Duke Chapel is a vibrant center of ecumenical Christian worship with a long—and living—tradition of faithful preaching and inspiring sacred music.
Duke Chapel offers more than 150 opportunities for worship services each year, featuring the Chapel’s traditions of compelling preaching and inspiring sacred music. In addition to the rich tradition at the Sunday morning worship service at 11:00 a.m., the Chapel is home to a regular pattern of prayer and worship services throughout the week. There are also worship services organized by campus Religious Life groups held at the Chapel and elsewhere on campus.
Sunday Morning Worship Service
11:00 a.m. Sunday (year-round)
Duke Chapel is an interdenominational Christian church with a tradition of stirring music, preaching, and liturgy. Communion is offered twice a month during the service and on other weeks immediately following the service. Learn more:
Choral Evensong4:00 p.m. Sunday (during the academic year)
Choral Evensong is a centuries-old tradition that continues to be prayed every day all over the world. Drawn from the seventeenth century, worshipers are invited to enter into a sacred space of reflection through music, scripture, and prayers that have shaped Christian lives for hundreds of years. Learn more:
12:00 p.m. Tuesday (during the academic year)
This simple twenty-minute service held in the Memorial Chapel (just off the main sanctuary) is led by Chapel staff and includes prayer and scripture readings.
Choral Vespers7:00 p.m. Thursday (during the academic year)
As daylight fades, Choral Vespers invites students and community members into the darkened Chapel to experience sacred music, scripture readings, and prayer.The Duke Vespers Ensemble leads the choral portion of the service. Learn more:
A collaboration between the Chapel and the Duke Jazz Program, this Jazz Vespers worship service combines the form of the traditional evening vespers service with the musical improvisation of jazz. Chapel Dean Luke Powery and others offer prayers and readings during the service, while Professor John Brown's "Little" Big Band will provide musical leadership. Learn more:
Each year on Christmas Eve, the Chapel offers four services to celebrate the birth of Jesus, who is the Christ. The first service is a Children’s service in which narrators tell the story of Jesus’ birth as children from the Congregation at Duke Chapel form a living nativity scene in the chancel. This service includes carols and prayers and much joy. The next two services follow the pattern of our weekly worship and include songs, scripture readings, a sermon, and, in one service, communion. The Durham Children’s Choir regularly join to provide choral music for one of the services; a community choir sings in the Lessons and Carols service. The final service of the day is at 11:00 p.m. and is a service of lessons and carols. This service began over fifty years ago at the Chapel and has been a favorite for many over the years. The Chapel invites the community to sing as part of a volunteer choir for this service.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. Ash Wednesday occurs forty days before Easter, not including six Sundays (which are considered feast days), and recalls Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness, itself mirroring the Israelites’ forty years in the desert. During the two services on this day, ministers mark those who attend with ashes as a reminder that “we are dust, and to dust we shall return.”
Holy Week and Easter
Holy Week at the Chapel is marked by regular services that strive to capture some of the drama of the week leading up to Christ’s death on the cross and his glorious resurrection three days later. Beginning with Palm Sunday, the services include dramatic features that draw worshipers deep into the journey to the cross. Daily services at noon each day and special evening services on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday provide the opportunity for deep reflection, prayer, learning, and worship. The Maundy Thursday service includes communion, stripping the altar, and footwashing. On Good Friday, the midday service begins with a procession of the stations of the cross on the Chapel Quad, and continues inside the nave of the Chapel. The Tenebrae Service on Friday night includes a progressive dimming of the lights within the Chapel until the Congregation sits in darkness as we remember Jesus’ death. Out of the darkness of Good Friday, erupts the joy of Easter morning! Easter Sunday begins in the Duke Gardens as the sun rises and the community gathers to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The day continues with worship services at 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. in the Chapel, concluding with an Evensong service at 4:00 p.m. to conclude the celebration of Easter Day.
Fifty days after Easter, the church celebrates the festival of Pentecost. Echoing the ancient Jewish festival of Shavuot, which remembers God’s giving of the law on Mount Sinai, Pentecost celebrates God’s giving of the Holy Spirit, itself a fulfillment of ancient prophecy. In the Acts of the Apostles, the disciples are gathered in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit descends upon them in tongues of flame. In our worship on Pentecost, we celebrate and remember the giving of the Spirit that even now empowers and unites the body of Christ around the world.
World Communion Sunday
On the first Sunday of October, the Chapel celebrates World Communion Sunday, as we give thanks for fellowship with Christians of every tribe and tongue around the world. At the Communion table, God's gift of our diversity becomes united in worship of Jesus Christ, the only Son of God.
Blessing of the Animals
The Blessing of Animals is an outdoor worship service held each year on the Sunday in October closest to the Feast Day of St. Francis. The Chapel has hosted a Blessing of Animals since 1989, a worship tradition made notable by the camels and other circus animals blessed every year at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Over the years, ministers at the Chapel have blessed animals ranging from hamsters to horses. The service is open to the public and all well-mannered pets are invited.
All Hallows’ Eve
The Chapel's candlelit All Hallows' Eve service takes place on the eve of All Saints' Day, the festival in the Church that recalls the faith and witness of those who have carried on and cherished the Christian faith throughout history. The service celebrates the Church's continuing communion with these men and women and memorializes the recently deceased. The early church followed the Jewish custom that a new day began at sundown; thus feasts and festivals of the Church were observed beginning on the night before. The night before All Saints' (or All Hallows') became known as All Hallows' Eve, or Halloween. Every fall, the Chapel celebrates All Hallows' Eve with the Choral Vespers Ensemble leading a candlelight worship service at 10:30 p.m. on October 31.
Student Preacher Sunday
Each spring, one Duke undergraduate student is selected to preach in the Chapel’s 11:00 a.m. Sunday worship service. All undergraduate students are welcome to apply.