A Fellows Reunion: Now and Then

Post by: Kaitlyn Amos, Class of 2012 Recently, the women from my year as a Trinity Fellow gathered for a reunion. We were eager both to catch up and to process through our nine months of intentional life together.

Accompanied by spurts of laughter, the evening progressed from easy exchange and culinary collaboration to deep reflection and mutual encouragement. It was not encouragement to be received lightly, as if we should just fill the air with pleasant words. Rather, it was affirmation weathered and refined by a slowly approached trust, a trust that (only in retrospect) seemed to mark our year as a community of believers at Trinity Presbyterian Church.

Though we did not have the complete group from our Fellows year, this reunion itself mirrored the deep sense of community we experienced during that time. We cooked together, we ate together, and we candidly shared our celebrations and struggles. As we sat and chatted, the familiar moments slowed down in disregard of the rushed pace of life, ever at our heels.

I recognized this mysterious time-pause as one of the most unexpected characteristics of our Fellows year. For what could easily become a year of frenetic service to the church and Charlottesville community, as well as a time of “drinking from a firehose of ideas,” somehow transformed into full moments of Kingdom significance.

Whether listening to others share their testimonies, taking notes at a theology seminar, wrestling with life at the weekly Roundtable and Family Night dinners or tutoring at Abundant Life, ordinary hours were suddenly sacred as transcendent ideas became tangible and particular at the kitchen table and in other in-between spaces. With each new relationship, we felt welcomed into the infinite fold of support from the church, and we quickly found ourselves welcoming others in alongside.

Between tastes of our prepared food and drink, we began to center around the question of the evening: “What has been forming you?” Though difficult to answer in the here-and-now, the question prompted more reflection on our Fellows year.

As Fellows, we were formed by the regular rhythms of weekly meals and discussion times, by Bible studies, tutoring, classes and our work in the marketplace. Yet our routine was wonderfully interrupted at times, and we were plunged outside the comfort of regularity and into life-changing interactions with people from all walks of life. While in New York, we got to personally meet a local author of a novel about sex trafficking accompanied by an International Justice Mission representative. We helped put on a local arts forum at The Haven, listening to wide-ranging lectures on art and its purpose of showing forth the beauty of the Creator God. And we spent a weekend with other national fellows within The Fellows Initiative, collaborating about our participation in biblical justice.

It was within this jazz-like flow of the Fellows year that unexpected moments of pause ushered us into a greater paradigm—a paradigm that saw Christ as the center and redeemer of all things. Our time, our service, our story were all informed by a larger story at work—the story of our Fellows class, the story of Trinity Presbyterian, of Charlottesville, of the Church and of the Kingdom of God. Ultimately, the Grand Narrative became a thread weaving cohesion and purpose for our time now and during our Trinity Fellows year. Thank you, Trinity Church, for having a deep vision for forming young leaders in this way—it is a ministry that has changed the lives of many involved and it is our hope that it continues to play its part in deepening our love of Christ and His church.

So to you new Fellows, Trinity’s 10th class, welcome in: May the Lord grant you grace to be as present as possible in these days to come, so as not to miss the aroma of the Presence who is in and of and over all things—Jesus Christ. May you learn to participate deeply and fully in the work around you, ultimately receiving more than you can give back. As I was reminded recently, the Lord is with you.

The Fellows Program will celebrate ten years with a reunion June 7–9, 2013. Please mark your calendar as we wish for the whole church to be involved in this reunion weekend. Contact Dennis Doran at or 434.825.9866 for more information.


Originally published September 23, 2012, in Trinity Life

The Heart of the Host Family

Post by: Kyle O'Donnell When our Fellows program director told me that the Fellows live with host families from the church, I must admit that it wasn’t the arrangement I expected. I envisioned something more like a fraternity house or perhaps a dormitory, which housed the Fellows and many of their gatherings. Imagine a Presbyterian spin-off of The Real World, sans the cameras – that’s honestly the idea I had going into the application process.

As hilarious, fun and dramatic as that situation might have been, I thoroughly understand why the church has chosen not to do that for the Trinity Fellows. Besides obvious logistical reasons, cloistering the Fellows away from the larger cross-generational community would diminish the depth of our involvement in the body of Christ and potentially fail to adequately and realistically prepare the Trinity Fellows for the way things are in the broader church. Living with a host family, however, has been, even in this short period of time, incredibly rewarding and a realizably excellent way to fulfill part of the Marketplace Fellows mission statement: Marketplace fellows are embraced by the local congregation of Trinity Presbyterian Church and experience the fullness of life in the local church.

I have received the embrace literally from many members of the congregation, but especially from my host family.  My host family, along with fifteen other families from the congregation this year (plus many others over the past decade), has opened up their home, their resources, and their personal family life to a complete stranger. In their home I am not a mere boarder.  I share in many of their daily and intimate experiences – meals, recreation, prayer, chores, conversation – but because of the fullness of the program, I am not able to be constantly present in every moment of their lives. As unconventional as this situation may appear for a recent college graduate who is used to living on his/her own, I have experienced nothing but charitable embrace and warm hospitality.

That embrace is manifested in multiple ways, but most of all, I realize it on Sunday mornings, when I am welcomed by my host parents and their sons to stand and receive communion with them. These moments of sharing the Lord’s Supper together have embodied the fullness of the life in the local church that we, Fellows and Christians in general, are called to experience. Just as God has shared his table with us in His love, so too our host families share their tables with us, and I can think of few more beautiful acts of Christian love. Thus we see that host families are more than just hosts. They are Christians sharing with their neighbors; brothers and sisters welcoming each other to walk together in faith.

For all of this Christ-like hospitality I have experienced, I want to thank my host family and all the host families for inviting us into their lives and supporting us freely in our walk with Christ.  Just as Priscilla and Aquila submitted to the call to host the church in their home in 1 Corinthians, they too have graciously sacrificed to host the church in their homes. Their actions mean more than they may know, and help in more ways than I think we may realize at this time of our lives. I only hope that this time may be as much of a blessing to the host families as it is for the Trinity Fellows.

You Make Beautiful Things

"If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for the Creator, there is no poverty."  – Rainer Maria Rilke  


Walking into the Doran house on Monday nights for Roundtable always brings a smile to my face. Before I even reach my hand out to turn the doorknob I can already hear laughter and chatter from within and smell something delicious cooking in the oven. Each week we gather there together, the 15 Fellows, Katherine, Greg, Dennis & his family, to share in life. Reclaiming the act of sitting down to meal together is a powerful reminder of one of the primary aims of the Fellows Program; exploring the ways in which our lives matter. How often do we arrive at the end of a given day wondering to ourselves, “What did I do today? Will it have any lasting importance?” The dust covering the lenses through which we see the world makes it so hard sometimes for us to see the answers to these questions. One work day gives way to the next, a blur of spreadsheets, legal documents and phone calls. Yet somehow over the course of the past two months, through prayer and earnest conversation, we have just begun to wipe the dust from one another’s eyes enough to catch a glimpse of God’s work unfurling in our daily lives.


God created Adam from the very dust of the earth, should it come as any surprise that he can make beautiful things from of the dust of our lives? One of the first things we did together as a Fellows class was to share our testimonies; how God has been shaping each of us throughout our twenty-some years. It was such a privilege to hear how God’s hands have been conforming each of my friends to look more and more like Him. Some of our stories are loud; God has moved mightily to deliver us from tough situations and convict us, changing lives in short order.

The stuff of day-to-day life is quieter, admittedly, but the changes I’ve witnessed in the past two months can still be heard. Several fellows have taken steps to glorify God with the ways in which they spend their money, a middle school student has found sweet certainty of her salvation, and dozens of conversations have been sparked by the idea of a program designed to acknowledge God’s sovereignty in every area of our lives. Friends, the gospel is at work here. We’re not the same people we were yesterday or last year. God is making all things new.

-Erin Sheets--Mechanicsville, VA

Thoughts from a New Fellow by Rachel Leary

In the months following my acceptance into the Fellows Program I found it nearly impossible to explain to friends and family exactly what I would be doing starting September 1st , 2009. For simplicity sake I would often tell people I had an internship with a church, where I would be working with the youth group and taking some Seminary classes.  I always walked away slightly dissatisfied, wishing that we could talk for few more minutes, wishing that I could share with them my ever-increasing joy and excitement for the upcoming nine months in Trinity’s Fellows Program. It’s not that the Fellows Program is vague or disorganized. It’s quite the opposite; the individual pieces of the program, including both church and local community involvement, as well as opportunities for personal growth are knit together into an intricate 9-month fabric of life experiences that cannot be compared to any other post-graduate opportunities in the country. If I had a few more minutes to talk about the upcoming program I would start by describing the workplace experience. For the first three days of the workweek Fellows are placed in an internship in a local business in the Charlottesville community. Besides the opportunity for practical workplace experience, these internships are meant to help Fellows explore their own God-given abilities and passions. Take, for my example, my classmate Emily Mims, a recent graduate of Davidson College, who has the most incredible heart for children and for service. This year she is working with the “I Have a Dream” Foundation at the local Albemarle High School, where those God-given passions will continue to develop as she is in the process of changing kids lives through the work of the Foundation. Out of my class of 15 Fellows, I know that each and every one of us views our internship as an incredible opportunity.

If time allowed, I would also share that Thursday and Friday mornings our Fellows class takes Seminary classes through the Charlottesville’s Center for Christian Study. For most of us, myself included, this is the first time that we have ever studied our faith in such an academic setting. Despite the fact that many former Fellows have been called to various forms of vocational ministry or further Seminary study, our classes are not solely intended as ministry training. The classes are forcing us to engage our faith and understanding of the God in a new way, particularly by exploring the relationship between our head knowledge and the heart knowledge. Already, in just two weeks of class, my personal faith in God has been enriched by our intellectual exploration of church history and the doctrine of the trinity. These academic pursuits are not something that only young people need to participate in- believers of any age and any stage of their faith would experience a deepening of faith this type of rigorous study.

Perhaps the highlight of the week is the two hours that we spend at Johnson Elementary School on Thursday afternoon. The Fellows, along with dozens of university and community volunteers, work with Charlottesville’s Abundant Life Ministries in an after-school tutoring program. Proportionally, we spend such a short time with Abundant Life, but it is potentially one of the most powerful experiences fo the week. Two weeks ago I met Anicea, a third-grade at Johnson, who loving accepted me into her world, begging me with her attention and her eyes to pour out some genuine love. Not only do I have the opportunity to help Anicea with her multiplication tables and her reading skills, but I can demonstrate the love of Christ to her simply by showing up every week and giving of myself.

If I could steal a few more minutes of my listener’s time, I would attempt to explain that ways that the relationships in and around the Fellows Program have the biggest impact on a Fellow’s experience. Host families open up their homes to complete strangers, generously caring for our physical needs, but also inviting us into the intimate community of their families. Mentors from Trinity’s congregation volunteer their time and wisdom to invest in our lives, with the purpose of seeing us come to a deeper and richer understanding of our Lord Jesus Christ. Trinity’s youth group welcomes the Fellows with open arms, allowing us to jump into the lives of dozens of middle and high-school kids and grow in Christ-like friendship with them.  As a church, Trinity welcomes us into the lives of their people, loving us in a way that only Christ can and teaching us the beauty of broken, but redeemed church community.

Do you see why it’s impossible to explain the Fellows program in a sentence or two? Even after explaining the rundown of our weekly activities, it would be hard to describe the full experience of the program, because it’s the relationship between the parts that constructs the whole. Everything that I am learning in class is speaking into the way that I approach my job and my relationships all the people I encounter daily. My job is teaching me things about the secular work world that can contribute to Christian community. And being loved by this new family of Fellows, host families, mentors, and the community of Trinity Presbyterian is transforming and renewing my life so that I may better glorify God in everything that I do.

Fellows Farewell

by Matt Kleberg I’m not very good, even after nine months, at describing precisely what the Trinity Fellows Program is.

If I were to explain the Trinity Fellows Program on a professional resume it would probably look something like “a leadership development program coupling marketplace experience, volunteerism, and graduate studies focused on professional and personal development.” But that seems prickly- too impersonal. Describing it to distant cousins in Texas, the Fellows Program might sound like a bizarre combination of going to class, working a job, living with a family, volunteering at the church, and spending nearly every waking moment with twelve other young and restless souls. But that seems random and does no justice to the richness and intention of the program’s many facets.

The difficulty in describing the Fellows Program is that no simple description rightly captures the uniqueness and breadth of the Fellows experience.

So as the 2009 Fellows prepare to move on to whatever comes next, and the 2010 Fellows eagerly await the beginning of their program, I would like to pause and reflect on the year.

As our pastors here at Trinity have walked the church through Hebrews this year, we have come to identify with a picture of pilgrimage. As pilgrims in the wilderness, we find rest in the hope we have in Christ, in the Kingdom that is to come and is, in part, already here.  I am both humbled and emboldened by the notion that God chooses to invite such leaky vessels as myself to partake in the expansion of that Kingdom, and I am grateful to have experienced glimpses of the Kingdom during this Fellows year.  Those glimpses came from our families, classes, jobs, etc.

We discussed in our classes and various seminars the implications faith has on work and vocation. The cultural mandate in Genesis calls man to be fruitful, to multiply, to fill the earth, and to subdue it. From the very beginning scripture instructs people to work and to make culture- to teach, to practice medicine and law, to paint and play the trombone, to build bridges and develop better crops.  For Christians, this call to cultivate the earth makes no distinction between traditionally “secular” jobs and “ministry” jobs. Rather, we declare that the Christian can be a minister of Christ in nearly any work, participating in God’s work of redeeming all things.  What a beautiful image we see in Revelation 21, where every tear is wiped away and the new city of Jerusalem established in earth.

Not only did the Fellows benefit from such discussion in class, but we also had the privilege of putting education into practice in our jobs.  We contemplated the nature of God’s vocational calling on our lives and strived to be disciplined workers in our marketplace settings.

We spent a week in New Orleans joining hands with the local church, in its effort to rebuild a broken community. We heard from brothers and sisters like Amy Sherman and Dr. John Perkins who have devoted their lives to showing mercy and seeking justice for the oppressed. We also spent a week in New York discussing what role art plays in communicating truth and beauty.

Family has been an integral element of the Fellows year. Nine months ago a bunch of recent college graduates parked their cars in front of a bunch of Trinity family homes and unloaded all their belongings. At that moment, whether we realized it or not, we became a member of families who had decided to love and care for us before they even knew us.  These host families welcomed us into their lives, sharing the nice and neat parts along with the nitty and gritty.

Living in a home, spending intimate time with the other Fellows, and involving ourselves in the local church have all shaped an understanding of Christian community that goes beyond an affinity group.  The Kingdom is no affinity group, but rather a gathering of every tribe, every nation, every race.

The Trinity community has blessed the Fellows in innumerable ways-  many of you have invested in the program by mentoring and teaching us, by giving us shelter or jobs, or by sending your kids to youth group.

It truly is a comprehensive experience.

I have come to grasp a fuller understanding of what it means to be stewards of Creation, agents of redemption, and image-bearers of God.

Parable of talents

Worldview, engaging culture, biblical foundation

Now let us love mercy for the needy and justice for the oppressed and let us bear truth and see beauty and let our hearts grow for creation and creating and Christ is in all and Christ is all amen.

Home Sweet Home

By: Austin Johnston

I pulled into the driveway of a home in Charlottesville, and took a deep breath before walking up to the porch and ringing the doorbell. The door opened and I saw the family for the first time and realized how nervous I was. What if they didn’t like me? What if they were strange people? What if…?

I had never met these people, and they had never met me, but they volunteered to let me live in their home for the next 9 months. I appreciated their generosity at allowing a stranger to come be a part of their family life. Yes, they had read my 12 page application (which included some pretty detailed stories about me), but they still didn’t really know who I was. The first few days were awkward as we started to get to know one another, but we soon all became more at ease and I began to fit into their family a little better.

From discussions about philosophy and daily life at the dinner table on family nights to watching lots of movies to celebrating birthdays with a special orange pastry for breakfast (a tradition I was happy to partake of), life with my host family gave me glimpse into another world. Most people only experience two families, the one they grow up in and the one they form when they grow up and start their own. I have gotten a chance for a third family, one that is not related to me biologically, but which gives me a chance to see how a different group of people live together. This family is similar to my own yet is also very different, and this gives me a great perspective.

My host family just does some things differently. I thought that everyone did things a certain way, but that is not the case. They have a different policy for doing the dishes. They have different eating habits. They have a cat. I realized that not every family has to look identical to work well. Once you see from the inside how another family works, it makes you think and evaluate the way you live and the choices you make about basic things like laundry and cleaning the bathroom, how to handle conflict, and even the activities the family does together.

What a valuable experience! It is one I will treasure and hopefully it will continue to shape the way I think about family and living with others for the rest of my life.

Your Life is Not Your Own

by Andrew Kean

Jesus Himself said it: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it” (Mat-thew 16:25). It is to us all that Jesus speaks these very words, without exception. It is with His words in mind that I write to you, Fellows. And it is with His words in mind that I hope you, Trinity Church, will eavesdrop on this farewell address.

Dear Fellows,


Just nine months ago, the 13 of you were anonymous to the majority of Trinity Church. You were simply another group of “young adults” who might be considered a hard generation of folks to understand. But between then and now, you have become members of our Family, examples to our children, servants of others, studiers of God’s Word, prayers for God’s will, thoughtful searchers, wise answerers, marketplace-faithful, community builders, eager anticipators of the King’s return. In sum, you have tasted the beautiful fruit of the Truest Paradox: through giving your lives to Jesus, you are beginning to find them. It has been at once painful and joyful, confusing and clear. Yet, through it all, with the Spirit strengthening you, you have proved faithful. Let me, on behalf of Trinity Church and Charlottesville say, “Thank you.”

Soon you will be sent out by Trinity Presbyterian Church. Out into the world, into new vocations, into new relationships, into new needs, into new dreams. Don’t look back in a wistful way; look forward, applying all that you have learned. Motivated by our King’s love for us, seek the hard places, seek the places of discomfort in others’ lives (and your own), love boldly, aim to be men and women of prayer, and above all, worship the King.

Fare well, Fellows. And remember, your life is not your own.

Grace and Peace, Andrew Kean