Day 9 : The Church as a Witness

Day 9 : The Church as a Witness

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In this morning’s plenary, Dr. Hauerwas challenged our presumptions about the nature and role of the Church in our lives and in the world.

At a Glance


Life in the Spirit: The Church as a Witness

Faculty Speaker

Dr. Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics

Lectionary Texts

Deuteronomy 6; Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 84; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Acts 1:1-

Reflections on the Lecture

Students close worship with a candlelight serviceIn this morning’s plenary, Dr. Hauerwas challenged our presumptions about the nature and role of the Church in our lives and in the world. He argued that truly knowing Christ is not possible outside the Church, a community of witnesses brought into new life through the story of God's saving love, a story that we too were grafted into in our baptism. Dr. Hauerwas urged us to consider that the Church’s purpose is not to make the world more just but to “make the world the world.” In the midst of a modern culture that values freedom, independent thought and pride above all else, Christianity offers salvation, a “new way of living” that is an alternative to the violence, fear and loneliness that stand behind the world’s promises. Dr. Hauerwas pushed us to realize that God’s call is to a life of “dysfunction” where we are set apart from the world's reality based on the reality of the gospel.


Without the church, we don’t know Jesus. This challenges our sacred presumption that we can have faith on our own, without the church. To put it as offensively as possible, there is no salvation outside the church. No church, no Jesus.” — Dr. Stanley Hauerwas during plenary lecture

The church you go to doesn’t sound like the church I’ve described, does it? That means you have a lot of work to do.”  — Dr. Hauerwas's commission at the end of plenary

He’s like a rockstar.”  — Student observing the crowd around Dr. Hauerwas after plenary

I’m getting it now. Before I wasn’t drinking, I wasn’t smoking. I was being a ‘good Christian.’ But I was missing something. There’s more to it than just following the rules and doing everything right. It’s about being ‘weird’ and living differently for Christ and for others.” — Student reflecting on Rev. Dr. Joy Moore’s evening sermon

Other Activities

During morning prayer we began our focus on the day's themes by meditating on the working of the Holy Spirit. We continued to explore different experiences of prayer in our Prayer Practice workshops and enjoyed fellowship with the Congregation of Duke Chapel over a delicious dinner that they prepared for us. Two small groups designed and led us in a worship service centered on the day’s theme of the Church as Witness. We were joined by our celebrant, Rev. Elizabeth Michael, the Associate Pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Durham and our preacher, Rev. Joy Moore, Associate Dean for Black Church Studies at the Divinity School. Dr. Moore preached about what it means to be a Christian witness, saying that “we don’t have to make things happen, we just have to testify to what God has done.”

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow we turn to another theme of the work of the Holy Spirit, “Church as a Community of Reconciliation.” In the afternoon we’ll return to various organizations in the local community to offer service and get to know our neighbors. Tomorrow will also be our second student-led evening service, and we’ll welcome our own Rev. Julian Pridgen to the pulpit.