Day 9: The Church as a Witness

Day 9: The Church as a Witness

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Dr. Hauerwas pressed us to understand that salvation is known through the witness of the church.

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; and Acts 1:1-8

Reflections on the Lecture

Dr. Hauerwas pressed us to understand that salvation is known through the witness of the church. We were invited to reconsider no less than two of our previously studied topics, incarnation and baptism. He referred to the church as an extension of the incarnation which is the doctrine that teaches that God is made man and has come to Earth in the form of Jesus Christ. He called us to consider that beginning with the very act of our baptisms we are being shaped as Christ for the world.

His lecture continued by making a familiar claim of his that the first task of the church is to make the world the world: to witness to the world by telling the world what it is, who it is, and how it might be different than the church. In the midst of a violent world, Christians are called to live peacefully, to learn how to receive and offer forgiveness.


 “Christianity is a faith that lives on the basis of witness. There is no way for you to know the story of Jesus other than having it told to you by someone else.”
— Dr. Hauerwas in morning plenary

“We're going to screw your life up, if we do it well.”
— On the Youth Academy’s attempt to change the way students understand “success”

“Excuse me. You have on a Methodist cross, you’re carrying a rosary, and you’re reading a book of midrash. … What are you doing here?”
— A visitor to Duke Divinity School library observing a DYA student after Prayer Practice workshops

“We are not a memorial society for Jesus.”
— Rev. Lisa Yebuah in evening worship

Other Activities

After a particularly provocative and challenging morning plenary, students were encouraged to continue thinking about the church’s calling to be Christ’s witnesses in the world. Afternoon Prayer Practice workshops again steeped us in various prayer traditions of the church throughout time. In the evening, students led a beautiful contemplative worship service in which we reflected on who we are called to be as Christ’s body at work.  Former DYA staff member the Rev. Lisa Yebuah preached on Acts 1, and the Rev. Melanie Dobson-Hughes, also a former staff member, celebrated Eucharist in the tradition of the community of Iona off the British Isles. 

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow we turn our eyes toward “The Church as a Community of Reconciliation.”  In plenary, Rutba House community members Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Sarah Jobe will lead us in plenary. In the afternoon, we’ll travel on a pilgrimage of pain and hope through Durham, listening to the stories of members of this particular community and – hopefully – discovering new ways to understand the places from which we each come