Sunday, October 15, 2023 - 6:00pm to Tuesday, October 17, 2023 - 4:00pm
Duke Divinity School
Stacey Tompkins

The annual Convocation & Pastors’ School is an intensive multi-day conference that offers lectures, worship, alumni gatherings, 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 Duke Endowment, The Parish Ministry Fund, and Duke Divinity School. The conference will kick off at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 15 with a special live session of Kate Bowler's popular Everything Happens podcast. Her guest will be Sam Wells, Vicar of St. Martin in the Fields, London.

2023 Theme

Growing Where You Are Planted logo

What does it mean to serve faithfully in your current community, vocation, and circumstance? 2023 Convocation & Pastors’ School, Growing Where You Are Planted, is intended to connect participants with experts who will share their stories and best practices for engaging neighbors as a way to encourage and equip clergy and laity to recognize places of opportunities in their current community. We want clergy and laity to be able to grow and bloom wherever they are planted be it rural, urban, or anywhere in between.


Erin and Ben NapierBen & Erin Napier photo
Featured on HGTV's Home Town


Kate Bowler
NY Times Best Selling Author & Associate Professor of Christian History, Duke Divinity School Kate Bowler sitting in front of bookcase

Kate Bowler, Ph.D. is a three-time New York Times bestselling author, podcast host, and an Associate Professor of American Religious History at Duke University. She studies the cultural stories we tell ourselves about success, suffering, and whether (or not) we’re capable of change. She is the author of Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel and The Preacher’s Wife: The Precarious Power of Evangelical Women Celebrities. After being unexpectedly diagnosed with Stage IV cancer at age 35, she penned the New York Times bestselling memoir, Everything Happens for a Reason (and Other Lies I’ve Loved), No Cure For Being Human (and Other Truths I Need to Hear), and her latest written with her co-producer, Jessica Richie, Good Enough: 40ish Devotionals for a Life of Imperfection. Kate hosts the Everything Happens podcast where, in warm, insightful, often funny conversations, she talks with people like Malcolm Gladwell and Anne Lamott about what they’ve learned in difficult times. She lives in Durham, North Carolina with her family and continues to teach dogooders at Duke Divinity School.

Sam Wells
Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, LondonSam Wells photo

Rev. Dr. Sam Wells has been Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields since 2012. He has served as a parish priest for 25 years – 10 of those in urban priority areas. He also spent 7 years in North Carolina, where he was dean of Duke University Chapel. Sam is also visiting professor of Christian ethics at King’s College. He is a regular contributor to "Thought for the Day" on BBC Radio 4’s today programme. He has published 44 books, including works on Christian ethics, mission, ministry, scripture, liturgy, and preaching. Sam is married to Jo Wells, who is Bishop for Episcopal Ministry in the Anglican Communion. They have two grown children.


Nina Balmaceda
Associate Director for the Center for Reconciliation, Duke Divinity School
Nina Balmaceda photo
Dr. Vilma “Nina” Balmaceda is the associate director of the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School, where she teaches theology, theory, and practice of conflict transformation and reconciliation. At Duke, Nina also serves on the Duke Human Rights Center Faculty Board, and co-leads the Americas Initiative for Transformation and Reconciliation, the Certificate on Faith-based advocacy, organizing, and social transformation, and the Certificate in Conflict Transformation and Reconciliation, a 20-month certificate program especially designed to equip pan-Methodist pastors and lay leadership with theological and practical tools for conflict transformation. Nina is also the president/CEO of Peace and Hope International (PHI), a faith-based peace building nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing violence and confronting other forms of injustice among marginalized communities through its sister organizations in Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Ecuador. Nina holds a Ph.D. in Political Science, and master’s degrees in International Peace Studies, and in Government and International Studies from the University of Notre Dame du Lac; and a Law degree from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru.

Yvette Pressley
Program Coordinator, Center for Reconciliation, Duke Divinity SchoolYvette Pressley

Rev. Dr. Yvette Pressley is the program coordinator for the Certificate in Conflict Transformation and Reconciliation (CCTR) at the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School. Her teaching and practical ministry focus on interracial and intergenerational reconciliation in the body of Christ.  Dr. Pressley is a former pastor in the United Methodist Church and Executive Director of The Bridge, an outreach ministry for marginalized communities in Lancaster County, SC.  She has a B.A. in Journalism from the University of South Carolina, an M.A. in Theological Studies from Erskine Theological Seminary, and a D. Min. from Duke Divinity School. She is also a certified family group conference facilitator, conference speaker, ESL tutor, and instructor of conflict transformation at Duke Divinity School.

Linda Coley
Executive Director of the Ormond Center, Duke Divinity School

Dr. Linda Silver Coley, a multidisciplinary scholar, leads the transformative work of the Ormond Center. Her published work, that is Linda Coleytargeted for knowledge transfer to answer locally focused and globally relevant theological questions about how clergy-congregation-community network partners might use shared resources to drive missional innovations, include research within a multi-national supply chain network: “Sustaining Competitive Advantage: Return on Leadership Competency (ROLC) in a Consumer-Driven Supply Network”; and her co-authored research with partners in Switzerland and Germany: “Effects of Suppliers' Reputation on the Future of Buyer-Supplier Relationships: The Mediating Roles of Outcome Fairness and Trust” and “Tangible and intangible resource inequity in customer-supplier relationships.

Linda has over 30 years’ experience in corporate marketing and technical brand management, brand innovation, and entrepreneurship. Before joining the academy, she was owner and CEO of Coley Marketing Management Company. She has taught at several universities, including the University of Cincinnati; the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; and Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Prior to transitioning to focus on missional and social innovations that address barriers to thriving communities and congregations, she was a tenured Associate Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Marketing, Transportation, and Supply Chain at North Carolina, Agricultural & Technical State University.

Elizabeth HowzeElizabeth Howze
Director of Teaching, Training, and Learning, Ormond Center, Duke Divinity School

Elizabeth is passionate about bridging the gap between theological education, congregational innovation, and community transformation. As the director of the Academy of Teaching, Training, and Learning at the Ormond Center, she oversees various peer learning experiences that nurture faith-inspired imagination alongside faith-informed action, creating innovative opportunities and resources for equipping lay and congregational leaders. By bringing together clusters of diverse congregations and fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, her program areas serve congregations seeking to be witnesses to and catalysts for thriving within their local communities.Over the last decade, she has held various roles in the nonprofit sector with a primary focus on program management, project implementation, curriculum development, training facilitation, leadership formation, community engagement/organizing, youth empowerment, and advocacy. Elizabeth is an ordained Deacon in the A.M.E Zion Church.


Jennifer MoxleyJennifer Moxley
Lead Pastor, First United Methodist Church, Sikeston, MO

The Rev. Jennifer Moxley graduated from Duke Divinity School in 2014 and is an elder in the Missouri Annual Conference. She serves as Lead Pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Sikeston, a 156 year-old congregation in Southeast Missouri known as "The Fun Church." She lives with her husband Ryan, their brilliant children, and adorable rabbit. She loves both good preaching and bad puns, and has a heart for cultivating a culture of creativity in the church. 


Sunday, October 15



6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. Kate Bowler and Sam Wells
Live Recording of the Everything Happens podcast

Page Auditorium

Monday, October 16



8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.


Schaeffer Mall, Bryan Center

9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.

Opening Worship: Sam Wells preaching

Goodson Chapel

10:45 a.m.

Plenary 1:

Erin and Ben Napier

Reynolds Auditorium, Bryan Center

12:30 p.m.

Lunch and Gathering Time

Homecoming Alumni Lunch

Duke Divinity School

Penn Pavilion
2:00 p.m.

Plenary 2:

Nina Balmaceda and Yvette Pressley

Reynolds Auditorium, Bryan Center
3:15 p.m. Break Duke Divinity School, 00 Hallway
3:45 p.m. Seminars Duke Divinity School
5:00 p.m. Adjourn for the Day  
Tuesday, October 17



8:00 a.m.

Registration and coffee break Schaeffer Mall, Bryan Center
9:00 a.m.

Plenary 3:

Linda Coley and Elizabeth Howze

Reynolds Auditorium, Bryan Center
10:30 a.m. Break Duke Divinity School, 00 Hallway
11:00 a.m. Seminars Duke Divinity School
12:30 p.m. Lunch and Gathering Time Duke Divinity School
2:00 p.m.

Closing Worship:

Jennifer Moxley preaching

Goodson Chapel




The seminars offered during Convocation & Pastors' School are a wonderful opportunity to enjoy small group learning with Duke Divinity faculty, guest lecturers, and other attendees. Participants who attend the seminars and all plenary lectures will receive one Continuing Education Unit (CEU). When registering, participants will have the opportunity to choose one seminar for each day for a total of two different seminars.


A Taste of WayFinder
Kevin Douglas, Vice President of Relationships 
Monica Risch, Relationships Manager
The Colossian Forum

The WayFinder Workshop gives Christian leaders an introduction to the work of Christian conflict transformation. Participants are presented with theological vision and Biblical frameworks that provide a Christ-based way forward in a culture that largely only offers two polarizing viewpoints. Participants will also learn and apply two of the five practices of WayFinder to their current institutional rhythms, imagining how they can better love God and one another through organizational meetings, communal gatherings, and personal conversations.

Campfire in the Courtyard: Encountering Scripture Through Embodiment
Christine Parton Burkett, Consulting Faculty Duke Divinity School

The strongest sermons come from the imaginative habits of preparation.  Great preaching begins by experiencing the scripture by walking around in it, not deciding what to say about it. In this 75-minute workshop we will experience three unique “stations of the text” to explore the events of Luke 22. In the first station, Exploration through Embodiment, we will design a space and inhabit the movement, posture, and expression inherent in the text. In Exegesis through Voice, we will explore the rich possibilities of reading the text aloud to clarify meaning and expand our scriptural imagination. And our last station, Examination through Art we will contemplate varied artistic interpretations of the scripture. Last, we will regroup to share sermon implications and insights. Wear comfortable clothes.

Do you hear what I hear? A deeper conversation on listening for understanding

Nina Balmaceda, Associate Director for the Center for Reconciliation
Yvette Pressley, Program Coordinator for the Center for Reconciliation Duke Divinity School

This workshop will help participants improve their active listening competencies. With this purpose, they will (re)discover key notions for improving listening skills, consider their personal attitudes, and improve self-awareness. Participants will have the opportunity to practice the relevant skills learned in the workshop. Through collective engagement, they will explore how to use the new knowledge in a hypothetical case scenario.


Equipping Churches and Communities for Thriving
Linda Coley Executive Directory, Ormond Center
Elizabeth Howze Project Coordinator, Ormond Center Duke Divinity School

In this session, participants will hear about the ways in which the Ormond Center at Duke Divinity School fosters renewed imagination, will, and ability among clergy, congregations, and communities as we journey together, becoming agents of thriving. More specifically, they will be introduced to Ormond’s Community Craft Collaborative (CCC) program and Pathways of Repair (PoR) process, which seek to embody faithful and committed Christian witness amid contexts that are changing. Convened by our Academy of Teaching, Training, and Learning, (1) the CCC program engages local cohorts of congregational leaders, lay and ordained, to participate in hands on, peer-learning experiences that will nurture faith-inspired imagination alongside faith-informed action; and (2) the PoR process takes participants from idea to impact creation.

In Which Language Do You Dream? Approaches to Communicating the Vision & Plans for Your Congregation
Deborah Williams, Program Coordinator Office of Black Church Studies, Duke Divinity School 

Scripture: Matthew 13:9-11 "Whoever has ears, let them hear." The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?"

Language is the most important way we communicate. Yet words can fail us when articulating the unseen, particularly if we don't "speak" the same language. Making sense of our dreams, goals, and visions can be challenging enough, but getting others tounderstand that which is only real in our spirit is especially challenging. This session, "In Which Language Do You Dream?" We will examine our communication styles, identify ways we have been misunderstood, and consider language, inclusion, cultural, and environmental barriers. We will also construct action plans to help us communicate effectively.

Leading and Navigating Change
Lynn Holmes, J.D., D'19, Visiting Professor of the Practice, Duke Sanford School of Public Policy

The Christian church is in the midst of change.  According to a recent Pew Research report as recently as the early 1990s, about 90% of U.S. adults identified as Christians. In contrast about two-thirds of adults currently identify as Christians.

This interactive workshop will explore the challenges and opportunities leaders face in navigating change.  Using a case study scenario as the focus, the discussion will review a real pastor-leader’s response to a range of leadership issues in a church turnaround experience. We will examine tools leaders can access in determining ways to address change with integrity especially given the current demographic and post-pandemic landscape. Participants will be expected to read the assigned case study as preparation for this session.

'Like a Tree Planted By the Water': The Wicked Problem of Faith-Based Urban Development
Quinton Dixie, Associate Research Professor of the History of Christianity in the United States and Black Church Studies, Duke Divinity School 

“Like a tree planted by the water, I shall not be moved?” Really? To move or remain where planted is a dilemma faced by many urban congregations, both Black and White. The decision to do one or the other is complicated when one adds the deep sense of responsibility churches feel for the communities in which they have been rooted, in some cases for over a century. This session will address the perils and prospects of community and economic development for congregations in 21st century urban America.

Listening and Sharing Sacred Stories
Fatimah Salleh, Director of Curanopy Ministries
Justine Post, Program Director 
David Allen, Program Coordinator
Jared White, Project Manager
Rural Advancement Foundation-International 

Participants will experience and engage with effective storytelling practices that allows for deep listening and community building.

Pastoring in the Midst of Social Upheaval
David Eagle, The Religion and Social Change Lab Duke University 

Social trust in America has been declining st,eadily over the past two decades. People are more and more likely to have positive feelings towards their own group and negative feelings towards people different from them. Churches are not immune from these bigger dynamics. In this workshop, you will learn about the extent of this problem in churches, how it impacts pastors, and learn about some tools to build trust in your congregation. David Eagle, a former pastor and Director of the Religion and Social Change, will lead this workshop.

The Church Has Roots in Rural Places
Brad Thie Director, Thriving Rural Communities Initiative Duke Divinity School 

Many Pastors and non-profit leaders find that God has called them to serve rural and small town places. What does it mean to put down healthy roots in a particular community? We will share in case studies of rooted, incarnational ministries in rural places as well as learnings from the Thriving Rural Communities Initiative.

Reading Together for Growth: How Discussion Groups Can Revitalize Congregations and Neighborhoods
Stephen B. Chapman, Associate Professor of Old Testament, Duke Divinity School

Despite polls showing fewer Americans are reading books than in the past, print book publishing was still a $65 billion industry last year and digital content continues to explode. However, reading is increasingly done in a “siloed” fashion that reinforces readers’ prejudices and erodes the social fabric. Reading together broadens participants’ sympathies and generates new interpersonal insights. Literary imagining promotes social understanding. By sponsoring reading groups, churches can deepen their congregants’ appreciation of Scripture and the Christian tradition—and engage their neighbors in a fresh, open manner. Churches can become admired centers of learning, questioning, and transformed living.

Reimagine, Repurpose, Redevelop
Joel Gilland, President & CEO 
Amy Burton, Finance & Data Analyst
Wesley Community Development

Over the last four years, as churches of all denominations and sizes have begun to experience the disruption that is coming in church real estate, Wesley has been asked by many conferences and organizations to lead this work in their geographic area. Our congregations are changing from a generation that for decades has served as the finanacial anchor, to a new but less resourced group with different ideas of how to best serve and contribute. The land acquired and the campuses we built are, in many cases, weighing on the transition of the church to a more financially sustainable model. This disruption has arrived and how we approach it will define how strong the kingdom will be as we come out of it. Without a creative and market-based approach, vast sums of church assets will shift to the private sector, not to return. We need to support each other and develop a connected response that will allow us to manage this transition wisely.

Registration Cost

  Early Bird Rate
Available through Aug. 31
Standard Rate
Available Sept. 1-30

General registration

$130 $170 $230

Reduced rates available for:

  • Pastors of churches eligible for grants from The Duke Endowment



  • Current Duke Divinity School/ Duke University Students
  • Duke Divinity School faculty/staff registration
$30 $60


For 2023, registrants will be given the opportunity to register a guest (eg spouse or friend) at a reduced cost. The guest will be able to attend plenary sessions but not seminars and will not be eligible to receive Continuing Education Credits.

Online registration for the Early Bird rate is July 10 - August 31. Online registration closes September 30.

Lodging and Access

Lodging reservations should be made directly with hotels.

Two local hotels offer special rates for Convocation & Pastors’ School participants. Rates cannot be guaranteed after the cut-off dates listed.

Homewood Suites by Hilton Durham/Chapel Hill/I-40
Please refer to the "Duke Divinity Convocation Event Block" when making your reservation
Rate: $114 per night, plus applicable taxes. There are a limited number of rooms available at this rate.
Reserve your room by September 15, 2023 to secure this rate.

Hilton Garden Inn
Please use this link to reserve your room.
Rate: $143 per night, plus applicable taxes
Reserve your room by September 15, 2023 to secure this rate.

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) 660-3400 in advance of the program.

Registration and Questions

Online registration for the Early Bird rate is July 10 - August 31. Online registration closes September 30. Onsite registration will be available the first day of CPS.

For questions, contact Duke Divinity School at

Past Events

2022:"Creativity and Courage: From Trauma to Tough Hope" Videos

2021: "Uncommon Ground: Living with Humility, Patience, and Tolerance in a Divided Age" Videos

The 2021 virtual CPS consisted of five separate sessions. The first two days featured Claude Alexander of The Park Church, musician Sara Groves John Inazu of Washington University in St. Louis, and Warren Kinghorn of Duke Divinity School.

2020: "Christian Leadership in Turbulent Times" Videos

The 2020 virtual CPS consisted of five webinars:

2018: “Neighboring in a Post-Christendom World” Audio

2016: Who Needs Theology? Inside and Outside the Church
Featuring Elaine A. Heath, Norman Wirzba, Ellen F. Davis and panel, Kenneth H. Carter, Jr. and panel, and Brian E. Combs

2015: Body and Belonging
Featuring John Swinton, Claire Wimbush, Deb Richardson-Moore, and William Lee

2014: Life After Christendom: Resident Aliens 25 Years Later
Featuring Stanley Hauerwas, Will Willimon, James Davison Hunter, and Hope Morgan Ward
Due to technical difficulties, recordings of this event are not available.

2013: Renewing the Church
Featuring James K.A. Smith, Jorge Acevedo, Laceye Warner, and Jeremy Troxler

2012: Form/Reform: Cultivating Christian Leaders
Featuring Richard J. Mouw, Andy Crouch, Sarah Coakley, and Prince Raney Rivers

2011: Drawn into Scripture: Arts and the Life of the Church
Featuring Jeremy Begbie, Marilynne Robinson, Anthony Kelley and the BLAK Ensemble, and Lillian Daniel

2010: The Living Witness: Tradition, Innovation, and the Church
Featuring N.T. Wright, Rob Bell, Andy Crouch, and Vashti McKenzie

2009: The Next Generation
Featuring Os Guinness and Philip Jenkins

2008: For Such a Time as This
Featuring L. Gregory Jones, Janice Riggle Huie, Ron Heifetz, Al Gwinn, Greg Palmer, Larry Goodpaster, and Adam Hamilton

2007: Our Daily Bread
Featuring Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, Stanley Hauerwas, Ellen Davis, Janice Virtue, Norman Wirzba, L. Gregory Jones, and Carol Bechtel





The Parish Ministry Fund