The 2019 Utrecht Lectures: Sacramental Participation

Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Utrecht is supporting the hosting of a biannual seminar bringing in lecturers from around the world to enliven and deepen our theological discussion. This September we will host the second of these seminars. 

This year New Testament Scholar Dr Hans Boersma will be visiting the Netherlands in September and will offer a 2-day seminar on ‘Sacramental Participation’, Friday 20 September 10am-5:30pm and Saturday 21 September 10am-4:30pm, both at Holy Trinity Church in Utrecht. This year’s Utrecht Lectures ask what it means to acknowledge the real presence of God in earthly realities. Or, to put it differently, we will look at the world and our place within it through the lens of sacramental participation. The first two lectures set the stage: we will discuss the concept of ‘participation’ and ask both why this notion matters for the Christian life and how modernity makes it difficult for us to treat created reality as sacramentally participating in the life of God. The final three lectures look at three particular practices (memorizing, spiritual reading of the Bible, and Eucharistic celebration) that help us recover sacramentality in today’s world. Our talks will be surrounded by opportunities for fellowship, prayer and worship.

The space is limited to 25 participants. Snacks, coffee / tea and lunch are included, as well as all study handouts. All-in €100 per person for both days together. If the cost is discouraging you from attending, there are bursaries available for all or part of the cost (please contact the Chaplain, David Phillips, at

To sign up please, contact David Vollmer at and for more information please contact David Phillips (email above). 

About the Speaker: Dr Boersma serves in the Saint Benedict Servants of Christ Chair in Ascetical Theology at Nasthotah House in Wisconsin—a community of formation marked by the fullness of Anglican faith and practice, Benedictine spirituality, and classical Christian thought and teaching.  Before coming to Nashotah House in 2019, he taught for fourteen years at Regent College in Vancouver, BC and for six years at Trinity Western University in Langley, BC.  He also served several years as a pastor in a Reformed church.  He grew up in the Netherlands and has been in Canada since 1983.  His interests range across a variety of areas: patristic theology, twentieth-century Catholic thought, and spiritual interpretation of Scripture.

For more information please visit his website:

Schedule of Seminar

Most of the seminar will happen in the Parsonage Hall, which is right next door to the church.  Elements of the Seminar in the church are indicated below.  Lunch will be provided for participants (a caterer will deliver).

Friday 20 September:

10:00am   Morning Prayer (in the church)
10:30am   Coffee break
11:00am   Session 1 – Intro, Participation & Teleology
12:30pm   Lunch (provided)
13:45pm   Session 2 –  Participation & Modernity
15:00pm   Coffee break
15:30pm   Session 3 –  Participation & Memory
16:45pm   Break
17:00pm   Evening Prayer (in the church)
17:30pm   Concluded

Saturday 21 September:

10:00am   Morning Prayer (in the church)
10:30am   Coffee break
11:00am   Session 4 – Participation & Scripture (in the church)
12:30pm   Lunch (provided)
13:45pm   Session 5 – Participation & Eucharist
15:00pm   Coffee break
15:30pm   Holy Communion (in the church – Hans Boersma preaching)
16:30pm   Concluded

Here are the abstracts of the 5 talks: 

Participation and Teleology 

What is the purpose (telos) of life? Christians have traditionally answered: to see God face to face in all eternity—the beatific vision. This lecture series takes this answer to be the right one. God made us so that we might forever see him face to face in Jesus Christ. This first talk discusses the importance of having a telos—especially against the backdrop of the modern rejection of this heavenly participation. We will discuss how the eleventh-century Archbishop of Canterbury, Saint Anselm, talked and prayed about the possibility of sharing today in the future vision of God.

Participation and Modernity 

Modernity initiates us into a way of life that is at odds with basic Christian convictions. In particular, modernity’s ‘nominalist’ turn has separated earthly from heavenly realities. This talk proposes an understanding of reality that is sacramental in character. In particular, we will discuss the difference between what C. S. Lewis termed ‘symbolism’ and ‘sacramentalism,’ in the hope of recasting a sacramental vision that recognizes that created realities always already participate in the reality of the truth, goodness, and beauty of God— as we know them in Christ.

Participation and Memory 

Throughout history people have recognized that memory is indispensable to the development of human identity. The content of our memory says a great deal about who we are as individuals and as communities. This talk draws especially on the medieval theologian Hugh of St. Victor, who reflected deeply on memory, linking it to meditation and character formation. We will look at the forgotten art of memorization, explaining various classical and medieval approaches. Hugh’s insights teach us that it is only through devoted attention to imagination and memory that we can properly aim for the telos or purpose for which we have been made.

Participation and Scripture 

This talk makes a case for the reappropriation of a sacramental reading of Scripture. A sacramental reading is grounded in the belief that Christ is really present in the Scriptures of the Old Testament. This talk will draw particularly on the third-century theologian Origen, who grounded his reading of the Song of Songs in his sacramental approach to interpretation. We will also look at how some of the church fathers approached the Sermon on the Mount—as an escape from the temporal misery of the Platonic cave and as an ascent onto the mountain of the divine presence.

Participation and Eucharist 

When the second-century Bishop Polycarp got ready to offer himself up in martyrdom, he prepared himself in the Upper Room. Patterning his own death on that of Christ, he participated in the sufferings of his Saviour. In the Eucharist, we join Polycarp by entering into the sufferings of Christ. This talk explains why it is that Holy Communion is sacrificial in character. The reason is this: in the celebration of the Eucharist heaven opens up so that time participates in eternity. The once-for-all sacrifice of Christ is made present when in worship we offer ourselves up to God in Christ and through the Spirit.