Describe your nonprofit's mission.
Theological Horizons is a not¬for¬profit centered at The Bonhoeffer House on University Circle—a hospitable meeting place for discussion and dialogue, open to all undergraduates regardless of year, major, gender, religious affiliation, or nationality (we draw international students from the U.Va. International Center next door). Our 20 undergraduate Fellows, 7 Interns and 35 Community Mentors welcome a broad mix of students to lectures, meals, and discussion forums—offerings that create a safe space for exploring how beliefs and values can positively impact intellectual and personal experiences at U.Va. Speakers and participants include faculty members and graduate students, as well.
What need in our community brought about the creation of your nonprofit?
The university community is a vibrant place. The unofficial motto of UVA--work hard, play hard--captures that mixture of intellectual rigor & social excitement that you find so easily on Grounds. It is a place to grow your mind, deepen your relationships, and discover yourself. However, the university lacks an avenue for it members to foster the same growth in their spiritual lives. The community that attends the head & the heart so well, often neglects the soul. We offer a space for students, staff, and faculty to hear about, think about, and talk about the place where faith meets the lives that they live out at UVA.
How has your nonprofit made a difference in our community?
Since its founding, Theological Horizons created hospitable spaces to investigate the intersection of faith, life, and thought. Over the last 26 years, those spaces have expanded and multiplied far beyond our original visions. We host a schedule of repeated events: weekly lunches, weekly discussion groups, monthly Faith & Work Forums, and yearly lectures. But we also keep our calendar full with concerts, lectures, and book talks as interests or opportunities present themselves to us. This year, in fact, we are piloting a new residential program for undergraduates to begin to heal the wound between the University and the 10th and Page neighborhood. We have seen a steady increase in attendance and deepening of participation in all of our programs.
However, the real difference we make in this community is difficult to see. We feel the difference in the ever-growing number of university-folk and townspeople who consider themselves friends of Theological Horizons. We hear it in the comfortable chatter that keeps the Bonhoeffer House buzzing. We see it in the faces—smiling or downcast—of every student that comes to Theological Horizons for support or relief. We remain committed to creating spaces where change like this happens gracefully.
How can community members help you achieve your mission?
We are, like every other not-for-profit, always in need of financial support! Donations are unfailingly appreciated. We are also in need of people to help on our marketing front. Most of all, we just want people to take the time to get to know us, to talk about us, to get involved. It has been our experience that we grow through our friends. So come to a concert or a lecture or a book-talk and get to know us!
Tell us a story that has come out of your work.
This is a story from Maria, an alumna of UVA ('15) and a Horizons fellow.
I am very thankful to be a Fellow with Theological Horizons. I am a fourth year here at U.Va. I’m studying studio art and religious studies. This past spring I spent a semester in Italy. Though I experienced great joy in that new place, I also missed my community of U.Va. When I reflected on what exactly it was that I missed—when I tried to identify a physical place where I felt I belonged, where I felt peace—it was the Bonhoeffer House.
Throughout my time at U.Va., the cozy living room of the Bonhoeffer House has been a place of refuge from the pressures of university life. Though it is deeply connected to The University, it has been for me a place apart. At Friday Vintage lunches, I have often come alive through creative realizations sparked by theological readings and discussions.
So when I got the e-mail from Karen announcing that there would be a new Fellows program for fourth years, I jumped with joy. An opportunity to get even more involved with the Bonhoeffer house?! I thought with a huge grin. I was content with simply being more connected with the Bonhoeffer house—that was enough. I was very excited to help out by volunteering at guest lectures. I love simply being present, helping out in whatever way I can, so that I can be exposed to the stimulating conversations of faith, thought, and life.
I later found out that the focal point of this fellowship was a relationship with a mentor. I didn’t expect, and couldn’t possibly forsee, the gift of this program. Theological Horizons found a perfect match for me in the community: my current mentor, who is a liturgical artist. I was blessed to attend a recent Mini-Retreat of hers, at which we attendees made art as a form of prayer, a way to connect with God. She is a pastor, and she is extremely gifted at helping others listen deeply to the God. People who are trying to discern the next step in their lives often come to her with questions—how do I do what God wants me to do?
What gives you delight? She says. What better of a way to glorify God is there than to do what gives you joy? God is at the heart of that. God is where your heart is. And so I go forth, discerning questions of what gives me joy, and how I can do whatever that is to glorify God. I look forward to the blossoming of this mentoring relationship, which has been a true gift from God through Theological Horizons.
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