The genesis of the Center for Christian Study can be traced to the evangelistic work of the Rev. Daryl Richman at the University of Virginia in 1968. The fruit of Daryl's efforts was the conversion of a number of students, some of whom had little intellectual grounding in the Christian tradition. Many had not grown up in a church and therefore were freshly coming to understand their new faith. The late 1960s was a period of enormous intellectual fervor. These new believers at the University of Virginia wanted to know how their beliefs related to the challenges of a secular world. As they grew in their faith, some visited Francis Schaeffer's L'Abri in Switzerland, and others attended graduate school at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. Returning to Charlottesville they began discussing the possibility of creating something similar to what they had experienced outside the States. Faculty and townspeople helped shape Daryl's vision and the search for a place to house the work began.
The newly formed group rented a house on Elliewood Avenue (just across from the central grounds of the University) and began having lectures, fellowship meetings, and other events. In 1976 the organization formally incorporated under the name University Christian Ministries, Inc. (UCM) and bought a house on nearby Chancellor Street. Initially UCM oversaw both the Center for Christian Study and Action Ministries (the evangelistic outreach which Daryl Richman started). In the late 1970s national para-church ministries such as Campus Crusade for Christ, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Intervarsity Christian Fellowship prospered at the University. With the departure of Daryl Richman in 1980, Action Ministries disbanded, leaving the main undergraduate outreach group (Fraternity/ Sorority Christian Fellowship) as well as several fellowships for graduate students.
During the 1980s the ministry of the Center for Christian Study continued to go forward under the leadership of Director David Turner who developed both summer and year long programs for educating laypeople to think theologically. In 1987 one of the early leaders with Action Ministries, Drew Trotter, returned as Executive Director. Under Drew's guidance the staff and ministry have grown substantially. One element of this growth has been a substantial addition to the facilities of the Center. In 1996 and 1997 a 5,000 square foot addition to the facility was added. In 1998 the original building was renovated. These physical changes have enabled the Center for Christian Study to be more effective in its work by offering meeting rooms, a library, and additional offices.
In the first decade of the 2000's the Center's programs and staff continued to develop and grow. Undergraduate ministry moved away from its own weekly fellowship group (Frat/Sor) to what has become the Elizinga Residential Scholars Program, first for the male residents downstairs and then for a women's program in a house next door to the Center. The hospitality ministry of the Center expanded with the addition of the Move-In Day Lunch, Rush hospitality, exam snacks, and other events. The Center continued to sponsor the three graduate fellowship groups (The Law, Darden, and Graduate Christian Fellowships) and to host educational programs comprising a wide range of small groups, lectures, and courses. In addition, the Center library has just undergone a major renewal, including the addition of many books and creating an online catalog.
As the staff and Board look toward the future they remain focused upon the essentials that brought about the Center's founding: historic, biblical Christianity; a concern for understanding the juncture of culture and faith; and the desire to spread the Gospel through "wise discussion of the Truth."