Each first-year student has been prayerfully placed in a small, intentionally diverse spiritual formation group. These groups are led by local pastors, many of whom are Duke Divinity alumni. Each week the groups gather to share concerns, to reflect theologically on the nature of Christian discipleship, and, most importantly, to pray together.

Sponsored by the Chaplain’s Office of Duke Divinity School, attendance at one of these retreats fulfills the M.Div. requirement for spiritual formation.

As part of the spiritual formation experience, students are also be invited to take time apart from their studies to attend two spiritual retreats, one each semester.

A Journey into Prayer and Service


Duke Divinity School’s curriculum seeks to cultivate a life of worship, study, and service. We are committed to the very ancient idea that to be a person of God for others, one must be with others—in prayer, in study, at work, and at play. Central to this commitment is spiritual formation.

Prayer and ministry are inextricably joined. Through intentional spiritual formation we become acclimated to the divine longing of our hearts and begin to sense that our lives are being turned ever God-ward.

As Ellen Davis writes in Getting Involved with God,

“Once we start reading in a spiritually engaged way, it is evident that the Old Testament is urging us toward certain ‘habits of the heart and mind’ …that encourage us to cultivate counter-cultural habits such as seeking solitude, or repenting of our sins, or offering praise to God …. I will not say that these habits make it easier to be involved with God…, but they deepen our involvement and make it more profitable for our souls.”

Each first-year student has been prayerfully placed in a small, intentionally diverse group. These groups are led by local pastors, many of whom are Duke Divinity alumni. Each week the groups gather to share concerns, to reflect theologically on the nature of Christian discipleship, and, most important, to pray together. As part of the spiritual formation experience, students are also be invited to take time apart from their studies to attend two spiritual retreats, one each semester.

Our group leaders represent a wide spectrum of religious traditions, and it is our hope that students will become familiar with Christian practices of prayer and spirituality other than their own—developing a wider, deeper prayer vocabulary. Students will also have the opportunity to build confidence in their abilities as a spiritual leader as they journey into more faithful Christian service. I pray God’s blessing on you as you undertake this most joyous discipline.

Retreat Descriptions

Spiritual Formation Retreats
Spring Semester 2014

Sponsored by the Chaplain’s Office of Duke Divinity School

Attendance at one of these retreats fulfills the M.Div. requirement for Spiritual Formation. Students who do not fulfill this requirement will receive a grade of “incomplete” for the semester.

Rev. Liz Dowling-Sendor - “Writing, Reflection and Reconciliation”

January 25,  9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., Alumni Memorial Common Room

This retreat will focus on confessional writing, an ancient Christian practice that includes solitude, prayer, meditation, and reflection with others, all of which can help draw us closer to God. Through informal writing (no expertise is required) we will have an opportunity to delve deeply into the places within us where God feels absent, where we experience wounding, where we sense a need to confess and repent, where we are discerning the outlines of God’s call to us, and where we long for healing and reconciliation. We will also have a chance to reflect compassionately on these themes with others. The retreat will conclude with Holy Eucharist. Please bring a laptop or a journal and pen and paper.

Sr. Evelyn Craig  - “Exploring the Meditative Movement of Tai Chi"

Saturday, February 1, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.,  Alumni Memorial Common Room

Experience the centuries old practice of Tai Chi – a gentle low impact exercise that improves strength, balance and endurance. No previous experience necessary to enjoy the conscious breathing and the experience of the present moment. In the afternoon we will walk the labyrinth.  Wear comfortable clothes and soft shoes that allow for flexibility.  Share with others the benefit of silent, corporate movement, and the practice of mindfulness. Discover some Eastern attitudes to learning and wisdom as they compare with our Western approaches.  Sr. Evelyn is an Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister. 

Rev. Keith Daniel – “An Adventurous Theological Exploration of God's Plan for Your Life”

Saturday, February 8,  9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  Location to be announced.   

“You will show me the way (path) of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.” (Psalm 16: 11, New Living Translation)

Could there be a Theo-Logic for how you interpret God’s call on your life?  Is there a way to unveil some of the mystery of how God wants you to live and work in the world?  During this retreat we will pursue these and other questions by exploring the patterns of your life through the prisms of community, character formation, career exploration/experiences, and biblical call stories. We will enjoy the process of intentional Christian community engagement and exercises including individual and group reflection, journaling and prayer. 

Reformed Student Association Retreat with Rev. Jessica Tate from NEXTChurch:  “Cultivating Church Leadership”

Saturday, February 15,  9:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., at Chapel in the Pines, Chapel Hill. 

You learn lots about theology and scripture in Div school but what do you need to be an effective leader in Christ's church today?  This retreat invites you to identify essential aspects of Christian leadership and to explore skills and creative possibilities for leadership in the future.  Rev. Jessica Tate, Director of the NEXT Church movement in the PC(USA), will share some of the creative, innovative, and resourceful insights she sees in thriving Presbyterian churches today and will invite participants to consider their unique skills and unearth untapped passions that can strengthen the church of Jesus Christ.  All are welcome, and first year Presbyterian students receive SF credit for attending.  The retreat will open with worship and offer opportunities both to listen and learn from Jessica as well as to reflect together through group conversation.  Lunch will be provided.  Please contact Rev. Katie Owen, Presbyterian Campus Minister, at keo3@duke.edu or 919-438-1541 to register and with questions.

Rev. Dr. Eboni Marshall Turman – “This is MY Body:  Exploring Spirituality through Sacred Dance”

Friday, February 21, 3:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.:  The Episcopal Retreat Center, 505 Alexander Avenue,  Durham

Although often despised and ridiculed within contemporary ecclesial contexts, the body is the primary symbol of Christian faith and witness. As believers and worshippers of an incarnate God in whose image we are made, what we do with our bodies matters.  In this Friday evening retreat, participants will be invited to engage the body through dance as a method of spiritual witness. Participants will reflect on how key aspects of worship and devotion - prayer, meditation, scripture, even sermon - might be translated from esoteric text to flesh and blood.  We will observe several varieties of sacred dance before delving deeply into the recesses of our creative selves to compose body movement that emerges from our own intersection with the Spirit, while bringing full glory to God.  No dance experience is necessary to participate in this retreat.  All that is required is loose-fitting clothing and a willingness to move.

Fr. Ed Rommen - “Praying with Icons”

Saturday, March 1, 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.:  York Room

This retreat will explore ways in which icons can help strengthen prayer and spiritual growth.   We will begin by looking at the characteristics that distinguish icons from other forms of religious art and how those features relate to various aspects of prayer. We will then explore various types of icons and their attendant forms of prayer and meditation.  Bring a Bible and a notebook.

Ms. Carole Baker  - “Be Thou My Vision”

Saturday, March 29, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.: 110 Gray

One of the gifts the arts have to offer us is an opportunity to cultivate a discerning vision of the world we live in. In this workshop we will use the visual arts to reflect on the ways in which our vision can and must be trained to see the world as God sees it, through grace. A particular focus will be on drawing. Drawing is foundational for all visual art forms as it is a skill for disciplining one’s sight; learning to draw is learning to see. In our context we will see how drawing can also be a powerful form of mediation, and together we will meditate on what it means to ask God to “be our vision.” You do not have to be an experienced artist to enjoy this workshop. All of the exercises are developed so that participants of all skill levels will have opportunities for growth and enjoyment.  All supplies will be provided.  Meeting in 110 Gray.

Retreat Registration

Priority will be given to early registrations. Please return the form to the chaplain’s office at 101 Westbrook to register.

Retreat Registration (pdf)

Costs and Attendance

Attendance at one spring workshop is part of the requirement for every student enrolled in Spiritual Formation. Students unable to meet the workshop requirement for the Spring will receive a grade of incomplete for the semester. Reservations will be filled on a first-come first-served basis.  The expense of the workshop ($20), which includes lunch, will be covered by the Divinity School. If you are unable to attend a retreat for which you are scheduled, you will be required to register for another retreat (provided space is available.) In addition you may have to pay the $20 rescheduling fee for incurred expenses.  These arrangements require prior approval by the chaplain. 

You must be present for the entire retreat.  Lunch or light supper will be provided for all retreats except February 15, Reformed Student Association Retreat. Please let the chaplain’s office know if you have any dietary restrictions.  


See Sonja Tilley in the chaplain’s office, 101 Westbrook if you have additional questions.

Retreat Leaders

2013-14 Retreat Leaders

Our group leaders represent a wide spectrum of religious traditions, and it is our hope that students will become familiar with Christian practices of prayer and spirituality other than their own — developing a wider, deeper prayer vocabulary. Students will also have the opportunity to build confidence in their abilities as a spiritual leader as they journey into more faithful Christian service. I pray God’s blessing on you as you undertake this most joyous discipline. 

Diane Amidon 
(B.Mus., University of Hawaii; M.A., San Jose State University; M.Div., Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary) is an ordained Lutheran pastor who served most recently at  St. Philip Lutheran Church, Raleigh.

Urging Christians to live their faith daily, remaining personally grounded by prayer and reading Scripture, and preaching prophetically in a place where I’ve been pastor for years are challenges that are hard, but also joyful.

Carole Baker holds two degrees in theology (B.A., MTS) and is a visual artist. She is a research associate at the Divinity School and she is also enrolled in the Th.D. program. As an artist, Carole works in both contemporary painting and installations, as well as traditional iconography. She is interested in the ways in which the tradition of canonical icon writing challenges contemporary presumptions about art and artists, and hopes her doctoral work will enable her to articulate these tensions to the benefit of the church and theological discourse. She and her husband, Dale, have two amazing children, Isaac and Sophia, who keep her humble and on the path to holiness. www.carolebakerartist.com

Sally G. Bates
(B.A., Mary Washington College; M.A., UNC-Chapel Hill; M.Div., Duke Divinity School) joined the Divinity School as chaplain in 2002 and she is ordained in the United Methodist Church. She has particular interest in the intersection of faith and the arts, and Haitian missions.

Each day, my work challenges me to find different ways to create spaces of hospitality and openness where persons can encounter the Holy.

Rev. Tracy Clayton
(B.S. Public Health and MHA, UNC-Chapel Hill; M.Div., Duke Divinity School) is an ordained elder in the North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church. Currently, she is on study leave and pursuing both a D.Min. in Spiritual Direction (Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary) and a second unit of Clinical Pastoral Education. Additionally, she will serve as a preceptor in the area of worship at Duke Divinity School in the fall of 2013.        

My most formative scriptures are in the Sermon on the Mount, particularly Matthew 6. This text  offers practical instructions on such things as anonymous giving, praying, fasting, true treasure, and freedom from idols and worry. I hold that teaching in tension with Galatians 3:11-12 (The Message): "The person who lives in right relationship with God does it by embracing what God arranges for him. Doing things for God is the opposite of entering into what God does for you."

Evelyn Craig
Sr. Evelyn Craig is an Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister based in Monroe, Mich., where she served in formation and vocation discernment. Recognized as a mentor of a healthy spiritual life and effective campus minister, she presently is a spiritual director for clergy and members of all denominations. As a practioneer of tai chi, she offers a balanced, wholistic approach to spirituality.

My greatest spiritual question is, "How much is enough?" Enough effort on my part, then letting God be God, enough time spent, then resting, enough resources in this country so other countries have what they need. All of which requires attention to balance, discernment, and a lighthearted sense of humor and honesty with myself.

Keith Daniel
(A.B. Duke; M.Ed. NC State University; M.Div. Duke Divinity School) has worked at Duke University for 23 years, most recently as the Director of the Duke Chapel PathWays program. He is ordained in the American Baptist Church and is enrolled in the Divinity School's D.Min. program.

The Old Testament story of Eli and Samuel (1 Samuel 3) is especially meaningful to me, where Samuel hears his name called repeatedly by God and learns to say, “Speak, Lord, your servant hears.” This is how I enjoy living out my faith, with a heart for listening to God speak, and being a witness to the faithful replies of others.

Liz Dowling-Sendor
(A.B. Harvard University; M.Div., Duke Divinity School) is an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church, N.C. Diocese. She is a retreat leader and certified spiritual director, and has special interests in writing and the spiritual life.

Providing leadership during times of theological disagreement in the parish; balancing prayer time, family time and parish ministry time; and discerning ways in which God is calling me into deeper relationship and new ministries are significant challenges.

Rev. Sally French
(B.A. Trinity College, University of Toronto; M.Div., Toronto School of Theology; DMin, Virginia Theological Seminary) is an Episcopal priest serving a congregation in the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. She has special interest in Christian pilgrimage and education, and serves at times on the faculty of St. George’s College, Jerusalem. 

Finding balance while juggling parish ministry, family, and a commitment to learning and education is one of the ongoing challenges of my ministry.

Rev. Richard Greenway
(B.S., Newman University; M.Div., Duke Divinity School) is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, serving as pastor of Union Grove UMC in Hillsborough, N.C.

Isaiah 58:6-9 reminds me that it is in reaching out to others and sharing God’s love that the world begins to take shape and make sense. Indeed, it is by living in this holy rhythm of time with God and others that our lights begin to shine and we more and more become the people God created us to be.

Cheryl Barton Henry
(B.A. Rhodes College; M.Div. McCormick Theological Seminary) is an ordained Presbyterian (USA) minister since 1987. She currently serves as the Pastor at Efland Presbyterian Church. Previous to that call she served in campus ministry at Duke University and in rural and small town churches as a co-pastor, associate minister, and interim minister. 

The challenge I have in ministry is helping a crazy busy world so desperately in need of Christ’s community called the Church -- the Good News of God’s love in Jesus Christ it proclaims and attempts to embody, its ancient practices, its hope, its vision of justice and the friendship it offers all -- to spend enough time being church to know why this is so!

Steven R. Hinkle
(B.S., N.C. State University; M.Div., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is a member of the religious life staff for Duke University InterVarsity for graduate and faculty ministry.

It is a challenge to find effective and culturally appropriate ways to engage graduate students and faculty with the gospel.

Rev. George Linney
(B.A., Furman University; M. Div., Duke Divinity School) serves as pastor of the Tobacco Trail Community, an outdoor church that migrates for its weekly worship on and near the American Tobacco Trail in South Durham, N.C. Many of the parishioners walk or run on the trail before or after worship, reflecting on what God is doing through such activity. He is author of Border Ways, a book of poetry.

The challenge of my ministry is to have the same people participate regularly enough to form a community that is healing and renewing, serves the neighborhood, and ministers to those we encounter on the trail.

Rev. Dr. Eboni Marshall Turman is an ordained minister in the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. She serves on the faculty of the Divinity School as an Assistant Research Professor of Black Church Studies and the Director of the Office of Black Church Studies. She earned her M.Div., M. Phil., and Ph.D. at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Her primary teaching interests span the breadth of social ethics as a discipline, especially 20th century social ethics and the historical development of American theological liberalism; liberation theology and ethics; sexual ethics, and postcolonial ethics. She has danced professionally with the Alvin Ailey Dance Company of NYC.

Fr. Michael T. Martin, OFM Conv.
(B.A. Philosophy, St. Hyacinth College-Seminary; S.T.B., Pontifical Theological Faculty of St. Bonaventure – Rome; M.Ed. Education Administration, Boston College) is an ordained Roman Catholic priest and member of the Conventual Franciscan religious community who serves as the Director of the Duke Catholic Center.

I am edified to walk with people as they share their spiritual journey – it is truly holy ground!

Lori Pistor
(B.A. Trinity University; M.Ed., University of North Texas; M.Div., Columbia Theological Seminary) is an ordained PCUSA pastor who has served interim parish appointments in Dallas, Durham, and Manteo. She is a frequent workshop facilitator at the Avila Retreat Center in Durham.

“What does the Lord require?” is a constant negotiation between solitude and community, listening deeply and singing out loud, and living into the sacrament of baptism … living into both God’s claim on us and our promise to serve.

Fr. Edward Rommen
(B.A., Nyack College; M.Div., D. Missiology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is an Orthodox priest serving Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church in Raleigh. Fr. Rommen is also an adjunct faculty member at Duke Divinity School teaching in the areas of Christian spirituality and Orthodox theology.

Overcoming the effects of modern secular society on the spiritual life of the church is one of the most significant challenges of my ministry.

Rev. Molly Shivers
(M.A. History of Art UNC-Chapel Hill; M.Div., Duke Divinity School) is an Elder in Full Connection in the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. Prior to entering professional ministry, she worked in the museum world.  She has served congregations ranging from 80 to 800 and has most recently been engaged in a district-level ministry focused around conflict transformation in local churches. Her favorite book is any book the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis.

Robert Wesley Simpson
(B.A., University of Baltimore; M.Div., Duke Divinity School; D.Min., The University of the South, Sewanee) is the pastor at Resurrection UMC in Durham, and admits to reading constantly to keep himself grounded and growing.

Knowing when to step in, and when to let things emerge as the spirit leads is an on-going challenge in my ministry.

Sr. Joanna Walsh
(B.A., University College, Dublin, Ireland; M.A.T., English, Rhode Island College; M.T.S., Jesuit School of Theology) is a member of the religious order Faithful Companions of Jesus (F.C.J.). She is a visiting lecturer at Duke Divinity School and a certified spiritual director.

Remaining hopeful in a world where there is so much violence is one of the challenges of my ministry.