Vocation & Discernment | A talk by Rev. Bill Haley for our Horizons Fellows

Every year, our Horizons Fellows travel to Corhaven retreat farm, just north of Harrisonburg for 24 hours to share their stories, eat an incredible locally grown vegetarian meal by host, Tara Haley, and listen to her husband, Rev. Bill Haley, share about their family’s vocational journey along with some teachings on vocation and discernment.

Run time is 1.5 hours. Take a walk, fold the laundry, go for a drive. Listen here.

New Vintage Lunch Series | How to Live:  Invitations for Everyone

Vintage Lunches |  Fall 2019

Life and How to Live It:  Invitations for Everyone 

“Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”  ---Abraham Joshua Heschel

The Christian spiritual life is not about achievement; it’s about amazement.  It’s not about labor; it’s about play.  This semester we explore the abundant opportunities to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)  Join us as any Friday as we reclaim our lives and our peace---one invitation at a time. With fee lunch every time!

Fall Semester Schedule (1-2pm at Common Grounds, 480 Rugby Road. All are welcome!)

Sept 13 | Pay Attention: the Art & Science of Play, Practices & Habits

Sept 20 | To Be Spiritual is to be Amazed: a theology of Christian mindfulness

Sept 27 | Wander Through Scripture with Robert Cunningham, RUF Director

Oct 4 | Embody Scripture: acting out the Word with Kate Burke, UVa drama professor emerita

Oct 11 | Pray Your Anything: Jesus Prayer | Breath prayers | Help, Thanks, Wow!

Oct 18 | Life with Others: Ask 3 Good Questions| Just Connect |Say Thank You

Oct 25 | Body, Mind, Spirit: Laugh, Move, Sing with Terry Lindvall, Virginia Wesleyan Communications professor

Nov 1 | Morning Wake Ups: Make a Map | Choose your Intention | Fuel Up

Nov 8 | Lunch Breaks: Review the News |1 Small Thing with Great Love | Use Your Words

Nov 15 | Happy Hour Stretches: Do That Thing | Go To Your Edge | Give It Away | Bring Beauty

Nov 22 | Evening Rituals: Make a List | Do Nothing with Nobody | Walk Backwards | Get Ready to Rest

Nov 29 – Thanksgiving

Dec 6 | Mindfulness & Mental Health: Statio | Get Away | Hit Pause | Follow Your Breath




Great advice for new college students!

Nervous about college? We’re here to help — with insights, advice and practical tips from the alumni who remember college oh so well and can tell you what it’s like. So take a deep breath and soak up the wisdom!

“Be open and patient. Your college experience will be unique and take time to unfold.”

---Emilia Gore, CLAS 2015, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, DC

“Don’t stress about fitting into every social group or finding your life long friends right away. There are so many different communities (clubs, ministries, orgs) to explore - you’ll find your people, trust!”

---Meredith Berger, Batten 2016, McIntire 2017, Account Executive at Bloomberg

“Spend extravagant time with Jesus and fall in love with Him.  It will help you weather any storm that will come your way.”

--Carter Fleck, CLAS 2018, Campus Ministry Intern with Chi Alpha @ UVa

"Sure, you'll have lots of homework and class will be totally different than in high school, but don't worry too much about it.  Spend your first year meeting new people, trying new clubs and activities, and don't be afraid to try something new. But never lose track of who you are and what you believe in - don't compromise yourself just to make new friends. Also (and I can't stress this enough) go to every single sporting event in the fall: you'll thank me when basketball season rolls around and you're sitting courtside. Go Hoos!"

---Hunter Sheldon, Biomedical Engineering 2017, Owner, Hunter and Sarah Photography, Charlottesville

“Have an open mind to what you imagined for yourself in college may not actually be the best thing for you... walk into every new place, conversation, and class asking, ‘Do I see myself here? And guess what: it’s ok if the answer is ‘No.’” 

---Maggie Rossberg, CLAS 2017, Washington, DC

“Struggle, failure, and suffering really are unavoidable, and their presence in our lives don't always have to mean we're doing something wrong per se or even that we're not doing enough. In light of that, it is essential that we see community not always as an opportunity to actively seek to be doing something good for someone else but to anticipate simple mutual sharing in each others' day to day struggles.”

---Cameron Strange, CLAS 2016, with a local church, transitioning to work with an insurance company, Richmond

“Take classes for the professor, not the topic! Don't get caught up in the competitive, status-based rat race. And find people who are critical yet hopeful, who ask questions and are open minded to new ideas.” 

--Megan Helbling, CLAS 2018, New York City

“Don't sign up for too many Clubs, even if they all sound fantastic! You will want to have some free time too. Don't take yourself too seriously, you'll learn more about yourself through these four years than you know! Stay healthy, safe and happy!”

—Nellie Black Brewer, CLAS 2008, Morris, Manning & Martin, Atlanta

Embrace the faithful love of the Lord and release your need to perform. God will provide for your every need and meet you in ways you could never imagine!!

—Sarah Ruckle, CLAS 2019, Portland Fellows Program



Theology of Work | Talk by Karen Wright Marsh

• What and who shapes my future? 
• How do I know if I’m doing what I’m created to do? 
• Does God care about my career path as much as my Christian community? 
• Am I prepared for life after graduation?

These are questions undergraduates ask as they consider the ambiguous "post-college" time of life. Figuring out how your career, social life, basic responsibilities, and spiritual life connect can become more complicated than you may want to admit. But, God has given you everything you need to do “adulting” well.

Contrary to rumors around this transition, life after graduation does not need to be defined by dissonance and confusion but can be enjoyable and purposeful. Taking advantage of available resources and preparing yourself with realistic expectations can set you up to enter this next phase of life with anticipation and freedom in the journey God has promised to lead you through.

The Faith, Work & Calling Conference, provided a theological framework for your identity and calling, learn why a church community is crucial to your flourishing, and build a game-plan for next steps in your career.

This conference was be packed with practical steps for how to discern calling and time to process what's next in your life. You'll also have opportunities for conversations with community members in various industries to learn how they integrate faith and work.

Karen Wright Marsh, the Key Note speaker, serves as Executive Director and Co-Founder of Theological Horizons, a university ministry at University of Virginia (Charlottesville) that works to advance theological scholarship at the intersection of faith, thought, and life.

Listen here.

Three Women of the Faith - Talk by Karen Wright Marsh

In this talk, given to a women's group in Charlottesville, Virginia, Karen Marsh shares powerful stories of three women of the faith with us as a means of pushing us to think about what emotions we are carrying, and how we are bringing them to the Lord.

Watch (or listen) to the video here.

Julian Norwich

Amanda Berry Smith

Thérèse of Lisieux

Post-Easter Cravings for the Tangible Body of Christ | Reflections by Zoe Larmey '21

These two sculptures are my set of handcrafted confessions. They are rough to the touch and heavy in the hands and to me, their weight is comforting.  They are my confessions of a craving that has stayed with me in the aftermath of the Easter season: to encounter a touchable God.

I will clarify for the sake of reader interpretation: this was not my attempt to fashion idols out of bronze and I have no intention of worshiping these pieces. They are created as hand held rosaries of sorts to accompany prayers that surpass words.

Recently, I noticed that the Easter traditions I partake in often guide me to the contemplation of  the human body and its shortcomings. Lenten fasting, in the past, has challenged both my reverence and resistance to appetite. Communion reminds me of “the body of Christ,” which I receive as a pinch of bread. This year, however, even as a good month has passed since Easter festivities, I have remained most fixated on the character of Thomas, and his brief appearance at the end of the resurrection narrative in the book of John.

In the exchange that would give him the unfortunate reputation of “The Doubter,” Thomas declares that he would not believe in the living Jesus unless he could touch the scars on his hands and feet. To me, this statement is grounding. It allows me to appreciate the absurdity of a story that Easter celebrates so redundantly. It is not a lesson in doubt for me as it is a recognition that the miraculous is still present in the midst of a mundane, material world. More so, this story reiterates the affirmation that the human world matters enough that the Eternal became ephemeral in human form. It matters enough that the resurrected Christ assumed a body that could be touched by human hands. It affirms that the work of justice that we do in this world matters also.

There is time to dwell on the unseen and ungraspable images of God. But right now I am interested in the simple realness of a scarred hand that prompted the simplicity of Thomas’ exclamation, “My Lord and my God.”

Learning A Radical E Pluribus Unum | Reflections by Fellow Caitlin Flanagan '19

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” John Muir

The first essay I wrote for an English class in college was about the “privacy of the soul” in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Although I cringe now reading over the apparent and enthusiastic belief I had discovered Woolf’s use of the stream of consciousness method myself, it is evidently written from a place of personal investment. My first reading of Woolf’s literature sparked in me an appreciation for the capacity of literature to show reverence for the unique interiority of each individual soul. I loved the line in the novel, “There is a dignity in people; a solitude; even between husband and wife a gulf; and that one must respect,” and carried an interest in the ways literature could express that fundamental personal solitude into the remainder of my studies.

I think a literary lens on essential aloneness, particularly on the value of each individual story, helps navigate a world of difference with compassion. In the stories of his community-making, Jesus meets each person with an emphasis on their particular hearts and stories, and rejects the urge to categorize them according to their work, gender, or ethnicity. Just as I relished literature for the way it chewed over the contradictions, wonders, and questions of every human person, I tried to push myself to meet each person with a readiness to be surprised. At a place like UVa, where there are so many markers of social belonging to lend quick, shallow categorization to each person I met—from the Greek letters on their t-shirt and the buttons on their backpack, to their major and hometown—it takes a conscious decision to expect the unexpected. To the extent that I have at least tried to refrain from judging a person according to the stories told about them, their imposed narratives, I have benefited enormously.

We each know that we ourselves do not belong firmly within one, static identity, and even often surprise ourselves with the person we are becoming. My love for literature has accompanied my belief in a God who writes into each individual a story worth telling. I think a respect for the self as a radically unique and complex being has enhanced both my personal experience of college, as I have given myself time for reflection and allowed myself to defy certain imposed categorizations, and my engagement with others, as I have worked to open my mind to appreciating their narratives for the ways they tell them and understand them, rather than for the ways they can fit into my own.

Yet, while I can look back on these four years and identify the ways I grew in my appreciation for human solitude, I feel just as strongly that I have a greater awareness of connectedness. A writer I studied for my senior thesis, Rebecca Solnit, writes in an essay on hope, history, and indirect consequences that she thinks the only way “to stop tyranny and destruction” would be a society which is a “radical e pluribus unum,” one which compassionately remembers, retells, and celebrates stories of self, other, and together. A compassionate democracy looks beyond individual freedom and individual responsibility to see the connections which necessarily exist between people, between the ecology and people, between past and present, between different ideas. Like Walt Whitman’s guiding metaphor in Leaves of Grass, Solnit theorizes a thriving democracy which both recognizes the pluribus: that each human soul stands erect as one individual, solitudinous leaf of grass, one which carries its own meaning, responsibility, and dignity; and which asserts the great unum, the unity between all living things in this world that must be nurtured and recognized.

One quote from Mother Teresa has entered into my mind many times in college: “If we have forgotten who we are, it is because we have forgotten we belong to one another.” This is a testament to a fundamental interconnectedness, a belief that fullness of self is only found in depth of relationship. Living outside of a family unit for the first time, it can be easy to operate as a lone agent, responsible to and for none. For me, though, I often felt unmoored when I only conceptualized my time in terms of my own needs and goals. In close community, and with the recognition of the ways my time can be used for others, I found it easier to escape the sadness of self-sufficiency. In love of others, the formation of a personal identity is not a stressful, abstract endeavor to find myself and then express that self through the clothes I wear or my social media posts. Rather, I have tried to, and will continue to try to, find myself in the work of love—a more complicated, flawed, and beautiful sense of self, which is not ever static, but grows in certain directions. The belief that I am more fully myself when I am in community with others removes the heavy burden from my shoulders that I need to enter relationship with an articulable and identifiable identity, and frees me to find myself in the convoluted, scrappy, and wonderful work of human relationship.

I think an increased sense of connection also lends greater power to the decisions I make, whether out of generosity and love or self-interest and fear. I am often struck by the ways that the love we experience from others either limits or enables increased love for others. The connections between the language of individual compassion and large-scale kingdom-building in Jesus’ message lends a deep significance to the power of the everyday. Each specific decision to love another, from a heartfelt apology to a cookie on a sad day, has profound, compounding resonances, as another immortal soul internalizes the compassion they have been given and walks into the world with increased generosity and openness. Similarly, I have tried to view the pain I have experienced from negligent friends or cutting comments in terms of a larger network of shame and frustration, to imagine the connections between the way they are treating me and the way they have been made to feel. This is an essentially anti-American idea, as connection can be seen as undercutting individualistic responsibility, but has been a perspective that has both enabled me to take the consequences of my own choices seriously and to view the mistakes of others with human empathy.     

As I move into a new space, attempting to find a home there, I hope I remain connected to the person I felt myself becoming in college with understanding and love, even as I continue to grow and change. I hope I remain grateful for my connections to the people who loved and shaped me in this place, even as we all forge relationships in these new places. I hope I see the vine upon which we are all branches, the body of which we are all parts, the family within which we are all brothers and sisters. I hope, too, I value each individual soul for its particularities. I hope I never lose the sense that I belong to others. My time in college, with both its radical loneliness and depth of community, makes me hope for a future characterized by a radical e pluribus unum, a divine unity founded on reverence for each soul as an individual miracle.

Matching Gift Campaign 2019

Batman and Robin.  Lucy and Ethel.  Holmes and Watson.  Calvin and Hobbes.  Dynamic Duos pack more energy and action together than as two individuals apart.  (Imagine Ben’s ice cream without Jerry? Ernie without his roommate Bert?) 

Throughout Scripture, God creates duos for great purposes.  God ordains Eve and Adam to begin the human family.   God works through Naomi and Ruth, David and Jonathan, Mary and Joseph to demonstrate the life-giving power of loyalty, friendship and care.

Dynamic Duos enliven the ministry of Theological Horizons.  Mark, a Mentor, accompanies Rambert, a Horizons Fellow, through epic life decisions.  Ginger and Karen co-lead a Spirit-focused small group. In the office, the team of Beth and Christy do wonders. Interns in aprons, Maddie and Ben, team up to cook delectable Vintage Lunches—while Ellie and Caroline greet newcomers at the door.

Now YOU can join a Dynamic Duo! Donate to Theological Horizons and every single dollar you give will be matched by another generous superhero.  In fact, challenge givers have pledged $50,000 to double all contributions made through May 31. 

Remember: there’s no Dynamic without the DUO.  We need you with us at the intersection of faith, thought and life.

Join forces with other friends of Theological Horizons to be Christ’s witnesses among both believers and seekers.  Thank you!

Karen Marsh, Executive Director, and Mark Byrd, Fundraising Chair

Letter to a recent graduate | Parents Celeste & Kurt Zuch

"Stand at the crossroads and look: ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls."  Jeremiah 6:16

'Tis the season for graduations. I have been feverishly purchasing, monogramming, and delivering gifts for high school and college graduates. I have attended luncheons and dinners honoring my daughter and her friends who are graduating from high school this year.  And I have spent hours going through photographs to make a very special graduation video that captures her last 18 years in 8 minutes. 

Just the word "Graduation" invokes thoughts of fresh starts, new beginnings, and a plethora of opportunities. This can be exciting, but a little scary too. When I asked my daughter if she is excited or nervous to go away to college she responded "a little bit of both". 

The Israelites were given a totally fresh start when the Lord led them into the Promised Land. It was a graduation of sorts from slavery in Egypt and from 40 years of wandering in the desert. Imagine how excited, yet nervous, they were. At that point, they had 2 choices: 1) continue to follow the Lord who had been faithful to them or 2) rely on themselves and serve false idols. Over time the wrong choice was made. 

In Jeremiah 6:16 the prophet Jeremiah urged the people to "stand at the crossroads and look: ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls."  Unfortunately, that verse ends by saying "But you said we will not walk in it". 

That “crossroads decision” brought about terrible consequences. God took his hand of protection off the people, and their beloved Jerusalem was destroyed.   Then they were taken captive in Babylon for 70 years. Their lives were never the same. If only they had listened to Jeremiah. 

Graduation is surely a time for a fresh start, but actually every brand new day brings new opportunities. Remember, when standing at the crossroads, call on God's wisdom.  He is more than happy to point us in the right direction through the Holy Spirit.  We can all use rest for our souls. 

Thoughts to Ponder:

1. If you have expressed faith in Jesus Christ then the Holy Spirit lives within you.  This means that a part of God is always with you!  Isn’t that comforting – especially if you are going out on your own for the first time?  The Holy Spirit desperately wants to provide wisdom and direction, but you have to call on the Holy Spirit through prayer and then be quiet and listen:  “Be still and know I am God”  Psalm 46:10

2. Think back to some “crossroads” that you have encountered thus far. What decision did you make?  How did it turn out?  Was God a part of the decision or not?  How could you make God a part of your decisions in the future? 


In Christ,

Celeste and Kurt

Kurt and Celeste Zuch live in Dallas, Texas with their 4 teenage children. They have several years of experience leading Bible studies for both adults and teens. Their three biggest passions are Faith, Family and Education. That’s why they enjoy supporting organizations like Theological Horizons. Celeste is a UVA graduate (COMM ’91) and a die-hard Wahoo fan!

(Note:  Updated for the Theological Horizons’ website in May, 2019) 

Everything Happens for a Reason? | Fellow Rambert Tyree '19

When I was a child, my parents would always respond to any stroke of misfortune with one simple sentence: Everything happens for a reason. Get rejected by your middle school crush? Everything happens for a reason. Lose the biggest game of the season? Everything happens for a reason. Do poorly on an assignment in math class? Everything happens for a reason.

When I was younger, this response began to infuriate me. What good could possibly come from me getting my heart crushed by my first *love*! What benefit could there possibly be from getting embarrassed in front of everyone I knew and costing the team the biggest game of the year? I didn’t see any value in these hardships and I didn’t understand how these things could be working for my good. These failures ultimately taught me my first lessons in faith.

 I began to lean a little deeper into scriptures that my grandmother recited on an almost daily basis. Jeremiah 29:11, ‘“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”’. I couldn’t comprehend the fact that I had to endure those failures in the beginning in order to grow towards my future. When I dropped the ball in front of hundreds of friends, family, and classmates and cost my team the game, I had no clue that I had to have that failure in order to grow to one day become a member of a collegiate varsity athletic football team.

 There was an old church song my grandmother used to always sing, “He may not come when you want it, but He’ll be there right on time. He’s an on-time God, yes, He is!”. In those moments, I didn’t understand that I had to go through those young *love* heartbreaks in order to eventually end up with the significant other that was meant to be. Even if I can’t see it in the present, I know that what is meant to be will be…and what is not meant to be, won’t.

 At a young age, I was determined to have things go my way on my time but as I grew more confident in my faith, I learned to let god and let God’s plan work just the way he intended. My all-time favorite scripture comes from Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to His purpose”. As I look back over my life, and think things over, I can truly say that every high, low, and in-between has all worked out for His purpose and for good. I guess when I think about it all, everything does happen for a reason…even if we can’t quite see it at the time.

Take 10: Finals Week Study Breaks


Make the most of a ten minute pause—wherever you may find yourself around the Grounds of the University of Virginia.

#1 Stop in to the UVa Chapel. Walk along the windows and find a piece of stained glass that draws your eye. Sit down, set a timer on your phone if you like (then put it away), and take ten minutes doing nothing but gazing at the window. Let your eye wander deeply into the colors, the lines and the images. Breathe deeply and let the quiet of the chapel surround you.

#2 Open the gate into an empty Pavilion Garden (you’ll find them behind both the East and West Lawn rooms & Pavilions). Set a timer on your phone (then put it away) and take ten minutes walking the garden paths. Step slowly, taking time to notice the path, the plantings, light in the sky. Listen for the noises of animals. Breathe in the fresh air. Walk a bit further along the path.

#3 Walk into the Fralin Museum of Art on Rugby Road. Leave your backpack in the coat room and wander into the galleries upstairs. Find a painting that intrigues you and stop in front of it. Sit down if you like. Set a timer on your phone (then put it away) and take ten minutes to lose yourself in the painting--taking in the details, wondering about the scene, maybe even imagining yourself in the painting. There’s no hurry.

#4 Climb up to the top of the marble steps of the Rotunda. Put down you backpack and sit looking out on the view from that height. Set a timer on your phone (then put it away) and take ten minutes to notice what you see from there: the people, the light, the natural beauty. Listen for sounds around you. Relax to know that, for now, you’re not doing anything at all.

#5 Step into the lobby of Old Cabell Hall. You are surrounded by Lincoln Perry’s mural, “Students’ Progress”. Set a timer on your phone (then put it away) and take ten minutes to peruse the painting, stopping wherever an image or a color draws you in. You don’t have to examine the whole painting. Notice the details in the mural. Imagine yourself in the scene. Lose yourself for a little while.

#6 Stop at your favorite coffee shop or café. Buy your favorite drink (or make it for free in your room). Sit down in an inviting chair—or take your drink outside. Leave aside your phone or your book or your laptop. For now, only savor the warmth, the flavor of this treat. Take all the time you need to drink it. Feel free to close your eyes or look at your surroundings. Daydream about the coming break. How will you relax then?

#7 If you’re in the library, stand up and stretch. Set a timer on your phone (then put it away) and take ten minutes to wander along shelves of books. Stop along the way to notice the titles; pick up books that interest you and flip through the pages, reading if something draws your eye. Look for engaging illustrations. There’s nothing you need to study or remember here. Simply enjoy.

#8 Find a place to sit down. Anywhere that feels out of the way. Outside on a bench, in the grass. Or inside in a comfortable chair or on the floor. Set a timer on your phone (then put it away) and take ten minutes to close your eyes and let your body relax. Imagine yourself in a place you love—or with people you enjoy. Put yourself in the scene, picturing details that take you deeper into that welcoming space. Allow your eyes to stay closed; nobody is watching you. Just rest for a while.

#9 Choose a piece of music—or a favorite playlist--and listen to it with earbuds. Wherever you are, take a wandering walk, letting the sounds fill your mind and your body. Don’t check your phone or do anything else right now; there will be time for that later. For these ten minutes, let the music be the soundtrack for your walk.

#10 Pause wherever you are. Get comfortable. Use your phone or laptop to visit the website, Pray as You Go. Try this guided meditation and prayer:

Longing for childlikeness | Reflections by Fellow Evan Heitman '19

Venerable Fulton Sheen tells the following parable:

Picture a child with a ball, and suppose that he is told that it is the only ball he will ever have to play with. The natural psychological reaction of the child will be to be fearful of playing too much with it, or bouncing it too often, or even pricking it full of pin holes, because he will never have another ball. But suppose that the child is told that perhaps next month, perhaps next week, perhaps even in five minutes, he will be given another ball, which will never wear out, which will always give joy and with which he will never tire of playing. The natural reaction of the child will be to take the first ball a little less seriously, and to begin playing with it joyously and happily, not even caring if someone does prick it full of pin holes, because he is very soon going to have another ball which will endure eternally.

He tells this parable to describe what life is able to and ought to be like for the Christian. He continues saying: “The Christian [believes] that some day, perhaps even tomorrow, he will have another ball, another world, another sphere, another life. And so he can begin to play with this earth, enjoy it’s monotony, and even be resigned to it’s pinpricks, for he knows that very soon he is going to have the other ball, which is the other life that will never wear out or become tiresome, because its life is the life of the eternal God, the beginning and the end of all that is.”

Childlikeness has been calling to me a lot recently. It keeps inserting itself into my thoughts and prayers with what seems like the dogged persistence of a… child. Now, I’m a little ways out from being a young child myself and, by all appearances, a little ways out from having kids of my own (although I just become Catholic so who can say), but I’ve been struck by what a treasure trove of wisdom children possess, even if they won’t realize this fact until they’re at least a 20-something getting ready to graduate from UVA. 

I could go on and about how the idea of childlikeness has captured my heart, but for brevity’s sake I’ll leave it at this:

I desire the playfulness that makes a child see a trip to the hardware store as an adventure not a chore

I desire the trust that makes a child ask to be thrown up in the air, never even imagining that they might be dropped

I desire the insouciance that makes a child approach total and complete stranger because they want to make a friend 

I desire the wonder that makes a child want to see a magic trick over and over and over and over again

I desire that love that makes a child tell their parents everything without a filter

I desire to take my life a little less seriously, to begin living it more joyously and happily, not caring if someone pricks it full of pin holes, because I know Who my Father is.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

The beautiful bright festival

In Orthodox churches, all the people stand up & respond as this sermon by John Chrysostom (4th c.) is read on Pascha, or Easter, morning. 

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God? Enjoy this beautiful bright festival!  
Is there anyone who is a grateful servant?  Rejoice & enter into the joy of the Lord!
Are there any weary with fasting?  With gratitude join in the Feast
The Lord is gracious. Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!  
First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! 
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Feast royally on it. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of God’s goodness!

Let no one grieve at their poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. 
Let no one mourn that they have fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.  
Christ has destroyed it by enduring it.

Christ destroyed Hell when He descended into it. 
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.  Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.  It is mocked. It it is annihilated. It is now made captive. 
Hell took a body, and discovered God.  Hell took earth, and encountered Heaven. 
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.

O death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory?
Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated! 
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down! 
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is Risen, and life is liberated! 
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

Read the complete homily here.

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I chose to give to Theological Horizons because without a doubt, TH has been has been one of the most formative organizations I have encountered at UVA. My spiritual and intellectual life have grown immensely because of friendships I formed, mentors I learned from, and experiences I gained all because of TH’s generosity and investment in students like myself. I can’t imagine the past four years without TH and I hope to participate in the good work they are doing by helping them provide to others the same opportunities provided to me.
— Isabella Hall '19, Perkins Fellow

Spoken - A poem by Fellow Dominique DeBose '19

Maybe She speaks through sisters, through friends, through strangers.

Maybe She sometimes sounds like mom.

Maybe Their voice is a collective of my neighbors’ gestures. The song the choir seems to sing back to me.

Maybe I ask too decidedly, too unwillingly, with doubt disguised as hope.

Maybe He speaks through the rain or through my green tea.

Maybe He speaks through the croaking green toads at the bank of the pond next to me.

Maybe He speaks through my father’s tone after asking permission, telling me to be careful when I think I already know.

Maybe She speaks with a cold touch, good taste, or warm wind.

I never thought He’d sound like a simple “sure” or an uncomfortable unexpected “have you thought of this?”

I’m certain They speak through the stars and through my pastor. Through the Bible I can’t seem to bring myself to understand.

I’m certain They speak through close calls and euphoric sensations.

I’m convinced They speak to everyone else but me.

But maybe I’ve gotten used to those things, those sounds, those feelings.

Or maybe I don’t know them well enough at all.

Maybe She is much bigger than the things I know or am used to.

And maybe She is exactly what I am used to.

Maybe She speaks through my mom and friends’ affirmations.  

Maybe He speaks through my poems or the guys I used to like.

Convincing me I get what I ask for. That’s how it goes, right?

Well, I must’ve been asking wrong without knowing because I live in lack of response.

Or maybe I wasn’t being honest.

And She knew all along, like father’s always do, like strangers always sense.

And She spoke through them replying with what I asked for, and what I didn’t.

And She spoke through the trees, too, just for fun.

And continues to speak through the choir on Sunday mornings.

Convincing me that maybe She listens.

Convincing me that maybe they’ve already spoken, and are speaking as we speak.

Because maybe a little is enough, especially when I know I am weak.   

We are dirt people {Lent 1}


It's mud season in Virginia.

As I walk Ginger around University Circle today, stepping across puddles of melted snow, the poet Jane Kenyon's words come to mind: "Beside the porch step, the crocus prepares an exultation of purple, but for the moment holds its tongue..."

I resolve (fleetingly) to prepare my flower bed for great things. Back at my laptop, The Smiling Gardener educates me on the virtues of humus: the "super important" dark, rich organic matter that holds nutrients, water and microbes.

Humilis comes from the Latin for "low". "The Lord God formed a human from the humus and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. And the human became a living being."

Humus. Human. It's right there in Genesis: you and I, we are dirt people---created by God to receive blooming, bursting, exultant life.


"Humility is a proper evaluation of who we are---and a recognition of the greatness of God in us."

From the distant 17th century, Francis de Sales tells it like it is. But information is not the same thing as transformation.

This Lent, let us take time and prayer to ponder, with humility, our true situation, acknowledge all of the knowing that we do not know, and prepare our earthy selves to welcome the graces of God, growing in us.

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“Lent 2001”

The cosmos dreams in me

while I wait in stillness

ready to lean in a little further

into the heart of the Holy.

I, a little blip of life,

a wisp of unassuming love,

a quickly passing breeze,

come once more into Lent.

No need to sign me

with the black bleeding ash

of palms, fried and baked.

I know my humus place.

This Lent I will sail

on the graced wings of desire,

yearning to go deeper

to the place where

I am one in the One.

{Joyce Rupp}

read all of the poem

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More on humility…

“I encourage you, then, to make experience, not knowledge, your aim. Knowledge often leads to arrogance, but this humble feeling never lies to you.” —Anonymous, Book of Privy Counsel [1]

“I love especially these three little virtues: gentleness in the heart, poverty in the spirit and simplicity in life.” Francis de Sales

in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes:

Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call "humble" nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.

From “The Litany” by Dana Gioia

This is the litany to earth and ashes,

To the dust of roads and vacant rooms,

To the fine silt circling in the shaft of sun,

Settling indifferently on books and beds.

This is a prayer to praise what we become:

‘Dust thou art, to dust thou shalt return.’

Savor its taste—the bitterness of earth and ashes.

Choosing a college: Practical Advice for Christian Parents by Susan Yates

We’re so grateful for this guest post by author/speaker Susan Yates. You can see more of her work and sign up for her blog posts at www.susanalexanderyates.com

Choosing a college can be thrilling and agonizing, hopeful and grab-your-kleenex-where-did-the-time-go emotional.  As Christian parents, we pray not only for the right school for our children, but also that they will get involved in campus ministries and build solid relationships with other believers.

How can we guide our children through the process of choosing a school, and help get them established once they’re there?

Here are some practical tips I hope will help — with thanks to my daughter Allison, who provided input.  It’s hard to believe our two oldest grandkids are now college-aged!

Visiting colleges

It’s best to begin visiting colleges your junior year or before. This will enable you to know what the realistic options are, and will help relieve the stress of the unknown. (A visit with a college counselor might also inspire your child to work harder to be considered.)

A few tips to get the most out of these visits:

  • Meet with campus ministries.

Before your visit, line up a college tour, and arrange to meet with a representative of one or two campus ministries. You’ll want to find out what the fellowship is like on campus. A college administrator should be able to give you names or check out groups like Cru, InterVarsity, Navigators, Reformed University Fellowship, etc.

  • Visit during the week.

It’s best to visit a campus during the week rather than on the weekend. Time your trip so your son or daughter will be able to attend one of the campus fellowship meetings.

  • Take notes!

Have your student take notes on each place, listing the pros and cons. It’s easy to forget the details when you’re looking at several schools.

  • Consider budget and scholarships.

Be careful looking at colleges you know you can’t afford. This will set you and your child up for disappointment. However, do check out financial aid and scholarship possibilities. There are many — often unpublicized — options and you don’t want to miss them.

Determining which school

Set a date before the beginning of senior year for the college applications to be finished. This is a long process and your child may need your encouragement along the way (even if they roll their eyes, they appreciate it more than you know).

Once you’ve heard from schools, it’s wise to visit the ones your child is most interested in again. This time, arrange for them to spend the night in a dorm with a believer. Going to class and attending another fellowship meeting will give them a better picture of what college life is like. If you’re visiting with them be sure to give them space to attend activities by themselves.

Consider a gap year

Many students benefit from taking a gap year off before beginning college. If you’ve been accepted at your school choice, you can apply for a deferment for one year, which will secure your place.

A gap year should be a meaningful experience. There are many opportunities that integrate discipleship as well as service. Our long-term goal is that our kids love Christ and love their neighbor, so you want to choose a program that has these components. Simply hanging out at home is unlikely to contribute to maturity. Choosing a gap year should be a family decision.

Before they go

  • Encourage your child to find a believing roommate.

They may not become best friends, but they’re more likely to have the same moral standards. This is crucial because your child can’t always control what will go on in their room. There will be enough adjustments and they don’t need to add a difficult roommate situation to the mix. Right after our granddaughter was accepted to her school, she found a Christian roommate on the college Facebook page and it has proven to be a huge gift.

  • Connect with ministries from day one.

Many campus fellowships host “moving-in day” luncheons for families. Find out if there are some on your campus and sign up to go. It’s a great way to meet other believers the first day. Statistics show that who a student hangs out with their first ten days of school will largely determine what group they align themselves with.

Expect your child to attend a campus fellowship. It’s wise to check out several and then commit to one by the end of the second month of school. The same is true for church. Especially if you’re supporting your child financially, it’s fair to expect this in return.

  • Communicate clearly about financial expectations.

Be clear about extra expenses, credit cards, and who pays for what. This will avoid misunderstanding in the future. It may be wise to write out an agreement.

Along the way

A wise parent will have begun preparing her child to leave for several years. We want to raise independent, confident kids. This involves the turning over of responsibilities along the way. Your high school kids should be doing their own laundry, making and keeping their own appointments, waking themselves up, writing their own thank-you notes. (It’s important to thank those who wrote a recommendation. Gratitude is a character trait, and we need to thank those who take time to help us.)

Teach your teen how to use online resources for reconciling their bank accounts and using a budget app for planning expenses.

Pray and trust

This may be harder for mom and dad than the student. As parents, we’re used to providing for our child. But we have little control over what a college will say. Our child may feel rejected when he is not admitted by a school.  We must remember that God knows our child and He knows what is best for them. He will lead them to the right place. In the final analysis it must be their decision, not ours.

If your child does not get into his first choice, he needs your reassurance that God has a better plan. He may need to rely on your faith — and your faith will be stretched as well. But God does have a plan for your child. And He will cause all things to work together for good as we trust in Him (Romans 8:28).

Although this can be a stressful season, do enjoy the blessings of it. You are about to launch your child whom you have had the privilege of raising. You are entrusting him or her to God in a deeper way. They have the privilege of a good education in a free country. None of us want to lose the perspective that education is a gift.

May God guide you and your child through the process of choosing a college.

"Prayer changes us." Mother Teresa

Some of you may know that we help support a small, diverse group of UVa women who live intentionally on the blurred borders of where the UVa world meets the broader community. This particularly diverse neighborhood, which is feeling the pressure of increased gentrification, has a rich history that the Perkins House has sought to honor. Knowing that prayer is in part listening, they formed a friendship with a local neighbor and are partnering to restore a historic church to create a space for building bridges between the past and present, between black and white, between UVa and the community. They are beginning with a Neighborhood Concert on March 30th.

Mother Teresa once said, "I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that he will guide me to do whatever I'm supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I'm praying for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things." How might God be leading you to love your neighbor in a radical new way this month? 


New friendships with students and community folks.

UVa Sisters, Noelle McDonald and Norah McDonald, as their father was just diagnosed with a serious illness.

A friend just diagnosed with cancer.

Alison - for work on her dissertation.

Molly's dad as he struggles with a long term illness.

MacKenzie's dad as he fights a serious illness.

Our dear friend Ginny as she fights cancer.

Share your own petition  


For our Spring Vintage lunch series on Sheroes & Heroes.

For the recruitment of our Horizons & Perkins Fellows for 2019-20. More here.

Safety over spring break.

-Christy Yates, Associate Director

The Goodwin Prize in Theological Writing is open for submissions


The Louise and Richard Goodwin Writing Prize for Excellence in Theological Writing was founded in 2001 to recognize upcoming scholars in the theological field. The writing prize is awarded by the Board of Directors of Theological Horizons, a non-profit corporation fostering reflection and responsibility in the church, the community, and the academy. Awards are given to essays that demonstrate:

  • creative theological thinking,

  • excellence in scholarship,

  • engagement with the Christian tradition, and

  • commitment to the well-being of the church.

Papers are judged through blind submission by three separate readers.

Please email goodwinprize@theologicalhorizons.org for questions.

Click here for submission requirements. Deadline is June 1st.

2018 Prize Winners

The $2,500 prize has been awarded to Joseph McCrave (Boston College) for the essay, "Forgiveness as a Virtue for Transitional Justice Contexts: Towards a Constructive Account."  McCrave’s faculty advisor receives an award of $500.

The $1,000 prize has been awarded to Bryan Ellrod (Emory University) for the essay, “The New Romantics: Authority, Authorship, and the Fragment’s Place in Christian Ethics”.

Chris Hazlaris (Yale Divinity School) has been awarded $500 for the essay, “Redeeming a Sinful Theology of Nature.”

An Honorable Mention of $200 goes to Matthew Wiley (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) for the essay, “Sacramental Theology in a Secular Age: Charles Taylor and the Evangelical Church.”

Past Goodwin Writing Prize Winners

Reflections by Fellow Isabella Hall on our faith & its roots in America

The Bartimaeus Kinsler Institute describes itself as living in the intersection of the seminary and the sanctuary, the streets and the soil. This year’s annual gathering drew a rich assortment of artists, activists, academics, and faith-leaders to the stunning Ojai Valley in Southern California, just northwest of the sprawling metropolis that is the city of Los Angeles in order to engage with issues of “Law, Land, and Language: Indigenous Justice and the Christian Faith.” My time at the week-long institute was, simply put, a gift. It was a tremendous gift—though complicated, messy, and revealing in ways I could not have prepared for. My time at the BKI was as challenging as it was renewing and throughout my stay I found myself wrestling with some of the most devastating aspects of the Christian tradition and our nation’s most incipient origins.

Let me begin with the briefest of history lessons. At the height of the Roman Catholic Church’s power in 1493 (just one year after Columbus sailed the ocean blue) Pope Alexander VI issued a papal bull, a formal declaration, which played a vital role in the Spanish colonization of the Americas as well as the United States’ later westward expansion. Within this papal bull was the notion that any peoples and lands that were, well, not “Christian” were not legitimately recognized as inhabited, sovereign societies and thus, these lands could be “discovered.” This Church mandate, which has come to be called the Doctrine of Discovery 1493, was integral to the colonizing mission which propelled the genocide of countless Native civilizations.[1] It’s impossible to underscore or effectively communicate the gravity of this fact—145 million Indigenous people—destroyed at the hands of a political agenda which all too easily weaponized Christianity and its missional agenda. The rippling implications of this papal bull are too diffuse to even begin to locate and it is absolutely imperative we do not mistake the Doctrine of Discovery as a dusty historical fact. In just 2005, Ruth Bader Ginsburg cited the Doctrine of Discovery in support of a legal ruling against the Oneidas, a native nation that inhabited an area in upstate New York. The project of colonization continues.

As someone who call themselves a Christian, I feel the deepest sense of duty to understand the history of my tradition, especially the ways in which it has been complicit in the oppression and domination of too many social groups to begin to name here. To be perfectly frank, when I contemplate these aspects of the Church and its history, I often feel disoriented and disheartened in a way that threatens to tear the last remaining threads of my faith from my shaky, uncertain grasp. The prophet Amos wrote, “But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (5:24). I join the ranks of the weary and the downtrodden, feeling their cries in the deepest parts of my being, “But how long, O Lord?” How long must we wait?

The BKI community is continuously attempting to discern what a decolonized Christian tradition looks like and if there is any hope for such a thing. On the final day of the institute, I sat at breakfast with an Indigenous Elder and seminarian, and exasperatedly asked, “What’s left once you dissolve Christianity from its Western, White, Patriarchal, and Colonial trappings?” She responded, gently and generously with, “The gospel. Jesus is what’s left.”

Jesus—an indigenous man himself—was a native Jew who began his movement in the midst of the oppressive Roman Empire. That’s the Jesus I want to learn from.

[1] For further reading on the Doctrine of Discovery or the history of Christianity in the period of colonization, consider checking out the work of Mark Charles or late Richard Twiss.