The largest multi-ethnic community development conference in the U.S. is helping Divinity School students re-chart their paths as ambassadors of reconciliation.
A contingent of more than a dozen students and staff from the Center for Reconciliation  attended the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference Sept. 26-29 in Minneapolis-St. Paul. The annual conference, which began in 1989, draws more than 3,000 people representing a network of Christian ministries and congregations engaged in community development across the U.S.
Now Duke Divinity students are implementing the tools they learned and the transformative stories they heard at CCDA to expand their visions of the ministry of reconciliation.
“I left the conference feeling encouraged to know that so many talented people have committed their lives to the sacrificial work of Christian community development,” student Lindsay Eierman said. “I also felt compelled to commit myself to a community where I can devote my ministry.”
Eierman, M.Div. ’13, said she has been weighing whether she should pursue a Board of Immigration Appeals certification that would allow her to assist immigrants in Department of Justice immigration hearings. CCDA gave her the resources and the knowledge to move forward with the certification.
“I've had a really hard time finding people who know anything about the process for working towards that certification,” Eierman said. “Incredibly enough, the first workshop I attended at CCDA was all about how to achieve that BIA certification."
Tyra Johnson, M.Div. ’13, said that CCDA reminded her that building up the church as the home of diverse people who are committed to loving each other is a shared journey. All Christians are called to the ministry of reconciliation, Johnson said. This is a message she wants to carry into the different spheres she inhabits—from social to church to work.
“I, by myself, can't do anything to bring about reconciliation,” Johnson said. “It is a collective journey that cannot be traveled alone.”
For Michelle Osborne, M.Div./M.S.W. ’15, the conference was an opportunity to hear from practitioners experienced in community development work and reconciliation initiatives. Being present and listening changed her, Osborne said, because it gave her the rhetoric to talk about her own heritage and experience as a woman with Native American heritage.
“I think that CCDA is a lot about growing in grace toward those around me. It changes the way that I interact with others and particularly the way I talk about race.”
During the conference, the students also heard from Center for Reconciliation co-founders Chris Rice and Emmanuel Katongole, who delivered the keynote address. Their message brought awareness to the center’s transformative work at Duke Divinity School, where staff seek to equip students to be reconcilers among diverse people in the church, in the academy, and throughout the world.
The center, in partnership with the school’s Office of Field Education, places students in internships at several CCDA partner ministries including New Song Urban Ministries in Baltimore, Md. and Neighborhood Ministries in Phoenix, Ariz. In addition, several Duke Divinity School graduates are serving in CCDA ministries.
Johnson said that Rice and Katongole reminded her that “both Jesus and justice go together in the journey towards reconciliation; one without the other is a huge injustice.
“Sometimes Jesus said, ‘Come and see.’ CCDA may be the largest and most multi-ethnic and mixed-social class gathering in the Christian community in America,” Rice said. “It’s a place where students come and see stories of hope in the most abandoned places of America. And that taste of new creation changes their lives.”