In acts of worship that continue beyond the walls of the Chapel, the Duke Chapel community seeks to pray with its hands and feet on Duke’s campus and beyond. In that spirit, the Chapel fosters connections with the wider Durham community by partnering in ministry with local churches and nonprofits, as well as nurturing relationships across social, cultural, and political divisions.
By maintaining a visible presence in the West End and other Durham neighborhoods, the Chapel facilitates interactions between these neighborhoods and the Duke community, and engage with issues of wider community, national, and international concern. We rely on relationships with community partners to accomplish this important work that allows us to be with our neighbors in word and deed.
Students interested in community engagement can get involved in one or more of the Chapel Student Ministries.
We believe the Christian life is an invitation into the redemptive life of the triune God. As participants in God’s life, we are called to embody and witness to Christ’s love in our community and world. We do so through building and deepening our relationships in the community as we work at the intersections of faith and justice to bridge the differences that divide humanity.
- Achievement Academy of Durham
- Carolina Peace Center
- Catholic Charities
- Church of Philadelphia
- Coalition for Affordable Housing & Transit
- Community Empowerment Fund
- DCIA (Durham Congregations in Action)
- Duke Community & Family Medicine Division of Community Health
- Duke Office of Durham & Regional Affairs
- Durham CAN (Congregations, Associations, Neighborhoods)
- Durham Clergy Anti-Racism Witness Group
- Families Moving Forward
- First Calvary Baptist Church
- Habitat for Humanity
- HomeShare Durham
- Housing for New Hope
- Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance
- Longball Durham
- North Carolina Council of Churches
- One World Market
- Open Table Ministries
- Partners for Youth Opportunity
- Partners in Caring
- Pregnancy Support Services
- Reality Ministries
- Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham
- Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South
- Restorative Justice Durham
- Self-Help Credit Union
- Senior PharmAssist
- Society of St. Andrew
- Student Action with Farmworkers
- Union Baptist Church
- Urban Hope
- Urban Ministries
- Village of Wisdom
- Walltown Chilrden's Theatre
- West End Community Foundation, Inc
- World Relief
- Youth Life Foundation of the Triangle
If you would like to be involved in another way or have any questions, please contact our community minister.
The Chapel fosters connections with the wider Durham community by partnering in ministry with local churches and nonprofits, as well as nurturing relationships across social, cultural, and political divisions. These Community Highlights focuses on some of those partners.
Durham Pilgrimage of Pain and Hope
More than a dozen students and other Chapel community members spent the weekend of February 18–20 participating in the Durham Pilgrimage of Pain and Hope. The pilgrimage aims to deepen participants' understanding of how their story intersects with history of Durham and the biblical story. The pilgrimage is led by a DurhamCares, a local nonprofit with a mission to foster collaboration, develop leaders, and educate the people of Durham to care for their neighbors in holistic ways. If you are interested, please contact the Rev. Bruce Puckett, assistant dean of the Chapel. Watch a video about the pilgrimage:
Online Seminar Addresses Homelessness and Affordable HousingClick here to register. There is no cost to attend.
Martin Luther King Jr. CommemorationLearn more about the university's commemoration of Rev. Dr. King.
Memorial Vigil for People Who Died Homeless
Local ministers and others will lead an outdoor memorial prayer vigil for homeless neighbors who died this year. The vigil, organized by Durham Congregations In Action, was held on Tuesday, December 21, 2021 at the Durham Farmers' Market. Participants remembered by name those who passed away, light candles, pray, and sing. Chapel Dean Luke Powery lead the songs.
Chapel Honors Duke Police Staff Member with Award for Service in the Community
The Chapel recognized Ruby Thompkins, manager of information services at Duke Police, with the Humanitarian Service Award for her efforts supporting education for African American boys in Durham. Duke Chapel gives the award each year to someone who demonstrates both a long-term commitment to serving others and a lifestyle marked by simplicity.
Thompkins was presented the award at a reception on. Sunday, October 24, 2021 at Bovender Terrace.
Inter-Religious Discussion of Faith and Science
On Tuesday, October 26, 2021, the Chapel co-sponsored an online conversation on “STEM from Faith: A Dialogue Between Faith and Science.” The discussion among scientists and scholars from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faith traditions will explore the different ways that faith and science have worked together and in tension.
The panelists included:
- Sonia Laurie, an immunologist and post-doctoral fellow at UNC-Chapel Hill
- Steffen Bass, an Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of Physics at Duke
- Ehsan Samei, a medical physicist and professor of radiology at Duke
- Robert Rutledge, a geneticist and Catholic priest
The conversation was moderated by Mustafa Tuna, an associate professor of history and Slavic and Eurasian studies at Duke.
Online Book Group to Explore Racial Trauma and Healing
Commemorating 9/11 Through Memory and Hope
In 2021, Duke Chapel led the campus community in commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the September 11 attacks through a series of events and actions that aim to remember the victims of the attacks, to explore their ongoing effects, and to seek hope.
Life During the Pandemic: Experiences from the Chapel CommunitySummer 2021 issue of Chapel View magazine, we profile students and staff who were impacted by COVID-19 and sought solace at Duke Chapel.
University Martin Luther King, Jr. Online Ceremony on Jan. 17, 2021
The Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, a nationally recognized children's rights and racial equity champion who in December succeeded Marian Wright Edelman as president of the Children's Defense Fund, delivered the keynote address for Duke University's annual Martin Luther King Jr. online commemoration ceremony on Sunday, January 17, at 3:00 p.m. Watch it here.
Rev. Dr. Wilson, an activist and philanthropist who served as chief executive of the church-linked Deaconess Foundation in St. Louis from 2011 until his new appointment, will speak on "Voices of the Movement," the commemoration theme. The program, usually attended by hundreds in Duke Chapel, is being presented online this year.
The annual program links "voices of wisdom from the past and hope for the present that guide our pursuit of a more just world," according to a committee statement. Other highlights of the virtual program include performances by John Brown's Jazz Ambassadors, The Collage Dance Company and Duke student dancer Akylah Cox, as well as greetings from Duke University President Vincent Price, Chancellor for Health Affairs Dr. A. Eugene Washington, Durham Mayor Steve Schewel, Duke Black Student Association Co-President Tobi Akinyelu, and Chapel Dean Luke A. Powery.
Online Workshop on Faith, Justice, and Movement Building
Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, and other faith groups come from long traditions of seeking justice through faith. In many contexts, such as the ancient Israelites under subjugation in Egypt or under Roman rule in the near East, the two could not be separated. Without faith-based activism, the right to vote, the abolition of slavery, and other rights would not exist in the United States.
The speakers will be: the Rev. Bruce Puckett, assistant dean of the Chapel, who has been working in Durham and at the Chapel for the last eleven years; Alicia Crosby, a Duke Divinity student as well as a justice educator, activist, and minister whose work addresses the spiritual, systemic, and interpersonal harm people experience; and Ricardo Guillen, the organizing director at Living United for Change in Arizona and a longtime community organizer, activist, and youth empowerment leader in Phoenix, Arizona, working on the front lines of immigrant rights, economic justice, and racial justice.
The discussion was be moderated by the Chapel's community minister, the Rev. Breana van Velzen.
Online Study of 'The Christian Imagination'The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race by the Rev. Dr. Willie Jennings, associate professor of systematic theology and Africana studies at Yale Divinity School.
The first online meeting was Tuesday, August 18, 2021 from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. and the following meetings will be on the first and third Tuesdays of each month; the final meeting will be on Tuesday, December 15. Anyone may join the group at any point in the semester. To receive a Zoom link to participate in the discussion, register for free. For more information, email the Chapel’s community minister, the Rev. Breana van Velzen.
Called “a ground-breaking, magisterial account of the potential and failures of Christianity since the colonialist period,” the award-winning book takes up the question, Why has Christianity, a religion premised upon neighborly love, failed in its attempts to heal social divisions? Rev. Dr. Jennings, previously a professor at Duke Divinity School, is a theologian and ordained Baptist minister.
The online group will use The Christian Imagination as a prompt for discussion about challenging times in our faith and how to learn from one another’s experiences. The group is co-organized by Duke Chapel and DurhamCares, a nonprofit that seeks to foster collaboration, develop leaders, and educate the people of our Durham to care for their neighbors in holistic ways.
Watch a recording of Rev. Dr. Jennings leading a recent racial justice roundtable on Racism: The History of the Problem, which was organized by DurhamCares and Mount Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham.
A Call for Religious Leaders to Promote Change
Writing in The News & Observer, Chapel Minister Rev. Joshua Lazard says messages from religious leaders must relate to protests against police brutality, anti-blackness, and the evils of capitalism.
“As this nation navigates the next moment, it is abundantly clear that in order to form a more perfect union, we, the people, need our religious institutions to be intact and report for duty,” Rev. Lazard writes. “Religious institutions have the power to do what policy cannot: change the hearts and minds of its citizens.”
Standing for Justice and Against Racism
"As a people committed to the all-inclusive love of God, Duke Chapel stands for justice, community, hope, creativity, and compassion, by which we love our neighbors. We lament alongside our black and brown siblings who are beset by racial oppression and violence at this time. We mourn with you, and we mourn our complicity in systemic racism. As those who stand for justice, we stand with all those who seek justice for George Floyd and the many others who have lost their lives as a result of racial injustice.
"We join our voice with the many who condemn his killing and the injustices regularly faced by communities of color in the United States. As those who stand for justice, we stand with all who are seeking racial justice in cities across the United States. In standing for justice, we stand against all forms of racism and inequity, both in personal and systemic forms. In standing for justice, we stand with the oppressed and marginalized of our society and world. And in standing for justice, we stand for peace, committed to the work of transformation required in our individual and communal lives.
"As people of faith, we are committed to using our resources for promoting justice, community, hope, creativity, and compassion at Duke, in Durham, and throughout the world. We lament the history of racial injustice, oppression, and violence that persists among and in us. Ultimately, our lament is an act of hope because in lament we pray to the God of justice and truth, who is at work to make all things new.
"We lament with the families of every victim of violence. Our hearts cry out to God.
"We call our communities to join in our lament, in word and deed, and to allow the work of transformation to propel us more fully into a world filled with God’s all-inclusive love."
Commissioning of the 2021–22 PathWays Fellows
In this time of division, learning to respect one another's humanity while addressing our deep communal needs for dignity, housing, food, healthcare, and inclusion is vital. To promote that kind of learning, Chapel Scholar Lizzy Kramer will teach a half-credit house course in the Fall 2021 semester titled "A Just Faith" (HOUSECS 59.28), with support from Chapel Community Minister Rev. Breana van Velzen. In the course, students read academic work, engage with guest speakers, write analytical and reflective essays, and discuss topics such as human sexuality and activism across faith traditions. This class engages with thinkers and practitioners from multiple faith traditions, such as Thich Naht Hahn, Alice Walker, Howard Thurman, Lama Rod Owens, and Shadaab Rahemtulla, who connect their traditions’ theologies with social practice—or in many cases, selfless service and communal liberation. Students will have opportunities to explore and examine their own traditions and cultures around justice topics and movements, learn from one another, and learn from the greater Durham community through local practitioners.
Housing Justice Event
Community Ministry Adapts During PandemicWorking@Duke story describes how the "Faith Team" ministry adapted during the pandemic. A collaboration among the Chapel, The Congregation at Duke University Chapel, and the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham, the ministry supports people returning from prison to the community.
“Often, people recently released from prison don’t have a community around them,” Chapel Community Minister Rev. Breana van Velzen says in the article. “The whole point of this program is to become that community for someone.”
Online Series on Local Efforts to Seek Justice
Urban Hope Helps Students Grow Healthy Neighborhoods
Durham Eviction Diversion Program Helps Keep People in Their Homesmain of office of Legal Aid of North Carolina or Robbie Breitweiser in its Durham office.
Humanitarian Service Award Recipients to Be Recognized Jan. 24
Online Workshop Oct. 22 to Explore Faith, Art, and JusticeRESIST COVID / TAKE 6! public art exhibition at Duke’s Nasher Museum of Art as a starting place to reflect on issues of faith and justice in Durham. The outdoor exhibition and public awareness campaign by nationally renowned artist Carrie Mae Weems emphasizes the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on the lives of communities of color, through large-scale banners and window clings, posters, street signs and more.
The first part of this workshop will include a presentation by Marshall N. Price, PhD, chief curator and Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Nasher Museum. A community leader and a student will also each speak about connections among art, faith, and justice. The second part of the workshop will allow participants to share their own reflections. To learn more and receive a link to participate, email the Chapel’s community minister, the Rev. Breana van Velzen.
Humanitarian Service Award Nominations Are Open
Nominations for this year's award are due by November 13, 2020.
Meet the New PathWays Scholars
Online Study of 'The Christian Imagination'The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race by the Rev. Dr. Willie Jennings, associate professor of systematic theology and Africana studies at Yale Divinity School. The group is co-organized by Duke Chapel and DurhamCares, a nonprofit that seeks to foster collaboration, develop leaders, and educate the people of our Durham to care for their neighbors in holistic ways.
The first online meeting is Tuesday, August 18, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. and the following meetings will be on the first and third Tuesdays of each month; the final meeting will be on Tuesday, December 15. Anyone may join the group at any point in the semester. To receive a Zoom link to participate in the discussion, register for free. For more information, email the Chapel’s community minister, the Rev. Breana van Velzen.
‘Just Mercy’ Online Film Viewing and DiscussionJust Mercy followed by an online discussion on Wednesday, June 24, from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. The film tells the true story of a man sentenced to death in Alabama in the 1980s whose claim of innocence is taken up by the (then) young lawyer Bryan Stevenson. It is based on Stevenson’s memoir of the same title. The conversation following the viewing will focus on the film, experiences participants would like to share, and the legacy of anti-black racism in the United States and in faith communities. This online event is free.
To receive a Zoom link to participate in the film viewing and discussion, please email the Chapel’s Community Minister Rev. Breana van Velzen at email@example.com.
A Call to Share COVID-19 ReliefBull City Stimulus Redistribution Collective website. "I am called as a minister and a person of the Christian faith to be in solidarity with those in poverty and made invisible by society," she writes. "I encourage my neighbors who find themselves in my position to help those who need relief."
Helping from Home
Resources for Worship, Prayer, and Community Connection
Uneven Ground Exhibit Highlights Injustice, Hope in Durham Housing
World Relief Durham
The Chapel supports World Relief in their mission to serve the most vulnerable around the world. Locally, World Relief Durham (WRD) works with immigrants, churches, and the community to help vulnerable immigrants thrive. They do this in three ways. First, they resettle people fleeing persecution and violence abroad to begin new lives of healing. Second, they provide immigration legal services to help families stay together in a rapidly changing immigration landscape in the United States. And third, they partner with local schools to fill in the gaps by providing vulnerable immigrant youth the academic and social support they need to navigate and flourish in their new community.
Community Empowerment Fund
Bridging faith and learning does not stop with graduation—the PathWays Fellowship not only gives recent alumni the tools they need to discern their vocational and spiritual direction, but it also gives them opportunities for exploration, leadership, mentorship, service, and formation deeply rooted in the local community and their Christian traditions.