VTS Strengthens Commitment to Christian Education and Formation with New Berryman Family Chair

Date: January 19, 2021

Media Contact: Curtis Prather
Tel: (703) 461-1782

ALEXANDRIA, VA – Virginia Theological Seminary is pleased to announce the creation of The Berryman Family Chair for Children’s Spirituality and Nurture. The chair will be funded through a $2,000,000 gift from The Rev. Dr. Jerome W. Berryman. The endowment strengthens the Seminary’s historic commitment to Christian education and formation and makes VTS the first residential seminary to engage a professor whose research, teaching, and advocacy are devoted to children’s spirituality and nurture.

This gift is part of the Seminary’s Bicentennial Campaign and puts VTS squarely on the path to innovation and imagination for its third century of service. VTS’ dean and president, the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D., emphasized this, saying: “ This is a gift grounded in an educational and faith philosophy. Learning from children and cultivating the faith of children are imperatives for the church. It is the child who sees and experiences faith more clearly (this is the reason we must all be as little children to get into the kingdom of God); it is the child who inherits the faith and passes the faith on. This is a chair that will make a difference to countless clergy in the future. All of us need to come and see that a ministry among children is not a nice addendum to congregation, but a central obligation and act of faithfulness.”

Dr. Berryman established the chair to honor the present generation of his wife Thea (1941-2009) and their daughters Coleen (1967-2020) and Alyda, each of whom have shared his concerns about children in the church and their development. The Family Chair also honors the generations of the Berryman family who have made this gift possible. As he explains, “I endowed the Berryman Professor of Children’s Spirituality and Nurture, because I wanted to do something significant for the lives of children in the church. This emphasizes research, teaching, and advocacy for children and their families at Virginia Seminary but also the theological discussion of Jesus’ view that we can’t enter the Kingdom of God unless we become like children. This gift honors Thea and our girls but also the generations of my family who made this gift possible, going all the way back to the Rev. Jerome C. Berryman (1810-1907), who was a Methodist circuit rider, missionary to Native Americans, and an educator.”

This exciting new opportunity will become part of Lifelong Learning at VTS. Lisa Kimball, Ph.D., associate dean of Lifelong Learning and the James Maxwell Professor of Lifelong Christian Formation, welcomes the new initiative explaining, “Jerome, as he prefers to be known, has changed the discourse and practice surrounding the Christian formation of children across the world. I wonder how this extraordinary gift and consequent commitment to sustained scholarship, teaching, and practice will transform the church of tomorrow? VTS is honored to steward this gift, legacy, and prophetic call.”

Dr. Berryman is the founder of Godly Play and a renowned scholar in the field of children’s spirituality. The Godly Play® method, for which Berryman is best known, is a curriculum of spiritual practice exploring the mystery of God’s presence in our lives. He is the author of numerous books including Becoming Like a Child: The Curiosity of Maturity Beyond the Norm (2017), The Spiritual Guidance of Children: Montessori, Godly Play, and the Future (2013), Children and the Theologians: Clearing the Way for Grace (2009), Teaching Godly Play: How to Mentor the Spiritual Development of Children (2009).

The Seminary hopes to complete the search for this new faculty member in the next calendar year with the appointment beginning in fall 2021 or spring 2022.


Founded in 1823 as a beacon of hope in a country new and finding its way, Virginia Theological Seminary has led the way in forming leaders of the Episcopal Church, including the Most Rev. John E. Hines (VTS 1933, D.D. 1946), former presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church; the Rt. Rev. John T. Walker (VTS 1954, D.D. 1978), the first African-American bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington; and theologian, author and lay preacher Ms. Verna J. Dozier (VTS D.D. 1978). Serving the worldwide Anglican Communion, Virginia Theological Seminary educates approximately 25% of those being ordained who received residential theological education. Visit us online: 

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