For the second year in a row, Virginia Theological Seminary has hosted a summer Dean’s Scholar from the Living Church Institute.

Last year, Fr. Will Brown, associate rector at All Saints Episcopal Church in Thomasville, Georgia, was able to visit VTS for several weeks to complete a book manuscript. This year the seminary hosted Amber Noel, a writer and playwright working on an adaptation of a science fiction novel for the stage.

The novel, an imaginative retelling of the Garden of Eden story, deals directly with theological themes: knowing and relating to God, discerning divine guidance, anthropology, epistemology, doctrine of creation, salvation, and the “last things” — to name a few. The play-in-progress is in revisions, and will then be sent to the estate of the novel’s author for review.

Initiating support for this project is part of the Living Church Institute’s ongoing efforts to develop young leaders in the Anglican Communion and support vocations related to ministry, academics, and the arts.

“Dean Ian Markham and the staff and students offered me the hospitality I needed to step away from workaday life and finish a first draft of the play,” said Noel. “That’s a huge gift. I’m grateful for it all, from a clean room provided by housekeeping, to a library carrel, to coffee invitations. This is a deeply personal project I hope can be useful to the church and the arts community, and to building bridges between the two.

“It’s also been professionally promising. One student, a former theatre director in L.A. and now an Episcopal priest-in-training, set up a reading for me with local actors and theatre professionals. We sat around with snacks and drinks and had a lot of fun getting a feel for the characters and for what comes next in the editing process. All the actors were new to the book, but they all wanted to read more. It was extremely encouraging.”

What comes next?

“The foundational draft is done. Now it’s more research and more edits. Further up and further in.”

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