social justice

"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 call to Lament | Reflections by Fellow Robert Cross '19

Last year the church that I attend in Charlottesville, Trinity Presbyterian, had a sermon series on the book of Lamentations. At first I was curious and a bit skeptical — isn’t “lament” just a biblical word for being sad? Will studying this Old Testament book be fruitful? Of course, I was wrong. Lament is integral to healing and is present throughout the Bible. After a semester of orienting our worship toward lamentation, I began to see the beauty and difficulty of lamenting.

One of my favorite parts of this process was a song I was introduced to, “How Long?” by Bifrost Arts. It's on an album of lamentation which cries out for wholeness in a broken world.  

How long? Will you turn your face away?

This is the first line of “How Long?” and it honestly and unapologetically calls out to God, mirroring the Psalms of lament. God wants our honest and open hearts.

Over the past year, I've encountered brokenness, sadness, and injustice in the world and have felt hopeless in its face. I’ve learned that lamentation requires that we name the hurt and cry to God for help. For me, this often means listening to others and learning from people around me, so I can join in their struggles for justice.

I took a class this past semester about the history of race and real estate in the United States, and it exposed me to a part of our nation's past I haven't encountered before, one of racism and quiet, insidious exclusion. My after-class conversations with another Fellow, Lindsay, lamented the remnants of past injustice and the reality of our broken world. We ended each conversation with more questions than answers, but in this small way we began to lament.  

This wasn't easy, but we continually tried to understand our place in this pain and in its healing.

Amen, Jesus, come! 

“How Long?” ends with the repeated refrain, “Amen, Jesus, come!” When we sing it at Trinity, we start quietly and end with powerful drums and bright tambourines. It gives me chills every time we sing it, because this movement reflects how we must lament. We may begin in fear and sadness, but we end with hope and faith.

As I approach the pain and brokenness in this world, it’s easy to become hopeless. The relationships we’re in, the families we love, and the systems we’re a part of are all broken and we see this -- and feel this -- deeply. After some conversations with Lindsay after class, I could only say, “Amen, Jesus, come!”

I don't know how to approach all the pain in our world. There’s too much of it for one person to bear (like Ms. May in The Secret Life of Bees), but it’s our job to enter into our own and otherss’ suffering as we cry for Jesus’ will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. So, while I begin this lifetime of joyful and hopeful lamenting, I can work to return His creation to wholeness with the hope that Jesus will one day wipe every tear from our eye. He is making all things new. In Him alone is our hope.

LISTEN! Amy Julia Becker - White Picket Fences: Turning toward love in a world divided by Privilege

Listen to the audio here for Amy Julia Becker’s talk on her new book, White Picket Fences: Turning toward love in a world divided by privilege.

A Gentle Invitation into the Challenging Topic of Privilege

The notion that some might have it better than others, for no good reason, offends our sensibilities. Yet, until we talk about privilege, we’ll never fully understand it or find our way forward.

Amy Julia Becker welcomes us into her life, from the charm of her privileged southern childhood to her adult experience in the northeast, and the denials she has faced as the mother of a child with special needs. She shows how a life behind a white picket fence can restrict even as it protects, and how it can prevent us from loving our neighbors well.

White Picket Fences invites us to respond to privilege with generosity, humility, and hope. It opens us to questions we are afraid to ask, so that we can walk further from fear and closer to love, in all its fragile and mysterious possibilities.

 Dr. John M. Perkins always inspires. CCDA 2018

Our  Perkins  Fellows and  residents of the  Perkins  House, attended  the  Christian Community  Development  Association conference  in  Chicago, thanks  to  the  generosity  of the  Forum  of Theological  Exploration  (FTE) and  Lilly  Endowment.   

Perkins House resident and Perkins Fellow Dominique DeBose reflects:

“The Perkins House went to the CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) conference in Chicago at the beginning of the month. I started the conference attending a session that talked about worship in a cultural context — worship as counter-cultural, as cross-cultural — led by Mark Charles. In this session, he spoke about the concept of time being a social and cultural construct and how those particular constructs within a society can affect and mostly restrict how we do worship and therefore put a time limit on how we allow the Holy Spirit to move. In reference to indigenous tribes, particularly the Maori of New Zealand, he gave his experience of how he witnessed their ceremonial dance, the haka, used in times of war, also used as an act of worship. And he noted, in the context of worship, but I also think it applies more generally that, “assimilation is not a Biblical value.” It is the role of the worship leaders to embrace the discomfort of diversity. 

When understanding Christian community development, a major motif that I got from the conference was “comfortability,” or more accurately, not being comfortable. In keeping our eye on the end goal of reconciliation and creation of the beloved community, we, as Christians, are not called to comfortability and safety. Understanding this takes a different mindset. Pastah J said that “community development begins in the mind” and that with that miraculous change in mindset, “Christians have the [unique] ability to affirm the dignity in everyone.” We had the honor and opportunity to meet with John Perkins himself and other Perkins House members and Fellows from Calvin College. I remember Perkins saying that “we have lived for so long in a country based on race and class that we have lost our ability to affirm people’s dignity.” 

I think that in understanding what it is to be a Christian, what makes it uncomfortable is the very same thing that makes it so radical and counter-cultural. How do we as Christians affirm peoples’ dignity? How do we create inclusive culture-affirming worship within the church? How do we enter and uplift a community without harming it with self-righteous white and westernized theologies? How are we able to live alongside those we claim to love and fight against their injustices? 

The conference, for me, brought about these questions and more. It re-opened my eyes to what the daunting process of reconciliation looks like.  In considering community development and reconciliation, I get pretty discouraged, I feel out of place, I feel uncomfortable. “How” do you it? I don’t know all the politics, theologies, and practicalities. It’s hard, and it’s uncomfortable, but it’s also as simple as affirming someone else’s dignity. But when I think of the why, it’s not that complicated; it’s simply spreading the love we have rooted from Christ to our neighbors. 

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,

    whose confidence is in him.

They will be like a tree planted by the water

    that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes;

    its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought

    and never fails to bear fruit.


From Perkins House resident, Sarah Bland, UVa ‘20.

“For me, CCDA  2018 was a time of intense  spiritual  formation and  discernment  in a  season  of navigating  relationships  and vocational  calling…with  space for  necessary and  beautiful dialogues  around  myriad manifestations  of  God's roaring  heart  for  justice  in communities.  We will continue to press into all of this as a house, recognizing that it's in the  most uncomfortable  places that  we  stand to  grow  the  most.”

Learn more about the Perkins House  at and  CCDA at

Reflections on being a Perkins Fellow & a Perkins House Resident | Sade Akinbayo '19

It is difficult for me to summarize my reflections as a Perkins Fellow and a member of the Perkins House as I enjoy allotting myself an ample amount of time to reflect, time I do not currently have. So much has happened this academic year and I know if I event attempt to list a few events that occurred within the past eight months, I would end up producing a 15-page report. It's best for me to allow two brief essays I recently wrote to speak to my experiences as a Fellow and member of the Perkins House. I was asked to describe my most meaningful leadership experience and my greatest contribution to the Charlottesville community in 250 words or less for each essay. Without a doubt, I wrote about my experience as a Perkins Fellow and Perkins House member despite the word limit restricting the transformative events to which I could attest.

Essay 1: In 250 words or less, describe your most meaningful leadership experience. 

"As a college student, it is difficult not to conflate leadership with the number of executive positions one holds throughout their years as an undergraduate student. Leadership, certainly, includes assuming a role within an organization or group that demonstrates one’s ability to guide individuals to the completion of a task. Yet, I believe that leaders are most impacted, cultivated, and strengthened through the act of service: whether that be through volunteering or simply being one who dedicates time to support and engage others. 

My third year at the University of Virginia has been defined by collective and individual service to the Charlottesville community through two programs supported by Theological Horizons: The Perkins House (located in the Venable neighborhood on Grady Avenue), an intentional community of university students honoring civil rights activist John M. Perkins by building bridges between the UVa and Charlottesville community; and The Perkins Fellowship, a Fellows program centered on vocational discernment through community engagement and training by community service innovators in cross-cultural engagement and community development. I can wholeheartedly say that my experience as an inaugural member of both The Perkins House and The Perkins Fellowship has proven to mark a transformative point in my personal growth. 

Through my participation in these programs, I have a greater understanding about how to utilize the roles I assume during my time at the University to best contribute and pour into the communities I so dearly love and to which I belong. "

Essay 2: In 250 words or less, describe your greatest contribution to the Charlottesville community. 

"Though I have spent most my time contributing to the establishment of The Perkins House, my most significant service to the Charlottesville community has been supporting and investing love and time into some of Charlottesville’s youth.

As a tutor and mentor at Friendship Court’s Community Center, I assist students with mathematics and language arts and also aid the Community Center’s Coordinator with the Girls’ Mentoring Program. One of my favorite memories as a tutor occurred last year when I helped Naylia, a kindergartener at the time, solve math problems from a deck of addition flash cards. She was, at first, unenthusiastic to solve the problems and became frustrated as she perceived them to be too difficult for her to solve. However, the more problems we worked on together, the greater her desire was to solve more equations. She even wanted to solve equations she previously thought were too hard for her! The moment I saw Naylia’s face beam with a beautiful smile after I told her she solved the equations correctly, I made a commitment to do whatever I could to help her, and her peers, excel in school.

Knowledge is power and we all are well aware of the power the youth yield in challenging and changing societal norms. I know these students will have a large impact in their communities and I will continue assisting them in their growth, one equation at a time, one conversation at a time, throughout the rest of my time here in Charlottesville."

There are a couple things I must add in addition to what I expressed in these essays. First, I felt quite indifferent when asked to write about "my greatest contribution" to the Charlottesville community. The language used in this prompt certainly implies that certain "contributions" are more valued and praised than others (but that is another conversation to be had). I decided to rather describe an activity, conducted outside the UVa bubble, that rejuvenates my spirit day-in and day-out: tutoring and mentoring the youngens at Friendship Court. Words cannot describe how much I LOVE the kids I spend time with throughout the week. I can wholeheartedly say that my experience as a Perkins Fellow and Perkins House member has given me a desire to incorporate the same intentionality we honor within theses programs to my time spent with the kids at Friendship Court.

I am excited to spend at least another year with them... If only they knew that they had me at hello.

On practicing resurrection by Fellow SK Doyle '18

As my last year of college is drawing near to a close and as we as Christians are approaching the season of Easter, I’ve been reflecting on all the ways that newness and resurrection have enriched my life this year. Entering into my fourth year, I had expected to spend a lot of time with the old: to spend time with wonderful old friends, reflect on old memories, and relish in my final times doing the same old things in the same old places. And while I have certainly done a lot of that and am grateful for the roots I’ve put down here, what has surprised me in this year has been the opportunities to dwell in the new. I moved into a new house with five other women who quickly became new friends and taught me new things about food justice, Instagram meme accounts, gratitude, and love. I discovered new bands and started listening to new podcasts. I made other new friends in classes where I continue to learn about new ways of seeing the world. I learned new ways of taking care of myself and giving myself to others, and it is comforting to know that even a place I thought I had gotten to know so deeply could have such vitality to continue to surprise and challenge me.

I have felt this newness deeply in the relationships I’ve built with the other eleven Horizons Fellows I have had the pleasure of getting to know this year. Spending time with these Fellows in our monthly meetings, over s’mores on the Lawn on a Friday night or late-night study sessions in the Theological Horizons office, I have deepened my belief that our triune God is fundamentally relational and reveals Herself in the relationships we stumble upon and cultivate. Some of the Fellows I’ve known for all four years at UVa, but many of them I likely would never have met without Theological Horizons. I’m grateful for the ways they’ve brought to life new ways of loving myself, others, and God. Earlier this year, we read Wendell Berry’s “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” together. The last stanza has become something of a mantra for me:

Be like the fox

Who makes more tracks than necessary,

Some in the wrong direction

Practice resurrection.

I have felt closely and deeply connected with God and Her constant newness and vitality in the relationships that have continued to be born and reborn even as my time in this place comes to a close. I have made lots of tracks, many in the wrong direction, as I’ve learned from and done life alongside the Horizon Fellows. We’ve practiced resurrection together and I’m grateful. I’m grateful for the role these eleven fellows and our fearless leader Christy have played in filling me with excitement for all of the new I will encounter after I leave this place. 

Let's be comfortable with being uncomfortable - Laura Eom '18

A new year means new resolutions to do better, be better, and grow as person. It’s only the middle of January though and I am already failing at my new years resolution: to be comfortable being uncomfortable. I’ve fallen back into the same routine of going to class, talking to the same people, eating the same food, and going to the same places for fun. I am addicted to comfort and security… and there’s a good chance you are too. 

Being a Horizons Fellow has challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone, specifically, when it comes to racial justice. In one of our recent meetings, we were able to talk about how to approach racial reconciliation in Charlottesville with its history and current issue of gentrification. This meeting included the Perkins Fellows as well, and I was not the only minority speaking on this issue.

The discussion did not end with a singular action based resolution and it would be naive to think that a complex societal issue could be solved in one meeting. Nevertheless, that should not debilitate one to inaction. No one has to do everything, but everyone has to do something.

Start by listening to the people who are affected by this issue. This means going out of your way to meet people who are different from you. Go to culture shows, One Way IV/AIV/GCF large group, BSA/ISA/VSA meetings and listen! Let people talk about their experiences and validate them. Their experiences are real and may extend beyond just themselves. Be comfortable being uncomfortable not knowing everything about race and privilege. I myself am still learning from people who come from different backgrounds than my own and it can still feel uncomfortable at times! Don’t be afraid of feeling stupid asking questions. It is more stupid to accept living in ignorance. And if you’re someone who has never had to think about how race affects your day-to-day life, it is to be expected that some things need to be explained. And that is OK! It is a process and it takes humility to accept this.

Let's move towards looking more like Christ and be people who initiate these conversations. Jesus initiated conversation when it came to the Samaritan woman (John 4:7-42) and the crippled beggar (John 5:1-15). And in both situations, he was met with pushback and awkwardness. But, Jesus proceeded to converse and interact anyway. He was not deterred from the responses because he loved each one deeply. Our love for comfort and routine should not supersede our love to know and understand brothers and sisters of a different race.  

This year, I commit to being comfortable being uncomfortable, not only for the sake of my brothers and sisters, but for my own personal growth. I will be intentional in placing myself in communities that don’t look like me, and learning from them. Will you step out in faith and take up this challenge with me?

To learn more about the Horizons Fellows program, click here



Jubilee Year, Where a White, Middle-Aged, Relatively Rich, Overweight American Woman Tries to Live Out Some Sort of Biblical Jubilee | Cary Umhau

This blog post originally appeared on the Spacious blog. Cary will be sharing about her work and unlikely friendship with Joey Katona at Vintage Lunch on Oct. 6th. All are welcome. More info here

“And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man,” reads Genesis 9:5b.

How responsible are we? How seriously do we need to take this? Pretty much so, I’d imagine.

I heard a quote recently and like many good things I read and hear, I am not able to attribute it accurately. If you know the source, please tell me, and I’ll update. I think it could have been Rob Bell or Francis Chan. I listened to books of each of theirs on the same day on a LONG road trip (my favorite kind). Anyway, the quote was something to the effect that “When we feed someone, it means that we want him to go on living another day.” It’s an investment in them, a statement of the value of their life.

Here in Big Mac Land, we aren’t talking about sustenance for living or life-and-death calorie counts. But it still applies in the sense of desiring to nourish someone, provide something “life-giving.”

So when Genesis admonishes that we are going to be held accountable for the “life” of fellow man, certainly it includes actual life. So why, when I see someone sprawled out on the sidewalk or on a staircase in the more visibly hurting parts of my city (there is as much pain of a different sort in homes with manicured lawns), looking as if they are dead, do I not go see if they are in fact dead — or living but desperate? I shudder to think why I don’t.

And C.S. Lewis famously talks about our encounters with each glorious person (full of the glory of being God’s image-bearers) that we meet, and how it is incumbent on each of us to treat the other that way.

Here is an excerpt from Lewis’ Weight of Glory:

The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people.

So when we read in Genesis, “And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man,” we know that beyond doing anything we can to insure that our fellow man lives bodily, we are also charged with the privilege of taking their dignity and spiritual destiny seriously. And held accountable for such.