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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.

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.