Tradition LIVES

Myrtle Beach, S.C.

August 13, 2012 to August 15, 2012

The 2012 Convocation on the Rural Church will bring together leaders from rural North Carolina churches, Duke Divinity School, The Duke Endowment, and the North Carolina and Western North Carolina United Methodist Annual Conferences for worship, plenary sessions, workshops, and conversation about the state of the rural church and how it can engage in even more vibrant ministry and mission. This year’s Convocation on the Rural Church will be centered upon the theme, “Tradition LIVES.”

Registration for this event is currently full.


Over the course of the three-day convocation, participants will have the opportunity to attend plenary sessions, share in worship and meals, participate in two of six available workshops, and enjoy free time.  As an optional activity, we will offer small group discussion and interaction with other participants each day of the event. Please select this offering during your registration if you would like to be placed in a small group.

Monday, August 13  
2:30 - 4:30 p.m.Hotel check-in available
3:00 p.m.Registration begins
4:15 p.m.Welcome and IntroductionsRev. Jeremy Troxler
Director, Thriving Rural Communities
Duke Divinity School
4:30 p.m.Opening Worship
Spouses and guests welcome
Preacher: Rev. Nathan Kirkpatrick
Managing Director
Leadership Education at Duke Divinity
5:45 p.m.Break
6:00 p.m.Opening Banquet
Spouses and guests welcome
7:00 p.m.Break
7:15 - 8:15 p.m.Plenary: The Way of MannaFolkPsalm Trio
8:30 - 9:15 p.m.Small Groups (Optional)
Tuesday, August 14  
7:00 - 8:30 a.m.Breakfast
8:45 a.m.Morning Prayer
8:45 a.m.Plenary: The Saints and the Dark Night of the ChurchRev. Dr. Elaine Heath
McCreless Associate Professor of Evangelism
Perkins School of Theology
10:00 a.m.Break
10:15 a.m.Workshops: Round 1Workshop Leaders
11:45 a.m.Break
12:00 p.m.Lunch, featuring a panel discussion with rural church pastors
1:30 p.m.Workshops: Round 2Workshop Leaders
3:00 p.m.Small Groups (Optional)
3:45 p.m.Sabbath and Free Evening
Optional Holy Communion on the beach at 8:45 p.m.
Wednesday, August 15  
7:00 - 9:00 a.m.Breakfast
8:15 a.m.Small Groups (Optional)
9:00 a.m.Morning Prayer and Plenary:
A New Day for United Methodist Mission
Rev. Dr. Elaine Heath
10:15 a.m.Break and Check-out
Because hotel check-out must be completed by 11:00 a.m. on the morning of your departure, the hotel will story any luggage until our program has ended.
10:45 a.m.Plenary: The Ministry of The Duke EndowmentRev. Robb Webb
Director, Rural Church
The Duke Endowment
11:30 a.m.Sending WorshipPreacher: Rev. Ismael Ruiz-Millán
Director, Hispanic House of Studies
Duke Divinity School
12:30 p.m.Depart
Boxed lunches available for participants

Additional activities for current Pastors and Fellows of the Thriving Rural Communities Initiative:

1:00 p.m.Thriving Rural Communities Lunch
Please gather in the plenary room
2:00 - 5:00 p.m.Thriving Rural Communities Pastors' Gathering

Plenary Speakers

Rev. Dr. Elaine Heath
McCreless Associate Professor of Evangelism at Perkins School of Theology

Elaine Heath
is the McCreless Associate Professor of Evangelism at Perkins School of Theology, and is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church.  Elaine holds a BA in English from Oakland University, an MDiv from Ashland Theological Seminary, and a PhD in theology from Duquesne University.  She is the initiator of New Day and the Epworth Project, a growing network of missional, new monastic faith communities in the United Methodist tradition.  Elaine has provided retreat and seminar leadership in spiritual formation and leadership development for clergy for many years.  Among her research interests are the new monasticism, the emerging church, spirituality and evangelism, and gender and evangelism.  She is the author or co-author of six publications.

Elaine’s first pastoral appointment was to a rural three-point charge.  Elaine and her husband Randall live in Garland, Texas and are the parents of two adult daughters.  Favorite activities include hiking, camping, bicycling, canoeing, sailing, flea markets, music and watching movies.

FolkPsalm Trio

Professional bluegrass artist and lifelong musician Charles Pettee, a founding member of the world-traveling Flying Fish recording artist The Shady Grove Band, became fascinated with the Psalter back in 2001 when it occurred to him that these ancient Hebrew prayers were, originally, and essentially, folk songs – works of the oral tradition of an agrarian people. As a composer whose bluegrass songs and tunes have aired worldwide, Charles set out to render the Psalms in the contemporary bluegrass/folk genre. His desire was to hear these prayers in an unaffected manner – “To highlight the powerful metaphors in these poems,” he says, “making it harder for one to take these literally, and easier for one to open one’s heart to the spiritual vistas and valleys that the Psalms describe so well.” 

FolkPsalm is an affiliation of seven musicians, and live performances by the whole ensemble are rare. Charles is most often accompanied by fiddler and vocalist Elizabeth Bahnson of Brevard, N.C., a founding member of the highly successful Steep Canyon Rangers and a 2008 graduate of Duke Divinity School. The FolkPsalm Trio is completed by vocalist Brittany Whitmire, a life-long singer and western North Carolina native who, along with her husband, owns Busy Bee Farms in Rosamond, N.C.

Learn more about Charles Pettee & FolkPsalm and listen to excerpts from the group’s critically acclaimed albums, which feature a stellar line-up of North Carolina-based musicians.

Rev. Robert R. Webb III
Director, Rural Church, The Duke Endowment

Robb Webb was named director of The Duke Endowment’s Rural Church program area in 2010, having joined the Endowment as a program officer in 2006.  A graduate of Duke Divinity School, Robb is an ordained deacon in the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church.  Prior to this, he previously served as a management consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers and Healthcare Resource Associates.  Robb chairs the Rural Life Committee of the North Carolina Council of Churches and serves as vice chair of the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church's Council on Campus Ministry.  He also is a board member of Faith and Form magazine and a member of the steering committee for the Impact Fund for Emerging Leaders at Foundation for the Carolinas. 


Rev. Nathan Kirkpatrick
Managing Director, Leadership Education at Duke Divinity

Nathan Kirkpatrick is an ordained elder and clergy member of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference and a graduate of Wake Forest University and Duke Divinity School.  Nathan serves as the managing director in Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School, where among other responsibilities he is the Director of the Course of Study and convenes the Institute of Preaching.  Prior to working at Duke, Nathan served a two-point charge in Yadkin County, where he learned that he loves to preach and teach but that he’s no good with a tractor.

Rev. Ismael Ruiz-Millán
Director, Hispanic House of Studies, Duke Divinity School

Rev. Ismael Ruiz-Millán is the Director of the Hispanic House of Studies at Duke Divinity School, an organization whose mission is to assist the North Carolina and Western North Carolina Annual Conferences and Duke Divinity School in supporting and strengthening ministries to and with Hispanics and Latinos.  Ismael also serves as an instructor in the United Methodist Course of Study for Ordained Ministry in El Salvador.  Ismael received his M. Div. degree from Duke Divinity School in May 2010 as a Rural Ministry Fellow and has served as pastor of Brookland-Brooksdale UMC in Roxboro, N.C., and of Unidos Por Cristo UMC in Grimesland, N.C.  Ismael is originally from San Luis Rio Colorado in Mexico.  He and his wife, Alma, have a one year old son named Alec and live in Durham, N.C.


You will have the opportunity to attend two of the following six workshops:

The Rural Church as Catalyst for Community Development
Rev. Dr. Alan Rice - Executive Director of RFD-CDC and Senior Pastor of Crossfire UMC
Rev. Duncan Overrein - Associate Pastor and Gardening Community Director of Crossfire UMC
Rev. Dwight Smith - Associate Pastor of Crossfire UMC and General Manager of Wesley Storehouse

The call of the rural church leader to be community social developer, community organizational developer and catalyst for change is based in social holiness.  Methodist founder John Wesley taught that social holiness must be grounded in love of God and love of humankind. The separation of works of mercy from works of piety yields paltry fruit:  fruitfulness is found only where both of these branches of holiness are joined together.  In this workshop we will learn from the experiences of Crossfire UMC, a congregation of the poor seeking to be fruitful in tangible expressions of both mercy and piety through new pathways of risk-taking service and ministry.

Call and Response
Rev. Nathan Kirkpatrick - Managing Director, Leadership Education at Duke Divinity

It’s easy for preachers to get into a rut. We don’t mean for it to happen, but it does. It’s easy for every sermon to start to sound the same – three points, a poem, and the funny story we received by email. When we find ourselves in a rut, the joy we knew in our preaching wanes.  So how do we find new life in our preaching? How do we keep growing and developing as proclaimers of the Good News? In this workshop, we’ll strategize about how to keep our minds and hearts alive and our preaching fresh across years spent in ministry.

Making Disciples Who Make Disciples
Rev. Gil Wise - Lead Pastor, Solid Rock UMC

Terms such as “emergent,” “huddles,” and “missional communities” are part of a new language being used in many Christian circles to describe new/old ways for forming disciples.  This workshop will explore some of these approaches to intentional disciple-making and focus on how the rural church offers a rich soil for reclaiming a Wesleyan model of making disciples through small groups.  Participants will not only receive resources but will join in discussion with individuals who have experienced and implemented these disciple-making models. 

Place of Possibilities: Becoming a Missional Church That Blesses Your Community
Rev. Laura Early - Pastor, All God’s Children UMC / CEO of The Place of Possibilities, Inc.

The Place of Possibilities seeks to focus on three primary needs within the community:  Job Training, Health Awareness, and Literacy.  The emphasis of the ministry is on five ‘P’s:  People (elevating the human spirit); Passion, (bringing a spirit of excellence to all programs); Perseverance (not believing in quick fixes, but in permanent solutions); Partnerships (calling on the best in every field); and Possibilities (looking with new eyes at current realities with creative answers).  This workshop will focus on the lessons other churches can learn from the witness of the Place of Possibilities in order to more effectively reach out and bless their communities.

Contemporary Worship in an Old-Fashioned Church
Rev. Tim Reaves – Senior Pastor, Bladen UMC

The recent study commissioned by the United Methodist Call to Action Report found that congregations that offer diverse forms of worship are more likely to experience high spiritual vitality.  Many rural churches, however, are resistant to new forms or styles of worship, and many rural pastors don’t know where to begin when it comes to introducing elements of contemporary worship to their congregations.  In this workshop we will point pastors to helpful resources related to contemporary worship and discuss how to update the worship style of rural churches in a way that is respectful of their identity and traditions.

Maximizing Your Sacred Place as a Community Asset
Robert Jaeger – President, Partners for Sacred Places

Congregations have enormous impact on their surrounding communities. Sacred spaces strengthen communities through public ministry, neighborhood programs, space availability and more.  This workshop will help clergy document the "public value" of their buildings, how they can strengthen their relationship with the larger community, and how they can attract new partners and resources that will support the care and active use of sacred places.  Participants will learn how to research their congregation’s heritage and culture, understand how to make strong cases for broad-based community support by using an assessment of the “public value” of buildings, and become familiar with asset-mapping and how it can lay the foundation for new community outreach and programs that lead to the full and effective use of church facilities.


For the first time this year, program sessions and accommodations for the Convocation on the Rural Church will be provided at the oceanfront Hilton Myrtle Beach Resort and Conference Center, a full service hotel and conference center located in Myrtle Beach, S.C. 

Those participants who plan to bring their families should note that unlike last year’s venue (The Embassy Suites), rooms at the Hilton Myrtle Beach Resort do not include a multi-room suite arrangement.  Please see the accommodations tab for additional information.

On-site accommodations are required to attend this event, and reservations must be made through the Divinity School while registering for the event. Parking is available onsite.

Driving Directions (pdf)

The Hilton is an ocean-front property on Myrtle Beach’s coastline within driving distance of ample shopping, dining, and attractions.  Broadway at the Beach, located nearby, includes 300 acres of shopping, dining, nightlife, and attractions.  Entertainment and dining options include Hard Rock Café, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, Señor Frog’s, Ripley’s Aquarium, IMAX Theatre, the Palace Theatre, NASCAR SpeedPark & Café, Children’s Museum of SC, and Crocodile Rock’s Dueling Piano Bar.  Shopping also abounds just 10 minutes away at Coastal Grande Mall, one of South Carolina’s largest and newest shopping malls, or you can shop for bargains at Tanger Outlet Mall, located on Highway 501, just 15 minutes away.

Room Selection

Participants may choose a private or a shared room.  On-site accommodations are required to attend this event.  If you are part of a clergy couple and you both will be attending the event, you each must register separately.

Select a private room ($130) if your (non-clergy) spouse or family members will be staying with you during the event or if you would prefer to have a room to yourself.  Those participants who plan to bring their families should note that this event is being held at a different hotel than in previous years, and the rooms are standard-sized hotel rooms, not suites. They sleep a maximum of four people comfortably. If you will be sharing your room with more than one other adult guest (anyone 18 years or older), the hotel may place on your bill a surcharge of $10 per additional adult per day. These charges will be applied to your personal credit card by the hotel; they are not included in your registration fee.

Select a shared room ($35) if you would like to reduce costs by lodging with another clergy participant (your roommate will be assigned) or if you are part of a clergy couple and wish to share a room with your spouse who also will be participating in the Convocation.  If you are part of a clergy couple, please select the shared room option on each of your separate registrations, and then contact us by phone or email, indicating that you would like to be assigned to the same room.

Please note that all hotel rooms have a microwave and refrigerator, but do not offer any kitchen utensils.

Extended Stay

We invite those of you who register for a private room to consider giving yourself the gift of Sabbath by coming a day early (Sunday arrival) or staying an extra night (Thursday departure).   You may choose one of the two extended stay private room options for the increased total price of $205. Note that shared rooms do not have an extended stay option, and that participants cannot switch room types between the event dates and extended stay. 


Guests of participants (spouses and/or family members) are invited to attend a complimentary opening dinner on the evening of Monday, August 13.  

Guests of participants may also eat breakfast and lunch with participants on Tuesday and Wednesday if you purchase them a meal ticket ($50) when registering. One meal ticket is required per guest. Guests who do not have meal tickets are invited to purchase and eat breakfast or lunch elsewhere ‘on their own’.


Registration for this event is currently full.  

Cancellation Policy

All fees are non-refundable. Cancellations will result in forfeiture of the fees paid.




Have further questions?  Please contact Leadership Education at Duke Divinity at or (919) 613-5323.