Emily Rebecca Dueitt, M.Div. › ‹
When she was 16, Emily Dueitt followed her youth minister’s advice and spent two weeks living and learning in intentional Christian community at the Duke Youth Academy.
“The Youth Academy brings high school students from all over the country here and pulls them out of our consumerist culture to show them a different way—the way of Jesus, the way of living with each other as Christians,” Dueitt says. “It is a really neat community in itself.”
That community inspired her decision to attend seminary at Duke, which she calls “my spiritual home.” The encouragement of Divinity School alumni who have mentored her both at her home church and undergraduate college confirmed this was the right choice.
“What really holds us together here is when people come to worship in Goodson Chapel,” Dueitt says. “That’s when there’s real community.”
In a culture dominated by iPods, where “you get on a campus bus, and there are 80 people wearing ear buds,” Dueitt believes that creating and sustaining community is more and more difficult. “We all need community because we are social animals; we’re wired that way.
“We talk in our ethics class about having a holy posse, a community that holds us accountable to the things that we’re learning, things that we are challenged with, things we struggle with. Sharing joys and concerns like these is vital. I don’t think we can be the body of Christ outside of community.”
Robert Ewusie Moses, Th.D. › ‹
Born to Methodist parents in Accra, Ghana, Robert Ewusie Moses began attending a nearby Presbyterian church with friends as a teenager.
“I didn’t like to wait for my parents to drive me to our church, so I started going with my friends and was confirmed at the Presbyterian church,” says Moses, who attended a Catholic school. While still in high school, he moved to Detroit, Mich., where he was adopted by Baptist parents. He joined their church and was licensed as a preacher at the age of 18.
“I am a walking witness of ecumenicity,” Moses says. “At some point I was part of the Methodist and Presbyterian traditions, and now I am Baptist. I know God has a place for each of us. What breaks my heart is why we can’t work together and come around the same table.”
During his time at seminary, Moses has reflected on the unity and ecumenicity of the church. “What does it mean to be one holy catholic church as we recite in our creeds each Sunday morning?” he asks
“There are so many opportunities here to interact with other traditions. Even within our differences there’s a way we are able to affirm each other as children of God and to find a way to worship together. We are not all the same, but we can create a space where everyone can listen to each other and dialogue.” In his spiritual formation group, Moses met another Baptist, Lutherans, United Methodists, Episcopalians, and a Wesleyan.
“It was a blessing to be able to interact with these different denominations,” Moses says. “Even when our Lutheran leader led a simple prayer, I became curious: ‘Why is Luther saying this?’ It opens your eyes to the practices in each tradition.
Justin Howard Collett, M.Div. › ‹
“Worship is a necessary response to the grace I’ve been given, and both a way to deepen that relationship with God and a way to experience grace,” says Justin Collett. Though it’s tempting to think of worship as somehow separate from academics at seminary, “I know that is totally false,” he says.
“What happens within the classroom is not meant to be disembodied intellectualism. All that we read and learn and experience is going to come together and culminate in the worship experience, which is the Christian response to a relationship with God,” Collett says.
“Worship is the place where I can be repaired when I’m broken, rejoice when my cup is overflowing, or anything in between.”
Though he has not yet led worship at the Divinity School, Collett looks forward to that opportunity. “What a blessing to stand in front of your peers and fellow worshippers and do something as powerful as leading worship,” he says. “It’s such a humbling thing to be an instrument in the hands of God.”
Goodson Chapel is a special setting for worship, says Collett. “The design captures the beautiful essence of worship in a physical space. It’s really a gift.”
David Joseph Allen, M.Div. › ‹
As a Duke University undergraduate, David Allen made connections with divinity students and faculty that sustained him following the terrorist attacks in the fall of his sophomore year.
“I will be eternally grateful that I was surrounded by people who were thinking critically and in a Christian way about those really confusing events on September 11,” Allen says.
Relationships at the Divinity School guided his faith formation, and planted the seed of a future in ministry. After working three years in development with the Washington, D.C.-based non-profit Sojourners, he returned to Duke for seminary.
Wherever ministry takes him after completing the three-year master of divinity degree, Allen feels strongly that rigorous academic preparation is a prerequisite.
“I need to be able to think critically and analyze Scripture, to think theologically and develop that kind of mental agility,” he says. “Likewise, further study of theology should never be divorced from the context of the church.”
At Duke, he appreciates that many of his professors have served as local pastors, and when appropriate connect course material to preaching or pastoral care. They are also part of a community of worship.
“Seeing your professor sitting down the row from you at chapel, or getting to hear that professor from the pulpit, helps place what goes on here in context,” says Allen.
Amey Victoria Adkins, M.Div. › ‹
During her senior year of college, Amey Adkins began to question her longstanding plan to attend law school. Climbing the corporate ladder in communications didn’t hold appeal either. She was interested in ministry, but not sure she was ready for seminary.
“I thought, ‘This is my life!’ My motivation for law school had been to see justice served. I wanted to interact with people, but something just felt off about going to law school.”
After graduation, she turned down several job offers in journalism. “I knew I was going to get caught on the corporate ladder. Even if I committed to working for two years and thinking about divinity school, I knew that probably was not going to happen.” She began looking for less conventional options and found a Chapel Hill, N.C.-based program sponsored by the national Episcopal Church. “I didn’t make any money,” Adkins says, “but it was perfect. It was an intentional Christian community dedicated to peace, justice and living in solidarity with the poor.
“It was extremely challenging, but I loved walking down Franklin St. and knowing everyone— not just college students, but everyone,” Adkins says. “I loved building relationships.”
She considered a master’s degree in social work, but realized “that I didn’t want to be a social worker coming from a theological space,” Adkins says. “I wanted to be a minister encouraging the church to take up its responsibility and its call socially.”
“At Duke, I found the sense of commitment to academics and to a life of faith, and to church development. I felt it was important that if I was going to do this kind of work, I needed to learn to love God with my mind as well—and this was the perfect place to come.”
“I’m in a continual process of discernment, letting the call unfold,” Adkins says. “Participating in many different kinds of worship here has made me more aware of the gifts I have and that I can share them with the world. That’s been really empowering. For me, a lot of times God works through opening doors.”
Heather Hartung Vacek, Th.D. › ‹
What attracted you to Duke’s Th.D.?
This program’s intention to bridge church and theology in a very intentional way was attractive. That, paired with strong academics and the space to ask questions of the church, to the church, from the church, was also appealing. As an undergrad in engineering and economics, and later in business school and engineering school, I experienced firsthand the benefits of the flexibility to ask questions across disciplines.
Describe your research project:
My project is about mental illness. Why is that illness much harder for a congregation to address than a broken leg or a heart attack? I am working with American religious historians and theologians to explore Christian responses to mental illness. The appeal of the Th.D. is having one foot in academia and one foot in the church, and I hope to be able to continue to maintain that balance. I think the ability to learn and to gain new understandings is diminished in either of those places if there isn’t conversation.
What’s best about doing this at Duke?
After completing my M.Div., I could easily imagine spending four or five more years learning from and with Duke’s faculty. I watched the launch of the Th.D. program and knew there was incredible enthusiasm for, and strong conviction about, its importance for academia and for the church at large.