• The Fellows Initiative

A Unique Opportunity: Life as a Fellow in Virginia Beach

by Martha Roszak

“I see people really come alive at the beach.”

So says Virginia Beach Fellows Director Jay McCabe. 2019-2020 marks the inaugural year of the Virginia Beach Fellows program, one dreamt up by several friends from multiple churches in the Tidewater region only a few years ago.

Virginia Beach is a historic, vibrant community with approximately half a million residents. The region is supported by a strong military presence as well as many small businesses still owned and operated by the same individuals or families who started them - a fact that continues to draw many entrepreneurial-minded young adults to the area each year.

The main attraction to the area for the majority of young people, however, continues to be the latter half of what it’s named for: the beach.

Life near the Beach

For many new residents, living by the beach means learning about and embracing coastal culture and all that it has to offer. Those who adopt hobbies such as surfing often discover a “love for it that transcends [other] ‘normal’ hobbies,” McCabe remarks.

For this reason, McCabe and Part-time Director Ross Byrd (a proud surfing aficionado and local surf camp owner himself) felt that an essential component of the new Virginia Beach-based program should include allowing fellows the opportunity to live at the beach. This year’s thirteen Fellows will live in adjacent houses on Virginia Beach's shoreline, pictured below.

“Our greatest hope is that each of the Virginia Beach Fellows would have a deeper sense of who they are in the Lord,” McCabe says. To that end, spiritual formation will be a central focus for Virginia Beach Fellows. Each one will have the opportunity to better engage their own story and develop spiritual practices through the program’s coursework as they grow in their faith.

What Makes Virginia Beach Fellows Unique?

Another distinct aspect of the Virginia Beach Fellows program is that fellows will be allowed to choose where they feel called to worship. “Just as people are unique, we each connect uniquely with God,” McCabe explains. Fellows will visit different churches in the area together during their first month in the program and eventually commit to attending one of these churches for the rest of the program. McCabe hopes this design will not only teach fellows about what to consider when choosing a church home, but will also model how churches can partner together to help fellows thrive.

Every Fellows program is unique in the ways it strives to serve the unique needs of their city. Fellows in Virginia Beach will be invited to serve with two local nonprofits: one which exists to combat homelessness and housing in the region called “People in Need,” and the other, “Friends for Life” which cares for individuals in the community with special needs.

Ultimately, Virginia Beach Fellows will be invited to submit all their time, gifts, energy and opportunities to the Lord as they better learn to live seamless lives of faith. It is TFI's prayer that this year’s first ever class of Virginia Beach Fellows will be able to do just that.