Duke Divinity School

Neighborhood Seminary is an innovative new program funded by the Parish Ministry Fund, providing robust missional, spiritual, theological, and practical formation to equip lay people to minister in their home, neighborhood, workplace, and community. The pilot program is led by an integrated team of Duke faculty, staff, and alumni, community practitioners, and trained spiritual directors.


The Neighborhood Seminary aims to help participants open their minds and senses anew to the movement of God’s Spirit, empowering them to engage the people of God in their communities. The learning and formation that takes place in the Neighborhood Seminary is built upon the premise that God comes among us and dwells in our neighborhoods. 

The pilot program for the Neighborhood Seminary is in the Greensboro, N.C. area starting in September 2017. 

The Neighborhood Seminary is open to lay persons, 18 years or older, who have a desire to engage God's mission in the neighborhood.

This two-year non-credit program provides:

  • four team-taught courses per year with Duke faculty, staff, and graduates partnering as well as gifted local practitioners
  • spiritual formation throughout the two years with trained spiritual directors in large- and small-group gatherings
  • community engagement with innovative local practitioners and neighborhood ministries

The two-year program meets September through April with the following monthly format:

  • monthly Saturday sessions (food is provided)
  • meeting with spiritual formation small group (1-2 times per month)
  • participation in community engagement (once per month)
  • in person or online discussion about course readings (once per month)

Program Cost

The cost for the two-year program is $500 ($250 a year) plus the cost of books.

The application is free. Upon acceptance into the Neighborhood Seminary, applicants will receive an invitation to register. A $250 payment is required for the first year, and a separate $250 payment is required at the start of the second year. Some scholarship funding is available.


Participants in Neighborhood Seminary gather one Saturday each month from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Lunch and light refreshments will be provided at each session.

Fall 2017

  • Sept. 9
  • Oct. 14
  • Nov. 11
  •  Dec. 9

Spring 2018

  •  Jan. 13
  • Feb. 10
  • Mar. 10
  • Apr. 14
  • May 12 (make-up day in case of snow day)

Fall 2018

  • Sept. 8
  • Oct. 13
  • Nov. 10
  • Dec. 8

Spring 2019

  • Jan. 12
  • Feb. 9
  • Mar. 9
  • Apr. 6
  • May 11  (make-up day in case of snow day)


Teaching Team

Rev. Elaine Heath, Ph.D.
Dean of the Divinity School and Professor of Missional & Pastoral Theology

Elaine Heath

Dean Heath’s scholarly work integrates systematic, pastoral, and spiritual theology in ways that bridge the gap between academy, church, and world. Heath is the author of numerous books and monographs, the most recent of which is God Unbound: Wisdom from Galatians for the Anxious Church (2016). Her book Five Means of Grace: Experience God's Love the Wesleyan Way will be published by Abingdon Press in the autumn of 2017.  She is also the co-founder of the Missional Wisdom Foundation, which provides opportunities for clergy and laity to learn how to live in intentional communities and to develop missional communities and social enterprise in diverse social contexts.

Rev. Brandon Wrencher

Brandon Wrencher

Rev. Brandon Wrencher is the pastor and pioneer of a new inclusive and neighborhood-rooted faith community in downtown Greensboro. A provisional elder in the Western North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church, Brandon has served in a diversity of settings: Raleigh-Durham, Chapel Hill, Chicago, and most recently in Todd, N.C. His leadership has spanned higher education, local church and nonprofit sectors. As mystic, prophet, and missional innovator, Wrencher nurtures the goodness and light within everyone to build Jesus-centered beloved community. 

Co-Directors of Spiritual Formation

Rev. Alice Kunka, Ph.D.

Alice Kunka

Rev. Alice Kunka currently serves as associate pastor of spiritual formation at Christ United Methodist Church in Greensboro, N.C.. Her passion is creating space and experiences that open people's hearts and minds to God's transforming grace. As an ordained deacon in The United Methodist Church, Kunka has served several parishes in the North Carolina and Western North Carolina Conferences.  For more than a decade she taught spiritual formation classes through Course of Study at Duke Divinity School, in addition to leading formation and training events and retreats with diverse groups, including the Latino community.

Rev. Wendy Miller

Wendy Miller

Rev. Wendy Miller has a deep love for the narratives which form the biblical mega-story and offer a doorway for persons to engage with their own life and soul-story and to encounter God. Named professor emeritus in spiritual formation at Eastern Mennonite Seminary after teaching spiritual formation, spiritual direction, and supervising training of spiritual directors for 19 years, Miller continues to nurture the formation and training of lay persons and clergy in United Methodist and Mennonite Conferences for the missional ministry of tending the soul of persons, congregations, and communities within and beyond the church. She is an ordained minister within the Virginia Conference of the Mennonite Church.

Director of Neighborhood Seminary

Heidi Miller, Ph.D.

Heidi Miller

Heidi A. Miller is director of the Neighborhood Seminary and serves as a managing director in the Missional Wisdom Foundation. Her teaching and research interests focus on gathered worship, spiritual formation, and leadership development. A licensed minister in the Virginia Mennonite Conference, she is currently writing a book on the place of sensory embodiment, or gesture, in effective worship practice, and its role in forming and empowering Christian community. While serving on the faculty at Southern Methodist University she worked with corporate executives regarding the connection between theology and business vocation, and has consulted with congregations undergoing transition and trauma, as well as with persons working with refugee communities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do I need to attend all of the sessions for the Neighborhood Seminary in order to be a part of it?
A: Your presence and the formation of community is a crucial part of the learning and engagement of the Neighborhood Seminary. Missing more than two Saturday sessions in the year is not recommended.

Q: Will the Neighborhood Seminary be offered again in the Greensboro area?
A: As of now, Duke Divinity School and Northern Piedmont District are planning to invite a new cohort in September of 2018.

Q: What if I cannot afford the cost for the Neighborhood Seminary?
A: Upon acceptance to the Neighborhood Seminary, there is space for you to indicate financial need in the registration. The director of the Neighborhood Seminary will be in touch with you regarding your need.

Q: When will small groups begin for the spiritual formation component of the Neighborhood Seminary?
A: Small groups will meet within and outside of the Saturday session of the Neighborhood Seminary. On Sept. 9, we will have some time in small groups. Formal small group assignments will occur on Oct. 14.

Q: What do I need to bring to the first session of the Neighborhood Seminary?
A: Bring items that you use to take notes and a bible.

Q: Do I have to be a part of a Methodist Church to enroll in the Neighborhood Seminary?
A: Our funding partner requires that participants be affiliated, in some way, with a United Methodist Church in the Northern Piedmont District of the North Carolina Annual Conference.

How to Apply

Applications are no longer being accepted.

Neighborhood Seminary is open to lay persons who are affiliated in some way with a United Methodist Church in the Northern Piedmont District of the North Carolina Annual Conference.

The application for the Neighborhood Seminary is online. There are two steps to the application:

Step 1:  As part of the online application, you are asked to name and provide contact information for pastor or pastoral leader who can serve as a reference. You are strongly encouraged to have a conversation with your pastor or pastoral leader about your participation in the Neighborhood Seminary. An online reference request will be sent to the pastor or pastoral leader through an email address that you provide.

Step 2: Within the online application, you are asked to answer the questions listed below. Please know that you are not able to save the work you have done once you have started the application.

  1. How did you hear about Neighborhood Seminary? (Character limit of 150)
  2. What is your primary motivation or hope in being a part of the Neighborhood Seminary (two to three sentences)? (Character limit of 350)
  3. How do you sense participation in the Neighborhood Seminary would connect with your sense of vocation and/or call? (Character limit of 350)
  4. In addition to our once-per-month Saturday sessions (September-April), learning will also take place in the following ways:
    • meeting with your spiritual formation small group (one-two times a month)
    • participating in community engagement (once per month)
    • connecting in person or electronically about the readings (once per month)
      Are you ready, willing, and able to agree to this inward and outward journey, including the time commitment? (____yes ____no)
  5. Have you spoken with your pastoral leader about participating in the Neighborhood Seminary (___ yes ____no)
  6. Is there anything else you would like us to know? (Character limit of 200)

You will receive an email confirming that your application has been received.



Each session will take place at Christ UMC, 410 N. Holden Road, Greensboro, NC 27410. Parking is available in the church parking lot.


For questions, contact:
Heidi A. Miller, Ph.D.
Director, Neighborhood Seminary
Duke Divinity School
(919) 613-5332

Events In This Series

Saturday, December 9, 2017 - 9:00am to 3:00pm
Saturday, January 13, 2018 - 9:00am to 3:00pm
Saturday, February 10, 2018 - 9:00am to 3:00pm
Saturday, March 10, 2018 - 9:00am to 3:00pm
Saturday, April 14, 2018 - 9:00am to 3:00pm
Saturday, September 8, 2018 - 9:00am to 3:00pm
Saturday, October 13, 2018 - 9:00am to 3:00pm
Saturday, November 10, 2018 - 9:00am to 3:00pm
Saturday, December 8, 2018 - 9:00am to 3:00pm
Saturday, January 12, 2019 - 9:00am to 3:00pm
Saturday, February 9, 2019 - 9:00am to 3:00pm
Saturday, March 9, 2019 - 9:00am to 3:00pm
Saturday, April 6, 2019 - 9:00am to 3:00pm