find links to some other ways that information is communicated here at VTS, pages are there on everything from Emergency Preparedness to Contextual Ministry and more. Continue to check back into these different pages as departments populate them with information. 

    The Dean's Commentary is another means of communication (link on the Hub). The expectation is for you to read it each day. This is a way for us to highlight special moments, share information, and tell you about things coming up that may be of interest. We are pretty strict on the word-count, so be assured it's only about 250 words or less. 

    The Weekly Communique is a third means of sharing information with you. In fact, if you have an upcoming event or something of the like that you want to share with the community, this is the appropriate way to do so. Please send the information to editor@vts.edu to see it appear in the Weekly Communique. Note that the deadline is 9:00 AM on Thursday for it to appear in the Friday edition. 

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

    (I'm sorry, I know it's over by 23 words, but I just couldn't leave any of this out!)
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  • Thursday, September 6, 2018

    Suddenly the heavens opened. It wasn’t just rain, it was heavy torrential rain. I was in the Refectory; I had my suit on. I had a meeting I needed to reach which was in Aspinwall Hall. I considered my options. I thought about asking Facilities to dig a tunnel between the Refectory and Aspinwall Hall. I thought about texting Dave Mutscheller and, in a manifest abuse of power, asking him to drive me across. Then I saw Shawn Evelyn.
     
    He had just walked in with an umbrella. “Ah perfect”, I said, “can I borrow your umbrella?” Over the next few minutes we agonized. How would Shawn get out of the Refectory? How would I get the umbrella back to him? Then finally, Shawn broke the logjam. “Just take it”, he said. “I will be fine.”
     
    So I walked back in the rain; I was on time for my meeting. And I was grateful. It was a simple solution to a problem; but a solution that potentially created a problem for Shawn that he was happy to handle. It was a simple act of kindness – one that I am confident Shawn would have done for anyone (I just happened to be his dean). It was a healthy moment of generosity and trust. It wasn’t dramatic, but it was helpful. Thank you Shawn. And if your want the umbrella back, then do please come and retrieve it.
     
    The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
    Dean and President
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  • Wednesday, September 5, 2018

    After seventeen years of service at Virginia Theological Seminary, Mr. Benjamin Judd decided to move on. Last night representatives from the student body, faculty, and staff came together to mark this moment. We reflected on the many meals he served – the countless events he oversaw – and the endless changes in expectations and demands. We mused on the changes in expectations around allergies and emphasis on healthy eating. And we thanked him for his hard work.
     
    The Refectory is an important symbol of formation. It is the “lunch” part of the “class, chapel, lunch” mantra. It is table fellowship. I invite us to learn the skill of reading a room. Look carefully around. Pick a group that you have not normally sat with. Take some time to find that person sitting alone. And use the time to learn about the life you are sharing table fellowship with.
     
    Attendance at lunch is expected. It is part of our formation as a community.

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

    I have enjoyed reading the commentary over the summer. It has been fascinating. My highlights included the sabbatical reports, the lovely inspirational thoughts by Vice President Ballou, and the helpful introductions to departmental life, especially the library but also the multicultural ministries work of Dr. Thompson. Thank you to everyone who the commentaries.

    A warm welcome to new students and returning students. We will gather for the start of the semester service, where Bishop Shannon Johnson will be the celebrant. We honor Bishop Shannon as he starts his transition. His support for the Seminary has been deep; his commitment to reconciliation and justice has been total. We are delighted that he is with us; and we pray for his transition.

    Starting the semester with worship is an invitation to lift up our heads from the immediate and the ephemeral and focus instead on the eternal and enduring. We are in the Gospel business; let us recommit afresh as a community to building up our life together, always focused on Christ.

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

    Friday, August 31, 2018

    One of the joys of being in seminary is the opportunity to go beyond what we know from our own experiences and to hear multiple voices in a wider conversation. The Seminarians of Color Union (SOCU) exists to do just that: to allow persons of color to bring awareness to the issues and concerns of our brothers and sisters in this community and beyond.

    As an organization, we work to support, strengthen, and empower seminarians of color in preparation for ordained and lay leadership. By creating environments where diverse voices are celebrated, recognized, and acknowledged, by lifting up those individuals and encouraging them, and by seeking to ensure the greater Episcopal Church does the same, we endeavor to carry out our mission. Our partnership with the Office of Multicultural Ministries provides us with resources and opportunities to help make all this possible.

    Who can be a member of SOCU? Anyone who is called to support the mission, vision, and focus of the group can be a member. We invite everyone to take part in our events and in our ministries throughout the year. I look forward to this new year and the work we will be doing together.

    Shawn Evelyn
    President, Seminarians of Color Union (SOCU)
    Postulant, Diocese of Los Angeles
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  • Thursday, August 30, 2018

    Today marks the second and final day of this year’s Introduction to Intercultural Competency. As I mentioned in yesterday’s Commentary, it is a conference-style short course that includes a variety of speakers discussing the issues of diversity, inclusion, power, equity, and justice.

    The presenters are truly impressive. I wish there were space to describe all of their sessions. But allow me to give you a little taste by citing a few of the topics from which participants get to choose: “Putting ‘Civil Rights’ in Context: Law, Life and the Judeo-Christian Tradition,” “Latina/o Social Ethics,” “Becoming Beloved Community in the Midst of Babylon,” “Souls Redeemed: August Wilson on Stage,” and “Dinner at a Muslim Home.”

    I am grateful to every presenter who is lending some aspect of personal experience or professional expertise to this event. You are helping to strengthen the students, faculty, and staff of this institution. I would also like to express my gratitude to several individuals whose hard work and dedication behind the scenes have made this event possible: Wendy Bermudez, Maurice Dyer, Taryn Habberley, Santino Dut, Reggie Gravina, Vannessa McCormick, Benjamin Judd, Margarita Pelaez-King, and Sara Thompson. Thank you all for your contributions to this important project!

    Joseph D. Thompson, Jr., Ph.D.,
    Assistant Professor of Race and Ethnicity Studies
    Director of Multicultural Ministries
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  • Wednesday, August 29, 2018

    Today and tomorrow are busy days for the Office of Multicultural Ministries as we put on the annual Introduction to Intercultural Competency, a short course that all seminarians, faculty, and staff must take at one point or another. We expect in the neighborhood of 75 participants this year!

    This morning, I invite all of the VTS community to hear from our keynote speaker, Dr. David Pilgrim, on the topic “The Persistence of Racial Caricatures and Stereotypes: Lessons from the Jim Crow Museum.” The Jim Crow Museum combats racism in the present by documenting hateful images from the past. Dr. Pilgrim is the museum’s founder and also the author of Understanding Jim Crow: Using Racist Memorabilia to Teach Tolerance and Promote Social Justice. Please note that his presentation includes the display of racist images for educational purposes.

    If you are available between 10:30 and noon, do feel free to come by the Multipurpose Room to hear Dr. Pilgrim’s powerful message of resilience in the face of overwhelming oppression.

    Joseph D. Thompson, Jr., Ph.D.,
    Assistant Professor of Race and Ethnicity Studies
    Director of Multicultural Ministries
    Read More
  • Tuesday, August 28, 2018

    My name is Maurice Dyer. I am a senior from the Diocese of El Camino Real. I am happy and extremely privileged to be serving as the assistant to the Office of Multicultural Ministries this year. Just a little about myself: I am from California. I come from a multiethnic/multicultural family. My mother is African American from New York, and my father is Latino/ Caribbean from Belize (located in Central America). After college, I became a missionary and moved to South Africa. During part of my time spent there, I was working for what is called the Institute for the Healing of Memories. This was born out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and dealt with healing past traumas created under South Africa’s Apartheid legislation.

    Building a competent and aware multicultural space is very important to me. I look forward to working with all of you through the year. My particular focus for the year will be fostering conversations around campus, while alongside these conversations, thinking about how these topics factor into curricula. I see it as twofold. We first have to have conversations but then we need to frame these conversations and turn them into something actionable and teachable in church and society.

    Feel free to reach out to me if you have thoughts, ideas or concerns.

    Thank you,
    Maurice Andrew Dyer II
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  • Monday, August 27, 2018

    As recent headlines—from Starbucks to Charlottesville—have illustrated, we have our work cut out for us when it comes to the issues of race and ethnicity in the United States of America. The Office of Multicultural Ministries seeks to equip members of the VTS family to imagine and shape communities in which all sorts of people can thrive, united in our diversity.

    Our office also helps the seminary as an institution to fulfill its own commitments to diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice. Key components of this work include sharing the experiences of communities of color, supporting student activism against racial domination, recruiting students from underrepresented backgrounds, promoting anti-racism through classes and events, and partnering with others on campus to be sure diversity is reflected in our life together.

    Please be on the lookout throughout the year for specific Multicultural Ministries speakers and programs. This is an effort in which everyone can play a part!

    Joseph D. Thompson, Jr., Ph.D.,
    Assistant Professor of Race and Ethnicity Studies
    Director of Multicultural Ministries
    Read More
  • Friday, August 24, 2018

    Deep Calls to Deep, a VTS-sponsored, Lilly endowment funded program to promote excellence in preaching among working preachers, is now in its fourth year of operation. The program aims to nurture preachers wholistically, nourishing mind, body and spirit for the challenging and life-giving work of preaching. The program is oriented around four themes: cultivating the preaching imagination, developing a spirituality of preaching, engaging body and voice for authentic proclamation, and forming a community of preachers. The program begins with a five-day Residency in June, focused on those four themes, and including time for Sabbath rest, worship, and fellowship. During the year following, participants meet in small peer groups to preach and to give each other feedback on their preaching. The program concludes with a second Residency a year later. The program is open to preachers all over the country; this year, our fellows are from Massachusetts, Arizona, and Virginia.

    I am delighted to announce that the Rev. Anne Turner, who has served as interim Program Coordinator since March, will be staying on as Program Coordinator. Anne was previously Associate Rector at St. Mary’s, Arlington, and at Grace Church, Amherst, Massachusetts. She also worked in education at the Folger Library in Washington, DC. She is a former preaching fellow in Deep Calls to Deep, and a past winner of VTS’s John Hines Preaching Award. Welcome, Anne!

    The Rev. Ruthanna Hooke, Ph.D.
    Associate Dean of Chapel and Associate Professor of Homiletics
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  • Thursday, August 23, 2018

    Worship at VTS seeks to strike a balance between fidelity to the liturgical traditions of the Episcopal Church, as well being open to processes of liturgical reform. Seminaries are some of the principal places where Anglican liturgical traditions are taught and passed on—so we need to be zealous in preserving and transmitting these traditions. At the same time, seminaries are also seedbeds of the new (the root of the word “seminary” is the Latin word for “seed”). Seminary worship practices have historically influenced the process of liturgical reform in our tradition.

    Living into this aspect of a seminary’s charism, this year we will be using some of the newer worship resources that were commended for further study and experimental use at General Convention this summer. At our services of Holy Eucharist this year we will be using the psalter in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, as commended in General Convention resolution D065. This inclusive language psalter is a revision of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer psalter, and is currently used in the ELCA, our full communion partner, and also in the new edition of the Book of Common Worship of the Presbyterian Church USA. From time to time we will also be using the expansive/inclusive language versions of our Rite II Eucharistic prayers A, B and D which were proposed in Resolution D078 at General Convention.

    As Enriching our Worship explains it, “Expanding our vocabulary of prayer and the ways in which we name the Holy One bear witness to the fact that the mystery of God transcends all categories of knowing, including those of masculine and feminine.” These changes in the language of our worship aim to live into the wisdom of this statement.

    The Rev. Ruthanna Hooke, Ph.D.
    Associate Dean of Chapel and Associate Professor of Homiletics
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  • Wednesday, August 22, 2018

    As you may have heard, the Thursday evening Eucharist will be different this year.
     
    The service, now called Thursday Night LIVE, is intergenerational, which means God’s people of every age are understood to be equally important. In contrast with a kids’ service, people of all ages will worship together and we will enrich the liturgy with our unique gifts.
     
    The Body of Christ is strengthened when we build relationships across difference and encourage one another in the life of faith. To that end, cross-generational mentoring relationships are central to Thursday Night LIVE.
     
    The planning process is designed to incorporate your feedback. One of our guiding questions is, Where did you see or experience the Living God?” Though there will be predictable patterns from week to week, we will also pay close attention to the movement of the Holy Spirit and adjust the liturgy as we move through the year.
     
    Finally, many congregations seek leaders who have experience in intergenerational worship. The service will often include student preachers, and there will be many chances to practice leading worship for all of God’s people. It won’t be perfect, and we will learn a lot along the way.
     
    Thursday Night LIVE is a student-led effort, coordinated by Sarah Bentley Allred, Andrew Rutledge, and Elizabeth Henry McKeever. They will host an informal conversation about the guiding principles and scholarship behind Thursday Night LIVE on Thursday, September 6 from 12-1 pm in Scott Lounge.
     
    There is room for everyone at this service, and we would love to hear your thoughts and ideas. See you at Thursday Night LIVE!

    The Rev. Ruthanna Hooke, Ph.D.
    Associate Dean of Chapel and the Associate Professor of Homiletics
    Read More
  • Tuesday, August 21, 2018

    Worship at VTS aims to model best practices in Episcopal worship, as well as to represent the cultural diversity of the Episcopal Church, and the range of worship found there. In addition, we seek not only to follow our liturgical traditions faithfully, but also to explore the space for creativity within those traditions. 

    These commitments mean that VTS worship offers a range of worship styles and practices. One reason for this is so that students can be exposed to the wealth and variety that exists in Episcopal worship, so they can use it in their ministries. 

    Our worship schedule reflects these commitments.  On Monday, we offer sung Morning Prayer, followed by a spoken Eucharist; both services alternate weekly between Rites I and II. The Tuesday Eucharist alternates between a Eucharist in Spanish, ecumenical liturgies, and an Ordo Eucharist, in which students plan and write the liturgy within the framework of the Eucharistic ordo.  Our Thursday evening Eucharist is intergenerational (see tomorrow’s Commentary for more information on this service!).  The Friday Morning Worship service does not use the BCP’s Morning Prayer office, providing an opportunity for different types of worship to be offered. At the Friday Eucharist, we offer prayers for healing.

    One change to our schedule this year is to make the Wednesday morning Eucharist the principal liturgy of the week, which all faculty and students are expected to attend. The service begins at 8:15 am, providing space for the choir to sing, and for faculty to preach a fuller sermon than the other Eucharists can accommodate.

    The Rev. Ruthanna Hooke, Ph.D.
    Associate Dean of Chapel and the Associate Professor of Homiletics
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  • Monday, August 20, 2018

    A year ago the Worship Committee developed “A Vision Statement for Worship at VTS,” a document which guides decisions about worship at VTS.  The Vision Statement begins: “Worship is the wellspring of our life in community.  In daily corporate worship we unite with others to glorify God and to receive God’s grace, which flows from our worship to guide us in everything we do.”  As Living at VTS puts it, “daily corporate worship … grows out of and contributes to the whole of our faith and life together as we seek to know the truth as it is in Jesus Christ.”  Or, as our informal VTS Rule of Life puts it, “Go to class, go to chapel, go to lunch.”

    Worship is central to our lives at VTS, which is why we expect each student and faculty member to one service of corporate worship daily. St. Anselm once described theology as “faith seeking understanding,” which means that the study of theology is an exploration of a genuine life of faith, one which is nurtured by prayer.  One of the great benefits of residential theological education is the opportunity to worship together daily (at VTS, three times a day!), and thus to regularly bring oneself back to the living God whom we study and seek to serve.  In our classes we talk about God, but in worship we talk to God, and more important, allow God to talk to us.  This rhythm between classroom and chapel allows for relationship with God to become the core of our studies and our ministry.

    The Rev. Ruthanna Hooke, Ph.D.
    Associate Dean of Chapel and the Associate Professor of Homiletics

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  • Friday, August 17, 2018

    How might the same words of scripture take on different nuances in different periods and places? And how might various translations and versions shine a light on the various communities that produced them?

    These were some of the larger questions that I pursued while on sabbatical in Spring 2018. The project is to take a single biblical text, Psalm 132, and look at how it is translated and used in four very distinct communities in crisis from the period of the Second Temple to Antebellum America. Although Ps 132 isn't particularly well-known in contemporary circles, its claims about God and politics makes it an excellent vantage point from which to see people shaping very different visions of identity using the same words of prayer.

    The text depicted here is a version of Ps 132 by an Elizabethan Protestant, Mary Sidney Herbert. In her paraphrase of the text we see her participating in the contentious religious and cultural dialogues of the English reformation even as she crafts lines of infinite beauty: "Lord call to mind, Lord keep in mind, Thy David and thy David's pains; Who once by oath and vow did bind himself to Him who aye remains: That mighty one, the God in Jacob known."

    I join my faculty colleagues (who also shared with you some aspects of their time on sabbatical in Spring 2018 in the Dean's Commentaries this week) in thanking the community who supported our time away. We are refreshed and eager to take our place once again in our work together at VTS.

    The Rev. Melody Knowles, Ph.D.
    Vice President of Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Old Testament
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  • Thursday, August 16, 2018

    Sabbatical time is crucial for faculty members. Much more than an opportunity to rest and to travel, both of which are important in themselves, it is a time for reflecting, writing, and brushing up on skills that are useful for teaching, preaching, and assisting in the governance of the seminary. We step away to gain perspective, to examine pressing issues (both those within our academic disciplines and those facing the Church in our time), to think more deeply about our long-range goals, and to listen for God's direction in a way that is sometimes not as easy in the press of everyday deadlines and commitments.

    I am deeply grateful to have had a sabbatical this past spring which allowed me to do a number of things. One of the most important areas of renewed learning for me personally was the gift of five weeks of intensive language study: two weeks of intensive French review in Brussels; two weeks of intensive German review in Vienna, and another week of intensive Spanish review in Panama City, all of which was made possible by a generous grant from the Conant Foundation.

    Sabbatical time also enabled me to accept some speaking invitations that would have been challenging during a semester of teaching full time and other academic duties. This past spring and summer, I was one of six keynote speakers at a conference on the intersection of theology and history in exegesis at Durham University, where my topic was "Anti-Judaism in the New Testament?: Judas Iscariot as a test case"; I accepted an invitation from theological graduate students at Princeton University to give a lecture and led a seminar on "Barth's theological exegesis in his second commentary on the Letter to the Romans"; and it was my great privilege to lead a conference for Virginia Theological Seminary alumni/ae in Mississippi on "Preaching difficult biblical texts."

    I am once again happily at work on Hebrews and also completing a number of other writing projects that are coming due this fall. The opportunity to do focused and uninterrupted work on things I care about deeply is priceless. At the same time, I am excited to return to full-time teaching this fall and look forward to meeting members of the entering class as well as renewing friendships already in place.

    The Rev. A. Katherine Grieb, Ph.D.
    Meade Professor of Biblical Interpretation and New Testament
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  • Wednesday, August 15, 2018

    There are definitely some emails that feel bigger than others. Or in this case, are almost too big to send. This summer I sent off the manuscript of my first book, The Song of Songs in the Early Middle Ages. It is a sad truth of modern technology that, in the email attachment, the text of the entire book was absolutely dwarfed by the size of the three high-resolution images I wanted to include. The book represents many years of work and thought, and it is a real labor of love and source of satisfaction to have brought it, finally, to completion. No one tells you that, days before you send off the final copy, you will be digging in footnote no. 253 trying to figure out which edition of Gregory the Great’s Pastoral Rule you were using eight years ago, but so it is.

    The book that I completed during my recent sabbatical looks at how a group of early medieval clergy in northern Europe in the eighth and ninth centuries started reading the Song of Songs as an allegory to think about how to reform the church of their own day. At the time, training the clergy to educate the people in the basics of Christian truth was the pressing issue of the day—some things never change, right? But first, they had to create some kind of identity for the clergy in the first place, and I look at how the Song of Songs helped them to do that.

    Hannah Matis, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Church History
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  • Tuesday, August 14, 2018

    You say you are on sabbatical and the response of students and friends is, “Wonderful, I hope you are relaxed and enjoying the time away.” Well, the soul breathes deeply as Martha and I will have spent four months in Hood River, OR, overlooking the Columbia River Gorge. Here water and mountains meet. Cycling is good and a challenge, everything goes up before coming back down. We have found the small Episcopal Church, founded as a mission in the late 19th century, the parish of PB Ed Browning upon retirement. Its mission is healthy as a presence in the community and in offering a community of worship. And here is family, three of our five grandchildren.

    More, though, than sabbatical, here is time and space for (as Stan Hauerwas has said) laying bricks, one-at-a-time each day and seeing a book come into its own. I hope you will see in a while a moral-liturgical theology of the healing memory of Christ…a sacramental ethic that makes the gospel alive and more than a promise.

    Timothy F. Sedgwick, Ph.D.
    The Clinton S. Quin Professor of Christian Ethics
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  • Monday, August 13, 2018

    Something that Virginia Theological Seminary values is sabbatical leave for faculty. The rhythm here follows a 7:1 pattern, with faculty either teaching seven semesters with a sabbatical in the following semester, or teaching seven years with leave in the eighth year.

    Why does VTS have sabbaticals? Doctoral programs usually take 5-7 years of full-time study to learn a field and write a dissertation. When a graduate takes on a teaching position, keeping on top of emerging questions and remaining responsible to new research often gets crowded out by course preparation, grading, committees, and advising. And deep and thoughtful writing is difficult to achieve in only short blocks of time. Sabbaticals allow our faculty to be properly equipped to engage our students who bring their new perspectives into the classroom, and gives them the time to produce the research that ensures they remain leaders in the church and in their fields.

    How does the sabbatical process work? Eighteen months before the anticipated sabbatical, each faculty member applies to the Board of Trustees with a letter that both describes the projects to be worked on during the leave and highlights the benefits that the projects will have for VTS. Before the leave, faculty also often apply for additional funding from foundations such as Conant or Lily to cover travel and other increased research expenses. Upon return, faculty write a report of what all was accomplished during the time away from the regular routine of teaching and administrative responsibilities.

    What do faculty do while they are on sabbatical? Ideally, sabbatical projects are deep enough to require a sustained focus rarely found within the usual demands of the academic semester. And they also build upon some prior explorations in the project, so that the time is focused and productive.

    As you can imagine, the shape of each sabbatical varies considerably from professor to professor. This week the Dean’s Commentary will feature reports from several faculty members who were on sabbatical Spring 2018. As their sabbaticals come to an end in anticipation of Fall 2018, I’m grateful that they agreed to take the time to share aspects of their time away.

    The Rev. Melody D. Knowles, Ph.D.
    Vice President of Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Old Testament
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  • Friday, August 10, 2018

    Today is the Feast of St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr. Tradition has it that Lawrence was the chief financial officer of the church. When arrested, the prefect demanded that he surrender the church’s wealth. Lawrence asked for three days, during which time he passed on those resources to others for safekeeping. He then returned to the prefect and assembled the sick, the aged and the poor, the widows and orphans of the church and famously said, “These are the treasures of the church.”

    We do well to cherish the wisdom of Lawrence. The treasures of the church and of this community are not the resources of this seminary nor its buildings, even though they are a grace for us. The treasures are the people: the students, staff, faculty, and our children. As a community that is centered around the life and teachings of Jesus, we cannot go wrong when we think of our fellow travelers as treasure. Indeed, this is the sentiment so aptly expressed by C. S. Lewis: “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.”

    And at all times and in all things, do remember that you, too, are a treasure.

    Blessings,

    Jim Mathes
    Associate Dean of Students and Director of Anglican Studies
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  • Thursday, August 9, 2018

    I remember when one of my high school friends took me to his Baptist church. In rural Tennessee they were very much the majority, but I was totally unexposed to their customs. It was communion Sunday, which should have helped me out a bit. However, when they passed around the little crackers, I took one and immediately popped it in my mouth only to realize that everyone else was still holding theirs while the pastor said a few more words. I was sure everyone in the church heard me bite into my piece of Jesus!

    Of course, we Episcopalians have our unexplained customs and VTS has a bundle of our own ways of being. In this time of welcome and hospitality, we have a great opportunity to be there for the newcomer. Remember those things that baffled you when you arrived here. Please anticipate what others may need to know or do; then share, encourage and accompany.

    And by the way, please consider sitting down with someone who is alone in the refectory or someone whom you do not know.

    Blessings,

    Jim Mathes
    Associate Dean of Students and Director of Anglican Studies
    Read More
  • Wednesday, August 8, 2018

    Today, August Term begins! As a group, our 41 new students represent women and men of all ages, come from 23 dioceses and 7 foreign countries, and are pursuing all VTS degree and non-degree programs (M.A., M.Div., Anglican Studies, and Diploma in Theology). Forty-one new students have arrived on the VTS campus. These new members of our community come with a wealth of experience. They have worked in national security, law, television producing, massage therapy, youth ministry, and teaching, to name a few. And they have come to VTS to be formed for ministry.

    To our new students, we offer an abundant welcome! You are the reason the seminary exists. You join an extraordinary group of students who are eager to be your guide and friend as you become acclimated to this holy hill. Our faculty love their academic field and will be delighted to share what they have received. And the staff of VTS are the glue. Where would we be without our maintenance team, our finance team, our grounds team, our refectory team?

    My encouragement is that today be a greeting day. Today, find someone you do not know and come to know them.

    Grace and peace,

    Jim Mathes
    Associate Dean of Students and Director of Anglican Studies
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  • Tuesday, August 7, 2018

    As I think about all that has happened between graduation on May 17th and today, I am amazed. Residence halls have been cleaned and prepared for a new year. Eighteen apartments were rehabbed for new occupants. Dead trees were removed. For three weeks, doctoral students were here for their residency. VTS was fully present at General Convention in August. Rising middlers experienced CPE. The list goes on and on.

    There is one major task that you will notice: windows added to office doors. Scores of doors have been removed and carefully altered to place windowpanes in the doors. Some may question the aesthetic purity of this alteration; others may like the added light. The reason for this change is very simple: it is to comply with Safe Church standards. Windows in office doors remove the expectation of privacy, which protects everyone.

    The Church should be at the forefront of abuse prevention. We shouldn’t need a #MeToo movement to get us moving. Indeed, the Episcopal Church has been actively working at prevention of misconduct for decades. This summer’s window work reminds us that we all have a role in creating a safe church.

    Peace be with you,

    Jim Mathes
    Associate Dean of Students and Director of Anglican Studies
    Read More
  • Monday, August 6, 2018

    With just two days before the beginning of August Term, the campus is abuzz with activity. Moving trucks have come and gone, leaving behind new families in our apartments. Our residence halls are similarly filling up with old and new faces. International students are adjusting to a new time zone – new friends, foods, and experiences to follow. Faculty are finalizing lesson plans. And the campus is getting spruced up with movers moving and blowers humming.

    And then everything will officially begin on Wednesday morning, when the first-year students gather in the chapel at 8:15 a.m. In that moment, approximately 50 new members of our community will be assembled for the first time. I wonder what their thoughts and prayers will be? Some will come with confidence, others with trepidation. All will come with hope for a new adventure in their spiritual and vocational transformation.

    Of course, each of us can relate to the experience of being new: first day of high school, first day on a new job, first day at VTS! In the days ahead, we have an opportunity to exercise abundant hospitality. Please wear your name tags over the next couple of weeks. Greet people. If you know that they are new, introduce yourself and ask them how it is going and if you can help. Be open, kind, and generous. It will be a gift to those who are coming to be amongst us. It is likely to be a gift to you as well.

    Blessings,

    Jim Mathes
    Associate Dean of Students and Director of Anglican Studies
    Read More
  • Friday, August 3, 2018

    10,000.
     
    What a number, right? Minnesota’s lakes, Natalie Merchant’s Maniacs, goal steps per day. 10,000 is often considered a benchmark in achievement or awe of size.
     
    And we’ve hit that benchmark: we have 10,000 followers across our social media platforms. Since I joined VTS last year (my anniversary is next Tuesday!), I have worked with Curtis Prather, director of communications, students, and representatives from campus departments on messaging and sharing photos and videos in a timely manner. From Convocation to Commencement and General Convention, I hope you have felt connected to VTS through our social media presence, no matter how long it has been since you last visited.
     
    But we still have room to learn and grow. In the coming year, we’ll be live streaming more lectures and programs, sharing more personal stories from students, faculty, and staff, and exploring the Stories feature on Facebook and Instagram. Is there something you’d like to see? Please email me at epanox-leach@vts.edu and let’s chat.
     
    If you haven’t already, take a look at what we’re doing on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even YouTube. I’m looking forward to meeting the entering class of 2018 next week and sharing their experiences with you.
     
    I'm proud of my work sharing our community on Holy Hill online.
     
    Elizabeth Panox-Leach
    Communications Associate
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  • Thursday, August 2, 2018

    Discussions about updating Virginia Seminary's logo began about two years ago when we started having conversations about replacing the campus "Veritas" banners. With our 200th anniversary coming up in 2023, a decision was made to advance the first significant "brand" refresh VTS has had since the late 1990s. Dean Markham wanted a bold new "Bicentennial Logo" that respected the past as it ushered us to the future.

    This process can be tricky. It can take a lot longer than expected, and you seldom earn unanimous praise for the final decision. Striking a right balance between our diverse communities with how the Seminary needs to influence the future brand can seem impossible (especially since a brand is not actually what we say about ourselves, but what others say about us).

    When we ultimately landed on the final design, the Communications Office knew this was just the beginning: new letterhead, envelopes, business cards, napkins, name-tags, signage, merchandise, and those campus banners that started it all were needed. In addition, the 79th General Convention in Austin would be our opportunity for a big public reveal. That meant new display materials, updated collateral, special website content, creative swag, invitations, and program guides all needed to be created in a very short window of time.

    Thankfully, as we begin the countdown to 200, we are receiving the feedback we had hoped to hear. It is not unanimous but is very encouraging. It gives us the confidence we need as we meet the new students–students who will only really know this logo.

    Curtis Prather
    Director of Communications
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  • Wednesday, August 1, 2018

    Today is the 11th anniversary of my first meeting with Dean Markham. I remember this for a couple of reasons: the first is it is my mother's birthday, and that remains important to me, but also it was his first day here at VTS as the Dean and President, and (as my boss) that too has become very important to me.

    I had been asked to join an impromptu photo session with his family outside of their home. It was a relatively quick visit, but I will never forget his eagerness to share his thoughts on how we could harness streaming video. YouTube was only two years old at the time, and the only online streaming solutions were still quite expensive (and not always reliable). Nevertheless, the new Dean and President of VTS wanted us to be out in front of this emerging media and asked me directly if I was up for this challenge.

    "Absolutely," I said, while shaking my head "no way" to my then supervisor. It was daunting.

    In the end, we not only made it work, but we did so within months, live streaming lectures, worship services, and our first online Commencement ceremony in May 2008. And over the years, as technology caught up, we were there.

    As the Communications Office looked over priorities for the upcoming fiscal year, video (live streaming and produced content) has found its way to the top of the list. I am grateful the Seminary has been in front of this "challenge" for so long.

    Curtis Prather
    Director of Communications
    Read More
  • July

    Tuesday, July 31, 2018

    Safety is a concern, and rightfully so. VTS is aware of this and making strides to become a safer campus, better prepared to respond in times of crisis. The Board of Trustees approved funding to be used to install cameras, add windows in office doors, and more. The Butterfly House has a great deal of procedures in place that specifically relate to regulations for operating an early childhood education center.
     
    Jim Norman and I have been working with Safety Center, a cloud-based mobile safety platform developed by Dude Solutions. The purpose is to streamline the plans that have been housed in binders on shelves and get the information into the hands of those who need it in a format that it is accessible. To that end, the information in the App is brief, with the hope that people can access what they need in the moment, without bogging them down with unnecessary information. We look forward to opening the plan for folks to download it early in August and rolling out the information over the next couple of months.
     
    This is just a sample of the many things that are being done to make VTS safer and more prepared. Also, each individual can and should take steps to be prepared. For example, familiarize yourself with fire extinguisher, fire alarm pull station, First Aid Kit, and AED locations on campus, as well as exit routes; take a First Aid, CPR, and AED certification course; explore the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) ready.gov website; build your own emergency kit(s) to keep in your home, office, and car; take online courses on various topics from the Emergency Management Institute; and so much more.

    The Rev. Katherine A. Malloy
    Executive Assistant to the Dean and President
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  • Monday, July 30, 2018

    The Costan Lecture Series was endowed by Ms. Margaret H. Costan in December 2014 with the intent to strengthen the teachings of the seminary through the addition of an academic lecture series. Through the series a distinguished scholar has the opportunity to provide a set of lectures that connect the genesis of faith to the contemporary issues in spiritual practice. The genesis of faith should focus on the insights gleaned from the patristic period and from the gradual divide between the churches in the west from the church in the east. This is a set of three lectures, where it is anticipated that the lectures will ultimately culminate in publication. It is anticipated that the author will recognize the lecture series in the final publication.

    This year the Costan Lectures will be presented by Professor Sarah Coakley September 25-27, 2018. Sarah Coakley is an Anglican theologian who holds one of the top chairs in Divinity at Cambridge University. She has also led major research projects on theology and the biological concept of evolutionary cooperation, and has written extensively on Christian theology and feminism.

    Student Assistant, Melesa Skoglund, has been hard at work coordinating the details of the lectures and we are very much looking forward to the series. Stay tuned for more information on Professor Coakley's lecture titles!

    The Rev. Katherine A. Malloy
    Executive Assistant to the Dean and President
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  • Friday, July 27, 2018

    The week is coming to a close and today we observe the last of our Summer Fridays. I hope that each of you have taken some time just for yourself to re-connect to the things that delight you. Life is a beautiful gift, make sure not to miss it engulfed in busyness. It is my hope that you will enjoy the remainder of the summer. I encourage you to nurture your mind, body and spirit with things that are loving, kind and true. For me there is nothing better than a great book and a nearby journal to record my thoughts.

    I trust that the peek inside of the finance, facilities and technology departments that I tried to provide in the earlier commentaries this week proved informative. We are committed to excellence in service in FY19 and if there is anything that we can do to help make life better at Virginia Theological Seminary, please do not hesitate to let us know.

    Each day I have ended my commentary with one of my favorite quotes and this one today is my absolute!

    For today:

    “I thank God for the grace and mercy that He has bestowed; I am drinking from my saucer cause my cup has overflowed.” JP Moore
    Jacqueline F. Ballou, MBA, CPA

    Vice President for Finance and Operations
    Chief Financial Officer
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  • Thursday, July 26, 2018

    In January 2018, I assumed oversight of the Technology department. We are pleased to have Reggie Gravina, Technology Coordinator leading us in audio visual innovations and managing our telephone, printer and copier solutions. We have partnered with Focus Data Solutions to manage our hardware and software applications. In FY18, we successfully implemented our workstation replacement program and now over 95% of the campus have laptop computers making us a portable workforce. We have also modernized our technology infrastructure resulting in a more stable and reliable network computing environment.

    We are in the process of implementing two important applications that will support the work of the Seminary. The solutions will dramatically improve student, faculty and staff experience in the areas of Learning Management (LMS) and Student Information Management (SIS). There is also a tremendous effort underway to launch a new VTSHub (intranet site) this summer. In the coming weeks, you will be receiving notifications relative to the launch of each of these exciting initiatives.

    There are many people involved in the success of these technology initiatives. Join me in elevating and celebrating the following leaders: Rachel Holm (SIS); Stacy Williams-Duncan (LMS); and Curtis Prather (VTSHub). Thank you to everyone who has supported these project leaders by contributing countless hours participating in work sessions to develop and refine these solutions.

    For today:

    “If you find yourself in an argument with a fool, make sure that he/she is not similarly engaged” Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III

    Jacqueline F. Ballou, MBA, CPA
    Vice President for Finance and Operations
    Chief Financial Officer
    Read More
  • Wednesday, July 25, 2018

    Facilities Management experienced another busy season in FY18. We completed renovation of two campus homes. We managed over 25 office moves and relocations and we just completed painting the interior of Bohlen and Aspinwall Halls in new rich vibrant colors. The maintenance and grounds departments continue to make incremental changes that are enhancing the beauty, comfort and safety of our campus.

    We have many projects planned for FY19. One that we are extremely excited about is the installation of swipe key access to the exterior doors of all campus buildings and installing security cameras at each of those entrances. This is phase one of a multi-phase program to make our campus more secure. We will be piloting an auto mower on campus later this year as an environmentally friendly option for lawn mowing. We are now responsible for all room set-ups on campus and we strive to deliver all of this and much more in the spirit of excellence.

    Please join me in thanking the team that keeps our buildings and grounds infrastructure working and strives to respond to all service request from the entire community of faculty, staff and students every day! Dave Mutscheller, John Erbe, Friton Franz (Fritz), Steve Slominski, Stuart Dahlinger, Santino Dut, Chris Holder, Victor Hurtado, Tim Lawhorn, Tom Leake, Nathan Neufer, Jose Reyes, Ronnie Saunders, Griffin Warder, Wesley Warder and Tak Yim.

    For today:

    “I’m tired of sailing my little boat far inside the harbor bar. I want to go out where the big ships float, on the deep where the great ones are. And should my frail craft prove to slight, for the waves that sweep those billow o’er, I’d rather go down in a stirring fight than drowse to death by the sheltered shore.”

    Jacqueline F. Ballou, MBA, CPA
    Vice President for Finance and Operations
    Chief Financial Officer
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  • Tuesday, July 24, 2018

    As I mentioned in yesterday’s commentary, FY18 was a very busy year for Finance. The annual financial audit was successfully completed in late October 2017 thanks to the leadership of Olivine Pilling, Comptroller. A new payroll system was implemented under the leadership of Terrell Whitaker, Finance and Accounting Manager. This new system allows employees to access all of their payroll related financial data on-line, no more paper checks or check stubs are being produced! We have also made tremendous improvement in our accounts receivable and payables processes thanks to the dedicated efforts of Veena Khanna, Accounts Receivable Associate and Karen Anderson, Accounts Payable Associate. We are exploring alternatives for more electronic payment of invoices and reimbursement requests that will yield more efficient and effective business processes in our effort to continuously improve operations.

    I would like to take this opportunity to introduce Carolina Merino who is joining us for a 3-month assignment in Finance this summer. She will be supporting our financial audit efforts that kick-off the end of July. Please stop by Bohlen 204 to meet Carolina and welcome her to VTS.

    For today:

    “I said to the one who stood at the gate. ‘give me a light that I might go into the darkness and into the unknown’ He replied to me “Go out into the darkness. Go out into the unknown. But put your hand into the hands of God and God shall be for you better than life and safer than a known way.”

    Jacqueline F. Ballou, MBA, CPA
    Vice President for Finance and Operations
    Chief Financial Officer
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  • Monday, July 23, 2018

    It has been almost a year since I joined the VTS family. What an amazing journey it has been thus far to serve in this holy place with such extraordinary people. I have had the privilege of getting to know staff, faculty, students, board members, and countless community leaders – thank you for such a gracious welcome! I am finding that this is truly one of the best places to work in northern Virginia.

    A lot has happened in fiscal year 2018 in the areas that I am privileged to have oversight. In Finance, we completed a very successful audit and implemented a new payroll system. Facilities Management experienced another full year of faculty home renovations, office moves/relocations, painting and continuous campus improvements of our Buildings and Grounds.

    In January 2018, I assumed responsibility for the Technology Department. We have staff that are leading us in audio visual innovation and we are experiencing tremendous success with our managed service partner, Focus Data Solutions. I look forward to profiling each of these departments this week and sharing in more depth a bit about the contributions and efforts of those who are vital infrastructure to the success of Virginia Theological Seminary.

    For today:

    This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it!

    Jacqueline F. Ballou, MBA, CPA
    Vice President for Finance and Operations
    Chief Financial Officer
    Read More
  • Friday, July 20, 2018

    Here’s what I am left with as I approach the end of my work as Acting Vice President for Academic Affairs: gratitude. I am grateful for the staff with whom I have worked – Derek Greten-Harrison, Wendy Bermudez, Mara Sherman, Taylor Mather, Rachel Holm, and Monica Sloan. They are conscientious and good-natured, work as a team, support each other, communicate forthrightly, and give their best to VTS’ mission even when the work gets stressful. I am particularly indebted to Rachel, our Registrar, who has often known the questions I needed to ask before I did; and Monica, our new Administrator, who practically has a task finished before I’m even done asking for it. I could not ask for better colleagues than Jim Mathes, Ross Kane, and Joseph Thompson, whose thoughtful and collaborative spirit is a model of servant leadership.
     
    I am grateful for all of them; for all my faculty colleagues – especially Mitzi Budde with whom I have worked on curriculum – for the opportunity to serve among them; and for my students, who were patient well beyond the call when my work as Academic Dean slowed down my tasks in the classroom.
     
    We all do well to remember, friends: the treasures of an institution are its people.
     
    The Rev. James W. Farwell, Ph.D.
    Professor of Theology and Liturgy
    Acting Vice President for Academic Affairs
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  • Thursday, July 19, 2018

    General Convention 2018 illustrated more than once that moral discernment rarely involves a simple decision between good and evil. That’s true for any of us as individuals, and when a whole body tries publicly to discern the right path, it is more complicated. People of formed Christian conscience disagree over competing goods because they differ in their method of moral reasoning; which facts they consider most relevant; their particular theological framework; and their own experience, life-story, and context.
     
    General Convention 2018 deputies found themselves debating whether to move toward divestment from companies who profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Some argued for divestment, based on a commitment to liberation and justice. Others argued that a commitment to a two-state solution requires our ability to support both sides, an ability undermined by a divestment that would be seen as antagonistic to Israel. You can read the final outcome here.
     
    As you can see, discernment will continue. As it does, let us pray for the people of the middle east, that justice may be done in a heartbreaking situation. Reconciliation seems distant; and yet, the God who brings life from death can do all things.
     
    The Rev. James W. Farwell, Ph.D.
    Professor of Theology and Liturgy
    Acting Vice President for Academic Affairs
    Read More
  • Thursday, July 19, 2018

    General Convention 2018 illustrated more than once that moral discernment rarely involves a simple decision between good and evil. That’s true for any of us as individuals, and when a whole body tries publicly to discern the right path, it is more complicated. People of formed Christian conscience disagree over competing goods because they differ in their method of moral reasoning; which facts they consider most relevant; their particular theological framework; and their own experience, life-story, and context.
     
    General Convention 2018 deputies found themselves debating whether to move toward divestment from companies who profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Some argued for divestment, based on a commitment to liberation and justice. Others argued that a commitment to a two-state solution requires our ability to support both sides, an ability undermined by a divestment that would be seen as antagonistic to Israel. You can read the final outcome here.
     
    https://www.vbinder.net/resolutions/D019?house=hd&lang=en
     
    As you can see, discernment will continue. As it does, let us pray for the people of the middle east, that justice may be done in a heartbreaking situation. Reconciliation seems distant; and yet, the God who brings life from death can do all things.
     
    The Rev. James W. Farwell, Ph.D.
    Professor of Theology and Liturgy
    Acting Vice President for Academic Affairs
    Read More
  • Wednesday, July 18, 2018

     
    Just days ago General Convention established an approach to liturgical revision that guards the usage of the 1979 prayer book and recommits to its paschal theology. We need continuing formation into its vision. At the same time, formed by that vision, we begin considering matters on which the 1979 book has not worn well. Among them, we must wrestle with its overly male-gendered language and imagery; and we must address its relative silence on our responsibility for God’s creation.
     
    The very important matter of expansive language quickly generates debate, though I would say the debate sometimes produces more anxiety than theology. But perhaps the more momentous shift in our formation-by-prayer would be lifting up creation and our joyful responsibility for it. An enormous shift in our theological anthropology is underway, as we recognize we are not the “rulers” of creation (Eucharistic Prayer C) but its stewards, and ourselves a part of the created order; and that we have the capacity to do real damage by our continuing treatment of the earth as nothing more than raw material for our use. There is liturgical and moral work to be done on both these issues, and more. Let’s get to work.
     
    The Rev. James W. Farwell, Ph.D.
    Professor of Theology and Liturgy
    Acting Vice President for Academic Affairs
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  • Tuesday, July 17, 2018

    One of the resolutions emerging from General Convention 2018 was a commitment to begin the process of liturgical revision in the Episcopal Church. Everyone with access to a keyboard is weighing in on this with – how shall I put it? – various levels of sophistication. In fact it will take some time to feel our way into the work for which the resolution calls. Today I will simply say that, after taking counsel with other liturgists of the church in a dual site conference at Virginia Seminary and Sewanee, I think the resolution was a good outcome. (For those interested, the proceedings of that conference are in Vol. 61:1 of the Sewanee Theological Review.)
     
    Suffice to say for now that the GC resolution both signals the normativity of the paschal theology of the 1979 book and its continuing usage, while committing us to a church wide exploration of emerging liturgical practice and issues.  Details remain to be worked out in the composition of a Task Force to be appointed, and the relationship between its work and that of both the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music and diocesan leadership. More in this space tomorrow on some of the particulars of the resolution.
     
    The Rev. James W. Farwell, Ph.D.
    Professor of Theology and Liturgy
    Acting Vice President for Academic Affairs
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  • Monday, July 16, 2018

    As the Dean noted last Friday, the Episcopal Church’s General Convention has just ended.
     
    It is easy to romanticize the church’s councils of old. We imagine the gatherings at Nicea or Chalcedon to be deeply serious affairs, where solemn pronouncements issued from focused prayer and profound theological debate, all marked by perfect agreement and charity. Then we measure the councils of our day against those councils of old and mourn how much noisier, conflicted, or ephemeral are ours, where power struggles and partial insights mark the plodding or occasionally fiery debate in which we engage over matters that seem, at least sometimes, far less important than the church faced 1500 years ago.
     
    The truth is that Church councils, ecumenical or otherwise, have always been boisterous affairs with perfect unanimity hard to come and debates reflecting both the sublime and the pedestrian.  Somehow, through all of that, the Spirit leads the church in God’s work. So it is with the General Convention of 2018 whose decisions we will consider here in the coming days. Its hard work, holy disagreements, and decisions both small and momentous we commend to the outworking of God’s emerging reign.
     
    The Rev. James W. Farwell, Ph.D
    Professor of Theology and Liturgy
    Acting Vice President for Academic Affairs
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  • Friday, July 13, 2018

    General Convention is the parliament of the Episcopal Church. It is right and proper that the Seminary is represented at this event. Preparations across departments started early: CACS had two events; there were two dinners; there was a booth (which was spectacular); legislation was tracked; and countless contacts were made.

    Now I want to recognize all who were present. But please allow me to give a special shout out to the duo of Shelagh Casey Brown (who oversaw the Seminary’s presence and preparations) and Ann Roebuck (who organized two outstanding dinner events). Both of you were professional and exceptionally competent – thank you.

    And to everyone else – Linda Dienno, Amy Dyer, Maurice Dyer, James Farwell, Sally French, David Gortner, Jennifer Greiner, Derek Greten-Harrison, Barney Hawkins, Robert Heaney, Lisa Kimball, Dorothy Linthicum, Jim Mathes, Ruth Casipit Paguio, Elizabeth Panox-Leach, Curtis Prather, Bob Prichard, Bill Roberts, Sarah Stonesifer (who got elected to Executive Council), Hartley Wensing, KC Robertson, and Andrew Rutledge – thank you. The Seminary had a good General Convention thanks to you.

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

    As seminary families move in and students have a break, we encourage you to come and see what’s available for summer reading at the Bishop Payne Library.
     
    ChildrenWinnie the Pooh, Bibles and prayer books, and comfort critters (“God made tears”). These are on the main level, near the elevator.
     
    The juvenile and young adult books are on the 2nd floor, front left corner. Examples:
    • Juveniles – A Wrinkle in Time series, Bible stories, the Harry Potter series, Judy Blume books, and The Chronicles of Narnia series.
    • Young adults – graphic novels of the Bible, superheroes, and a Manga Bible.
     
    Adults (descriptions from book jackets):
    • Michael B. Curry preached at the Royal Wedding, and we have his books and recorded sermons (e.g. “You’ve got to fly” recorded at St. James Episcopal Church in Baltimore on 3/15/92).
    • The Book of Joy by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams. “Lasting happiness in a changing world”.
    • The Gospel According to Star Wars: Faith, Hope, and the Force by John C. McDowell. “From the Force to the dark side, the issues discussed in the films have a moral and spiritual complexity that… can help us better understand our place in the world and our relation to others and God.”
    • A Prairie Girls Faith by Stephen W. Hines. A true story about Laura Ingalls Wilder, “...witness an authentic faith that comes not from pretending all is well but from growing through difficult times.”
    • Breaking Sad: What to Say After Loss, What Not to Say, and When to Just Show Up edited by Shelly Fisher & Jennifer Jones.
     
    AND MUCH, MUCH MORE!!!
     
    Tami Shepherd
    Technical Services & Acquisitions Technician
    Bishop Payne Library
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  • Wednesday, July 11, 2018

    VTS proudly partners with the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church (HSEC) in curating the the African American Episcopal Historical Collection (AAEHC) at the Bishop Payne Library.  Since 2014, HSEC has generously funded travel grants for individuals who wish to conduct research in the collection, and the program has also been supported by the Nancy M. Prichard Endowment Fund.  
     
    I am pleased to announce the 2018 class of grant recipients, the names of their projects, and the dates that they will visit VTS:
    • Dr. Ronald A. Johnson (Texas State University) – Bilateral Blackness: Haiti and Early American Identity, September 17-21
    • Dr. Rosemary D. Gooden (Chicago, IL) – Walter Decoster Dennis: Naming the Gospel, Living the Gospel, October 24-November 11
     
    While on campus, they will share their work in presentations hosted by the library.  Please watch for announcements of these upcoming events—we hope that you will be able to attend them!
     
    Christopher Pote
    Seminary Archivist
    Bishop Payne Library
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  • Tuesday, July 10, 2018

    This summer, while expanding our e-resource collection, Bishop Payne Library also acquired three notable rare books. The first is a facsimile printing of a Calov Bible, published in 1681, that was owned by Johann Sebastian Bach. The Bible is the only known book to have survived from Bach’s personal library and includes marginal notes in his own hand. All of this has been faithfully recreated by the publishers of the facsimile. The library is fortunate to own one of the 1,000 copies of the facsimile that were published. The Bible compliments the J. Reilly Lewis Collection that was dedicated in April.
     
    Another noteworthy addition is Thomas Cranmer’s A Defence of the True and Catholike Doctrine of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Savior Christ, published in 1550. This work is significant for anyone studying the Church of England and its liturgy as it presents Cranmer’s explanation of the eucharistic theology in the Prayer Book.
     
    Finally, complementing our African American Episcopal Historical Collection, the library acquired A Manual of Religious Instruction, Specifically Intended for the Oral Teaching of Colored Persons, but Adapted for General Use in Families and Schools, by the Rev. John F. Hoff, published in Richmond in 1857.  This work provides a window into antebellum religious thinking on African American religious education in Virginia.   
     
    These books may be consulted in the library upon request. Together these three acquisitions enhance the already deep and wonderful rare book collection of Bishop Payne Library.   
     
    Brad Hess
    Technical Services Librarian
    Bishop Payne Library
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  • Monday, July 9, 2018

    Today is a shout-out to the Bishop Payne Library staff for all that they do, both at the library and in the wider community. We welcome Ebonee Davis as full-time Processing Archivist for the African American Episcopal Historical Collection. She will represent the Collection at the Union of Black Episcopalians conference in Bermuda this month. Welcome also to Tami Shepherd, transferring to the library from her previous role as VTS registrar. 
     
    Karen Madigan, Public Services Librarian, is serving on the seminary’s Communications Advisory Group in addition to providing reference to patrons. Brad Hess, Technical Services Librarian, has completed a church music class to enhance his cataloging of rare music books. Cindy Harper, Electronic Services Librarian, is upgrading the library’s e-resources and collaborating on a redesign of the library catalog home page. Chris Pote, Seminary Archivist, serves on the Administrative Personnel Committee and has been appointed to the seminary’s Bicentennial Committee. Kathy Graham, Administrative and Circulation Assistant, took Dr. Sonderegger’s course on Christology. Patricia Burke maintains the seminary’s virtual bookstore, and volunteer Robert Reeves is inventorying the anthems of the J. Reilly Lewis music collection. 
     
    The seminary’s jail ministry has been enriching for me. Coordinated by seminarian Gwynn Crichton, our group of students, staff, and faculty lead Bible study and art for women inmates at the Alexandria Jail. In his Letters and Papers from Prison, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in 1944: “May God in his mercy lead us through these times; but above all, may he lead us to himself.” May God use all our service for good in these turbulent times.
     
    Mitzi J. Budde, D.Min.
    Head Librarian & Professor
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  • Friday, July 6, 2018

    Theological reflection (TR), which focuses on discerning God’s presence and activity in our lives, ministries and communities, including the nation and the world, is at the heart of contextual ministry. To be effective ministers of the gospel, Christian spiritual leaders need to engage in intentional, consistent TR. 
     
    Colloquy offers seminarians regular opportunities to develop the art of theological reflection. Middlers meet with two facilitators (usually a senior seminarian and a community partner) in a series of weekly, confidential meetings.  During the course of Colloquy, Middlers take turns presenting ministry events for reflection, facilitating the conversation and offering group process observations. 
     
    In the traditional Contextual Ministry (CXM) program, Colloquy sessions were held from the second through fourth quarters of the Middler year. In addition, Colloquy groups were distinct from Formation groups, which meet in faculty homes for worship and discussion on various ministry-related topics.
     
    In lieu of traditional weekly formation groups, beginning in the 2018-19 academic year, Middlers will meet in Colloquy groups while Juniors and Seniors will meet in Formation groups. In the first few sessions of Colloquy, Middlers will have opportunities to debrief their usually intense, summer experience of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE).  Subsequent sessions will focus on helping seminarians to strengthen their theological reflection skills. 

    The Rev. Allison St. Louis, Ph.D.
    Director of Field Education and
    The Second Three Years Program

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  • Thursday, July 5, 2018

    As the newest addition to the Field Ed., now CXM, Department, I've entered the position during a period of exciting change for the program. Not just a change of name and terminology, but of program design and energy.
     
    In talks with Dean Markham, Dr. Robert Heaney, and CACs, we've explored ideas about collaboration for new CXM possibilities through our current relationships within the national church and the Anglican Communion. I've enjoyed learning directly from these folks what rich resources we have at our disposal.
     
    Through e-mails and meetings with the Communications Department, we've worked on how to more effectively communicate our goals to the wider community and possible future sites and supervisors. A special thank you to Elizabeth Panox-Leach for her infinite patience with my constant questions.
     
    Finally, with the roll-out of our new learning management system, with thanks to Prof. Stacy Williams-Duncan, Jenn Baker, and the rest of the Digital Learning team, we've seen how we can better facilitate learning for those we serve most directly: our seminarians. It is through the empowerment of this new generation of leaders, both clergy and lay, that we will better serve the Church, the wider Communion, and the wider world.
     
    While I'm thanking people, I'd also like to thank our Director, Dr. Allison St. Louis, and our Coordinator, Carol Jubinski, for allowing me to jump in feet first and (attempt) to contribute ideas from day one.
     
    While some of these things aren't currently set in stone, I look forward to seeing how we can continue to grow, refine, and redefine ourselves.
     
    I'm just happy to be along for the ride.
     
    Carissa Riedesel
    Administrative Assistant for the Department of Contextual Ministry
    (That still sounds so cool.)
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  • Tuesday, July 3, 2018

    Throughout the year, Contextual Ministry (formerly Field Education) collaborates with many VTS departments and off-campus groups to help educate and form our seminarians and alums for their ongoing ministry. We would like to thank all those who have assisted us in some way in serving our seminarians and alums in their continuing journey with Christ:
    • the Refectory for providing refreshments and meals for our many meetings and events
    • Hospitality for assisting us in reserving rooms for events and guest housing for participants
    • IT for assisting us with setups and tech needs
    • Contextual Ministry supervisors for giving their time to teach and mentor our seminarians
    • Lay support team conveners for journeying with our seminarians and giving them important feedback
    • Colloquy facilitators for helping our seminarians learn and practice theological reflection
    • Contextual Ministry Advisory Committee for helping us visualize our traditional and pilot Contextual Ministry programs
    • Second Three Years Program mentors for continuing to mentor our alums after they leave our Holy Hill
    This is just a small example of those who give their assistance, time and talent to help us form our seminarians for their work in furthering God’s kingdom. There are many others not mentioned above, due to space limitations, that assist us in so many ways. Please accept our sincere thanks for everything you do for our seminarians. Without all of you, we could not do what we do.

    Carol Jubinski
    Coordinator for Field Education and
    The Second Three Years Program
    Read More
  • Monday, July 2, 2018

    Not unlike the rest of VTS, the Field Ed Department has been undergoing a series of changes.  After a long process of reflection, research and re-visioning, we will implement a pilot of our new program in 2018-19.  The traditional program will run alongside the pilot, but our goal is to phase out the traditional program and fully implement the new program in 2019-2020.
    The new program offers seminarians three tracks for contextual learning, each of which allows for greater flexibility and more opportunities for intensive practical training.  They also provide a wider variety of local, national and international sites for seminarians to develop their ministerial identity and skills.  Sites will include parishes, schools, hospitals, prisons, seaports, intentional learning communities and monasteries. 
    We also used this opportunity to rethink our terminology, shed outmoded language and embrace language that most readily conveys the essence of the new program.  Consistent with our emphasis on the importance of context in the formation of lay and ordained leaders, we are delighted to share that our new name is the Department of Contextual Ministry (CXM).  We know that it will take a while for the name change to be fully incorporated into all of our communications, so we ask for your patience and support during the transition process.

    The Rev. Allison St. Louis, Ph.D.
    Director of Field Education and
    The Second Three Years Program
     
    The Rev. Allison St. Louis, Ph.D.
    Director of Field Education and
    The Second Three Years Program
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  • June

    Friday, June 29, 2018

    VTS will be headed to Austin, Texas next week for the 2018 General Convention! Faculty and staff attending this year’s Convention will be connecting with alumni and friends from around The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. And while Convention is largely about the governance activities of the Church, it is also very much a time of reunion and celebration.

    General Convention presents a unique opportunity to share our story. We will do so through our booth presence in the exhibit hall and through the two VTS dinner events. On Sunday evening, July 8, we will gather with alumni and friends at the LBJ Library and Museum, where guests will hear from Dean Markham about our upcoming Bicentennial plans. The Rt. Rev. Frank Griswold, XV Presiding Bishop will also offer remarks that evening on the importance of residential theological education. Then on Tuesday, July 10, we will kick back at Stubb’s Bar-B-Q for VTS Family Night. We will hear from the Dean and others about VTS programs and have an opportunity to celebrate the new publication of A Man Called Mark: A Biography of Bishop Mark Dyer, with author Tom Linthicum and Amy Dyer.

    VTS alumni figure prominently in all aspects of Convention – Bishop Andy Doyle and the Diocese of Texas are hosts of Convention; other alumni are present as deputies and bishops, worship leaders and preachers, speakers, and in every other aspect of Convention.
    Keep the VTS team heading to Convention in your prayers and look for posts on Facebook and Twitter!

    Shelagh Casey Brown
    Director of Alumni and Church Relations
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  • Thursday, June 28, 2018

    There is much to see and do at Virginia Theological Seminary. We have witnessed neighbors enjoying a quiet walk with friends in the morning, while others walk their dogs or ride their bikes around the Grove.

    And even for those further away than across the street, VTS is a destination location. This past fall, for example, the Alexandria Historical Association met here for a guided tour of historical buildings followed by a reception in Scott Lounge. Archivist Chris Pote and faculty member Bob Prichard offered a wonderful tour for the group of 75.

    Some groups opt to build their own tour by taking advantage of our Self-Guided Chapel Tour and 10 Sights to See in One Hour brochures. Each offers a handy guide to the iconic features of the Seminary that reflect our rich past, present, and future.

    Here are a few of the sights you can see in one hour:

    * The beautiful stained glass windows in Immanuel Chapel;
    * Oakwood – the oldest building on campus;
    * The Cemetery on the east side of the Campus;
    * St. Cyprian’s Labyrinth;
    * “Mary as Prophet” Sculpture by Margaret (Peggy) Adams Parker
    * Civil War Graffiti on Aspinwall Hall;
    * Phillips Brooks Bust in Bishop Payne Library;
    * Bishop Walker’s Portrait in Scott Lounge.

    We enjoy having visitors on campus. If you are in the area, or if you have friends and family visiting, please take advantage of our beautiful campus. Pause, rest, reflect, and recharge on this Holy Hill.

    Ann Roebuck
    Senior Administrator and Director of Special Events
     
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  • Wednesday, June 27, 2018

    We have a wonderful “policy” at VTS. Our hard-working alums get two free nights a year in our Guest Houses. We have 24 rooms for these and other honored guests. As we focus more and more on our hospitality, we have steadily improved these rooms with fresh paint, new carpet, and soft towels. Most have TVs! This summer we are completing the “upgrades” by hanging art in all the rooms.
    There will be a “theme” to the art which will adorn our Guest Houses. Over 40 prints by Sadao Watanabe (1913-1996) are being hung by the ever-helpful staff which tends carefully to our physical plant. Watanabe’s prints are woodcuts, rendered in the “mingei tradition” of Japan. Watanabe’s “folk art” draws its inspiration solely from Biblical stories.
    A booklet is being prepared which will catalog all the art in the Guest Houses. There will be photographs of each woodcut with descriptions.
    Neff and Dorothy Powell encouraged this project when they gave VTS a beautiful Watanabe woodcut. VTS already had several Watanabe woodcuts—and over the last few years we have watched eBay to find good values as we completed this project. We are grateful to Jay Houston at Frameworks in Georgetown who framed the prints in simple black frames with rag matting and conservation glass.
    Come see us and enjoy our beautiful Guest Houses!
     
    The Rev. James Barney Hawkins IV, Ph.D.
    Co-Director, Bicentennial Campaign
    Arthur Carl Lichtenberger Professor Emeritus of Pastoral Theology
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  • Tuesday, June 26, 2018

    As we enter the final days of June and prepare to wrap up our “Year of Possibilities,” you will continue to hear from us about the Annual Fund and how important your gifts are during this pivotal time.

    Our Annual Fund goal is within reach, and we need your help to respond to this world that cries out for faithful well-prepared leaders and a strong Church. As you consider the part you play in this response, there are a few things, in particular, we want you to know today.

    First, thank you! Your gifts matter. Your prayers matter. We are so grateful for all you do.

    Second, it is not too late to give…or give again. You can give online, mail a check on or before June 30, or meet me in Scott Lounge today at lunch to make a donation and enter a drawing for an Amazon gift card.

    Third, the impact of your June gift will be doubled this year, thanks to a matching gift from a group of generous donors who want to inspire additional annual fund giving in this “Year of Possibilities.”

    Right now, in this “Year of Possibilities,” your gift matters more than ever. Thank you for all you do to help VTS and the Episcopal Church meet the fullness of God’s vision.

    Jennifer Wade Greiner
    Director of the Annual Fund
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  • Monday, June 25, 2018

    It’s early summer and Institutional Advancement is wrapping up the fiscal year while running up to General Convention in Austin.
     
    Every June we work to bring Annual Fund gifts in by the June 30 year-end. Many hands are needed: Those who “ask,” those who “thank,” and those who “tell.” Thank you, Jennifer Greiner, for leading a classy charge!
     
    This year-end also brings some staff realignments.
     
    We will farewell Veena Khanna, who for two years, has split time processing gifts in IA with other work in Finance. They now need her fulltime, so we will send her to Finance with our thanks and appreciation.
     
    Monina Pangan is picking up gift-processing. We are grateful that even with her other duties, Monina is taking on that important job. Devin Jacobsen joined IA in early June---just in time to help acknowledge the fiscal year-end gifts. Welcome, Devin!
     
    Devin replaced Elizabeth Osborn who remains with us but has transitioned to be the Capital Campaign Associate and Campus Curator. She joins Barney Hawkins, co-director of the Bicentennial Campaign, in this work.
     
    In other areas, Shelagh Casey Brown and Ann Roebuck are finalizing details for VTS at General Convention. Their work is implemented by Debbie Townsend, who not only has overseen the transitions of Veena, Monina, Devin, and Elizabeth, but is handling registrations for events in Austin.
     
    I am ever grateful for this team. Each person applies unique gifts and talents to our shared mission of advancing this institution that we all know and love. #200years.

    Linda L. Dienno
    Vice President for Institutional Advancement
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  • Friday, June 22, 2018

    Today in our doctoral programs, students in their third and final summer residency present their project thesis proposals for approval by VTS faculty. For their theses, students envision and carry out an act of ministry in their context that seeks to transform that place, to make it holier. They then put the results of that action research in conversation with theological literature and with the social sciences, unearthing new insights about their context and God’s work therein.
     
    There is a rich theology behind this approach to research. Every ministry context is a place of divine discovery, a place in which God, through the active agency of the Holy Spirit and the active agency of us, is revealing something about Jesus we’ve not necessarily noticed before. Each context of ministry shows some part of the body of Christ that no other place can express. These project theses enable students to name that work of the Holy Spirit, to attend to it, to nurture it, and to let it grow.
     
    The Rev. Ross Kane, Ph.D.
    Director of Doctoral Programs
    Assistant Professor of Theology, Ethics, and Culture
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  • Thursday, June 21, 2018

    We are delighted that VTS’s Reinicker Lecture takes place during the doctoral residency next week, on Tuesday June 26 at 7pm in Addison 101. Our guest lecturer is Keith Egan from Notre Dame, a renowned scholar in Christian Spirituality. Join us for what promises to be an uplifting evening!
     
    His lecture is entitled "The Erotic Poetry of Saint John of the Cross." As Dr. Egan describes it, the poetry of the Spanish mystic John of the Cross takes readers on a journey through dark nights into a new reality where one hears "silent music" and "sounding solitude," and where one partakes of a "supper that refreshes and deepens love." There éros and agápe are partners in the transformation of differing melodies into a "Symphony of Love." 
     
    Dr. Egan will be with us for some days to follow as well, teaching in our Christian Spirituality track. His presence is a gift to us.

    The Rev. Ross Kane, Ph.D.
    Director of Doctoral Programs
    Assistant Professor of Theology, Ethics, and Culture
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  • Wednesday, June 20, 2018

    Looking at our doctoral summer residency from the outside in, it’s easy to overlook all of the tremendous effort that goes into making it work. This work comes from nearly every corner of VTS. The hospitality crew readies the dorm rooms for students, guest house residences for faculty, and classroom space for instruction. The staff in the Academic Affairs and Student Life department have helped students register for classes and organized their dorm rooms. The VTS Digital Learning Office has worked tirelessly to set up our new online learning software, Brightspace, and to build our online course sites. The staff of the kitchen and 1823 have provided wonderful food and lovely opportunities for fellowship. And who can forget the Flamingo coffee shop, which has opened up this summer just for our doctoral students! Each of these departments and many more have played their part in making the doctoral residency run smoothly.
     
    I especially want to name and appreciate the work Mara Sherman, our Doctoral Programs Administrative Coordinator. Mara has been the organizing center of all of these efforts. She has gracefully moved between departments making sure that all the pieces are in place; she has done troubleshooting for our new online course sites. Mara has fixed things behind the scenes without anyone necessarily noticing. For her and for all of the VTS staff, we are so very grateful.

    The Rev. Ross Kane, Ph.D.
    Director of Doctoral Programs
    Assistant Professor of Theology, Ethics, and Culture Virginia Theological Seminary
    Read More
  • Tuesday, June 19, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Tuesday, June 5, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

    You can read the full Anglican Commentary here.

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

    Thursday, May 31, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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  • Tuesday, May 22, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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  • Tuesday, May 15, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Monday, April 30, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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  • Wednesday, April 18, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Monday, February 16, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thursday, March 29, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Thursday, March 15, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Wednesday, February 28, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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  • Friday, February 23

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

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

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

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

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

    Amy and Lisa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Wednesday, January 31, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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  • Monday, January 29, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Monday, January 8, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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