Monday, November 20, 2017

The Duke Divinity School Center for Reconciliation (CFR) and nonprofit DurhamCares held their fifth Durham Pilgrimage of Pain and Hope on Oct. 20-22. Over the weekend, 20 people engaged with Durham’s history through the spiritual practice of pilgrimage and reflected theologically on the city’s history of oppression and resilience.

The CFR holds the pilgrimage to expose Divinity School students to the need for reconciliation and explore how God is at work in Durham. DurhamCares Executive Director Reynolds Chapman, M.Div ’10 facilitated the pilgrimage. Three Duke Divinity School students, Miriam Cho, M.Div ’20; Josh Kamrass, M.Div ’19; and Howard Kim, M.Div ’20 attended this fall’s pilgrimage.

The group visited historical sites that included Stagville Plantation, downtown Durham, the Hayti Heritage Center, and the Latino Community Credit Union. The pilgrimage also hosted talks with civil rights activist Virginia Williams, businessman Skippy Scarborough and other community leaders. In between sites, the pilgrimage set aside times for Scriptural study and reflection to discuss how the theology of God’s story intersected with Durham’s story.

Kamrass said that the pilgrimage allowed him to engage with Durham’s history through concrete experiences. 


Pilgrimage participants reflect on the significance of Pauli Murray on Durham's history.

“At the Stagville plantation, my moment of encounter with the reality of slavery and its demonic evil was not in hearing any large-scale narrative, but in hearing the two questions the plantation owner, Mr. Cameron, would ask every time he ran into an enslaved person on the plantation: ‘What is your name?’ and ‘Who do you belong to?’”

Kamrass said those details encourage him to be more active in the Durham community and be intentional about applying his studies at the Divinity School.

“At the Divinity School, we still remain stuck in a world of issues and ideologies and end up hovering over our world without reaching down into its actual messy, dirty ground. This pilgrimage has given me a hope for the Divinity School that in becoming attentive to the messy details of our lives, we might develop a true vulnerability with each other and actually ‘be renewed by the transformation of our minds,’” Kamrass said.

The pilgrimage is based on a model created by South African Methodist pastor Trevor Hudson to grapple with the country’s history of apartheid in a theological context. Pilgrimage has been a part of the CFR’s methodology since its inception. Both the Great Lakes Initiative leadership institute and the Christian Forum for Reconciliation in Northeast Asia incorporate pilgrimage to explore the theology and practice of reconciliation.

In 2007, the Office of Black Church Studies was the first department from Duke Divinity School to lead a pilgrimage of Durham. The CFR and DurhamCares staff, some of whom attended the 2007 pilgrimage, partnered together in the summer of 2016 to explore the idea of pilgrimage in reconciliation. Since October 2016, the CFR and DurhamCares has led pilgrimages of Durham based on a curriculum developed by the following people:

  • Abi Riak, staff at CFR
  • Cathy Watson, M.Div ‘04, director of Student Life
  • Fatimah Salleh, M.Div ‘15, assistant director of academic support at Duke Divinity School
  • Keith Daniel, M.Div. '05/D.Min. '16, former director of the Office of Black Church Studies, DurhamCares board chair
  • Lori Galambos, M.Div ‘15, Milsaps College, campus community program director, communications coordinator of East/West Jackson Districts Office of the United Methodist Church
  • Michelle Osborne, M.Div ‘15, Rural Advancement Foundation international program manager
  • Reynolds Chapman, M.Div’ 15, DurhamCares executive director
  • Tamario Howze, M.Div ‘18
  • Tara Batemon, staff at CFR
  • Valerie Helbert, staff at CFR

The next CFR-DurhamCares pilgrimage is March 16-18, 2018. Learn more and register..