Date: June 9, 2021
The buildings on the campus of Virginia Theological Seminary tell a story, an old and historic one. Some buildings go back to the Civil War and others well before that, to the 1700s. The story they tell is not always an easy one. Parts of our campus were built with slave labor. Our history is long and complicated. However, old and historic does not mean unchanged. And the adaptations of buildings, like their origins, are an important part of our story. For instance, the Welcome Center has functioned in a number of different ways, including the Center for Christian Education, the mail room, and currently, the campus library space. The Chapel Garden marks the place where the Chapel once stood.
After the 2010 Chapel fire left us without a worship space, the Seminary community likened ourselves to the Israelites wandering in the wilderness and then worshipping in a tabernacle. We eventually built, consecrated and settled into our new worship space. The ruins of the Chapel were transformed into an outdoor worship space, a columbarium, and garden. On the busiest of days, the garden issues an invitation to sit for a moment and remember to breathe and appreciate the gift of life. The columbarium invites us to remember and give thanks for those who have gone before. During the pandemic, the outdoor space offered precious opportunities for socially distanced worship. Visitors and members of the community are drawn into this altered and alternative sacred space that reminds us that buildings of brick and flesh will, and perhaps must, adapt and change over time. Our mission is tied to our willingness to pivot and follow the spirit wherever it leads.
The Rev. Judy Fentress-Williams, Ph.D.
Acting Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Old Testament