Editor's note: This event has been rescheduled to Aug. 2-4, 2021, at the Myrtle Beach Marriott Grande Dunes in Myrtle Beach, S.C., due to the coronavirus pandemic. For those who have registered, any payment made for this year’s event will be refunded. If you have further questions about the rescheduling of this year’s event, please contact the Rev. Brad Thie, director of the Thriving Rural Communities Initiative at Duke Divinity School, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jessica Williams, a program coordinator, at email@example.com.
The Convocation on the Rural Church is an annual opportunity for 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 discuss issues that are important in transforming rural churches and communities and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The 2020 theme is "Toward Life Abundant: Leading in a Climate of Fear and Scarcity," with a focus on preaching, teaching, and leading in challenging times.
Participants will join in worship, plenary sessions, workshops, fellowship, and Sabbath. Preachers, plenary speakers, and workshop leaders will offer models and resources for cultivating diverse communities within a rural church setting.
This family-friendly event is funded by The Duke Endowment. To attend, you must serve a church that is eligible to receive Duke Endowment grants. The list of Duke Endowment eligible churches was expanded in 2014, which has allowed additional pastors to participate in this event.
In response to growing demand for this event and in an effort to include participants with a diverse array of experiences, we have implemented an application process that includes answering a few brief essay questions. The application is now open. Those selected to attend will receive notification and be invited to register; all others will be notified that they have been added to a waiting list. If you are invited to register and fail to do so by the registration deadline, you will forfeit your spot to those on the waitlist.
Participants who attend all sessions of the event will be emailed one continuing education unit at the conclusion of the event. Please contact us with any questions.
Over the course of the three-day convocation, 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 Myrtle Beach Marriott Resort & Spa at Grande Dunes in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Monday, August 10
11:00 a.m. - 2:45 p.m. Event Check-In
3:00 p.m. Welcome & Opening Worship
4:30 p.m. Opening Plenary
5:30 p.m. Break & Hotel Check-In
6:30 p.m. Opening Cookout & Concert
Tuesday, August 11
7:00 a.m. Breakfast
8:15 a.m. Morning Prayer
9:00 a.m. Plenary
10:15 a.m. Break
10:45 a.m. Workshops
12:00 p.m. Lunch
1:15 p.m. Workshops
2:30 p.m. Free Time & Dinner on Your Own
8:00 p.m. Beach Communion Service
Wednesday, August 12
7:00 a.m. Breakfast
8:15 a.m. Morning Prayer
9:00 a.m. Plenary
10:30 a.m. Break & Hotel Check-Out
11:15 a.m. Sending Forth Worship
12:30 p.m. Boxed Lunch & Departure
On-site accommodations are required to attend this event.
Private room ($140): For those arriving on Monday and departing Wednesday, the registration fee is $140. All private rooms are standard-sized hotel rooms, not suites. They can comfortably accommodate up to four individuals, should your (non-clergy) spouse or family members be staying with you during the event. Note that if you will be sharing your room with more than one other adult guest (anyone 18 years or older), the hotel may place on your bill a surcharge of $5 per additional adult per day. These charges will be applied to your personal credit card by the hotel; they are not included in your registration fee.
If you are part of a clergy couple and you both wish to attend the event, you each must apply and register separately. The cost of your shared private hotel room will be split during registration.
We invite you to consider giving yourself the gift of sabbath by staying an extra night (Monday arrival, Thursday departure). At the time of application, please indicate whether you prefer a Wednesday departure ($140 registration fee) or an extended, Thursday departure for a total registration fee of $220. Due to funding from The Duke Endowment, the extra night is available to you at a greatly reduced cost. If you are accepted and invited to register, you will be emailed a unique registration link for the departure date that you pre-select. Please note that there is not an option to select your departure date at the time of registration, but only at the time of application.
If you are a registered participant, the following meals are included in the cost of your registration fee: Monday dinner; both Tuesday and Wednesday breakfast, refreshments, and lunch. Dinner is on your own Tuesday evening.
Guests of participants (spouses and/or family members) are invited to attend a complimentary opening dinner on Monday evening.
Guests of participants may also eat breakfast and lunch with participants on Tuesday and Wednesday if participants purchase a meal ticket ($60 through the online registration process). One meal ticket is required per guest. Due to our contract with the hotel catering, no guest meal tickets may be purchased on the day of the event. Guests who do not purchase meal tickets have the alternate option of paying for and eating breakfast or lunch elsewhere on their own. Thanks to the generosity of The Duke Endowment, meal tickets are available at a greatly reduced cost.
Program sessions and accommodations for the Convocation on the Rural Church will be provided at the oceanfront Myrtle Beach Marriott Resort & Spa at Grande Dunes, a full-service hotel and conference center located in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Participants who plan to bring their families should note that rooms at the hotel do not include a multi-room suite arrangement. Each room holds a maximum of four guests. To oblige by hotel guidelines, please be prepared to pay for an additional room if there is more than four in your party. If you have any questions or concerns about this policy, please email us.
On-site accommodations are required to attend this event, and reservations must be made through Duke Divinity School while registering for the event. Parking is complimentary and available onsite.
Speakers and Staff
Rev. Robert R. Webb III
Rev. Kristen Richardson-Frick
Rev. Brad Thie
The Rev. Brad Thie is the director of the Thriving Rural Communities initiative at Duke Divinity School. He is a 1998 Duke Divinity graduate and also an ordained elder and a member of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference. He has pastored three rural United Methodist churches in North Carolina. Before joining Thriving Rural Communities as director in 2013, Thie served as pastor for eight years of Friendship UMC in Newton, N.C., a partner church with Thriving Rural Communities. He experienced his calling to pastoral ministry while participating in a Disciple I Bible Study at Mt. Pisgah UMC in Greensboro, N.C. During his service at Mt. Pisgah, he also served as a facilitator of Disciple Bible Study through Disciple Bible Outreach Ministry (DBOM) in two prison facilities. He has served on DBOM’s Executive Council, as a candidacy mentor for numerous ministry candidates, as spiritual director of the Emmanuel Emmaus Community, and currently serves on the Board of United Church Homes and Services.
Rev. William H. Lamar IV
William H. Lamar IV is pastor of Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. Ordained as an itinerant elder in 2000 at the Florida Annual Conference of the AME Church, Lamar has also served congregations in Monticello, Fla.; Orlando, Fla.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Hyattsville, Md.
Prior to his two most recent appointments (in Maryland and the District of Columbia), Lamar was the managing director of Leadership Education at Duke University Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina. Through his association with Duke, he convened and resourced executive pastors of large churches, denominational finance executives, young denominational leaders, Methodist bishops, and the constituency of Lilly Endowment’s Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Program. For nearly 15 years, Lamar has been actively involved with organizations such as Direct Action Research Training (DART), Industrial Areas Foundations (IAF), and Washington Interfaith Network (WIN) for faith-based community organizing for justice. Most recently, he has collaborated with Repairers of the Breach, the Center for Community Change (CCC), and People Improving Communities through Organization (PICO) to enact a social justice ministry in surrounding communities and to exhibit a real embrace the beloved community.
A 1996 magna cum laude graduate of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Lamar earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Management with a minor in philosophy and religion and a certificate in Human Resource Management. In 1999, he earned a Master of Divinity degree from Duke Divinity School. Lamar is currently a doctoral student in the inaugural cohort of the Christian Theological Seminary’s Ph.D. program in African-American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric. An avid reader and writer, Lamar has published articles in outlets such as The Christian Century, The Christian Recorder, DIVINITY magazine published by Duke Divinity School, “FaithandLeadership.com,” The Anvil, “TheUndefeated.com,” and the “Huffington Post.” He has also been featured in The Washington Post and the Afro-American and on WNYC’s “The Takeaway,” NPR’s “1A,” the “Huffington Post Live,” and PBS’s “News Hour.”
Lamar serves the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, where he seeks daily to extend the church's nearly two centuries-long legacy of bearing witness to and ushering into this world the reign of the living God. Under his leadership, Metropolitan remains committed to worship, liberation, and service.
Rev. Chris L. Brady
Chris L. Brady serves as lead pastor at historic Wilson Temple United Methodist Church, in Raleigh, N.C. He earned his M.Div. and Th.M., from Duke Divinity School. He will graduate in 2020 with a Ph.D. in Couple and Family Therapy and with a Master of Science in Social Work degree in 2021. Brady provides counseling psychotherapy under licensed supervision and sees individuals, couples, and children. He consults with communities on mental health and faith, and mental health disparities
Brady previously served Duke Divinity School as special assistant to the dean and director of Student Life & Formation. He lectures at Duke Divinity in the areas of pastoral care, implicit bias, and racial psychology, as well as serves faith-based entities as a consultant on cultural diversity issues.
Since 2006, Sean Mitchell has helped church communities with leadership development, annual giving strategies, capital campaigns, endowment development, as well as the creation of stewardship education. He has written extensively on the topic of Christian stewardship through various publications including The Presbyterian Outlook and Duke Divinity School’s Faith and Leadership, and is currently co-authoring a book that will help churches develop stewardship ministries in the way of Jesus. From 2011-2017, he developed and directed the stewardship office at Myers Park Presbyterian Church (MPPC) in Charlotte, N.C., one of the largest and most effective church stewardship offices in the United States. During these years, MPPC received its highest level of funding in its 90-year history. In addition to his consulting, coaching, and speaking, Mitchell also raises major gifts for Haggai International. He completed an undergraduate degree in Religious Studies and a Master of Arts in Practical Theology.
Rev. Rhonda Parker
The Rev. Rhonda Parker is senior director of ministerial formation and student life at Duke Divinity School. She brings significant experience in church and non-profit ministry leadership, most recently with N.C. United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries. She has taught and preached throughout the state, and has designed and taught creation care workshops focusing on environmental stewardship and practices of faith at both regional and national events. An ordained elder in the in the North Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, Parker especially enjoys mentoring persons discerning a call to ministry.
Dr. Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell
Rev. Dr. Leah Schade
The Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade is the assistant professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary in Lexington, Ky. An ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for nearly twenty years, Schade earned both her M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (now United Lutheran Seminary). She has pastored three Pennsylvania congregations in suburban, urban, and rural contexts. Her book, Preaching in the Purple Zone: Ministry in the Red-Blue Divide (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), explores how clergy and churches can address controversial social issues using nonpartisan, biblically-centered approaches, and deliberative dialogue. She is also the author of Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015), and co-editor with Margaret Bullitt-Jonas of Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019). Schade is a $30,000 grant recipient from the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion, and received the Kentucky Council of Churches award in 2019. She is also the EcoPreacher blogger for Patheos.
Micky ScottBey Jones
Micky ScottBey Jones — the Justice Doula — accompanies people as they birth more love, justice, and shalom into the world. As a womanist, faith-rooted, contemplative activist, healer, movement chaplain, certified Enneagram coach and trainer, and nonviolence practitioner, Jones supports students, clergy, activists, and everyday leaders in a variety of roles — speaker, writer, facilitator, pilgrimage guide, consultant, and teacher. She is the director of Resilience and Healing Initiatives with the Faith Matters Network and was a core team member with The People’s Supper, which has gathered more than 10,000 people around tables after the 2016 U.S. election for bridging and healing conversations. A lifelong learner, Jones has a B.S. degree in Consumer and Family Sciences and a M.A. degree in Intercultural Studies from NAIITS/Portland Seminary. A believer in the power of stories and empathy, she is also a facilitator and Master Practitioner Candidate with Narrative 4. She is the author of Keep the Fires Burning: Conquering Stress and Burnout as a Mother-Baby Professional (Hale Publishing, 2011) and contributing author of Becoming Like Creoles: Living and Leading at the Intersections of Injustice, Culture and Religion, and Keep Watch With Me: An Advent Reader for Peacemakers. She recently released the Daring Compassion Movement Chaplaincy Training, leading over 100 students in a world-wide, multi-faith exploration of the emerging field of movement chaplaincy.
Named one of the Black Christian leaders changing the world in Huffington Post, Jones travels the world exploring peacemaking and justice movements in different contexts, spreading revolutionary love, storytelling, engaging in authentic conversations, and co-creating transformative experiences.
Rev. Molly Shivers
Rev. Gloria Winston-Harris
The Rev. Gloria Winston-Harris is Faith Matters Network's lead facilitator and community engagement consultant for Disciples of Welcome, a learning and praxis experience for United Methodist pastors serving North Carolina who are seeking to live out a call of radical hospitality and bridge across divides in their churches and communities. She is director of the Office of Spiritual Development and Dialogue and the executive director of the NCCU Wesley Foundation/Campus Ministry at North Carolina Central University in Durham, N.C.
Bishop Paul L. Leeland
A native North Carolinian, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward was raised on the Morgan family farm in northeastern North Carolina in the community of Corapeake. Her home church, Parkers United Methodist Church, is on a three-point charge. Ward is a graduate of Duke University and Duke Divinity School. She met her spouse Mike on a volunteer in mission workteam to Bolivia in 1975. They were married in 1977, and together they served as teaching parents at the Methodist Home for Children in Raleigh, North Carolina. Ward has served as a youth director, Christian educator, pastor, director of Connectional Ministries, and district superintendent in the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC). She was elected to the episcopacy in July 2004 and assigned to the Mississippi Conference in 2004 and 2008. In 2012, she was assigned to the North Carolina Conference. Ward served as president of the General Board of Global Ministries and as president of JustPeace, which is the Center for Mediation and Conflict Transformation of the UMC. She now serves on the General Board of Church and Society and is the bishop assigned to give oversight of the Vietnam Mission Initiative.
The worship team is a collective of musicians from across the Apex family of faith communities. The team is composed of clergy, staff, and church laity, all who share a passion for connecting the heart of the local church with the heart of God through worship. Their hope is to collaborate on worship that is creative yet rooted in liturgy and purpose. The team considers it an honor to be able to lead worship for the community of pastors and church leaders at the convocation.
"Awareness, Attention, and Kindness: Small Practices for the Complicated Stress of Ministry”
Stress reduction can be achieved through small practices woven into daily life. The Duke Clergy Health Initiative has sought and tailored evidence-based stress reduction practices for clergy. Come experience two simple, mindfulness-based practices that you can easily recreate for yourself at home or at work. You will enjoy doing these practices in the company of others today, but you can also do them on your own in the future. Weather permitting, part of this session will be held outside to breathe in the salty air and feel the warmth of the earth beneath our feet. Although one of the practices involves walking, presenters will work with any participants who cannot walk to do a different practice that likewise has a strong evidence base.
Presenters: Dr. Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell and Rachel Meyer
“Sitting Together: Everyone is talking, but no one is listening. Have you ever felt this way?”
Listening is a Christian healing art when practiced well. Making space to hear and be heard is faithful and transformative because it is empowering. Listening another into existence is a gift that can change the dynamics of your relationships. When we choose actively to listen we make space for another, and we exercise a power that is life giving.
Come and explore how to communicate for deeper relationships, greater clarity, and diminished conflict. This workshop teaches from multiple dimensions the capacity to communicate in ever- challenging contexts of difference in the communities we serve. Come and learn about the neurobiology, psychology, and cultural aspects of being a better listener and hearer.
Presenter: Rev. Chris Brady
“Political Discord, Scarcity Thinking, and The Giving Church”
Every church community encounters difficult times. And, it is in these times, that spiritual leaders can begin to question and doubt the God of abundance and wonder if peaceful, worshipful, generous unity is still possible.
In this workshop, you will learn ways to faithfully pastor stewards during difficult times. You will also hear case studies of other communities which have journeyed through these difficult days and experienced the nourishment and generous work of the Holy Spirit.
Presenters: Jim Holladay and Sean Mitchell
“Neighbors are people who live close to each other. Neighbors look at each other; they talk to each other; they listen to each other. That’s how they get to know each other.” — Mr. Rogers
Churches do not exist in a vacuum; they exist inside a larger context, a community of stakeholders who share a vested interest in the community’s flourishing. Historically, the church has been a leader in bringing people together to share the work of caring for the whole community. The need for faith leaders who have the skills and formation to build relationships between individuals and organizations to create flourishing communities is great; and, through field education at Duke Divinity School, Communities of Learning are forming faith leaders committed to thriving communities and justice for all people as a sign of God’s love for the world.
In this workshop, we’ll share learnings and emerging best practices for knowing our neighbors from a year of pilot projects forming faith leaders and connecting to communities. Participants will be encouraged to consider how these learnings might inspire their own practice of ministry as we live into John Wesley’s commitment to see the world — and all our neighbors — as our parish.
Presenter: Rev. Rhonda Parker
“Creating Belonging: Stories and Strategies from Disciples of Welcome”
Disciples of Welcome is a cohort of 50 clergy (mostly in rural N.C. counties) committed to the practice of creating brave space for dialog across difference among themselves, their communities, and congregations. Since the fall of 2019, we have been learning together — exploring what it means to welcome one another, to listen to each other’s stories, and create brave space that allows us to start where we are and continue to grow. In this workshop, we will explore what we are learning from one another, examine the technologies of belonging, practice storytelling and deep listening, and share the lessons learned so far from Disciples of Welcome participants, facilitators, and leadership team so that you might take home ideas for the difficult and necessary conversations in your personal and pastoral lives.
Presenters: Micky ScottBey Jones and Rev. Gloria Winston
“Preaching Across the Divide: Strategies for Sermons in The Purple Zone”
The challenge of preaching across the red-blue divide in our churches is fraught with risks, but also offers opportunities for proclaiming the gospel and building community in profound and contextual ways. Informed by insights from her survey of over 1,200 clergy titled “Preaching about Controversial Justice Issues,” Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade will help you think strategically about your sermons in the midst of this fractured time. Based on her book Preaching in the Purple Zone: Ministry in the Red-Blue Divide (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), Schade offers a new way to approach preaching in this politically divisive climate using a “dialogical lens” for interpreting scripture, and the “Five Paths for Prophetic Preaching.”
Presenter: Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade
Conversations can be healing, and conversations can be hurtful. In this workshop, we will learn and practice skills for engaging in holy and healthy conversations about the things that matter most to us.
Presenter: Rev. Molly Shivers