As the Virginia Theological Seminary Class of 2007 departed campus to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, the Very Reverend Martha J. Horne, Dean and President of VTS also transitioned into a new phase of life called retirement. She was the obvious choice for our commencement speaker, and in the back of the Lettie Pate Whitehead Auditorium (now Interim Chapel) there hung a sign that read “Well done good and faithful servant” in thanksgiving for her many years of devotion to VTS, the Church, and most importantly, the saving love of Jesus Christ.
Having served as Student Body President that final year, I got to know Dean Horne a little bit, and quickly came to realize that she is probably not the type of person one would expect to serve as Dean and President of the largest seminary in the Anglican Communion. Unlike her successor, Dean Markham, Dean Horne is a highly introverted person, soft spoken, and unostentatiously genteel. She didn’t command a room, but she was most certainly in charge because she utilized the gifts and talents with which God has blessed her to lead VTS with wisdom and love through the tumultuous days of the early 21st century. The sign which hung at our graduation spoke to her service and to the Gospel witness that God desires that we use the gifts he has entrusted to our care.
Each of us has been given gifts and talents. Some are our birthright, others come through the Holy Spirit in baptism, and still others are bestowed in our hour of need. To squander those gifts out of fear and/or laziness is as egregious a sin as any other. As disciples of Jesus, we are called upon to use our many and diverse gifts to build the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. This means that we don’t make excuses for our gaps in other areas, but instead we trust in God to surround us with the right people to complete the mission. Virginia Seminary had outgoing and gregarious leaders during the Martha Horne administration, it had prophetic voices, it had the occasional clanging cymbal, and it had Dean Horne as the non-anxious presence, steady at the helm. The sign the hung at our graduation ceremony was for Dean Horne, but it really was for all of us. It is only in community that our talents are used to their fullest potential, that the Kingdom can come near, and that we can all hear the words of the Master.
“Well done, good and faithful servants.”