Outside the door to the Bishop Payne Library here at VTS is an inscription: "Seek the Truth, come whence it may, cost what it will." These inescapable words of William Sparrow, an early professor of the seminary, are favored by students and faculty alike. They are quoted in at least one student sermon each academic year and are part of the undergirding fabric of VTS and its mission to send people out into all the world to proclaim the gospel.
The brainchild of Dean Ian Markham and drawing on Sparrow's chiseled imperative, VTS unveiled a new tag line last week when the campus was welcoming people gathering for the May meetings of the AAEC and the Board of Trustees and for the institution's 185th commencement. Employing the Latin word for truth, veritas, banners -- both freestanding (called "bannerups") and displayed on streetlamps -- announce and illustrate specifics of the mission: ministry, growth, justice, prayer, service, practice. The photograph here, which I made late one evening last week, shows two of the banners along sidewalk near the entrances to guest houses Johns and Wilmer.
Emerging from veritas are the letters VTS. Convenient, huh? Hence, two ways of reading the banners: in this instance, veritas (truth) for justice. Or, VTS (Virginia Theological Seminary) for justice.
The evaluation of the First Three Years Program (which focuses on the transition from seminary to parish) will conclude at lunch tomorrow and my frequent trips here will be finished until the week of Convocation in October. These two days with members of the 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005 classes and their mentors, faculty, representatives from the Lilly Foundation have been challenging and full. We've told the truth -- lots of it -- and we've heard the truth -- lots of it. I am hopeful, even optomistic, that our efforts will result in better prepared and more deeply grounded clergy emerging from their formative three years in this place.