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Community Engagement

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.

Community Partners (click to see the list)

Get Involved

If you would like to be involved in another way or have any questions, please contact our community minister.

Community Highlights

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 Housing

An online seminar will present ways to address homelessness and affordable housing on Saturday, February 26 from 10:00 a.m. to 12-noon. The seminar, "The Value of Home: Stewardship for Affordable Housing," will explore the challenges and opportunities facing civic and faith communities as they seek to respond to the intersectional crisis of health, housing, and equity. Click here to register. There is no cost to attend.

Read more about the seminar.

 

Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration

The Chapel hosted the university’s Martin Luther King, Jr. ceremony online on Sunday, January 16, 2022. Dr. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (pictured), a professor of African American Studies at Princeton University who is among this year’s MacArthur ‘genius grant’ winners, delivered the keynote address. Learn more about the university's commemoration of Rev. Dr. King.
 

Watch the commemoration service.

 

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.

Read the full announcement on Duke Today.

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.

Previous Community Highlights

Online Book Group to Explore Racial Trauma and Healing

During the Fall 2021 semester, The Chapel, in partnership with Episcopalians United Against Racism, is explored how racial trauma impacts our bodies and communities and how we can learn to heal together, by reading the book My Grandmother's Hands by Resmaa Menakem. The online book group meet every-other-Wednesday this semester, beginning on September 22, 2021.

Read more.

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.

Read the full article on Duke Today.

Life During the Pandemic: Experiences from the Chapel Community

In this article from the Summer 2021 issue of Chapel View magazine, we profile students and staff who were impacted by COVID-19 and sought solace at Duke Chapel.

Read the article. 

 

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.

Read more on Duke Today.

Online Workshop on Faith, Justice, and Movement Building

The Chapel presented an online workshop, titled “Signs of Hope: Building a Movement,” on Thursday, November 19, from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. The workshop will address faith-based relational work, the need for and reasons behind faith-based organizing, and practical tips and training on building relationships, community, movements, and faith-based activism and advocacy.

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.

Watch here a recording of this online conversation.

Online Study of 'The Christian Imagination'

Beginning August 18, 2020, a group of ministers, community members, and students are gathering online twice a month to discuss the book 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.”

Read the op-ed.

Standing for Justice and Against Racism

The Chapel’s assistant dean, the Rev. Bruce Puckett, offers this message:

"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."

Read more about the Chapel Lamenting Injustice and Those Who Have Died.

Commissioning of the 2021–22 PathWays Fellows

In the Sunday morning worship service on August 15, we will commission four new PathWays Fellows as these recent graduates begin a year of service and living in Christian community in Durham's West End neighborhood. Learn more about the program and this year's Fellows: Ce'Ondra Ellison, Boyoung Michelle Kim, Taylor Patton, and Sarah Watkins. 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.
 

Meet this year's Fellows.

A Just Faith House Course

ProtestersIn 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

The Chapel and community partners are hosting an online event Saturday, July 31, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on “Imagining Real Housing Justice Solutions: A Biblical Framework.” The affordable housing crisis in Durham is not unique to the United States. Other cities are addressing their own crsises in a myriad of creative ways, including Pasadena, California, where grassroots organizing from faith communities is key to creative housing solutions that have reduced homelessness by fifty percent. In this virtual event, Dr. Jill Shook of Making Housing Happen in Pasadena will share the biblical framework and assets based community development principles that have benefitted her own community. Co-sponsors of the event include Open Table Ministry, DurhamCares, and Durham Community Land Trustees.
 

Register here.

Community Ministry Adapts During Pandemic

A new Working@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.”

Read the article.

Online Series on Local Efforts to Seek Justice

Justice is for everyone and is meant to restore us to whole relationship with one another and to promote the flourishing of our communities. In a new online series "Coming Full Circle: Leaning into Justice Together," the Chapel is exploring how various faith communities and organizations in Durham are responding to justice issues around mass incarceration, housing inequality, and racism with restorative practices, transformational relationships, and truth telling in love. Each of the events in the series, organized by the Chapel's Community Minister Rev. Breana van Velzen, uses a circle-based practice, which is relational, non-hierarchical, and creates space for deep listening. Participants are invited to listen, learn, tell stories, and ask questions.
 

Learn more and see the schedule for the series.

Urban Hope Helps Students Grow Healthy Neighborhoods

Chapel community partner Urban Hope focuses on bridging spiritual, economic, and educational resources to young people and their families in Durham's Walltown neighborhood. A community-based initiative from The Navigators ministry since 2004, Urban Hope offers academic coaching and tutoring, life-on-life mentoring, sports teams, spiritual formation, vocational enrichment, and leadership development. The name "Urban Hope" was inspired by the book of Jeremiah (29:11), which describes God promising hope to a people living in despair. The organization plans to launch its Alexander House Scholars program in the fall of 2021, which aims to provide a group of college students with structured support, intentional community, and pathways to leadership and career success.
 

Learn more about Urban Hope.

Durham Eviction Diversion Program Helps Keep People in Their Homes

The Chapel is highlighting the Durham Eviction Diversion program, which provides legal representation to low-wealth and low-income residents and families who are facing eviction. The initiative is the result of collaboration between Legal Aid of North Carolina and the Duke Civil Justice Clinic. Attorneys in the Eviction Diversion program assist people throughout court processes, filing appeals, and navigating tenant-landlord relationships. Every year, hundreds of families who are threatened with homelessness are able to stay in their homes due to the work of this program. To apply for legal assistance with eviction, contact the main of office of Legal Aid of North Carolina or Robbie Breitweiser in its Durham office.

Humanitarian Service Award Recipients to Be Recognized Jan. 24

In an online ceremony Sunday, January 24, at 2:00 p.m., the Chapel will honor the two recipients of this year's Humanitarian Service Award. One of the recipients, the Rev. Annette Currie Love (pictured on left), founded and leads the Faith Based Service Network ministry, which educates, encourages, and supports people who have suffered abuse. Guided by her Christian faith, Rev. Love also volunteers at the Durham Crisis Response Center and serves on the boards of two community organizations: Jubilee Home and the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham. The other recipient is Susan McSwain (pictured right), executive director of Reality Ministries, a Christian community organization that creates opportunities for adults with and without developmental disabilities to experience belonging and kinship. McSwain is part of the North Street Neighborhood in Durham, where people of diverse abilities share life together as neighbors.
 

Read more about the recipients.

Participate in the ceremony via Zoom.

Online Workshop Oct. 22 to Explore Faith, Art, and Justice

An online workshop titled "Signs of Hope: Arts and Activism" on Thursday, October 22, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. will use the RESIST 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.

Watch a recording of the conversation.

Humanitarian Service Award Nominations Are Open

The Chapel’s Humanitarian Service Award aims to recognize individuals with a commitment to service and simplicity. The award is inspired by the lives of two Duke professors: Dr. George R. Parkerson, Jr. and the late Dr. C. Eric Lincoln. The recipient of the award is honored with a grant of up to $3,000 given to the nonprofit they designate.
 

Nominations for this year's award are due by November 13, 2020.

 Nominate someone.

Meet the New PathWays Scholars

The Chapel's PathWays Fellowship not only gives participants 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. Four recent graduates are PathWays Fellows this year: Lily Koning, Karissa Tu, Junette Yu, and Grace Feng.
 

Learn more about the fellows.

Online Study of 'The Christian Imagination'

Beginning August 18, a group of ministers, community members, and students are gathering online twice-a-month to discuss the book 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.

Learn more about the book group and watch a video of a recent racial justice roundtable led by Dr. Jennings.

‘Just Mercy’ Online Film Viewing and Discussion

In the context of the ongoing struggle against racism in the United States, the Chapel is hosting an online viewing of the movie Just 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 breana.van.velzen@duke.edu.

A Call to Share COVID-19 Relief

Chapel Community Minister Rev. Breana van Velzen writes in The Herald-Sun that she will donate part of her COVID-19 relief check through the Bull 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."
 

Read the letter to the editor.

Helping from Home

Duke Chapel is collaborating with Duke Divinity School student organizations Prison & Justice Action Committee and La Union Latina, as well as the community initiative Covering the Triangle and Durham’s local government, to provide face-coverings for people in prisons and jails, bus drivers, social workers, seniors, volunteer food distributors, and others. Working with professors, students, community members, and local businesses, this network has distributed over the last two weeks more than 1,200 cloth masks.
 

Learn more about this community initiative and find out how to get involved.

Read the Working@Duke story that highlights this effort.

Resources for Worship, Prayer, and Community Connection

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned life upside down for so many of us. It has raised questions that would not have come to mind until recently: How do we worship together when we cannot be in the same place? What do we ask of God in the face of an invisible, worldwide illness? How can give and receive help while keeping physical distance? We have created a webpage with links, resources, and suggestions which is meant to begin to respond to these questions.
 

See the list of resources.

Uneven Ground Exhibit Highlights Injustice, Hope in Durham Housing

An exhibition sponsored by the Chapel and First Presbyterian Church supported efforts for affordable housing and economic justice in Durham. The exhibition, Uneven Ground, was originally created by the public history group Bull City 150 and was on display at First Presbyterian through February 16, 2020. In addition to walk-in visitors, an event series by the Chapel and First Presbyterian called "Seeking Justice on Uneven Ground" drew about 200 people to the exhibition. Chapel Community Minister Breana van Velzen said, "This has been a meaningful way to share space with a community partner, utilize a religious site as a place of learning, and use education to enhance our walk of faith alongside our neighbors."
 

Learn more about the Uneven Ground exhibition and affordable housing in Durham.

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.
 

Learn more about the Chapel's partnership with WRD.

Community Empowerment Fund

The Chapel partners with the nonprofit Community Empowerment Fund (CEF) in its work on the front lines of housing and economic justice in Durham. CEF volunteer advocates work one-on-one with the organization’s members to secure housing and build financial security, as well as to implement innovative solutions and advocacy around systemic gaps. Last year, 147 CEF members secured homes and 118 secured income.
 

Learn more about the Chapel's partnership with CEF.