Look for the Joy!

Date: May 30, 2024

Here is the Virginia Theological Seminary’s Class of 1981. I don’t know if VTS gives its graduates one of these nowadays, but my worn, stained and wrinkled copy is a repository of memories. When our class left the chapel with diplomas in hand, we were formed for ministry in a community whose daily rhythm was three years chapel, class, and lunch, just as it is for seminarians today. And it was essential for us to live together because the divisions that rocked the church in those days were on the Holy Hill, too: women’s ordination; Prayer Book revision; the charismatic movement; and the place of gay and lesbian people in the church.

Most of my classmates would not recognize today’s campus, courtesy of the ministry of the Board of Trustees. We trustees have the great honor shaping the life of VTS now and in the future, and in doing so we have the awesome task of shaping the Episcopal Church.

My board service totals fifteen years and it has been a most rewarding ministry. We are blessed with a visionary dean in Ian Markham. He has guided us to a place where VTS can meet the future with strength and hope in responding to God’s call.

Just look at the way our campus has changed—apartments on the Hill; a new refectory; a renewed library, a beautiful welcome center; 1823; and, of course, our new chapel. Plus free tuition, room, and board! We could never have imagined this in 1978 when we arrived on campus.

Yet, our Seminary is not a collection of buildings, but a community of Christians. Please look carefully at the Class of 1981. Sadly, there are only two people of color in my fifty classmates and they are from Africa. Peter Akinola later became Primate of Nigeria, and Gerard Mpango became
Bishop of Tanzania.

I am proud that we are much more racially diverse in 2024 and I see this every year in the faces at commencement. There is hope for the Episcopal Church in our joyous new alumni as they leave the chapel. And my heart rejoices with them.

I have heard it said that “joy is the surest sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit.” And I find the Spirit not only at commencement, but every time I return to our campus. So, my fellow alumni, as a member of the Board of Trustees, I invite you to come home. Make a visit to this place that formed you for ministry. And while you are here please look for the joy.

The Rev. C. Neal Goldsborough ’81

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