Alumni Mentoring

August 28, 2019
Jepson alumni share faith, mentoring relationship

The opportunity to connect with exceptional alumni mentors ranks among the superlatives of a Jepson School of Leadership Studies education, says Timothy “Tee” Feyrer, ’18.

He was feeling a call to Christian ministry, he said, when he read an old Jepson newsletter story about how Aaron Graham, ’02, founded an urban ministry in Boston. Feyrer subsequently learned that Graham is now the lead pastor of The District Church (TDC), a Washington-D.C.-based, Christ-centered, interdenominational church committed to worship, community, and justice. 

He also learned that in 2017, Washingtonian Magazine named Graham, then age 36, to its list of “40 under 40” leaders for his leadership of social ministries.

Feyrer reached out to Graham, and following his 2018 graduation, embarked on a one-year exploration of urban ministry as a discipleship fellow at TDC. Graham served as his mentor.

“The greatness of leaders is not measured by what they do, but by what the people they mentor do, as modeled by Christ and his disciples,” Graham said. “I get great joy in investing in future leaders. Tee is an example of a young leader who will have a huge impact in people’s lives.

“He is a pastoral leader who invests in people. I am a visionary leader who has a sense of where things are going in three to five years. Our leadership styles complement each other.”

Graham founded TDC with his wife, Amy, in 2010. The church grew from a congregation of 10 to a weekly attendance of 750 today. It attracts many young, international congregants inspired by Graham’s vision of a church committed to improving the welfare of the city.

“If you want to impact the spiritual and social climate of a city, plant a church and stay,” Graham said. “We are seeing hundreds of people coming back to church in a generation where the opposite is often true.”

Drawing on concepts of social justice often discussed in his leadership studies classes, Graham started two nonprofits through TDC: DC127, founded in 2013, mobilizes D.C. congregations to reverse the city’s foster care and adoption wait lists. The nonprofit has served more than 127 children. Graham and his wife are adoptive parents of two children. The second nonprofit, Just Homes, founded in 2018, facilitates churches working together to build safe, affordable housing in D.C. 

TDC’s social justice work resonates with Feyrer, who was responsible for welcoming and orienting new church members, leading classes and small groups, and developing weekly sermon-based discussion guides for other small group leaders. 

“I’ve known since high school that I wanted to serve people,” Feyrer said. “I saw leadership studies as a way to help me understand servant leadership. As a Christian, I realized I could lead other people and myself with a sense of joy.”

Feyrer spent his first two undergraduate summers interning with a Christian-based nonprofit that sends students on mission trips to contribute to sustainable community development. In summer 2017, he received a Robert L. Burrus Jr. Fellowship to support his Jepson internship as a pastoral intern at his hometown church in Garden City, New York.

“During my senior year, I had great conversations with Dr. [Jessica] Flanigan about leadership from a theological and philosophical standpoint,” Feyrer said. “Her ethics class was a platform for me to talk about a lot of things that interested me.”

Similarly, his Jepson School education prepared him for ministry, Graham said. During his sophomore year, leadership studies professors Joanne Ciulla and Elizabeth Faier invited him to address a U.S. State Department audience of several hundred, including then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, about the de-mining efforts in war zones.

“I was a very nervous 19-year-old who had to go out and buy a suit,” Graham said. “I walked away from that experience realizing I need to be open to however God wants to use me. The Jepson School gave me a humble sense of confidence in how to be a leader.”

Thankful for the opportunity to serve with Graham for a year, Feyrer will start work next month at Redeemer Anglican Church in Richmond. There, his duties will include coming to campus to minister to University of Richmond students.

“How is my relationship with God going to inform my leadership?” he mused, anticipating his new role. 

Photo: Aaron Graham, '02, right, mentored Timothy "Tee" Feyrer, '18, left, in ministry.