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Incarnational Ministry

Formation for ordained ministry is a formation of our whole being in practical wisdom.

academics as well as the practices of ministry both in the curriculum and through our field education program. Our explicit attention to spiritual formation is a relatively more recent addition to the Divinity School’s overall approach to ministerial formation. We now require all students to participate in a program of spiritual formation during their first year of Divinity School, and many students engage in spiritual formation groups throughout their time at Duke. Morning prayer is offered each weekday morning in Goodson Chapel, and we also have full worship services on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays during the school year. Our chaplain, the Reverend Sally Bates, plays a significant role in helping students integrate spiritual formation into their overall preparation for pastoral leadership.

We hope students will have their dispositions and desires formed to love God more deeply through their spiritual formation experiences, and that these dispositions and desires will be intimately connected to their study and to their ministry in congregations and other settings in the world. It is heartening to watch as students take what they learn in their first-year spiritual formation groups into their field education settings. One recent student developed a lectio divina approach to Bible study for the local congregation she served during summer field education, an approach she had learned and practiced in her spiritual formation group.

At Duke Divinity School we are committed to forming students in the pattern of Jesus Christ, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.” This is the heart of incarnational ministry. Philippians 2 makes concrete what the “mind” of Christ really looks like: the thinking, feeling, and living of one who empties himself for the sake of others.

Ben didn’t see his custodian’s uniform as an alternative to the pastor’s alb. Nor does he see service in opposition to leadership, or thinking in opposition to feeling or doing. Rather, he recognized that they are complementary, recognizing that an incarnational approach to pastoral leadership requires us to embody the significance of the both/and: as Jesus is both fully God and fully human, so ordained ministry calls us to serve and lead, to think and feel and perceive and live well. It is a demanding challenge for Duke Divinity School, yet one we seek to embody well as we form women and men for service to Christ, the church, and the world.