Last September, I met UVa alumnus Garrett Trent through a mutual friend and over the course of our very first conversation arose the question, “Who is my neighbor?” We talked at some length about what it means to be a neighbor, to love ones neighbor, what this looks like in each of our lives. As students, our lives orbit around the University and for many, this means never leaving the familiarity of Grounds and missing out on the opportunity to be a part the city of Charlottesville. Many students feel disconnected from the larger community which surrounds the University and in this disconnect, there is an opportunity for reconciliation. Garrett shared about his experience of moving to the 10th and Page area and living with intentionality in a neighborhood that is multi-ethnic, economically varied, and complex in many ways. Garrett offered up the idea of creating an opportunity for undergraduates at UVa to live with the same sort of intentionality and learn what it means to be a good neighbor.
Garrett also shared that he was a member of All Souls and mentioned that the All Souls community was deeply concerned with justice, mercy, and racial reconciliation. A couple of days later, I attended All Souls for the first time. I remember feeling deeply moved as the congregation kneeled and prayed in solidarity with the men and women of Charlotte, NC in the midst of violence and protest. I saw a church passionately seeking shalom.
Over the next few weeks, with the counsel of Christy Yates, Brendan Jamieson of All Souls, and several other individuals, the vision of this project continued to be developed with prayer and careful consideration. The name of the Perkins House was selected in honor of John M. Perkins, a civil-rights activist, minister, and theologian. John Perkins excelled at developing communities and founded the Christian Community Development Association, as well as the John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation. Inspired by the work of John Perkins, the newly named Perkins House has increasingly become devoted to the tenets of faithful presence within the neighborhood through building relationships with residents and practicing Sabbath. When the vision was shared with students, there was an encouraging amount of interest, not only as prospective residents, but as partners in prayer and supporters of the vision of the Perkins House. Since that time, the Perkins House has become a reality and next fall will mark the inaugural cohort of Perkins House ladies.
Throughout the past few months, as all of this has unfolded, I have become increasingly humbled by all that the Lord has provided in this process and the realization that the Venable neighborhood has so much to teach all of us who are becoming a part of this community. On behalf of all the Perkins Ladies, we are unbelievably excited and deeply grateful.