Monday, October 7, 2019 - 8:00am to Tuesday, October 8, 2019 - 4:30pm
Duke Divinity School
(919) 613-5323

The annual Convocation & Pastors’ School is an intensive two-day conference that offers lectures, worship, and seminars for Christian leaders of all traditions. Led by scholars and practitioners from Duke University and beyond, this event is a cooperative endeavor with the North Carolina and Western North Carolina Conferences of the United Methodist Church. The convocation also includes alumni gatherings.

2019 Details

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When congregations and pastors focus on God’s dreams, they can draw people together across diverse sectors, generations, and neighborhoods to encourage thriving communities and pursue what 1 Timothy 6:19 calls "the life that really is life."




BrooksDavid Brooks
New York Times Columnist, Commentator & Author of The Second Mountain

David Brooks is an op-ed columnist for The New York Times, a position he began in September 2003. He is also an executive director at the Aspen Institute, where he leads Weave: The Social Fabric Project. Brooks is currently a commentator on “The PBS Newshour,” NPR’s “All Things Considered” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He is the author of The Second Mountain, The Road to Character, Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There, and The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement. Brooks also serves on the faculty at Yale University and is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. He served as a senior editor at The Weekly Standard for nine years, as well as was a contributing editor for The Atlantic and Newsweek.



Krista Tippett
Peabody Award-winning Broadcaster & New York Times Bestselling Author

Krista Tippett founded and leads the On Being Project, an independent non-profit public life and media initiative. She created and hosts the Peabody award-winning On Being public radio show, which is carried on over 400 public radio stations across the U.S., and the On Being podcast, which was downloaded 52 million times in 2017. She also curates the Civil Conversations Project, an emergent approach to conversation and relationship across the differences of our age. In 2014, President Obama awarded Tippett the National Humanities Medal at the White House for “thoughtfully delving into the mysteries of human existence. On the air and in print, Ms. Tippett avoids easy answers, embracing complexity and inviting people of ​every background to join her conversation about faith, ethics, and moral wisdom.”

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 degree from Yale University. Her first book Speaking of Faith, published in 2007 is a memoir of religion in our time, including her move from geopolitical engagement to theology, and the cumulative wisdom of her interviews these past years. In 2010, she published Einstein’s God, drawn from her interviews at the intersection of science, medicine, and spiritual inquiry. Tippett's 2016 New York Times best-selling book, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, opens into the questions and challenges of this century.


BowlerKate Bowler
New York Times Bestselling Author & Associate Professor of Christian History, Duke Divinity School

Kate Bowler, PhD, is an associate professor of the history of Christianity in North America at Duke Divinity School. She completed her undergraduate degree at Macalester College, received a Master of Arts in Religion from Yale Divinity School, and a PhD at Duke University. She is the author of Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel (Oxford University Press, 2013) which received widespread media attention and academic praise as the first history of the movement based on divine promises of health, wealth, and happiness. She wrote the New York Times bestselling memoir, Everything Happens for a Reason (and other lies I’ve loved) (Random House, 2018) after being unexpectedly diagnosed with Stage IV cancer at age 35—a book Bill Gates lauds as “belonging on the shelf alongside other terrific books about mortality” and includes on his must-read list. Dr. Bowler subsequently staged a national conversation around why it felt so difficult to speak frankly about suffering through her popular podcast, Everything Happens. She has appeared on NPR, The TODAY Show, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and TIME Magazine. Her work has been praised by a wide variety of religious and political publications, from liberal print media to conservative talk radio. She lives in Durham, North Carolina, with her husband, Toban, and son, Zach.

HaleRalph West
Founder and senior pastor of The Church Without Walls, who will serve as convocation preacher

Ralph Douglas West, D.Min., is a visionary leader who possesses an incomparable combination of eloquence and authenticity. He was recently named one of the twelve most effective preachers in the English-speaking world, according to a survey by Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary.  He is the founder and senior pastor of The Church Without Walls (TCWW). He established the church 30 years ago, with just 32 members, and today has 20,000 members, meets in three locations, conducts six Sunday services, and encompasses 50,000 square feet of space across 40 acres of land. 

A talented storyteller, West possesses a gift for expressing biblical insights in an engaging manner that moves from inspiration to application. Through publications, radio, television and the Internet, his messages are available across the world and witnessed by thousands beyond his church each week. He completed degrees at Bishop College, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Beeson Divinity School, where he received a Doctor of Ministry degree. He serves as adjunct professor of preaching at Truett Theological Seminary. He speaks perennially at colleges, universities, and seminaries across the country as well as at Regent’s Park College, Oxford University. West continues to lead the dialogue about faith among churches and universities across the globe, and serves on boards, agencies, trusteeships, and committees at local, state, and national levels.


JonesL. Gregory Jones
Duke Divinity School Dean and Ruth W. and A. Morris Williams Jr. Distinguished Professor of Theology and Christian Ministry

Professor L. Gregory Jones, Ph.D., is dean of Duke Divinity School and a theologian whose work centers on the nature of forgiveness, the significance of Christian ministry and pastoral leadership, and social innovation and entrepreneurship. He is the Ruth W. and A. Morris Williams Jr. Distinguished Professor of Theology and Christian Ministry at the school. Dr. Jones has served as Duke’s chief international strategist to advance and coordinate the university’s global engagement. Between 1997 and 2010, he also served as the eleventh dean of the Divinity School.

The author or editor of seventeen books, Jones has also published more than 200 articles and essays. His most recent book is Christian Social Innovation: Renewing Wesleyan Witness (Abingdon Press, May 2016). He coauthored the book Forgiving As We’ve Been Forgiven with Celestin Musekura and another book with Kevin R. Armstrong, Resurrecting Excellence: Shaping Faithful Christian Ministry.


SmithPatrick T. Smith
Associate Research Professor of Theological Ethics & Bioethics, Duke Divinity School

Patrick T. Smith, Ph.D. is associate professor of Theological Ethics and Bioethics at Duke University Divinity School and a senior fellow with the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. Professor Smith also serves as associate faculty with the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities, and History of Medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine. In addition, he serves on the board of directors for the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities and is the recipient of the 2019 Paul Ramsey Award for Excellence in Bioethics.


Snyder BrooksAnne Snyder Brooks
Editor, Comment Magazine, & Author of The Fabric of Character

Anne Snyder Brooks is the editor-in-chief of Comment Magazine and the author of The Fabric of Character: A Wise Giver’s Guide to Renewing Our Social and Moral Landscape. Since 2016 she has directed The Philanthropy Roundtable‘s Character Initiative, a program that seeks to help American foundations and business leaders strengthen “the middle ring” of morally formative institutions.

She is also a fellow at the Center for Opportunity Urbanism, a Houston-based think tank in Texas that explores how cities can drive opportunity for the bulk of their citizens, and a senior fellow at The Trinity Forum. From 2014 to 2017, Brooks worked for Laity Lodge and the H.E. Butt Family Foundation in Texas, and before that she worked at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the World Affairs Journal, and The New York Times. She holds a Master’s degree in journalism from Georgetown University and a B.A. in philosophy and international relations from Wheaton College in Illinois. She serves as a trustee for the Center for Public Justice and has written for The Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post, City Journal, Philanthropy Magazine and other publications. 


Monday, October 7



8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.


Bryan Center

10:30 a.m.- 11:00 a.m. Pre-Conference Worship & Welcome Reynolds Theatre 

11:00 a.m.

James A Gray Lecture:  David Brooks and Anne Snyder Brooks with L. Gregory Jones on Communities of Character

Reynolds Theatre

12:30 p.m.

Lunch and Gathering Time

Duke Divinity School

12:30 p.m.

Alumni Homecoming Luncheon

Advance tickets required.

Penn Pavillion

2:00 p.m.

Franklin S. Hickman Lecture: A Life of Listening with Kate Bowler and Krista Tippett

Reynolds Theatre

3:00 p.m.


Refreshments provided.

Westbrook Cloister Walk, Divinity School

3:30 p.m.


Duke Divinity School

5:00 p.m.


Duke Divinity School

5:30 p.m.

Worship: Ralph West, preaching

Duke Chapel

Tuesday, October 8



8:15 a.m.

Morning Prayer

Goodson Chapel

9:00 a.m.

Speaker:  L. Gregory Jones with Robb Webb on Thriving Communities: Stories of Hope

Reynolds Theatre

10:30 a.m.

Refreshments provided.

Westbrook Cloister Walk, Divinity School

10:30 a.m. Exploring the Doctor of Ministry (Information Session) Admissions Conference Room, 107 Westbrook

11:00 a.m.


Duke Divinity School

12:30 p.m.

Lunch and Gathering Time

Boxed lunch available. Advance purchase required.

Westbrook Cloister Walk, Divinity School

12:30 p.m.

Hispanic House of Studies Networking Lunch

031 Westbrook, Divinity School

2:00 p.m.

Closing Plenary: Patrick Smith on Eyes to See, Ears to Hear: Seeking Shalom for those Dying at the Margin

Reynolds Theatre

3:15 p.m.



3:30 p.m.

Worship: Ralph West, preaching


Goodson Chapel


Seminars Offered Monday and Tuesday

Trauma, Moral Injury, and Resilience: Pastoral Care in Challenging Times
Jan Holton
Associate Professor of the Practice of Pastoral Theology and Care, Duke Divinity School

This two-part seminar will equip the pastoral caregiver with basic trauma awareness strategies for ministry. We will likewise engage the concept of moral injury, a spiritual wounding (often co-occurring with traumatic injury) that results from ethical conflicts that arise when one causes harm or cannot prevent harm to another. We will examine each from a strength verses deficit perspective that orients us to recognize and support individuals and communities toward resilience.

Cultivating Thriving Communities Through Mutual Teaching and Learning.
Ismael Ruiz-Millàn and Alma Ruiz
Director, Hispanic House of Studies, Duke Divinity School / Duke Divinity Th.D. Student

Recognizing the Imago Dei in the other is, among other things, recognizing that the other can teach us about God and God’s work in humanity. Therefore, current notions of teaching and learning require a paradigm shift that challenges the teacher-student relationship where one is the expert and the other only a recipient.  In this seminar, participants will experience becoming active teachers and students and will learn about the posture needed to cultivate thriving communities.

Preaching to Confront Racism: ”Lessons Learned from the Local Church"
Will Willimon
Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry, Duke Divinity School

Discussion centers on insights from the church’s encounter with Professor and Retired United Methodist Church Bishop Will Willimon’s award-winning book, Who Lynched Willie Earle? Preaching to Confront Racism.

Curating Missional Congregations
David Goatley
Research Professor of Theology and Black Church Studies, and Director of the Office of Black Church Studies, Duke Divinity School

The mere existence of congregations is not enough to help communities thrive. Being agents of transformation, in the power of the Spirit, requires intentionally curating communities that are evangelistic, compassionate, empowering, and advocating.

Community Organizing: A Tool for Cultivating a Thriving Community
Herbert Davis
Senior Pastor, Nehemiah Church; President, HRD Strategic Development, LLC

This two-part session will examine the biblical story of Nehemiah and his transformative work in Jerusalem in light of proven community organizing principles of power analysis, self interest, relational meetings, building power, and moving people to action. 

Redeeming Spaces
Susan Jones
Associate, Church Transformation Ministries

All of us are influenced daily by the spaces we inhabit. Sometimes they turn our eyes and minds heavenward, at other times the spaces themselves need to be redeemed. How does space shape our life in community, especially in worship? How does beauty (or the absence thereof) shape our interior lives and lead us toward forgiveness? During these sessions we will explore both the impact of physical spaces on our theological and pastoral imaginations, as well as examine the interior spaces of our lives in need of healing and redemption. Please come with stories to share.

Sparking Congregational Generosity
Thad Austin
Senior Director of United Methodist, Engagement & Lifelong Learning, Duke Divinity School

This seminar could transform the way you and your congregation approach giving, fundraising, and generosity. Most people believe that fundraising is about money. In fact, fundraising is primarily about relationships, discipleship, and establishing a culture of giving. This interactive seminar will explore sacred theological texts, your own experiences giving and receiving, the latest empirical findings about charitable practices, and practical tools that will help you in your ministry setting.

One Organization’s Journey from Relief to Empowerment
Laceye Warner and Gaston Warner
Royce and Jane Reynolds Associate Professor of the Practice of Evangelism and Methodist Studies and Associate Dean for Wesleyan Engagement (Duke Divinity School) / Executive Director, Zoe Empowers

Explore how Zoe Empowers ( transitioned from a U.S. led relief effort to a multicultural partnership where recipients take the lead in their own journey out of poverty to sustainable self-sufficiency across every area of life.  

The Place of Life and Community
Norman Wirzba
Gilbert T. Rowe Distinguished Professor of Christian Theology and Senior Associate Dean for Institutional and Faculty Advancement, Duke Divinity School; Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, Duke University

In this seminar we will focus on the importance of place — one’s region, neighborhood, and geographical location — for a thriving life and community. Christian teaching has tended to emphasize history at the expense of place. We will explore why this is a problem, and discover why place matters for a life of faith.

Innovation in Rural Churches and Communities
Brad Thie and Nicole Jones
Director, Thriving Rural Communities Initiative, Duke Divinity School / Pastor, Morning Star United Methodist Church, Canton, N.C.

Rural communities are not often synonymous with creativity, and yet the rural church is positioned for innovation and creative community connection. The theology of abundance is manifested in magnificent ways in communities that are often assumed to be under-resourced. Rural communities beg for creative approaches, drawing from the natural gifts and experience of the rural community.   

Seminars Offered Monday ONLY

For Thriving Prophetic Communities: “Life” in Deuteronomy
Stephen B. Chapman
Associate Professor of Old Testament, Duke Divinity School

How to teach and preach with the goal of fostering thriving Christian communities, drawing on two major Old Testament traditions: the Deuteronomic and the Psalmic. Where does “life” come from, what does it look like, and how does it take hold? What biblical passages and theological themes can be helpful resources for “new life” Bible studies and sermons?

Seminars Offered Tuesday ONLY

For Thriving Priestly Communities: “Life” in the Psalms
Stephen B. Chapman
Associate Professor of Old Testament, Duke Divinity School

This seminar is on how to teach and preach with the goal of fostering thriving Christian communities, drawing on two major Old Testament traditions: the Deuteronomic and the Psalmic. Where does “life” come from, what does it look like, and how does it take hold? Which biblical passages and theological themes can be helpful resources for “new life” Bible studies and sermons?

Unpacking Your Pastoral Leadership and Preaching at The Church Without Walls
Ralph West
Founder and Senior Pastor of The Church Without Walls

The purpose of this seminar is to disclose and examine the pastoral leadership style and the preaching philosophy of Pastor Ralph Douglas West.  His approach is rooted in the notion of divine movement. He believes biblical pastoral leadership allows the Holy Spirit to move in, the pastor to move over, the laity to move up, and the church to move outside of the four walls. In so doing, the church follows the Missio Dei. This mission requires preaching that follows the movement of the Spirit toward and within the biblical text with the goal of making disciples.

Registration Cost


  Early Bird Rate
Available through Aug. 31
Standard Rate
Available Sept. 1-23
Onsite Rate
Available Oct. 7-8

Regular registration

$125 $165 $225

Reduced rates available for:

  • Pastors of churches eligible for grants from The Duke Endowment. Am I eligible? (pdf)
  • 1st Year Seminary Graduates
$55 $75 $225
  • Current Duke Divinity School/ Duke University Students
  • Duke Divinity School faculty/staff registration
$25 $55


Online registration is now closed. You may still register onsite beginning Oct. 7, 2019 at 8:00 a.m.

Lodging and Access

Lodging reservations should be made directly with Durham, N.C., hotels.

Several local hotels offer special rates for Convocation & Pastors’ School participants. In order to receive these special rates, please refer to "Duke Divinity School/Convocation & Pastors' School" when you call to reserve your room. Rates cannot be guaranteed after the cut-off dates listed.

Hilton Garden Inn
Rate: $133 per night, plus applicable taxes
Call (919) 286-0774 by Friday, Sept. 6

Hilton Durham near Duke University
Rate: $109/single per night, plus applicable taxes
Call (919) 383-8033 by Friday, Sept. 6

Other properties are also located nearby. We offer the following list as a convenience:

Additional hotel information may be found at the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau.


Duke University is committed to providing access to programs for persons with disabilities. If you anticipate needing accommodations or have questions about physical access, please contact (919) 613-5323 in advance of the program.


Contact Duke Divinity School at or (919) 613-5323.