Alexandria, Va. – Saturday, Sept. 14, the Virginia Theological Seminary community will witness an end and a beginning. We will gather for the groundbreaking of the new Immanuel Chapel – feet from where the previous chapel had stood for 129 years and where it was destroyed by fire three years ago.
As a timely reminder of how the past and future will converge on VTS this weekend, the Rev. David T. Gortner, Ph.D., director of the Doctor of Ministry Program and professor of evangelism and congregational leadership, agreed to share his thoughts, inspired by a gift he received today in the mail.
It is amazing how the witness of this place and its mission takes hold of people. Last summer during the Doctor of Ministry summer session, as part of a course on reading and exegeting organizations, I led a new group of students in a discussion of the power of symbols and central themes in the life of any organization or community. I told them about the wonderful Ascension window behind the altar of the old chapel, framed at the top by the words from the end of the Gospel of Mark, “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel.” I talked about the challenge a school or church faces when it goes for a time without such a strong orienting image and message.
Today, when I went to my mailbox, I was greeted by a huge package. Inside was this painting – a painting of the beloved window from the old chapel! It was a gift – painted with care and love by Dr. Robert Elsner, one of our Doctor of Ministry students in Educational Leadership. Dr. Elsner serves as the chair of the psychology department at Erskine College, and enrolled in our doctoral program for the gift it brings of deep theological and interdisciplinary reflection on best practices of ministry and leadership in the context of educational settings. Dr. Elsner indicated repeatedly during the summer that he was so grateful to come to a place like VTS and experience the generous spirit of community that is this place.
I will treasure this gift, and I look forward to sharing it with the seminary community.
The groundbreaking for the new Immanuel Chapel will be at 11:00 a.m. this Saturday, Sept. 14 on the grove, followed by a reception in the refectory.
Founded in 1823, Virginia Theological Seminary is the largest of the 11 accredited seminaries of the Episcopal Church. The school prepares men and women for service in the Church worldwide, both as ordained and lay ministers, and offers a number of professional degree programs and diplomas. Currently, the Seminary represents more than 42 different dioceses and 5 different countries, for service in the Church. Visit us online at www.vts.edu.