Monday, April 8, 2019 - 3:45pm to Wednesday, April 10, 2019 - 12:30pm
Omni Gove Park Inn, Asheville, NC (Map)
(919) 613-5323

Continuing the Conversation: Embracing the Power of Welcome is an opportunity for Duke Endowment pastors from the North Carolina and Western North Carolina Conferences of the United Methodist Church to join with Duke Divinity School and The Duke Endowment to explore how congregations and their leaders can foster fruitful dialogue and civil conversation across human divides that permeate our communities and civic life.

Registration has been extended to Sunday, March 17th at 11:59 pm.

Event Details

Participants will join in worship, plenary sessions, workshops, and fellowship. The theme of the event is “Continuing the Conversation:  Embracing the Power of Welcome.” The event will feature Krista Tippett from the On Being Project, preachers, and workshop leaders who will offer models and resources for overcoming barriers and bridging divides within rural communities.

Participants who attend all sessions of the event will be emailed 1.5 continuing education unit at the conclusion of the event.

Please contact us with any questions.


Over the course of the three-day event, participants will have the opportunity to attend plenary sessions, share in worship and meals, and enjoy free time. The conference will take place at the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC.

The event will begin at 3:45 p.m. on Monday afternoon and conclude at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon with worship. A boxed lunch will be provided.


Duke Endowment pastors will receive a registration invitation email.  Registration has been extended to Sunday, March 17th at 11:59 pm.

Due to the generous funding from The Duke Endowment, registration for "Embracing the Power of Welcome" is only $75. Registration includes accommodations and the following meals: Monday dinner, both Tuesday and Wednesday breakfast, refreshments, and lunch. Dinner is on your own Tuesday evening. 

Meals are not covered for any family members who may share accommodations with event participants. Should you plan on bringing a guest, we highly recommend reviewing the hotel’s meal options in advance. If you plan to eat at The Grove Park on Tuesday night, we strongly suggest making reservations at one of their restaurants ahead of time. Read more about the restaurant options at The Grove Park.


Workshop sessions will take place twice on Tuesday. All workshops offered in the morning will be offered in the afternoon with the exception of "Bridging Difference from Inside Out” (Tuesday morning) and "Brave Space and Conversations on Human Sexuality" (Tuesday afternoon).  Please review the workshop descriptions below and be prepared to select two on the registration site.

Bridging Difference From Inside Out  - (Tuesday morning only)
Jen Bailey, Margaret Ernst, Micky ScottBey Jones

Many congregations and their pastors struggle to have constructive dialogue across difference, whether it’s within the four walls of the church or in the wider communities in which they serve. What does it look like to forge resilient relationships across political, racial, generational, and other divides both within and outside church walls? This session will be an opportunity to share learnings, hear best practices, and have some "real talk" about the pitfalls that come up when holding courageous conversations: what’s working, what’s not, and how we get unstuck from the barriers that hold us back from living into a call of radical welcome.

Brave Space and Conversations on Human Sexuality  - (Tuesday afternoon only)
Jen Bailey, Margaret Ernst, Micky ScottBey Jones

No matter where your congregation is in the spectrum of discernment on LGBTQ inclusion, this session will offer tools for pastors looking to host conversations around human sexuality in your context. Drawing on lessons from The People’s Supper, the Faith Matters Network team will share about the ingredients that go into creating “Brave Space,” and how these principles can apply in dialogues about human sexuality -- how to craft conversations that center personal storytelling, build empathy across divergent perspectives, and allow people to feel seen, heard, and understood in the stories and experiences that shape us.

Conflict as Opportunity: Learning The Colossian Way Practice  - (offered twice)
Michael Gulker, Chris DeVos

Too often we struggle to find our way through complex issues and end up fighting with or splitting apart from each other. The church seems to be as embattled in these issues as the broader culture around us. Yet, if we have been given, as Paul reminds us in 2 Cor. 5, the “ministry of reconciliation,” these contentious issues may just offer us our best opportunity for Christian spiritual formation, and even witness. In the midst of our current complexity, we see a moment to grow our love for one other and for God. This presentation will present the basic thought framework of The Colossian Way practice and include a sample of one group session. That framework can be summed up in this way: combine an understanding of the complexity of a current issue with the practice of Christian virtue, and conflict is transformed into an occasion for spiritual formation and witness.

Divided We Fall: A Civility TV Concept to Bridge Our Divides - (offered twice)
Tom Cosgrove, Kristen Richardson-Frick, and Kirsten Wilson

Participants will view footage from a documentary series called “Divided We Fall” (in which strangers are brought together to share life for a time) and engage in a conversation that will address two pressing questions for American Christians.

  • What does it means to be an American, and how can we bridge our divides? 
  • In the documentary series, strangers become deep friends and learn to view each other as fellow human beings, which transforms their lives and perspectives. How might the church cultivate such holy friendships, which according to Duke Divinity School Dean Greg Jones “challenge the sins we have come to love, affirm the gifts we are afraid to claim, and help us dream dreams we otherwise would not dream.” How might cultivating such relationships both bridge divides and transform lives and communities?

The same questions and prompts that were used to select and engage documentary cast members will be used in conversation with workshop participants to uncover our common humanity. Further, participants will explore together the notion and possibilities of holy friendship in the context of their communities and ministry.

World Café
Cindy Thompson

World Café is a flexible and effective model for hosting crucial conversations leading to action with groups of all sizes on varying topics and issues. Cindy Thompson, executive director of Boundless Impact, has used the World Café model for over 10 years, with organizations from all sectors and sizes. World Café conversations can be hosted for many purposes -- from strategic planning to engaging groups in civil discourse around polarizing topics. The workshop will provide an overview of the World Café model, including the seven design principles, as well as practical suggestions on hosting a World Café in your community. 

During the workshop, attendees will participate in a brief World Café process to experience how it works. Additionally, Thompson will share two case studies where the World Café model has been used recently in the Western North Carolina Conference. The first is called TRUTH Cafe, which brings churches of different ethnicities together to become catalysts for racial equity in their communities. The second is Healthy Conversations for a Way Forward around the topic of human sexuality and the United Methodist Church, leading up to the special called General Conference in Feb. 2019.

We Are Not Enemies: America’s Promise in an Age of Polarization  - (offered twice)
David Blankenhorn

Polarization is tearing America apart. What can bring us together?

In this talk, David Blankenhorn will discuss the causes and potential cures regarding the crisis of our time -– political polarization, which can be defined as our loss of trust in one another as citizens and the fear that our political opponents are not simply misguided, but are bad people. Drawing in part on the work of “Better Angels,” a national grassroots initiative Blankenhorn leads aimed at depolarization, he will also ask us to consider the natural advantages Americans have when it comes to confronting this great challenge.

The title of the talk comes from Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address in 1861, on the eve of the Civil War, in which he says “We are not enemies, but friends” and calls us to be touched again by “the better angels of our nature.”  Today in our increasingly fractured nation, surely we all need to be touched again by something “better” within us.


Program sessions and accommodations for "Continuing the Conversation:  Embracing the Power of Welcome" will be provided at the Omni Grove Park Inn, a full-service hotel and conference center located in Asheville, N.C. The Omni Grove Park Inn has a spa, golf course, outdoor pool, tennis courts, and outdoor shops. Beautifully set in the mountains of Asheville, we hope this setting will serve as a rejuvenating retreat for you to renew your mind and refresh your ministry.

On-site accommodations are required to attend this event, and reservations must be made through Divinity School while registering for the event. Self-Parking is included and available on-site.

Speakers and Staff

Plenary Speakers

Krista Tippet

ktKrista Tippett is a Peabody-award winning broadcaster, National Humanities Medalist, and New York Times bestselling author. She founded and leads The On Being Project, hosts the globally esteemed On Being public radio show and podcast, and curates the Civil Conversations Project, an emergent approach to conversation and relationship across the differences of our age.

Tippett grew up in a small town in Oklahoma, attended Brown University, became a journalist and diplomat in Cold War Berlin, and later received a Master of Divinity from Yale University. Her books include Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, and Einstein’s God: Conversations about Science and the Human Spirit.
Tru Pettigrew

tpTru Pettigrew is a celebrated author, an engaging speaker, a committed community leader, and an award-winning marketing executive with 20 years of experience at the nation’s top advertising & marketing agencies.

He currently serves as founder and president of Tru Access, an inspiration and empowerment consultancy that serves individuals and organizations by helping them to bridge gaps. His first book, Millennials Revealed, serves as a guide for countless individuals and organizations across the country to help them build meaningful connections across diverse generations.

In addition to building bridges across generations, Pettigrew has also established a strong reputation for building bridges across racial, cultural, social, and relational lines. He is currently a resident of Cary, N.C.


Chief Tony Godwin

cgPolice chief Tony Godwin began his career with the Cary Police Department in 1990. He has had the opportunity to serve in many different roles throughout the agency over the years, including Emergency Response Team sniper/sniper team leader/team commander, bike team sergeant, narcotics detective, criminal investigations lieutenant, major over both the operations and services bureaus, deputy chief of police, and police chief. Godwin retired from Cary Police Department in January 2019 and currently serves as a community Bridge Builder as a member of Tru Access, an inspiration and empowerment consultancy that serves individuals and organizations by helping them to bridge gaps. 

Godwin received his bachelor degree from N.C. State University and his master degree from Methodist University.  He recently served as the chairman of the Atlanta Carolinas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area group, and is currently the Region VII director for the N.C. Association Chiefs of Police and a commissioner on the N.C. Industrial Hemp Commission.

Workshop Leaders

Jen Bailey

jbNamed one of "15 Faith Leaders to Watch" by the Center for American Progress, Reverend Jennifer Bailey is an ordained minister, public theologian, and national leader in the multi-faith movement for justice. She is the founder and executive director of the Faith Matters Network (FMN), a people of color-led leadership incubator dedicated to catalyzing the voices of emerging justice-centered leaders of faith.

Bailey is the co-founder of the People's Supper, a project that aims to repair the breach in our interpersonal relationships across political, ideological, and identity difference over shared meals. Since Jan. 20, 2017, the People's Supper has hosted over 1,000 dinners in 120 cities and towns across the United States. Along the way they have teamed up with ordinary citizens, schools, workplaces, faith communities, and neighborhood organizations to model what deep community-building looks like in a time of deepening social divides.  Bailey is an ordained itinerant elder in the A.M.E. Church.


David Blankenhorn

DBDavid Blankenhorn is president of Better Angels, a citizens’ organization uniting red and blue Americans in a working alliance to depolarize America. He has spent a lifetime working across the political divides. Before founding Better Angels, Blankenhorn was the president of the Institute for American Values, a think tank focusing on civil society that he founded in 1988. Prior to that time, he worked as a community organizer in Massachusetts and Virginia, which included two years as a VISTA Volunteer. 

Blankenhorn writes regularly for The American Interest and is the author of Fatherless America (1995), The Future of Marriage (2007), Thrift: A Cyclopedia (2008), and New York's Promise (2013). He is also the co-editor of nine books. He graduated from Harvard College in 1977; received an M.A. in history from the University of Warwick in Coventry, England, in 1979; and lives in New York City.


Tom Cosgrove

tcTom Cosgrove has designed and implemented successful communication and grassroots campaigns for over three decades as an environmental activist, campaign manager, political media consultant, C-Suite advisor to businesses and nonprofits, and as a civic entrepreneur. In 1999, he formed The Cosgrove Group, a strategic communications consulting firm. Relying on the power of groundbreaking research and out-of-the-box thinking, The Cosgrove Group has solved communications problems for Fortune 500 companies, national political figures, international unions, nonprofit organizations, and a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

In 2013 Cosgrove launched the WikiWisdom Forum.  A WikiWisdom Forum harnesses the power of technology, peer collaboration, and networks to unearth front-line wisdom and connect it to people in power. Teachers, students, nurses, patients, physicians, women business leaders, community leaders, and ministers are examples of past peer groups that have successfully participated in a WikiWisdom project.

In 2017 Cosgrove launched New Voice Strategies, a 501c-3 organization with a mission to create, incubate, and launch projects to heal divides, restore compassion, and strengthen self-government. The current primary project of New Voice Strategies is producing the documentary series Divided We Fall.  The series is exploring what it means to be an American today, the divides in our country, and how we might bridge them.


Chris De Vos

cdChris De Vos is manager of Church Partnerships and Care at The Colossian Forum. He has strong threads of reconciliation and unity woven into his life, and fully believes it’s possible to collaborate across differences. He graduated from Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary, and completed a Doctor of Ministry degree at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Ill.

Before coming to The Colossian Forum, De Vos worked as a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church in Dunwoody, Ga.; Kingston, Ontario; and, most recently, in Holland, Mich. In 2015, he moved to lead the Ridder Church Renewal initiative at Western Theological Seminary.


Margaret Ernst

meMargaret Ernst learned what she knows about faith and justice from organizing alongside clergy, school parents, and airport workers in Philadelphia, when she led communications for POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild), a faith-based organizing group that has built a broad base and won several campaigns in the Philadelphia region.  Since moving to Nashville in 2015, Ernst has continued to be involved with low-wage worker struggles and helped found a network of congregations in Middle Tennessee showing up in solidarity with immigrant communities.  

Ernst loves to hold sacred space rooted in the unique stories, places, and histories that form us in order for changemakers to deepen relationship and grow their leadership. She holds a special commitment to equipping fellow white people to take action against racism and to do the personal work of disrupting white supremacy from within. Ernst is in the process of seeking ordination in the United Church of Christ and has a Master of Divinity from Vanderbilt Divinity School.


Michael Gulker

ngMichael Gulker is president of The Colossian Forum. He has a long-standing interest in the oft-times contentious intersection of faith and culture, and how both thrive best when rooted in worship. Gulker has, during his seven years leading The Colossian Forum, become a leader turning conflict into opportunity for both deeper discipleship and more beautiful witness.

A native of West Michigan, he studied philosophy and theology at Calvin College, has a divinity degree from Duke Divinity School, and is an ordained Mennonite pastor. Before coming to The Colossian Forum, Gulker served as pastor of Christ Community Church in Des Moines, Iowa.



Micky ScottBey Jones

msMicky ScottBey Jones -- the Justice Doula -- supports people as they birth more love, justice, and shalom into our world. As a womanist, a faith-rooted, contemplative activist, a healer, and nonviolence practitioner, she supports faith leaders, activists, and everyday leaders in a variety of roles -- speaker, writer, facilitator, pilgrimage guide, and teacher. Topics of exploration and expertise include creating brave space, movement chaplaincy, contemplative activism, healing and resilience, transformation through travel, sustainable leadership, and community building.

She develops and supports many of the programs at Faith Matters Network and deeply values collaboration, relationship as core to the work of personal and social transformation within its team, and in its offerings to the world. She has an M.A. in Intercultural Studies and is pursuing mentorship and advanced studies in the Enneagram. She was named one of the Black Christian leaders changing the world in the Huffington Post. You can interact with her work and collaborations at


Cindy Thompson

ctIn 2012, Cindy Thompson founded Boundless Impact, a non-profit driving inclusive leadership and innovation initiatives across commerce, education, civic, and faith networks to unleash prosperity for all communities. She is an executive leader and social entrepreneur whose organization provides a platform for cross-boundary leaders to connect and mobilize around initiatives that achieve results to further global common good.

Prior to founding Boundless Impact, Thompson enjoyed a successful career as a CFO and financial executive for mid-sized businesses and large corporations in various industries for 25 years.


Kirsten Wilson

kwKirsten Wilson is the founder and artistic director of Motus Theater, an organization whose mission is to use original theater to support community conversation on critical issues of our time. Motus works with community leaders to develop stories and share "his-stories" that increase awareness, shift attitudes, and inspire action towards a more equitable and just community.

Wilson is the creator of multiple award-winning multimedia history performances and autobiographical monologue performances. She is currently the visionary behind the UndocuAmerica Performance and Media Project. For this project, Motus is building on its successful collaboration with law enforcement leaders who took the stage to read autobiographical monologues of the organization's undocumented writer/performers (2017). Motus most recently collaborated with world renowned musician, Yo-Yo Ma, who played a cello solo in response to a Motus writer’s story about her brother’s deportation. Wilson has received many local awards including: the Multicultural Action Award (Boulder County CAP), Person of the Year Award (Boulder Weekly), Women Who Light the Community Award (Boulder Chamber of Commerce), Peacemaker of the Year Award (RMPJ), Artistic Innovator Award (ATLAS at CU Boulder), Square Nail Award (Boulder Heritage Roundtable), Art & Activism Award (Northern Colorado Immigrants United), and Windhorse Award for Community Service (Naropa University). Her performance and arts projects has been supported by several grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.


Worship Musicians

Martha Bassett

mbMartha Bassett is a West Virginia native and a North Carolina artist. After earning a B.M. in voice at the University of Kentucky and a M.M. at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, she has become a strong voice in the N.C. music scene, touring nationally and releasing nine recordings to date. Bassett has also contributed musical arrangements and vocal coaching to the films “Junebug” (Sony Classics 2005) and “Abundant Acreage Available” (2017).

2018 marked the beginning of “The Martha Bassett Show,” a live monthly musical variety show hosting national artists, local talent, and her band. The show is released on “The Martha Bassett Show Podcast.” Season 2 is underway. Throughout her career, she has kept her foot in the door of sacred music by leading worship and facilitating conferences in mostly Methodist, UCC, Presbyterian, Moravian, and Episcopal denominations. Currently, Bassett is the director of alternative music at Centenary UMC in Winston-Salem N.C., where she leads services with jazz and Americana music.

Bassett will be joined by three of her band members. Patrick Lawrence, on upright bass, is from Fort Wayne, Ind. He graduated from Vandercook College of Music in Chicago and spent many years in the jazz and improvised music community there before moving to the South. He is also the producer of “The Martha Bassett Show.” Russell Kelly, on electric guitar, is from Winston-Salem, N.C., and graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston. He leads a jazz fusion ensemble in North Carolina called RK3. And lastly, multi-instrumentalist the Rev. Sarah Howell-Miller is from Charlotte N.C. She is a UMC pastor and a graduate student at Wake Forest University studying bioethics. She earned a Master of Divinity from Duke Divinity School.



Tito Madrazo

tmDr. Tito Madrazo is the senior pastor of Woodland Baptist Church in Wake Forest, N.C. He also serves as a postdoctoral fellow at Duke Divinity School, where he teaches classes in preaching and directs Duke's Hispanic-Latino/a Preaching Initiative.

A native of Venezuela, he is a graduate of Baylor University, Gardner-Webb University, and Duke Divinity School.  In addition to his academic and ministerial work in the United States, Madrazo has also taught extensively in Latin America.  


Lisa Yebuah

lyLisa Yebuah is the lead pastor of the Southeast Raleigh Table, the newest worshipping community of Edenton Street United Methodist Church -- a multisite congregation in downtown Raleigh, N.C. She’s a ’99 graduate of Wofford College and an ’04 graduate of Duke Divinity School. Life in ministry brings her great joy.

When asked, Yebuah sums up her vocation through the lens of Mark 2: “I’m trying to help people in the pews become less concerned about the holes we make in our roofs and become more holy restless about our friends who’re bound to their mats.”



Program Staff

Rev. Robert R. Webb III  

rwReverend Robb Webb III has served as director of The Duke Endowment’s Rural Church program area since 2010, having joined the endowment as a program officer in 2006. A graduate of Duke Divinity School, Webb is an ordained deacon in the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. Prior to this, he served as a management consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers and Healthcare Resource Associates.

Webb chairs the Rural Life Committee of the North Carolina Council of Churches, serves as chair of the Ministerial Education Fund of the Western North Carolina Conference, and is immediate past chair of the Council on Campus Ministry. He also is a board member of Faith and Form magazine, the Board of Visitors for Duke Divinity School, and a member of the North Carolina Network of Grantmakers Education Steering Committee. He has been a guest lecturer for the "Philanthropy for the Sake of the Church" and "Small Membership Church" courses at Duke Divinity.


Rev. Kristen Richardson-Frick

frickReverend Kristen Richardson-Frick joined The Duke Endowment in 2012 as a program officer in the Rural Church program area. She is a graduate of Duke Divinity School and an ordained elder in the South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. Richardson-Frick served for 11 years as a pastor at several United Methodist churches in South Carolina, including a rural two-point charge for which she was the first female pastor.

Her involvement with the South Carolina Conference has included certified ministry coach, chair of the committee on episcopacy, and chair of the Orangeburg District committee on congregational development.