One week ago today, I had the opportunity to visit Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) as a prospective student. While visiting VTS I was struck by a simple concept that will stick with me as I discern where to attend seminary this coming fall.
A concept of community, and specifically intentional community, is not a new idea to me, and in fact I currently live in an intentional community-type setting, but the implementation of this concept at VTS truly made an impact on me. In both my conversations with the admissions staff and the many students I met throughout the day, I got the impression that they were excited that I was interested in joining their community. Further, they were intrigued by the uniqueness that I (or any individual called to join them) would bring to their community, adding my own ingredients to complete the dish. The students in particular were very open to meeting me and genuinely wanted to get to know me (at least as much as was possible in my short time with them).
Another component to this sense of invitation was the openness to diversity of opinions and worship styles. I participated in four services in the time I was on campus and experienced four radically different but unified services. From a chanted “Morning-song” to a contemporary evening prayer, each service met the needs of different aspects of the community but still connected the entire community together in a common theme of worship.
The best example of this inviting attitude at VTS was the time I spent with my student host Ben (and my unofficial host Steven). Ben took time out of his day to share with me all about the campus community, classes, aspects of life both on and off “the hill”, and the many opportunities that are available each week. He did this while also taking me over to see their gym space, making sure a student was available to show me a dorm room, and generally putting me at ease in what could have been a stressful day.
Steven was also very inviting, knowing only each other through a couple short interactions at Diocesan convention, he spent the evening hanging out with me. First taking me to worship, then dinner, bringing me along to a typical junior year class, and then taking me to hang out with his fellow classmates at the on-campus pub for a relaxed and easy-going way to learn more about the school. This was a great way to end my day at VTS, and really connected that inviting feel with the rest of my day’s experiences.
The community that is built at VTS will be an influential piece as I discern the seminary where I will find the best experience.