Scroll down to see recent messages, talks, sermons, and more from Dean Powery.
His teaching and research interests are at the intersection of preaching, pneumatology, music, and culture, particularly expressions of the African diaspora. His book, Becoming Human: The Holy Spirit and the Rhetoric of Race, received the 2023 Book of the Year from the Academy of Parish Clergy. He is also the author of Spirit Speech: Lament and Celebration in Preaching; Dem Dry Bones: Preaching, Death, and Hope; Ways of the Word: Learning to Preach for Your Time and Place (with Sally Brown); Rise Up, Shepherd! Advent Reflections on the Spirituals; Were You There? Lenten Reflections on the Spirituals; Getting to God: Preaching Good News in a Troubled World (with John Rottman and Joni Sancken); and most recently, Living the Questions of the Bible. He is a general editor of the nine-volume lectionary commentary series for preaching and worship Connections: A Lectionary Commentary for Preaching and Worship.
Dean Powery was ordained by the Progressive National Baptist Convention and has served in an ecumenical capacity in churches throughout Switzerland, Canada, and the United States. He is a member of the Academy of Homiletics, for which he has served as Secretary; the American Academy of Religion; the Society for the Study of Black Religion; the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality; and the Association for Chaplaincy and Spiritual Life in Higher Education. He served as a member of the executive lectionary team for The African-American Lectionary and is the recipient of numerous scholastic fellowships and awards. In 2008, the African-American Pulpit named him one of twenty outstanding black ministers under the age of forty who are helping shape the future direction of the church. In 2014, he was inducted into the Martin Luther King Jr. Collegium of Scholars at Morehouse College for his ethical and spiritual leadership in the academy, church, and broader society. In 2017, he was given the Speakman Chair of Preaching Award at the Massanetta Springs Camp and Conference Center.
Prior to his appointment at Duke, he served as the Perry and Georgia Engle Assistant Professor of Homiletics at Princeton Theological Seminary. He received his Bachelor of Arts in music with a concentration in vocal performance from Stanford University, his Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, and his Doctor of Theology from Emmanuel College at the University of Toronto.
He is married to Gail Powery, and the couple has two children.
More information on education and work history can be found in Dean Powery's CV.
Don't Just Make a Living, Make a Life
In his first column of the Fall 2023 semester for the (Duke) Chronicle, Chapel Dean Luke Powery tells students that even more important than making a living is to make a life in all its fullness. Citing this year’s Common Experience book The Measure—and its plot in which the characters learn how long they will live—Dean Powery says, “Even if we end up living a long time, our lives are still short in the scheme of things — and often shorter than we think.”
A Prayer for New Students
In his prayer at the 2023 Opening Convocation, Chapel Dean Luke Powery closed with these words: "Draw us together as people full of compassion, justice, and hope, where we not only celebrate the wonders of science and technology by going to space but embrace our common humanity by making space for another. Let it be so for every Blue Devil here. Amen." Watch the full invocation prayer:
Bishop Willimon on the 'Charismatic Determination' of Dean Powery's Recent Book
New Book by Dean Powery Deepens Faith Through Questions
Living the Questions of the Bible, Duke Chapel Dean Luke A. Powery invites the reader to focus on questions drawn verbatim from the Bible—questions such as “What shall I cry?”, “Why are you afraid?”, and "Who will separate us from the love of Christ?”
The Chronicle Student Newspaper Says Dean Powery 'Embodies What It Means to Be a Leader at Duke'
The (Duke) Chronicle is recognizing Chapel Dean Luke Powery as one of its "Chron15: Leaders," saying: "For his guidance on matters of race and ethics and his constant spiritual support for the entire University, Powery embodies what it means to be a leader at Duke."
Dean Powery's Messages to the Class of 2023
In closing his invocation at this year's commencement ceremony, Chapel Dean Luke Powery said: “As a new day dawns in the morning light, let our little light shine and reflect a future that is truth-telling, justice-seeking, peace-making, love-breathing, grace-giving, joy-instigating, and hope-stirring. Let the awe of today be a foretaste of awesome tomorrows—with gratitude for the gift of this new day and the Class of 2023. Amen.”
Dean Powery's Final Column This Semester: 'Joy on the Journey'
In his final column of the semester for the (Duke) Chronicle, Chapel Dean Luke A. Powery looks ahead to graduation and back to the recent Easter Day celebrations and finds a theme—the mixture of joy and fear.
Dean Powery on the Redemptive Power of Tears
In a column for the (Duke) Chronicle, Chapel Dean Luke A. Powery reflects on the tears being shed for the people killed in the recent mass shooting in Nashville, Tennessee.
Dean Powery on the Holy Paradox of Being Blessed
Citing the preponderance of flashy photos on social media with the hashtag #blessed, Chapel Dean Luke A. Powery writes in his (Duke) Chronicle column, "I am glad people want to be blessed, but there is a paradox about who is truly blessed." Despite these images of sunny locations, fancy clothes, and inspirational quotes, Dean Powery says, "It is precisely those who suffer, who persevere against injustice, who lack riches—they are somehow closest to God’s blessing."
Dean Powery on the 'Dash' of Life between Birth and Death
We are accustomed to seeing historical figures catalogued with their birth year and year of death—and a dash separating the two numbers. In his (Duke) Chronicle column "What are you doing with your dash?", Chapel Dean Luke A. Powery focuses on that dash.
Dean Powery's 'Becoming Human' Wins 'Book of the Year' Award
The Academy of Parish Clergy (APC) has selected Becoming Human: The Holy Spirit and the Rhetoric of Race by Duke Chapel Dean Luke A. Powery as its 2023 Book of the Year.
The Case for the Good of Religion in the Face Violence, Division
In the wake of a mass shooting at Michigan State University, and other acts of violence, Chapel Dean Luke A. Powery makes the case for reclaiming the healing power of religion.
Scholars to Discuss Chapel Dean Luke Powery’s New Book ‘Becoming Human’
In an online conversation Tuesday, March 7, at 7:30 p.m., Duke Chapel Dean Luke A. Powery will discuss his latest book, Becoming Human: The Holy Spirit and the Rhetoric of Race, with two leading scholars in fields that are important to the book.
Dean Powery on Looking Out for 'Sacred Surprises'
In the column "Sacred surprises," Dean Powery looks back at the biblical example of John the Baptist as an unlikely prophet and then offers two examples from his own life of people who have surprised him with prophetic utterances.
Dean Powery on the Challenge to 'Belong but Not Divide'
Writing in his biweekly column for the campus newspaper The Chronicle, Chapel Dean Luke Powery says, at the start of the semester when students are joining classes, clubs, teams, and other groups, they face a challenge that is both ancient and modern: "how to belong but not divide."
Dean Powery Discusses His Book 'Becoming Human'
In an interview with Duke Professor Mark Anthony Neal on the Left of Black show, Chapel Dean Luke Powery discusses his new book Becoming Human: The Holy Spirit and the Rhetoric of Race in a wide-ranging conversation about the Holy Spirit, what it means to be human, and the difference between race and racialization.
Christmas Wisdom from the Peanuts: Do Not Be Afraid!
In reflecting on the meaning of Christmas, Chapel Dean Luke Powery follows the plot of the 1965 animated Peanuts special A Charlie Brown Christmas. Charlie Brown asks, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Lucy leads the charge in producing a Christmas pageant, but it is the thumb-sucking Linus who steps forward to tell the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke.
Dean Powery Reflects on What Animals Can Teach Us
With Thanksgiving approaching, Chapel Dean Luke Powery writes in the (Duke) Chronicle about how he is thankful for the ways his dog Niko reminds him of what's important in life.
When cleaning up after Niko during morning walks, he writes how he is "reminded—as I bend down as the 'clean-up crew' and touch the ground—that I’m from the ground, the earth, as a human being. It reminds me to stay humble and not celebrate hubris."
Duke Chapel Reads to Discuss Race, Humanity, and the Holy Spirit in Dean Powery’s New Book
This year, the Duke Chapel Reads series will promote conversations about race, shared humanity, and God’s gift of diversity by organizing reading groups for the book Becoming Human: The Holy Spirit and the Rhetoric of Race by Chapel Dean Luke A. Powery.
Dean Powery Offers Three Life Lessons Drawn from the Spirituals
In his latest Chronicle column, Chapel Dean Luke Powery writes about "the unknown black bards" who sang and passed on the spirituals.
"They are sages of the Spirit," Dean Powery writes. "Their songs, the Spirituals, are musical memorabilia created on the anvil of misery in the crucible of inhumane slavery."
In reflecting on the Spirituals, he finds three broad lessons for life today: the inevitability of human suffering, the necessity of community, and the possibility of hope.
Dean Powery on How 'Passing On' Connects Life, Death, and Legacy
Citing the biblical example of how the disciple Timothy received the faith of his mother and grandmother, Chapel Dean Luke Powery reflects on the multiple meanings of the phrase "passing on" in his latest Chronicle column.
Dean Powery on Remembering that 'People Are Not Crimes'
Following a public conversation with the lawyer and author Bryan Stevenson, Chapel Dean Luke Powery reflects on Stevenson's statement that "people are not crimes" in an essay in the (Duke) Chronicle.
"People are not crimes because that is not who we are at our core," Dean Powery writes. "We are human and as such, we have dignity and worth, regardless of what the prison industrial complex might proclaim."
Bryan Stevenson Discusses Faith, Justice, and Shared Humanity at Duke Chapel
In a public conversation with Duke University Chapel Dean Luke A. Powery on Wednesday, September 21, the human rights lawyer and best-selling author Bryan Stevenson reflected on how faith and a sense of shared humanity have provided insights and motivation for his work in criminal justice reform.
Dean Powery on How Changing Your Mind is Part of Education
“As students and educators, recognize that learning is about changing your mind,” Chapel Dean Luke Powery writes in his latest (Duke) Chronicle article on “Changing your mind.” “Learning can be an expansion or deconstruction or construction or a deepening or an enlightening—and all of this is change.”
In the essay, Dean Powery draws on a poetic image from the Book of Jeremiah of God as a potter shaping and then reshaping a clay vessel.
Dean Powery on How Humility Leads to Learning
Writing in the (Duke) Chronicle, Chapel Dean Luke A. Powery argues for the importance of humility in education in his essay "Learning humbly."
In it, he cites a parable in the Gospel of Luke in which Jesus says the guests at a banquet should take the lower-ranking seats and the host of the banquet should invite outcasts and others without power.
In Wake of School Shooting, Dean Powery Points to Jesus's Embrace of Children
Writing with other church leaders in the Church Anew blog about the Uvalde, Texas, school massacre, Chapel Dean Luke Powery points to how Jesus welcomed children:
"In contrast to the mores of his day and also the impulses of his own disciples, Jesus says, 'Let the children come' (Mark 10:14). Jesus is a child advocate extraordinaire. He responds to his followers and doesn’t want the children to stop coming to him. He welcomes them and holds them up as models for the kingdom."
Words from Dean Powery for Duke Graduates
On Sunday, Chapel Dean Luke Powery delivered the invocation for the commencement ceremony at Wallace Wade Stadium. He prayed: “As a new day dawns, show us how to not only make a living but a life—a life that is truth-telling, justice- seeking, peacemaking, love-breathing, grace-giving, joy-instigating, and hope-stirring.”
Dean Powery on the Connection Between Preaching and the Spirituals
Dean Powery gave an address Friday, April 22, 2022, at the Symposium on Music and the Black Church at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. He discussed the connections between preaching and singing the spirituals. “There’s always been this rich interplay of sung speech and spoken word that continues today in many Black preaching traditions,” he said. Watch his lecture:
On Dr. King's Vision for a 'World House'
"Key for King was the recognition that all people are created in the image of God and are interdependent," he says. "As he put it in his final chapter [of Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community?] on the world house, 'We are inevitably our brother’s keeper because we are our brother’s brother. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.'”
"The purpose of King’s life--his 'why' for living--was to call for an ecumenical worldwide fellowship of love," he writes. "King was willing to die for his 'why.' What is your 'why'? What is your purpose?"
On Living with 'Integrity of Heart'
"In contrast to this lack of coherence among all the aspects of our lives is what an ancient psalm text calls 'integrity of heart,'” he writes. "It means one lives a consistent, coherent, whole life as one person, the same person, wherever we are—in the board room, the court room, the locker room, the living room, even at Rooms To Go."
"So, as we approach the end of another calendar year and look toward a new year, I invite you to join in this whole-person pursuit of a coherent life," he says. "For me, I have been challenged in this direction by a quote looping in the playlist of my mind from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: 'It is possible to affirm the existence of God with your lips and deny his existence with your life.'”
On the Necessity of Joy
"The joy, of which I write, doesn’t deny sorrow, failure or doubt," he explains. "Light can rise out of darkness. Joy can occur amid sorrow."
He challenges his readers at the end of the essay: "Do you have any joy in you now? If not, why not?"
"The answer does not have to depend on vanquishing grief and sadness," he writes. "Joy is not even necessarily something we have to earn, but it is key to our flourishing."
Dean Powery: In the Face of Loss, We Have a Calling to Create
In his November 1 column in the Chronicle, Chapel Dean Luke Powery says that loss can bring about uncertainty and emptiness but all humans can respond with their power to create.
"As creatures of [the] Creator God, we are meant to embrace a creation vocation, that is, to create art and beauty in the face of formless voids, even pandemics," he writes. "It’s as if the void is calling us to create and make meaning out of the chaos."
On Hearing Hope in a Harmonica
Chapel Dean Luke Powery explains in the (Duke) Chronicle how he found hope through a harmonica his mother gave him. The instrument represents both connections to family elders and the power of music-making in the face of adversity.
"That harmonica and I are almost the same age and when I hold it, I’m holding more than just a musical instrument," Dean Powery says, "I’m holding family history, cultural ties, ancestral wisdom, musical traditions, and a deep sense of the importance of music in the face of death and dying and other dire situations."
On How Our Lives Can Be Poetic
In his October 4 Chronicle column, Chapel Dean Luke Powery muses on how people's lives can be a kind of poem.
"We can be poetic and not use words, if what we take in, we live out; if what we believe, we embody; and, if what we digest, we serve," he writes. "If our thinking and acting are integrated, then this is the poetry of integrity. This is the integrative life, a state of being whole and undivided as a person when our creeds match our deeds."
"Poets make meaning with their lives, not just lines. Poets are doers...," he says. "This poetry in motion can be beautiful when we care for orphans, widows, refugees and those who are most vulnerable among us."
On How Remembering Death Helps Our Living
"It calls us to remember that we are mortal human beings," he writes. "The word 'human' comes from 'humus' which means 'from the earth' or 'from the ground.' Our common ground as human beings is that we are all 'from the ground.'”
"Humans are dust, holy dust of God, and to dust we will one day return," he says. "Embracing our dustiness, our mortality, our dying, is an important part of the spiritual life."
Dean Powery, Kate Bowler on 'No Cure for Being Human'
Chapel Marks 9/11 with Music, Prayers, ArtRead more in the Duke Chronicle.
In the morning the Chapel bells tolled at 8:46 a.m., 9:03 a.m., 9:37 a.m., and 10:03 a.m. to mark the times each of the hijacked planes crashed into buildings or the ground. That was followed by an interfaith vigil on the Chapel steps with campus faith leaders joining President Vincent Price and Chapel Dean Luke Powery in commemorating the 9/11 anniversary with prayers, songs, sacred scripture readings, and reflections.
"When we remember the dead, we remember the grief and the loss, but we also remember what is yet to be, we remember our future and try to put our lives back together again. Memory can be difficult and painful, but it is also the space out of which hope rises," Dean Powery said at the vigil.
On Hope Coming Out of Hard Times
In his column this week in the Duke Chronicle, Chapel Dean Luke Powery uses the example of an oyster creating a pearl in explaining how "hope comes out of hard times, not despite them."
"Let’s be careful this year not to center all of our attention on what hurts, the friction or on what stings," he writes. "Don’t forget to look for pearls. They’re being birthed all around us through oysters and other people."
Dean Powery Reappointed to Third Term
The Rev. Dr. Luke Powery, who has served since 2012 as dean of Duke Chapel, has been reappointed to a third five-year term following the completion of a university review, President Vincent E. Price said on Monday, August 30.
“I am delighted to announce Luke Powery’s reappointment as Dean of the Chapel,” Price said. “Reverend Powery’s steadfast leadership has fostered an inclusive faith community on our campus, one that enables students, faculty, staff, and visitors to explore a wide diversity of spiritual practice. I am grateful for his continued service to Duke.”
As dean of Duke Chapel, Powery oversees the staff of Duke Chapel and Religious Life at Duke, offers liturgical leadership at significant university events and at Sunday morning worship, and speaks widely to national and international audiences as a preacher and a scholar. He is also an associate professor of homiletics at Duke Divinity School, teaching courses at the school and publishing on the craft and theology of preaching.
In the five years since his last reappointment, Powery has led the Chapel in serving Duke and the wider community in the four areas of the Chapel’s strategic plan—student engagement, Christian worship, sacred music and the arts, and community engagement. Some highlights include: the creation of the undergraduate Eruditio et Religio interfaith living-learning community, a new student fellowship in theology and the arts, the launch of the Living Tradition online preaching resource, a national broadcast of a special Christmas Eve service, and a deepened relationship with the Royal School of Church Music in America.
Highlighting the Importance of the Spirituals on Juneteenth
"In many ways, as Dubois and others say, music is the soul of Black folks," Dean Powery says in the interview.
"It's amazing to me that we have so many of these songs that we can turn to," he says. "The enslaved offer a gift to the world!"
A new book titled What’s Right with Preaching Today? honors the late, great teacher of preaching Fred B. Craddock with a collection of essays on the craft of preaching and how Craddock shaped the authors' lives and ministries. Chapel Dean Luke A. Powery is among the "ten leading voices in homiletics" who contributed to the book.
The book is described this way: "If you appreciate effective and engaging preaching—as either a preacher or listener—the essays and remembrances here will speak to you and provide encouragement about preaching's present and future."
Sermon for Divinity School Closing Convocation
Dean Powery was the preacher for Duke Divinity School's online Closing Conovcation on April 24, 2021. Watch his sermon here:
Planning for In-Person Chapel Services, Ceremonies in Late May
During the Chapel's online worship service on April 18, 2021, Dean Powery announced that the university’s leadership has approved the Chapel holding in-person worship services, memorials, and weddings as early as the second half of May.
The services and ceremonies in the Chapel will adhere to public health safety protocols, including limits on the number of people attending, preregistration, masking, handwashing, social distancing, and no congregational singing.
In making the announcement, Dean Powery said, “In a season of challenge, it is such good news to know that we will once again begin to gather as a faith community.”
A Message for the End of the Semester: Bury Fear
In his final column of the semester for the Chronicle, Dean Powery draws a lesson from the poet Emily Dickinson and the biblical Parable of the Talents: "As we approach the end of this academic year, I encourage you to face your fear and bury it."
Duke Chapel Reads Conversation on 'Jesus and the Disinherited'
In a wide-ranging online conversation on April 6, 2021, Chapel Dean Luke Powery and Professor Walter Fluker from Candler School of Theology discussed suffering, faith, the love ethic of Jesus, the legacy of theologian Howard Thurman, and more. Watch the recording of this Duke Chapel Reads discussion of the book Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman:
'Women Who Have Made an Imprint on Our Lives'
He laments the loss of the six women of Asian decent who were murdered in the Atlanta area early this month. "Imagine the gaping voids they leave behind in the lives of so many people—their children, their spouses, their friends, their colleagues," he says.
Dean Powery also celebrates the women of the Bible who play key roles in the events of Holy Week.
"I remember it was the women who first proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus," he says. "They went to tell others. They preached, and without them, we wouldn’t have heard this message of good news in order to proclaim it today."
Even Healing Comes with Costs
Dean Powery March 15, 2021, Chronicle column says that as the nation sees positive developments in decreasing coronavirus cases and increasing vaccinations, we should remember that, "even as we seek healing in our lives or for our countries, just know that this means change—things will not be the same for anyone, individuals or communities."
He uses an example from the Gospel of Mark in which Jesus heals a man with an "an unclean spirit" who had been howling among the tombs. After the man is healed, the people around him are afraid of him and want Jesus to leave the town—and the man himself is sent on a new mission of preaching.
"On the other side of healing, it can be scary because it means a different way of life, a new order, a new reality, a new creation has arrived," Dean Powery writes. "There is no 'return to normal.'”
"We are, of course, right to hope and pray and work for healing because there will be blessings," he says. "But remember that even with healing there will be unforeseen and surprising costs that come with transformation and new beginnings."
Contributing to 'What’s Right with Preaching Today?'
The book is described this way: "If you appreciate effective and engaging preaching--as either a preacher or listener--the essays and remembrances here will speak to you and provide encouragement about preaching's present and future."
Howard Thurman's Example of Revering Othersthe Duke Chapel Reads program this semester on Thurman's book Jesus and the Disinherited, and the sermons Thurman preached at Duke Chapel in 1979.
Honoring University Carillonneur Emeritus Sam Hammond
J. Samuel Hammond, who for more than five decades ended the academic day filling West Campus with music from the Duke Chapel carillon, died on February 25. In honoring Hammond, Dean Powery said: "It is fitting that Sam made music in the tower because he was a towering human being, full of grace, charm, humility, dignity, wisdom, and faith. When he retired, the Board of Trustees dedicated the 50-bell carillon in honor of Sam. This means that every tone and note that rings out from the carillon in the future is a part of the melody of his incredible legacy at Duke. Sam will be missed but his musical resonant life will reverberate in our hearts and lives for many years to come."
A Conversation About the Black Church
Dean Powery was a panelist in an online event on February 11, 2021, about "The Black Church: A Conversation With Local Pastors." Hosted by WNCU Radio, the discussion was prompted by the forthcoming PBS documentary "The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song." Watch the conversation on the WNCU Facebook page.
A Biblical Question with Present-Day Implications
"Yes! There are good gifts and even God in Nazareth," Dean Powery writes. "He learns the Nazareth principle: Those whom you despise and disregard at first may turn out to be the source of your salvation."
The Role of Grace in Addressing Racism
In a Duke Magazine online conversation about issues of systemic racism, Dean Powery speaks to the role of grace. "One needs grace to even recognize the need for truth, the need for justice," he says. "Grace is the power that allows us to move in the direction of racial healing—really, of human healing."
"The same grace that’s been extended to us at various points in our human journey we need to extend to one another," he says. "Grace allows us to hope, to hope for the healing, to hope for something better, even in the midst of despair and tragedy.”
Chapel Carillon Rings as Part of National Memorial for People Who Have Died of COVID-19
The bells of the Chapel carillon rang on Tuesday, January 19, 2021, as part of a nationwide tribute to remember and honor people who have died of COVID-19. The musical memorial comprised beloved songs, including “Amazing Grace” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” as well as a bell tolling forty times to represent the approximately 400,000 Americans who have died during the pandemic.
“It calls us to remember our own mortality,” Dean Powery said about the remembrance. “This is a time for introspection and to consider who is important in our lives and what is important in our lives.”
Watch a video about the memorial:
Invocation for Martin Luther King, Jr. Ceremony
Dean Powery gave the welcome and invocation for the university's 2021 Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration Ceremony. This year's ceremony was presented online. "We still cry out in hope, 'Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand' because we still believe in your dream for the world embodied through Dr. King," he said. Watch the invocation:
An Evening Prayer at the End of a Violent Day in the Nation’s Capitol
"In the uproar of this day, remind us that there is safety in you and that you are our refuge and strength, a very present help in a time of trouble. Remove fear from our hearts and fill us with faith in You."
2020 Howard Thurman Lecture at Candler School
Dean Powery presented the annual Howard Thurman Lecture for Candler School of Theology on November 12, 2020. The lecture, “A Homiletical Sankofa: The Spirituals and the Future of Ministry,” focused on the Black church’s vital practices of music and preaching, exploring spirituals as musical sermons in the Spirit that can serve as a critical resource for reflecting on and moving forward into the future of ministry. Watch the recording:
National Partnership to Strengthen Church Music Education at Duke and Beyond
“The music of the church shapes our imaginations about who God is and who God calls us to be,” Dean Powery said in announcing the new agreement. “This partnership with RSCM America moves the chapel forward in learning from, and contributing to, a global canon of sacred music.”
A Conversation on Faith, Hope, and Being at the Crossroads
In a wide-ranging discussion on the Our Voices Matter Podcast, Dean Powery talks about bridging faith and learning, finding hope amid pain, and the Chapel's location at a crossroads.
New Online Resource Presents 'A Chorus of Preaching Voices'Living Tradition online resource presents insights into the rich and deep tradition of preaching at the Chapel through the expertise of Duke Divinity School faculty, research by Duke students, and the reflections of renowned preachers. In the announcement about Living Tradition, Dean Powery said:
“Drawing on a chorus of preaching voices over the decades at Duke Chapel, Living Tradition is a dynamic teaching, learning, and research resource for ministers, seminarians, lay people, and scholars of many disciplines. In addition to serving the academy and church broadly, this project also speaks to the historic and ongoing intersection of faith and learning here at Duke.”
Casting 'A Vote for Love'
Writing in the (Duke) Chronicle in the wake of the presidential election, Dean Powery says now is the time to recognize that what we owe each other is love. "We’ve cast our votes already for a presidential candidate but I hope post-election, you will still cast your vote for and charge your life with love," he wrote.
In articulating the difficult call to love others, including enemies, he cites ancient and contemporary voices, including Jesus, the Apostle Paul, theologian Howard Thurman, philosopher Cornel West, and Gospel artist Kirk Franklin. Love "is defined by what it is for and it is for you, me, all of humanity," he says. "It is the power we need in the days ahead."
The Value of Gratitude
In his most recent column in the (Duke) Chronicle, Chapel Dean Luke A. Powery draws a lesson about gratitude from the briefest prayer he remembers his father praying—"thank ya."
"Thanksgiving opens up space in our hearts toward the hearts of others, even the holy Other," he writes. "This mode of thanksgiving is not purely a one-time event spoken over a meal or one day we celebrate in November. It is a way of being in the world through all circumstances."
In addition to his father's wisdom, Dean Powery draws on insights from the Apostle Paul, the medieval mystic Meister Johann Eckhart, contemporary Christian author Lewis Smedes, and the website Gratefulness.org.
Dean Powery Contributes to New Volume on Theologian Howard Thurman
Edited by Professor Gregory C. Ellison II and published by Westminster John Knox Press, the volume includes contributions from Chapel Dean Luke A. Powery, Marian Wright Edelman, Parker Palmer, Barbara Brown Taylor, and other spiritual and civic leaders.
Dean Powery on 'Just Be'
In reflecting on his sabbatical this past spring, Chapel Dean Luke A. Powery writes in his latest (Duke) Chronicle column "Just be" about the importance of taking a sabbath (however brief) from doing and achieving to rest and to be.
"One key idea about the nature of sabbath itself became highlighted [during his sabbatical], that is, that the worth of my life and the worth of your life are not rooted in work or production," he writes.
'Called to Hope' with Dean Powery
In an online conversation on October 8, 2020, Chapel Dean Luke A. Powery addressed connections among lament, justice, and hope. The discussion was moderated by the Rev. Bruce Puckett, assistant dean at the Chapel, and included questions from viewers. Watch the recording:
Dean Powery Gives Ruben L. Speaks Lectures
Dean Powery gave the Virtual Ruben L. Speaks Endowed Memorial Lecture Series for Hood Theological Seminary on October 2 and 3, 2020. The series comprised these two online lectures (click to watch):
- I Can’t Breathe: A History of Racialized Inhumanity
- Breath on Me, Breath of God: A Pneumatology for a Humanizing Ministry
The Ruben L. Speaks Endowed Memorial Lecture Series is named in honor of the late Bishop Ruben Lee Speaks, a gifted African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church leader acknowledged on numerous occasions for his leadership and creative engagement in ministry. Speaks received the Chancellor’s Award from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Brooklyn Advisory Committee of the New York Urban League.
Tears of Hope
In his Chronicle column on September 28, 2020, Dean Powery writes that, "Tears sow the seeds of hope." Citing examples from the fourth-century theologian Augustine to the Hebrew Prophet Jeremiah to Durham's civil rights leader Pauli Murray, Dean Powery says, "I can’t help but believe as a minister that God is in our tears."
"One may shed tears because one refuses to shrink back from struggle and pain and injustice," he says. "Joy may be gone but hope is not."
The Prophetic Role of Tears
In sermon during a Duke Divinity School worship service on September 24, 2020, Dean Powery preached on the Prophet Jeremiah and how can tears play a role in prophetic proclamation. “Prophetic grief is a form of lament that boldly proclaims that life is not right; prophetic grief tells it like it is,” he said in the sermon. “One may shed tears because one refuses to shrink back from struggle and pain and injustice. Joy might be gone, but hope is not.”
“Every tear drop is a prophetic act of resistance against the way life is—and a prayer for something better,” he said.
Watch the sermon:
Loving Your Body
In his latest Chronicle column titled “Loving your body,” Chapel Dean Luke Powery writes about the importance of caring for our physical bodies.
“Your life is sacred, including your body, and you are a cathedral of clay,” he says. “We sometimes overlook this even at our universities when we think education is only about our neck up when it is really about our whole selves, including the bodies we don’t always love.”
A Conversation on Faith and Learning
In a wide-ranging interview with Dean Brian Konkol of Hendricks Chapel at Syracuse University, Dean Powery talks about his own journey in faith and learning, the power of spirituals, his approach to preaching, and how he encourages students to seek an integrated education.
"How are you remembering your humanity?" he asks students. "You are more than a head on a stack of books."
Watch the discussion from September 9, 2020:
Brutalizing Black Bodies Is an Assault Against God
The police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and other recent acts of violence against Black Americans is "part of a long, long line of real-life stories revealing anti-Blackness, in our country and in American Christianity," he writes.
"As a Christian minister, I must name this truth," he says. "I must also name another truth of the gospel: The incarnation of Jesus shows us a different vision for human life, in which God embraces Black bodies, all bodies, all flesh, so that being for God means being against anti-Black violence."
The Gift of Laughter
"Laughter breaks the chains that want to enslave our hearts," he writes. "Laughter helps us win from within. It is embodied joy as it cannot be done without the inclusion of our bodies, even bodies that have been beaten and broken; it is a whole reclamation of ourselves as humans and a holy joy amid sorrowful situations."
Prayers for the Class of 2024
As part of the online New Student Convocation on August 13, 2020, Dean Powery offered an invocation along with Rabbi Elana Friedman and Muslim Chaplain Joshua Salaam. Dean Powery prayed: “O God: Keep us safe, healthy, and strong. Let our material masks unmask the truth of who we are, that together we may discover our common humanity, and by doing so, truly embody the institutional value of excellence. That is, the most excellent way of love, justice, and peace.” Watch the invocation:
Dean Powery Returns from Sabbatical
Dean Powery has returned from his sabbatical and will preach during the worship service on Sunday, July 12. While on sabbatical he was a visiting associate professor in the Department of African, African American, and Diaspora Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill. He did research on issues of the Spirit, race, and the church.
Racism, Justice, and Becoming a Beloved Community
In an extended interview with the Working@Duke news site, Chapel Dean Luke A. Powery and Kimberly Hewitt, Duke’s vice president for the Office for Institutional Equity, discuss the ongoing history of structural and sustained racism and the implications for Duke. Watch the conversation:
Life on the Other Side of Easter in 2020
"Just be human, a beloved child of God," he says.
The End of Lent: A Message of Hope
In an open letter on March 27, 2020, Dean Powery offers a message of hope during the coronavirus outbreak.
"I want to encourage you to use this time to seek and find our Lord," he writes. "The call for social distancing is an opportunity for spiritual closeness."
A Message of Gratitude and Hope from Dean Powery
In the video message below, Chapel Dean Luke A. Powery gives thanks for the many people caring for students, the campus community, and others. He says that the practice of social distancing can be connected to social solidarity and spiritual closeness.
The Vocation of Creationspring issue of Chapel View magazine, Dean Powery writes, "In this issue of Chapel View, you will see how the Chapel continues to embrace God’s vocation of creation through student engagement, including the interfaith work of Religious Life at Duke; Christian worship; sacred music and the arts; and community engagement.
"Creativity, for us, is not merely a value, it is a divine calling, as we strive to make beauty out of chaos as artists of hope until the day God fills all voids once and for all as our all in all (1 Cor. 15:28)."
Dean Powery presented the Currie Lectures at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary on February 3-5, 2020. The theme for the three lectures was “searching for common ground.”
Watch the lectures:
- Lecture 1: “Many Thousand Gone: A Perpetual History of Inhumanity”
- Lecture 2: “Every Time I Feel the Spirit: A Pneumatology for Particularity”
- Lecture 3: “There is a Balm: A Ministry with Humanity”
Journal Article on ‘Black Bodies and the Future of Theological Education’
Dean Powery has published an article in the January 2020 issue of the journal Theology Today. Titled “‘Do this in remembrance of me’: Black Bodies and the Future of Theological Education,” the article is based on a lecture he gave at the 2019 Princeton University conference “Legacy and Mission: Theological Education and the History of Slavery.”
The abstract for the paper begins: “Slavery was an assault on black humanity, including the black body. Theological education paired with and shaped by slavery embodied the same type of violence through its mission and curriculum, that is, the sanctified erasure of black personhood, Christianity, and scholarship.”
To access the full paper, see options from the journal.
Dean Powery's Sabbatical
Dean Powery is on sabbatical leave for this semester (Spring 2020). During his sabbatical he will be a visiting associate professor in the Department of Africa, African American, and Diaspora Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill. He will do research for a book on the Spirit, race, and the church and invites the prayers of the Chapel community for a fruitful and refreshing sabbatical. While he is on leave, the Rev. Bruce Puckett, assistant dean at the Chapel, and Amanda Hughes, the Chapel’s director of development and strategy, will assume day-to-day leadership of the Chapel.
Discussion Highlights Gun Violence Suffering, Causes, and Deterrence
Dean Powery moderated the discussion, Every Life Sacred: the Urgency to End Gun Violence, before an audience of fifty people with more than fifty people additionally watching the livestream of the event.
In introducing the event Powery said, “In relation to this topic, I stand here as a person who grew up in Miami, Florida, and have family members whose lives have been taken by gun violence, and whose lives have been threatened by gun violence.
“In many ways this conversation tonight is not just a theological one or a sociological one but it is personal for many of us,” he said.
Read more or watch the recording:
Founders' Sunday Sermon
In his sermon Achieving Nothing on Founders' Sunday 2019, Dean Powery reflected on the founding of Duke University, the generosity of benefactors, and St. Paul's injunction that "we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it." Watch the sermon:
The Urgency to End Gun Violence
Dean Powery gives a message on the urgency to end gun violence on Thursday, September 19:
Gun violence is the denial of otherness. It objectifies, dehumanizes, and destroys other human beings. I believe we are all children of God, created from the dust of the earth. I believe that as surely as gun violence reveals a hatred of humanity, it also reveals a hatred of God. I say this out of the Christian tradition that claims God came to us as a human in the person of Jesus within a broken world, embodying divine love for all humanity. Acts of gun violence deny the all-inclusive love of God for all people. In fact, acts of gun violence are anti-human, and to be anti-human is to be anti-God.
A Prayer for the Class of 2023
An Introduction to This Year's Music Season
This year, we welcome our new Director of Chapel Music, Dr. Zebulon Highben, to lead the time-honored tradition of sacred music at Duke Chapel. His commitment to our history and to innovation, to the old masterworks and to new compositions, is rooted in his passionate engagement with what music can do with us and for us. He knows that sacred music offers each of us the chance to participate more fully in the beauty of life as human beings, regardless of our individual beliefs. When we gather together to listen, setting down our cellular devices, our to-do lists, and the demands of the day, we glimpse the sacred nature of song and sound. Be it Bach, Beethoven, or the anonymous composer of an American Spiritual, sacred music reminds us that we begin and end in the mystery of love and we celebrate the creativity of all of God’s creation. Sacred music reminds us that we are made in the image of a beautiful, creative God, a God who breathes and moves through the staccato and the legato, the sorrow and the joys of our lives.
I commend the entire season to you, your family, and your friends. In every way imaginable, the Chapel is making a joyful noise—breaking forth into joyous song. I hope that you will make Duke Chapel a destination for concerts and worship services throughout the year. But most of all, I encourage you to raise your voice, play your instruments, and join us as we make that joyful noise and break forth into the joy of God.
Rev. Dr. Luke A. Powery
Dean of Duke University Chapel
Welcome to the new virtual home of Duke University Chapel. Come in, the digital doors are open.from our events calendar—with the most up-to-date listings of everything happening in the Chapel—to our archive where you can find links to our worship services. On every page, you will find useful information about our programs and how you might get involved. For example, take a look at the choir auditions page or undergraduate Chapel Scholars program or email list sign-up page.
I also hope that this site helps connect you to the people, traditions, mission, and values of Duke Chapel because these are the heart and soul of our life and ministry. The Chapel is a place where our students find connections between their faiths and what they are learning. It is also place where our community gathers to worship, to remember and mourn the loss of loved ones, and to rejoice with new graduates and newlyweds.
Duke Chapel is a vibrant community where faith is embodied in service, study, music, prayer, and proclamation to raise spirits, ignite minds, and nurture souls.
Come in and journey with us, virtually and in-person. The digital and physical doors are open for you.
The Rev. Dr. Luke A. Powery
Dean of Duke University Chapel
Pentecost and 'Unified Diversity'
In a sermon titled "And" on Pentecost (June 9, 2019), Dean Powery preached about the "unified diversity" made possible through the Holy Spirit. Watch the sermon:
Reflections on Theological Education and the History of Slavery
“What I want to explore this morning is how Jesus Christ, who was in the form God, took on the form of a slave and being found in human form humbled himself to the point of death on a cross—and how this wounded theological formation in the very being of God converges with the woundedness of black enslaved bodies,” Dean Powery said in his address. “It will become clear how at the root and heart of theological education writ-large is a wound, a bleeding heart and broken body—both black and Christic.”
Bridging the Spirituals and Liturgical Seasons
He explains about his new book, Were You There? Lenten Reflections on the Spirituals, that, "It was a way to bridge worlds that don’t normally meet, where you bring the enslaved tradition, wisdom tradition, the understanding of God, the Bible -- all of that life -- together with this generally high-church following of the liturgical calendar. Underneath this is a reconciliation of sorts."
- Read the full interview
- Listen to Dean Powery sing some of the spirituals during an Adult Forum session on Were You There?
Preaching and Pentecost
"Pentecost reveals that our speech is fundamentally grounded in a divine gift given by God the Spirit,” he said.
Preaching and the Public Square
Dean Powery joined two former deans of Duke Chapel—the Rev. Dr. Samuel Wells and Bishop William Willimon—for a public conversation about the role of preaching in public discourse. WUNC Radio host Frank Stasio moderated the event on February 27, 2019, in Duke Chapel. Watch the three deans talk about how they approach their vocations in the pulpit:
University Leadership Message
Dean Powery on Preaching
A professor of homiletcs at Duke's Divinity School, Dean Powery has been interviewed many times about the practice, craft, and theology of preaching. Here is a selection of clips from those interviews:
MLK Talk at Gustavus Adolphus College
“‘World House’ for King amounted to a global communitarian ethic that embraces persons across geographic and cultural boundaries," Dean Powery said. "What was key for King was ‘other preservation,’ and the recognition that all people are created in the image of God and are interdependent.”
Comment on Julian Abele Markers
“The architectural creativity of Julian Abele is one of the foundational stones of this university, so having his name, along with Horace Trumbauer’s, on a foundational stone of Duke Chapel is fitting,” Powery said. “It serves as a truthful and just monument.”
Publication of 'Were You There?'
Each selection includes the lyrics of the spiritual, a reflection by the author on the spiritual’s meaning, a Scripture verse related to that meaning, and a brief prayer.