For nearly eight years now, Davenant have been hard at work in our mission of retrieving the riches of classical Protestantism to renew Christian wisdom in the contemporary church, and we’ve been amazed and humbled to see the ways in which God has blessed our stumbling efforts and slim resources.
Throughout this journey, we’ve been guided by a fundamental conviction: that what the church needs most urgently—and now, more than ever—is reforged networks of trust: Christians who are able to listen to and learn from one another even in the midst of asking hard questions and giving uncomfortable answers. To that end, we’ve built everything that we’ve done around the central goal of building an army of friends. In many ways, we’ve been able to leverage the sometimes treacherous tools of digital media to connect and collaborate with like-minded scholars, pastors, and theologically-concerned laypeople across the country and indeed the world. But we’ve also known that enduring friendships and relationships of trust have to be nourished by the experience of rich face-to-face fellowship, and we have found each year that nothing so renews and strengthens our work as our annual Convivium Irenicum in South Carolina.
Accordingly, just two years into our life as an organization, we began looking for a way to establish a permanent on-the-ground hub for our work; a L’Abri-style Christian study and retreat center to house not only Convivia, but intensive study courses, young adult discipleship, and a space for pastors and Christian leaders to recharge and collaborate. In early 2016, we used some of our start-up capital to purchase Laureldale Cottage in the South Carolina Blue Ridge mountains (pictured above), the site of our Convivia Irenica, and began working to develop this vision.
As a fledgling young organization, we probably had no business biting off so much more than we could chew, and indeed, the project seemed cursed for a while. The family whom we had initially tapped as program directors were unable to make the move to SC, and we were initially unable to make more than sporadic use of the property. Unexpected financial issues and repair needs arose, and we strongly considered selling the property. When God sent us the wonderful Hughes family in early 2019 to move from Wisconsin and become full-time Davenant House directors, they hit the ground running and started working to turn our vision into reality. But then, Covid-19 hit, and almost all our activities had to be put on hold for nearly a year.
All this while, however, God was still at work opening doors for our organization, including the launch of our Davenant Hall theological education program last year. As students began to flock to this program, and as traditional higher education experienced radical disruption, we recognized that we would need the property at Davenant House even more, and would need to expand it sooner rather than later. God blessed us this past year with many generous financial gifts—including from many of you—and we began to consider how we might consolidate our organization’s work—till now scattered (sometimes a bit haphazardly) around North America, in one main hub.
To that end, we are exceedingly pleased to announce that, effective this week, Davenant House in South Carolina will become the long-term home of the work of the Davenant Institute! Our new mailing address will be: PO Box 358, Landrum, SC 29356.
Alongside my own role as President of the Davenant Institute, I have been honored this past year to serve as a full-time Senior Fellow of the Edmund Burke Foundation, a research and writing position that gives me the freedom to work from anywhere. Accordingly, this week, my family and I will be moving from our current home in Leesburg, VA, to take up residence at a house near Davenant House, from which I can participate actively in the expanding work there on evenings and weekends, and where we can host students taking part in Davenant House programs—beginning with our How to Read the Bible and the World course later this summer. Meanwhile, the Davenant Institute, using funds generously donated over this past year, will be purchasing roughly 90 acres of woodland adjoining Davenant House, establishing an enclave of peace and natural beauty for our retreats and programs, and ample space for expanding our facility as the growing need for such a space requires.
Located in an area of amazing natural beauty in the shadow of the Blue Ridge next to Lake Lanier, SC, the Blue Wall Preserve, and the Palmetto Trail, an area the Nature Conservancy calls “one of the most ecologically important areas in the eastern US,” the property boasts remarkable biodiversity and a large and growing network of walking trails. We are extremely excited about the opportunities that lie before us to bless the local region and our growing network of students, scholars, and Christian leaders around the world through this beautiful property. In the year to come, we look forward to hosting two regional and one national Convivium, multiple intensive study courses in conjunction with our Davenant Hall degree program, monthly Davenant Discussion evenings, and several students for terms of residential discipleship. If you would ever like to pay us a visit and see the work firsthand, don’t hesitate to email our Davenant House director, Michael Hughes ([email protected]). (I should also add that Michael is a good ways toward establishing a thriving little microbrewery in the Davenant House basement—a definite perk of moving there!)
Thanks to all for your faithful prayers and support throughout our journey as an organization. We look forward eagerly to the blessings God has in store for us in our new organizational home.
Blessings in Christ,
Brad Littlejohn, President