Paperwork and Eucharist | SK Doyle, Horizons Fellow '18

This post was originally posted on the Project on Lived Theology blog here as part of SK's summer internship.

Every week the residents of Magdalene fill out “Weekly Sheets.” These two-page packets are used to document the meetings they attend, to notify staff of upcoming appointments, and to request weekend passes. Every week, after appointments have been entered into the group calendar and passes have been reviewed, I file them. I organize them alphabetically and chronologically in a system I created in the first couple weeks of my work here. I also often file various paperwork and documentation into each of the residents’ individual files labelled with their names and entry dates. It isn’t the most glamorous or exciting of tasks, but as the weeks have gone by I’ve begun to feel the significance of organizing and attending to these individual narratives. In the practice of filing and organizing these documents that mark the past experiences of the residents and their progress as they move forward in their recovery, there is a great deal of beauty and weight. Completing these tasks has become somewhat of a ritual in my week.

As my site mentor Shelia has explained to me, accurate file-keeping is critical to tracking the progress of the women of Magdalene in their recovery. Another regular part of my internship has been observing staffings – individual meetings between a resident and staff to address issues and complications as they arise. As Shelia says, having accurate and complete files that document a particular resident’s past is critical to making in-the-moment decisions about how to move forward. Part of the significance in the seemingly tedious task of filing is in this confluence of past, present, and future. Consulting a resident’s meticulously organized file can allow staff to consult the past, comprehend the present, and plan for the future.

William T. Cavanaugh’s work Torture and Eucharist concerns the particular context of Chile under the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. He asserts that the Eucharistic liturgy can function as resistance against state-sanctioned violence in the form of torture, which he sees as an “anti-liturgy” (206). He goes on to write that “Eucharist is the liturgical realization of Christ’s suffering and redemptive body in the bodies of his followers.” In Cavanaugh’s work, this simultaneous experience of past, present, and future is referred to as Eucharistic time that exists outside of historical, linear time in the liturgy of the Eucharist. He writes that when the sacrament of the Eucharist is performed and experienced, “past and future simultaneously converge, and the whole Christ, the eschatological church of all times and places, is present” (234). While the sharing of Christ’s body and blood is, on some level, deeply incomparable with hole-punching and filing papers, there is something of the “simultaneity of past and future in the present” that occurs in the moments that these files become necessary for decisions regarding care for the women at Magdalene (222).

In my practice of organizing and filing in the Magdalene office, I’ve found something in the imposition of order on the chaotic and traumatic histories of the residents that feels somehow liturgical. Rather than reducing the residents to a series of documents, this humble and conscientious filing functions in defiance to the chaos and turmoil of the traumatic histories the women of Magdalene have survived. Cavanaugh writes that Eucharistic liturgy resists the fact that “modern torture is predicated on invisibility, that is, the invisibility of the secret police apparatus and the disappearance of bodies” by making “the true body of Christ visible.” In a similar way, these files are resistant to trauma as predicated on chaos and disorder by intentionally organizing and giving form to documentation of deeply personal narratives.

There is something sacred and liturgical in the handling, organizing, and reorganizing of these files as assemblages of past, present, and future and as physical manifestations of a refusal to submit to chaos. This week in particular, as I’ve assembled the proper tabs in their proper order in empty folders for the two new women who have been welcomed into the community, and placed them–waiting to be filled with history, progress, and trajectory–on shelves with the rest of the files, I’ve felt the privilege of being part of this liturgy and catching glimpses of its power.

For updates about the PLT Summer Internship, click here

Reflections on Regent College Summer School by Isabella Hall, '19

The greatest challenge in reflecting upon my time at Regent College this past summer is articulating the depth of gratitude and transformation I feel in the wake of my experience. Regent College provided an excellent setting as a graduate institution committed to producing theological work accessible to and intended for the laity. It was the ideal environment for exploring questions of vocation and calling as well examining the relationship between the life of the mind and the life of the spirit. The diversity of the students within each class is a testament to Regent’s vision which, like Christ, cuts across boundaries and divisions in order to unite followers of Jesus in their seeking the Kingdom in their respective contexts. In the same vein, my own cohort reflected a beautifully diverse collection of individuals—from our ages, levels of study, academic disciplines, geographic locations, nationalities, ethnicities and cultures. However, each of us were attracted to the project because of a desire to use our intellect to deepen our understandings of Christ through academic study and group dialogue. I learned a tremendous amount in my classes under faculty members who made themselves available outside of class times and were passionate scholars who delighted to share their work with students; especially Dr. Soong-Chan Rah who took the time to familiarize himself with each student and speak with particularity to our various experiences. Furthermore, my professors were models of enduring devotion to Christ who balance the importance of theology and doxology with humility and wisdom. This was wildly affirming to me, as one who strives to understand my intellectual pursuits as service to the common good and worship to the Creator who designed the development of my interests, passions, and driving curiosities.

Outside of the classroom, I learned nearly as much in the conversations which unfolded with fellow students in the margins of class time, over coffee breaks, around the chapel, and especially doing life with the other cohort members. With so many different perspectives, each conversation was rich with complexity and insights of Truth which I never would had arrived at alone. It was a humbling reminder of the gracious gift community is and how vital personal formation within community is to a life of faith. Acts 4:32 reads that “all the believers were one in heart and mind” and despite our countless differences, I had everything in common with the people I encountered because of a shared pursuit of Truth in Christ. This was an important theme that arose throughout my time at Regent—that I maintain a posture “truth pursued” and come alongside others in that pursuit rather than employing a rhetoric that assumes I have “truth possessed.” This distinction invites me to appreciate and learn from the variety of traditions, worship practices, and even doctrines within the Christian faith. It fosters a sense of kinship with my fellow followers of Christ; that I might learn from them and in turn, they might learn from my journey and expressions of faith. Leaving the program, I was very surprised at how moved I was by every single person in my cohort. I could not have predicted how deep our affections for one another would have grown in such a short time. It was nothing short of spectacular movement of the spirit among us.

Additionally, Vancouver’s otherworldly beauty was a significant piece of my time at Regent. The impossible amount of sunlight each day had a way of obscuring time. Coupled with the formidable blue mountains to the North, the severe blue of the perpetually clear sky, the rocky beaches, and gentle summer warmth; the landscape was a source of nourishment. The environment invited me into a contemplative mindset as I spent most mornings running, reading, or sitting by the ocean. The hiking excursions arranged by the project were great fun and allowed me to see more of Vancouver’s distinctive character. I am so inexpressibly grateful for the unexpected moments of my trip, like jumping into the frigid natural springs of Lynn Canyon, sharing sushi and watching sailboats at the Deep Cove marina, or getting thrown from a mechanical bull at the Richmond night market. My time at Regent College summer school was an adventure that empowered me to be thankful and excited for the adventure that is a life with Christ.

Isabella Hall is a 3rd Year student at UVa who is a Perkins Fellow as well as a resident of the new Perkins House.

Honoring Civil Rights Hero, The Perkins House bridges UVA/Local Neighborhood

What does it mean to be a good neighbor?

That’s the question at the heart of a new initiative that University of Virginia students hope will deepen the connection between the UVA community and some of the Charlottesville neighborhoods closest to Grounds.

This year, five third-year students – Ameenah Elam, Dominique DeBose, Isabella Hall , Sade Akinbayo and Sarah Bland – are the first to live in The Perkins House, a house in Charlottesville’s 10th and Page neighborhood named in honor of civil rights activist John M. Perkins. Throughout the year, they will work to build relationships with their neighbors in big and small ways, whether by opening up their home for dinners or simply helping carry groceries. Some will also partner with different nonprofit organizations working in the community.

“This house will be a group of young people trying to live out an authentic faith, following the great commandment of loving God and loving each other,” Perkins said. “In this world today, there is so much division and violence, and it has been my life’s effort – and that of my wife and many others – to live a life of love.”

Read the full article at UVa Today.


What if we stopped being afraid? Reflections from Charlottesville

Nathan Walton is a Ph.D. Candidate in Religious Studies at the University of Virginia & Community Life Pastor at the Vineyard Church, Charlottesville.

Nathan Walton is a Ph.D. Candidate in Religious Studies at the University of Virginia & Community Life Pastor at the Vineyard Church, Charlottesville.

A word from Karen Wright Marsh, executive director of Theological Horizons: Last weekend we witnessed, up close and face to face, a stunning, virulent hatred that dismayed the world. In two days we will receive students into this space for a new academic year.  As we ponder God's call to us as a ministry in this place and at this time, we ask for your prayers.  We seek to bear the light of Christ with courage and grace.  We seek to listen to brothers and sisters with open, tender hearts. We begin with a reflection from Nathan Walton, generously shared here.

On Sunday, I left church after an extended time of corporate lament to grab groceries at Trader Joe’s, along with my wife and our 7-month old daughter. While we were shopping a white woman in her mid-fifties who we had never met came up to us and said “I hope you are not distressed by what happened this weekend.” I responded by saying that it was all very heavy – by which I meant that it all left me feeling emotionally drained, sorrowful, and even numb.

For the next minute or so, she acknowledged the events as “evil” and deplorable”, but disagreed with my use of the word “heavy.” She then attempted to convince us that the events of this past weekend were not representative of Charlottesville and that we should not allow these things to rattle us. In her words, these people are not us. Although I want to assume that this woman had good intentions (because counseling has taught me the importance of “assuming positive intent”), I found this stranger’s comments troubling.

The first thing I found troubling was that this stranger attempted to tell me how to feel. Perhaps she thought that what she said would be an encouragement, assuring me that this weekend was an anomaly. But in reality it amounted to a person of privilege both assuming that they had a better understanding of the situation and had permission to correct mine. In hindsight I’m not sure whether her decision to approach us had more to do with a conscious attempt to comfort (educate?) two people of color or a subconscious attempt to suppress white guilt – an attempt to distance herself and the city she loved from the evil she was convinced had invaded it from the outside. I’m not sure.

But perhaps a deeper issue that this brief encounter underscores is that we as a society have a really hard time being honest about who we are. It gave this woman great comfort to tell herself that all of these “evil” and “deplorable” people were from outside of Charlottesville and that our “progressive” town would never harbor views that echo theirs.

But this simply isn’t true. In this case, choosing to always point the finger at others who are the “real” problem is not only dishonest, but it is intellectually lazy. It is dishonest because my wife didn’t have to go out of our city to be called the N-word last year; she just had to drive around Pantops shopping center. For others of my friends, they just had to walk down Rugby Road or The Corner at night.

Opting to always assume the problem is “way out there” is intellectually lazy because it can lead us to avoid the hard work of introspection and asking ourselves about whether we are complicit in an unjust culture or an unjust system, and if so, how to actively fight against this. Too often we are simply too afraid: afraid of what we might find if we ask ourselves the hard question of whether we are part of the problem.

We saw this after the Charleston Massacre when Dylann Roof’s arrest made it all too easy for people to condemn his heinous acts without interrogating the culture that produced them….a culture that is far more pervasive (around, and even in us) than we are willing to admit. It’s scary to consider this, so we fight tooth and nail to prove to others, and to ourselves, that we are not like “them.”

We are deeply afraid of being a part of the problem.

But what if we stopped being afraid?

What if we realized that facing our fears and the reality of being broken and sinful was an opportunity to become healed? What if we surrendered our idol of perfectionism and laid it at Jesus’ feet? What if we realized that Jesus can handle it? What if acknowledging our brokenness as individuals and as a community was the path for God to mend our individual and collective wounds?

John’s first epistle tells us that perfect love drives out fear, so my prayer is that God would cultivate a love in us for our neighbor that would drive out the fear that keeps us from looking in the mirror; a love that convinces us that we must stand and fight against prejudice not only when it shows up in in a white hood, but when it shows up in our own hearts. In our own families. In our own city. Even in our own church.

May God heal me, and us, as we seek to invite others into that healing.


A prayer after the violence

As this weekend of hate and violence ends, our hearts are broken.  Stand with us, friends.  Come alongside us as we minister in the name of Christ here in Charlottesville and at UVa--as we seek to listen well, to speak the truth, to welcome each person with the abounding generosity of the One who laid down his life for all of us.  There have been many words these recent days. So for now: a prayer.

"God, we are angry and frightened. We know you created us for peace, but our world is just so violent. ... We ask your comfort for those violated. We ask your justice for those whose souls are so numb they cannot feel the pain they inflict. They need you most of all. Violate them with your terrible grace, that they may feel again. And make us your peace; rob us of our privileges, that we may be a refuge so that such evil can come to an end."

- Stanley Hauerwas, Prayers Plainly Spoken

(Join us on October 12 for Stanley Hauwerwas's Capps Lecture here at UVa.)

A mentoring community at the heart of the University - Karen Wright Marsh

Reposted from The Presbyterian Outlook.

This is what the LORD says:
“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)

It’s “Move In Day” here at the University of Virginia. Out on the teeming sidewalk, Jon, a newly arrived first year student, bids his family goodbye and steps out into four years of life at the crossroads.   He stands there in front of his dorm, peering down the twisting campus paths, and wonders: Which way now?

This young traveler has left the stability of family, the only life he’s known. The beliefs he’s grown up with are about to be challenged on every level. Jon will encounter unfamiliar ideas in the classroom and negotiate tricky social dynamics on Friday nights down fraternity row. He will spend four years interacting with professors and classmates from diverse religious, moral and ethical points of view.

Jon will probably have some shipwreck experiences along the way. He might even face the unraveling of something that has held his world together — the loss of a romantic relationship, maybe a physical injury or illness, a failure, perhaps the discovery of intellectual concepts that call into question things as he has perceived them, or as they were taught to him, or as he has read, heard or assumed.

Rachel, an upperclassman, advises incoming students, “The start of college is a time to think about your faith, what it means and how it intersects with your academic and social lives. At college your faith will be challenged differently than in past years. You will ask harder questions. You might even face doubt at times.”

During these next years, will Jon ask for the ancient paths? And if he finds the good way, will he walk in it?

Jon is not likely to find guidance from his professors, for only one in five faculty members in public universities says that “colleges should be concerned with facilitating spiritual development” and far fewer personally engage in conversations about faith. Belief is considered to be a personal matter outside the sphere of academics. As students’ church attendance drops by almost half in college, chances are good that Jon will walk through this critical time without adult Christian companionship.

Rachel continues, “Theological Horizons provides a welcoming place for engaging faith, thought and life.” Since 2000, Theological Horizons has been creating a Christian mentoring community at the heart of the University of Virginia. The ministry is centered at the Bonhoeffer House, also the rambling home to our faculty family. My children, professor husband, Charles Marsh, and I share our home and our lives beyond the lecture hall.

While Theological Horizons serves an expansive network of faculty, scholars, graduate students and clergy, our daily ministry is enlivened by undergraduate students: the brilliant, energetic young adults who find a home away from home close to fraternity row. Students arrive for home-cooked food at our weekly “Vintage” lunch, house concerts and theology seminars. They read by our library fireplace and have discussions and Bible studies — all accompanied by a sociable dog named Ginger.

Kaylee studied religious studies and finance at the university and became a regular at the Bonhoeffer House. She explains why: “I fell in love with the way that Theological Horizons bridges the gap between the academy and faith communities that surround the University. I was looking for a place that I could come to with my faith tradition and ask questions and be skeptical. The Bonhoeffer House became that sacred space for me.”

As the executive director of Theological Horizons, my philosophy of campus ministry is shaped by the insights of Sharon Daloz Parks, a scholar on leadership. Parks identifies the essential work of the students we serve: “To become a young adult in faith is to discover the limits of inherited socially received assumptions about how life works — what is ultimately true and trustworthy, and what counts — and to recompose meaning and faith on the other side of that discovery.”

How will our young friends recompose meaning after shedding outgrown assumptions, especially in a public university environment where intellectual challenges and social crises can be hostile to Christian belief? Parks asserts that university students’ success in grounding a worthy adulthood depends upon the hospitality, commitment and courage of adult culture, through both individuals and institutions. As members of an adult culture, we’ve taken to heart the responsibility for university students’ journey towards worthy adulthood. To be hospitable, committed and courageous – this is our call to action.

A mentoring community meets young adults in their readiness for deep belonging and encourages worthy dreams of self and the world. All knowledge has a moral dimension. Learning that matters is ultimately a spiritual, transforming activity, intimately linked with the whole of life — knowledge enabled by the recognition, presence and faith of caring adults. Young adults need to feel recognized as who they really are and as who they are becoming. Through Theological Horizons, we offer a safe place for questions and yet challenge students in their fragile faith. We embrace students in their emerging strength, their ambivalence and their vulnerability.

At the Bonhoeffer House we invite folks from the “real world” to come and talk about how their faith is lived in many vocations and contexts. It has been said that God is always revising our boundaries outward. This has proved true for the mentoring community here. Our intensive Horizons Fellows Program serves 20 fellows during their final university year. Fellows and their adult mentors wrestle with concepts of calling through one-on-one relationships, small group conversations, lectures, readings and retreats.

Christen Borgman Yates, director of the Horizons Fellows Program, says, “Our faith and sense of vocation develop best when we’re exposed to differing viewpoints and serving in the ‘real world’. Staying in the college bubble, especially with students just like us, is much more comfortable, but usually reinforces our own point of view. Pulling students out of that bubble is, to me, one of the most exciting journeys to take.”

Maddy, an architecture major from California and a recent graduate, came to faith in Christ during college and has joined the staff of a residential community of adults with intellectual disabilities. Maddy reflects, “Going to the Bonhoeffer House over my years as a student wasn’t an event on my schedule, it became a lifestyle; I have a home and a family there, they considered me their own from the first time I walked through the door.”

Coracle: Getting in the Boat | Caitlin Montgomery, '16

No, it’s not a type of seashell, a magnifying lens, or a species of bird.. tempting as those definitions might be, “Coracle” is actually the name of the retreat center and ministry visited by the Horizons Fellows each fall. If you’re as bewildered by this word as I was, check out Executive Director Bill Haley’s description on the organization’s website:

“Often when [the old Celtic Christian pilgrims] set out on pilgrimage together, they would get into a small leather boat, hoist the sail, pull up the rudder, and go where God took them, by way of the wind. In those native tongues these small boats are called curraughs, in English they are a ‘coracle’, a small boat for wide seas. A coracle is a vehicle to take the journey with God to find God, together.”

So… it’s a type of boat? Easy enough- got it. Ok. Fast-forward. When we first turned the doorknob and stepped inside Coracle, I was initially struck by the relaxed, intimate atmosphere made apparent by the circle of cozy couches and the emanating smoky smell of the furnace. It looked like a family cabin! Hmm, I thought, this is wonderful, but what about this retreat center is supposed to resemble a boat? …Should I be worried?

A few minutes later, when Bill sat us down with a smile and recounted Coracle’s story, my question was answered. Here’s my not-so-eloquent summary: a boat is never really just a boat. That is to say, no boat exists for its own sake- a boat is most “boat-like” when it is fulfilling its reason for existence, its purpose- which is to take people somewhere.

Likewise, Coracle exists in order to stimulate spiritual formation in its retreatants - to mobilize us to discover what it means to be called by God for work in his Kingdom. Bill’s direction on Christian vocation this weekend taught me that so much of the work Christians are called to carry out in this world necessitates that we understand who we are in relation to God and the world. Humans are kind of like boats, I think. We are far more interesting than monuments or statues, created to look pretty or preserve a memory- we are going somewhere, always, whether we realize it or not. And in a way, we are “most human” when we realize where we are going and how we can intentionally orient ourselves toward God, others, and creation. When we exist for a purpose outside ourselves, only then do we find out who we really are. But first, we have to get moving.

These sentiments may best be expressed by the Prayer of St. Brendan the Navigator, on his own journey in his own coracle:

“Shall I abandon, O King of mysteries,

the soft comforts of home?

Shall I turn my back on my native land,

and turn my face toward the sea?”


Calling and Constraint - With Kate Harris

Calling is a complex and comprehensive word that speaks to how we faithfully steward all of life, yet we often tend to think of calling as primarily to do with our giftedness or potential. And while both are good and important, this view misses some of the more sustaining and redemptive aspects of calling which are borne of  brokenness, finitude and frustration. Please listen to this unique discussion about vocation and be encouraged to see how even constraints and limitations can yield purpose in life and work.

Kate Harris is the author of  Wonder Woman: Navigating the Challenges of Motherhood, Career, and Identity as part of the Barna Group Frames. She was the Executive Director of The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation & Culture from 2011-2015 and the interim Executive Director of the Fellows Initiative from 2016-2017. Kate graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a B.S. in Journalism and B.A in Political Science and is currently pursuing an MA in Culture Studies at George Mason University. She is wife to a very good man and mother to four young children and also a new board member of Theological Horizons! Welcome, Kate!

Listen to "Faith in the University"

What does a Christian need to know about faith in the university? What are the intellectual challenges to belief and the day to day realities in the classroom?  In this one hour talk, religious studies professor Charles Marsh speaks in depth about thinking and living as a person of faith in an academic context.  With an introduction by Billy Peebles, headmaster of Lovett School in Atlanta.  
Listen to the lecture here.  


We love to WELCOME the new Hoos to the Bonhoeffer House---a warm home away from home in Charlottesville--at the intersection of faith, thought & life.  So if you know a student headed for UVa, EMAIL US NOW at & we'll do the rest! We'll send a hand written note before they even get here

We'll  personally deliver homemade cookies to dorms on Move In Day

We'll roll out the red carpet with a Wahoo Welcome Lunch on August 25: 12-2 at Common Grounds.

We'll keep the invitations coming--for 4 years!

And for you new kids, here's a blog post from Sarah--about why she keeps coming to the Bonhoeffer House!

It seems like the summer just got underway, but soon, Charlottesville will again be bustling with students new and old.

Come August, you will move into your new dorm home, you will meet all kinds of people with different stories, and you will experience new things. To some, this whirl of activity is exciting, while others find it unsettling and exhausting.

For many Christians, the start of college is a time to think about their faith, what it means, and how it intersects with their academic and social lives. At college your faith will be challenged differently than in past years. You will ask harder questions. You might even face doubt at times.

Theological Horizons serves the academic community by providing a welcoming place for engaging faith, thought and life. As a student, the Bonhoeffer House quickly became a place for me to rest in the midst of an otherwise busy week and to think about what it means to live the Christ-centered life.


I came to Vintage lunches on Fridays, in part to eat a delicious home cooked meal, but also, and perhaps more significantly, to feed on the wisdom and experience of Christian thinkers who came before me, who asked the hard questions and who fought to think well.

We serve a God who hears us in our sadness and in our joy. The readings at Vintage were a reminder of how God speaks and works both in my life and in the lives of so many people before me in all seasons. Think C.S. Lewis, Jean Vanier, St. Benedict, and Frederica Mathews-Greene. You will get the chance to know them too.

Their stories will encourage and impact you—telling you of the amazing and certainly real ways our God can work and speak. Their stories will remind you that you are not alone. The questions that might plague you now, have likely been asked before.

As Bonhoeffer said, “God has willed that we should seek and find his living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of a person. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him.”


Should you decide to come (and I hope you do), you will learn from fellow students, but also people who lived and thought long before our time. As a recent graduate, I thank God for the gift that Theological Horizons was to me.

So please, come August, whether you are an incoming first year or not, make plans to visit Vintage, attend Evening Prayer on the Lawn, or participate in any one of the programs that Theological Horizons hosts at the Bonhoeffer House and around town.  Email Karen at and she'll put you on the invite list--then you won't miss anything!!

God-sized Dreams: Advice for College Students

Nathan Swedberg graduated in 2012 with a B.A. and an M.A. from UVa’s Batten School of Leadership School and Policy.  He then was part of the World Race, a discipleship and missionary program by Adventures in Missions. For one year he and his team travelled to 11 countries and four continents, serving a number of different ministries—and serving the physical and spiritual needs of the people they meet.  (Read Nathan’s blog!)We emailed Nathan to ask him share advice to you incoming college students.  Here’s what he sent us:

Sorry about the delay!!! Just got out of Swaziland with no internet access...

Hmmm a few thoughts as I get internet quickly:

College is an amazing time to approach "identity." What are you going to identify yourself with? Who are you going to identify yourself with? What hard choices are you going to make? It's not something that's supposed to feel condemning, and you don't want to live under excessive pressure, but the decisions you make during your college years (and then on during your twenties) will have huge ramifications for your life. But that should come as no surprise-- habits you form today will determine what you're doing tomorrow, the character you form, and the destiny you walk into.

Having said that, college is a great time to make mistakes-- don't avoid them. I did too much of that. Take classes you wouldn't normally think to take. Hang out with many diverse groups. Become friends with people you wouldn't gravitate to first. Live adventurously. Do enough preparation to allow yourself sweet spontaneity.

Know that you will have an amazing time at this great institution, but life doesn't end there, and in fact there is much more "living the dream" to be had afterwards. Let UVa be a launching pad. Let God god-size your dreams.

Wholly Surrender | Reflections by Fellow Anna Cho '17

I have had seasons in my life where I have been in deep spiritual highs. But if I am being completely honest with myself, I sometimes find myself shifting my gears into neutral and losing my enthusiasm for the gospel slowly. There have been seasons where I’ve gotten completely lost in my work, have gone days without reading God’s word, and unknowingly have forgotten how many days it has been since I last prayed. This feeling of settling for average is the most deceptive. Your devotional life appears to be okay. Church life is average. Life is moving. It all seems normal and ordinary.

I normalized this kind of ‘average’ faith for portions of my college life, but the unforeseen circumstances and chaos of my spring semester of third year caused me to reassess everything around me. The truth is, I bought into the lie that the things of this world could offer me true contentment without realizing I had fallen into this trap. And if there is anything that scripture is clear about, it is that contentment transcends circumstances and is an act that comes solely through a lifestyle of wholly surrender.

God wants us. He wants ALL of us. He wants to permeate every circumstance, process, and problem we walk through, but often we are afraid to let him. When I face a trial, my first instinct is to run and I often struggle to trust God. But it is these moments that my heart is kept in check and I am humbled. The greatest gift in the face of trials is faith. Once I realized that God sees us through every problem and stands with us in our weakness, my perspective changed entirely. He meets us where we are in the depths of our shame.

How many times have I equated the broken love of sinners to the perfect love of a savior? The answer is simple: A LOT. But looking back on these past four years, I cannot help but smile at all the times that the Lord has met me at my doorsteps. He gave me real community at a time when I didn’t know if I wanted to be at UVA, provided me a space to explore vocational discernment through the Fellows Program with Theological Horizons, and taught me what unconditional love looks like during my time in Liberia even in the midst of doubt. When I finally found the courage to surrendr my need for control and let my life be permeated by grace, I found the most freedom.

So here lies the final question that I have been regularly challenged by: will you trust God with your life?  



Things to Remember: Julie's Top 5

TH newsletter Julie Robertson pg 1
TH newsletter Julie Robertson pg 1

Julie's recent facebook picture shows her in cap and gown, surrounded by orange balloons and jubilant friends.  She is one who can proudly say, 'I have worn the honors of honor, I graduated from Virginia.' Commerce degree in hand, Julie has already jumped into her next adventures--a new city, a new career, new relationships--and she's experiencing both the promise and trepidation that transitions brings.

As Julie steps out into all that comes next, she holds fast to reminders of God's accompanying presence.  If you, too, are in is your list of Things To Remember!

  1. God has shaped me for this.  He has molded me and prepared me just for this journey ahead.  Not only has He prepared me, but He has gone before me, paving a way, carving a path for me.
  2. God wants me here.  Today.  Now.  In this moment.  He led me here and He has a plan.  I need only trust He knows better than I.
  3. There is no fear in perfect love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made in perfect love.  I love because He first loved me. (I John 4:18)
  4. I am not defined by anything but God's love.  His glorious, merciful, and abundant love overcomes the world. (John 16:33)
  5. God gives peace.  He gives unsurpassed peace that is powerful and mysterious.  He gives me the Holy Spirit to accompany me in every moment, to calm my anxieties, to bring me into His presence.  God will not forsake me.

In Transition: A Mother's Persective

Annesley Macfarlane is the mother of three sons: Sammy (UVa grad), William and Jamie.  She and her family live in Greenwich, Connecticut.  Summer is a time when many of us---parents, children, faculty---are in transition.   We've asked Annesley to talk about the changes her family experienced during the boys' college years and where she found God in the midst of it all.: I have a new motto: "Try and enjoy all you can about the minutes because they soon become years". I made it up last week as I reflected on the realities and emotions that often come in early June. June brings transition. Graduation. First jobs. Spring to summer. School to camps or summer internships. Most of these transitions are celebrations but many  can be tinged, or even paralleled, with sadness.  Where have the years gone?

Transition can't stall time, as perhaps we would wish, but it often fosters consideration of how we have lived. Should we have done things differently this past year, or years? Could we have done things better? Have we  built a strong enough Faith foundation? Were we attentive to God's direction for our family?

I watched our middle son drive out of our driveway this afternoon for his summer job 5 hours away. His last college exam was yesterday, he took the red-eye, and I picked him up at the airport this morning.  We washed his clothes and repacked them all day, squeezing in a few appointments he needed in town. We also managed to fit in a birthday celebration for my husband and a 5 minute family prayer time that felt too rushed. Our son was here 8 hours and then gone.

I knew today was precious.  I tried to absorb the minutes but the day has come and gone  and my heart aches. Yes, he is doing something wonderful this summer, even God-centered,  but it still hurts to see him go. Family is a beautiful design God gave us and it can be painful when the family no longer resides together most of the time.

I don't transition well. I am pretty sure I needed tissues at Pre-K graduation. I tend to prefer the "old days" and the "old ways" to all the change that is constantly thrust upon me. I am learning to store things up in my heart and to recognize that embracing what is ahead doesn't diminish what is behind. God gives us seasons. New adventures for us and for our children.

Colossians 1:10-12 is a wonderful passage and I pray it for our three boys. "And we pray this in order that you many live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light." Amen

Two things a college woman should know

Listen to psychologist Susan Cunningham speak on two things she wish she'd known when she was nineteen!

Click here: Beat the Rush talk Jan2013

On Tuesday afternoon, girls gathered at the Bonhoeffer House for the annual “Beat the Rush” tea. The day was a dreary and rainy one, and the first year girls were tired from two long days of rush. However, the hot tea and delicious cookies, cheese, and fruit brightened up the day.

After chatting around the table of appetizers, the students gathered in the living room for the talk. Karen introduced the panel of women who had come to offer wisdom and insight to the students. Among them was Susan Cunningham, a well-known counselor in Charlottesville. The four other ladies there were Molly McFarland, Tilly Lazar, Johanna Montague, and Kendall Cox.

After introductions, we first had the privilege of listening to Susan Cunningham. She told us two pieces of advice she would tell her nineteen-year old self. The first piece of advice Susan had to offer was to “never compare yourself.” One quote of Susan’s that particularly stuck out to me was that “comparison is the thief of joy”. By comparing ourselves to those around us, we either feel a sense of superiority or inferiority. In both instances, we experience a loss of joy, pleasure, and satisfaction. We have to actively avoid falling into the temptation of comparing, which we as humans (and especially girls) will always face. Susan reminded us that we are all uniquely and perfectly made, with different passions and personalities.

Secondly, Susan said she would’ve told her younger self that “your baptism defines you.” We must remind ourselves that our identity in Christ is secure and unconditional. We have already been accepted and included in Christ, and there is nothing we could ever do to lose this identity.  All of these truths allow us to possess what Susan calls “interior stability.”

After Susan spoke, the other four ladies then related their own experiences with rush and sorority life—both the challenges and the blessings of it. It was a neat opportunity to hear from these ladies; their experiences were still recent enough to be relatable, yet the women were also old enough to have reflected and gained insight on their college experiences. After, the first year girls were then able to ask questions about difficult issues, such as dealing with disappointment and pressure from others.

“Beat the Rush” was a time of refreshment and recovery from the pressures and busyness of rush. The girls were blessed to hear wisdom and truths from older women in order to face the week ahead with a new perspective and mindset. These topics of identity and comparison that were discussed are important issues that all women struggle with, whether rushing or not.  ---Caroline Parsley, UVa '14

johanna and tilly
johanna and tilly
beat the rush presenters
beat the rush presenters

Loving amidst the Questions | Reflections by Fellow Melina Rapazzini '16

During my first semester of college, one morning during a devotional in the religious studies building (like every good Christian should do), I stumbled upon a verse I had never encountered, 1 Timothy 2:9,

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.  I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing (English Standard Version).

I felt like I had just been slapped across the face. How could this God of loving kindness that I had grown to intimately know and love through out my entire life allow for such a misogynistic verse to be included in the scriptures. Anger, passion, heartache and fear overtook me; I became consumed with reconciling this Christian God I loved with feminism, something that I instinctually knew as intrinsic to the liberative heart of God. I threw myself full force into a sincere pursuit for truth, for God, for understanding how, and with trepidation if, God was compatible with feminism.  The feminism of 2012 seemed to me to be an abstract complex of ideas that subjectively differed from person to person. Even so, I knew down to my bones that feminism’s basic tenets of fighting for the social, political, and economic equality of the genders is a movement that the radical Jesus of Nazareth would have lead.

I joined a Christian fellowship and became the token liberal from San Francisco with my butch-cut hair and hipster style. To be fair, I may have played up that stereotype. It seemed as if every conversation I had with someone would result in a discussion of women in religion. With my religious friends I gleefully played the part of the feminist kill-joy by asking “hard hitting” questions about the bible. This was engendered by the simple fact that I could not bear to be alone in my questions. Yet often I was placated with rehearsed answers that I tried desperately to believe but could not. It was a lonely road. Did others not care about the contradictions? Were they not similarly propelled towards understanding truth? I felt disillusioned.

The Bonhoeffer House, a gem hidden amongst the vibrant Christian fellowships, quickly became a place of refuge for my many questions. This was a space where I learned that I am not the first person to ask my questions. Here I realized that I was allowed to question everything, down to the very tenants of my faith, and know I was still loved by a God who loved the long history doubters that came before me. I was able to question along with the great thinkers of Christianity, both living and dead. At the Bonhoeffer House, I heard talks from inspirational activist nuns, successful women in politics, and prolific ladies who wrote on the very topics I had questions about. Here I found solidarity among academics, lay people, professionals, and students- bound together by our pathological consumption for needing to engage with some 2000 year old dead man from Nazareth.

As a Fellow, I was able to meet up once a month with a phenomenal woman who is a pastor in Charlottesville. Thirteen years ago, she felt God’s call to start a Church in Charlottesville for those who suffer from homelessness, substance abuse, who have a history of (or are in the cycle of) incarceration, and other vulnerable populations. In Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, he speaks of questions. He says that questions are good and dandy to have, but they become problematic when they interfere with loving people. Because of my questions, faith had been difficult for me. However, I learned through my mentor what it means to express faith through acts of love. Through the Bonhoeffer House, I have been exposed to not just academic theology, but how to live out theology through acts of love- this is perhaps the greatest gift I could have received. 

One Fool's Offering. What's yours? | Karla Petty

This blog post is reposted with permission from Coracle.

“Originality consists in returning to the origin.”
– Antoni Gaudí

I hadn’t heard of Antoni Gaudí before spring of 2004 when I first visited Barcelona, but you can’t miss him once you’re there. Of the many works this master architect designed, his pièce de résistance is surely the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia located in the heart of Barcelona, punctuating the city’s skyline with its incomplete towers and huge cranes continuously at work.  Construction started on the Sagrada Familia in 1882, and is slated to be finished in 2026, 144 years later. When asked if it worried Gaudí that construction was taking so long, it is said that he responded, “My client is not in a hurry.” Who was this infinitely patient client? God. His client was God.

As I’ve reflected on my more recent visit to the cathedral in January, at least two things keep coming back to me. The first: the building is Gaudí’s own unique offering to the Kingdom of God. It calls to mind the woman who poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet in Bethany (Matthew 26:6-13). “She did what she could”, Jesus said.  A devout Catholic, Gaudí’s heart and soul poured into every last detail of this psalm carved from stone for over 40 years, and he knew it wouldn’t be completed before he died so he spent years constructing detailed models and plans to guide the building’s realization through to completion, knowing he wouldn’t ever see it finished (sound familiar, Moses?). He eschewed greater notoriety, large commissions, and even his own personal appearance in favor of his work on it. He drew his inspiration and his joy from nature and scripture, channeling it back to God as a pure offering of his own soul. I’ve seen hundreds of places of worship all over the world, and none have struck me quite like La Sagrada Familia. It’s singular, authentic and holy. Gaudí had a vision, and knew it was given to him to realize as a gift back to the Creator, and the origin of the vision. He did what he could. 

The second takeaway is that God’s truth is written into everything. A geometrician more than an architect, Gaudí loved the patterns and gorgeous ratios he discovered occurring around him in nature and how they functioned so beautifully to guide and enhance the wild flow of life through it. Every hyperboloid is replete with meaning. He thought of trees as buildings themselves, saying they know just where to sprout their branches and balance themselves out, so that’s how he designed the vaults in the nave. It’s not so random, this nature around us.  When I walk through the building, and I see the truth of God’s beautiful geometry built into nature, then transposed by “God’s Architect” into stone towers and stained glass windows, the harmony of God’s truth is astounding. It all fits together, like it was always meant to. Like all Ikea modules are supposed to. The originality and universality of God’s truth breathes new air into my lungs which often choke on recycled thought, imitation philosophy, and incongruous, easy answers.

Perhaps where God is calling you to offer yourself isn’t an artistic vision that will span three centuries, cost hundreds of millions of dollars in donations, and require the efforts of thousands of people.  Perhaps it is a call to simply love someone that only you (maybe not even the one you are loving) will ever know about.  But that is just as important in God’s eyes as a huge monument made of stone.  When I think of this building, I will think of it as a reminder to offer all that I am, everything God wrote into me, back into service to Him, because he made me how I am on purpose. And I pray I will remember to keep my eyes open to all around me, looking for God and his truth in everything I see. God’s vision for our lives is what we need to ask for, and it is our journey, our offering, and our joy to walk humbly with Him in its revelation.

Karla is the communications manager for Coracle and also works as an international student advisor.  She grew up in northern virginia. She loves to travel, hike, ride her motorcycle and listening to music of all kinds.