2015 Convocation on the Rural Church

Living into Community

Myrtle Beach, SC

August 10, 2015 to August 12, 2015


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.

Participants will join in worship, plenary sessions, workshops, conversation and Sabbath. The theme of this year’s event is “Living into Community.” The event will feature Dr. Christine D. Pohl, and participants will receive a copy of her book, Living into Community: Cultivating Practices that Sustain Us. Preachers, plenary and workshop leaders will offer models for ministry that embody these Biblical practices in the life of the rural church.

Eligibility Criteria

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 eligible churches has shifted significantly in 2014 because The Duke Endowment has expanded its criteria.

Check your eligibility (pdf).

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. Those selected to attend will receive notification and be invited to register beginning in mid-May; all others will be added to a waiting list.

We are no longer accepting applications.

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.


Monday, August 10

1:00 p.m.


Group Registration Alcove

3:00 p.m.

Welcome and Introductions
Guests and families welcome
Rev. Brad Thie, TRC Director, Duke Divinity School
Preacher: Rev. Kristen Richardson Frick

Atlantic 4

4:30 p.m.

Plenary: "The Mystery of The Duke Endowment"
Rev. Robb Webb, Director, Rural Church Program Area
Rev. Kristen Richardson-Frick, Program Officer, Rural Church Program Area

Atlantic 4

5:30 – 6:30 p.m.

Break & Check-in


6:30 p.m.

Opening Cookout & Concert
Pre-registered spouses and guests welcome
Casual Dress

Oceanfront Courtyard (in case of rain, Atlantic 5-8)

Tuesday, August 11

7:00 - 8:30 a.m.


Atlantic 5

8:20 a.m.

Morning Prayer

Atlantic 4

8:45 a.m.

Plenary: “Gratitude & Promise-Keeping”
Dr. Christine Pohl

Atlantic 4

10:15 a.m.

Refreshment Break

North Hall

10:45 a.m.

Plenary: "Truthfulness"
Dr. Christine Pohl

Atlantic 4

12:00 p.m.


Atlantic 5

1:15 p.m.


Atlantic 1-3; Tides 1-2

2:45 p.m.

Rest & Renewal
Free evening


8:00 p.m.

Optional Beach Communion Service
Meet in the lobby at 8 p.m.

Hotel Lobby (in case of rain, meet in Atlantic 4)

Wednesday, August 12

7:00 – 8:30 a.m.


Atlantic 5

8:20 a.m.

Morning Prayer

Atlantic 4

8:45 a.m.

Plenary: "Hospitality"
Dr. Christine Pohl 

Atlantic 4

10:45 a.m.

Refreshment Break and Check-out
Please check out at the hotel front desk 

North Hall

11:10 a.m.

Sending Worship: Service of Blessing and Sending
Guests and families welcome
Preacher: Rev. Dr. Samuel H. Moore

Atlantic 4

12:15 p.m.

Boxed lunches available for registered participants

North Hall

The following additional activities on Wednesday afternoon are for current pastors and fellows of the Thriving Rural Communities Initiative.

12:15 p.m.

Thriving Rural Communities Lunch
Bring boxed lunch to designated area 


12:30 - 5:00 p.m.

Gathering of the Thriving Rural Communities Pastors and Rural Ministry Fellows


Christine D. Pohl

Dr. Pohl is the associate provost and professor of social ethics at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky.  She has taught at Asbury for twenty-five years in the area of Christian Ethics. She received her Ph.D. from Emory University in 1993. Prior to graduate studies and teaching at Asbury, she was involved in ministry at the congregational level, in parachurch work, and in work with refugees. 

Her books include Living into Community: Cultivating Practices that Sustain Us (Eerdmans, 2012); Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition (Eerdmans, 1999); Responding to Refugees: Christian Reflections on a Global Crisis, with Ben Donley (Crossroads Monograph Series, 2000); Living on the Boundaries: Evangelical Women, Feminism and the Theological Academy, with Nicola Hoggard Creegan (InterVarsity, 2005); and Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission, with Christopher L. Heuertz (InterVarsity Press, 2010).

Dr. Pohl speaks regularly at the national and international level, on recovering the practice of hospitality and community. In her speaking engagements, she has addressed various communities: congregations, intentional communities, and volunteers and staff in ministry with homeless people, people with disabilities, and refugees.  She also directed a four year grant with the Lilly Endowment on Sustaining Pastoral Excellence in Community.    

Samuel Howard Moore, Jr.

Samuel H. Moore, Jr. was born and raised in Reidsville, N.C. He is a graduate of Greensboro College (B.A. Degree in Religion); Duke University Divinity School; and Drew University, Madison, NJ (Doctor of Ministry Degree). In 2011, he was awarded one of the Distinguished Alumni award from Greensboro College.

An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, Rev. Dr. Moore has served as pastor of various Churches in the Western North Carolina Conference from 1982-2008. From July 2008 until June 2012, Sam served as the district superintendent of the Northeast District. Currently, Sam serves as the district superintendent of the Uwharrie District.

Within the Annual Conference he served as chair of the Preaching One Committee of the Board of Ministry. He has served as a mentor, a member of the Annual Conference Board of Trustees, and as a member of the Annual Conference Committee on Episcopacy.

His community services include life member of the Reidsville Branch of the NAACP. He served as vice-president of the Thomasville Branch of the NAACP from 1992-1995. He was a member of the Board of Trustees at Bennett College for Women. Currently, he is a member of Western North Carolina Black Methodist for Church Renewal and a member of the Board of Trustees at Pfeiffer University.

Ismael A. Ruiz-Millan

Ismael A. Ruiz-Millan is originally from Sonora, Mexico. He is an ordained elder in the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, and his first pastorate was in 2004 at “Unidos por Cristo” in Grimesland, N.C. In 2010, he was appointed to serve the Brookland-Brooksdale (New Brook UMC) United Methodist churches in Roxboro, N.C. Since 2011, Ismael has served as the director of the Hispanic House of Studies at Duke Divinity School.

In his role at the Hispanic House of Studies, Ismael has developed and taught courses on pastoral care to pastors and laypersons from Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Peru. He has taught at the Course of Study at Duke. He has developed seminars, workshops, and learning opportunities for current H/L pastors serving the United Methodist Church in North Carolina. He also directs different programs within Duke Divinity School that target students and non-Hispanic clergy and laity who are passionate and want to serve the Hispanic and Latino (H/L) population in the U.S. Additionally, Ismael serves in different boards including the Board of Directors of the General Board of Global Ministries, the Executive Committee of the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino ministries, the University Senate of the United Methodist Church, and the Hispanics in Philanthropy North Carolina Funders Collaborative. Rev. Ruiz-Millan regularly leads educational immersions to the Mexico-U.S. border.

Rev. Robert R. Webb III  

Reverend Robb Webb 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, Rev. 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. Rev. Webb chairs the Rural Life Committee of the North Carolina Council of Churches and 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

Reverend 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. Rev. 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.

Martha Bassett & The Roots Revival Band

Martha Bassett was raised on the bluegrass and gospel of her native West Virginia farmland, less than a mile down the road from the State Gospel Song Convention. She has earned music degrees from the University of Kentucky and UNC-Greensboro. She has performed up and down the East Coast and into the Mid-West playing festivals and concert venues as a featured artist, and opening for other artists such as Lyle Lovett, the Avett Brothers, Tony Bennett, Jim Lauderdale, and Chuck Prophet.  Martha also worked as the church music consultant for the Sony Classics film, "Junebug." She has released eight discs to date. Throughout her performance career, Martha's work as a church musician has been constant…as a soloist, a children's choir director, and a band leader.  Most recently, she took on the musical leadership of "Roots Revival," a new service at Centenary United Methodist in Winston-Salem, N.C, in which Americana/Roots-based music is central.  Joining Martha for the Convocation on the Rural Church are bandmates Sam Frazier (guitar) and Pat Lawrence (upright bass), and Rev. Sarah Howell, Associate Pastor at Centenary United Methodist. The Roots Revival Band celebrates the idea that all music is sacred, and finds creative ways to use different types of music meaningfully in worship. To learn more about Martha Bassett and Roots Revival, visit www.marthabassett.com and www.rootsrevivalws.com

Sam Peters

Pastor Sam Peters is a multi-vocational Licensed Local Pastor at South Webster Christ UMC, a rural church located in Southern Ohio and part of the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church. In addition to his pastoral duties, he and his wife Joyce, own Patter Fam Sauces, LLC, an award winning gourmet sauce company.  

Sam has served in a variety of ministry capacities since 1982 and has always been bi-vocational. Along with Rev. Bill Goodall, he serves the Shawnee Valley District as the small church initiatives co-coordinator helping small town/rural churches refocus their efforts toward a signature mission that increases their effectiveness in the place they are planted.

Peters is also the author of “It’s Time – How to Make Positive Changes in Your Life”, an inspirational book for pastors, leaders or anyone looking to focus their life and team toward transformation where Christ is the center. He has written several books, cookbooks, articles and blogs aimed at helping people know Christ and live the abundant life.

Peters has spoken at numerous corporate and church events on a variety of motivational topics and Christian financial concepts.

Doug Thie

Doug Thie is an attorney with Forsythe Immigration Law Firm in Charlotte, N.C. He practices exclusively immigration law and represents families, individuals, and businesses in navigating our complex immigration system. Doug graduated magna cum laude from Wofford College with a major in Spanish and a concentration in Latin American and Caribbean Studies. He attended law school at the University of North Carolina School of Law and graduated with honors. He has spent extensive time in Mexico and South America and is fluent in Spanish.

Brad Thie
Director, Thriving Rural Communities
Rev. Brad Thie, a 1998 Duke Divinity School graduate, is an ordained elder and a member of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference. He has pastored three Rural United Methodist churches in North Carolina, and has extensive experience ministering as a chaplain and spiritual counselor in prisons, hospitals, and retirement communities. Before joining Thriving Rural Communities in 2013, Thie served as pastor for eight years of Friendship UMC in Newton, N.C., a partner church with Thriving Rural Communities. 

Thie has an M.B.A. from Jacksonville University in Jacksonville, Fla., and a B.A. in Psychology from Bowling Green State University. 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. He is a Passion in Partnership certified coach, has served on Plowpoint Church Transformation teams, and is a graduate of the Royce and Jane Reynolds Program in Church Leadership.


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.

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

Driving Directions

The Marriott is an ocean-front property on Myrtle Beach’s coastline within driving distance of ample shopping, dining, and attractions. Broadway at the Beach, located nearby, includes 300 acres of shopping, dining, nightlife, and attractions. Entertainment and dining options include Hard Rock Café, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, Señor Frog’s, Ripley’s Aquarium, IMAX Theatre, the Palace Theatre, NASCAR SpeedPark & Café, Children’s Museum of South Carolina, and Crocodile Rock’s Dueling Piano Bar. Shopping also abounds just 10 minutes away at Coastal Grande Mall, one of South Carolina’s largest and newest shopping malls, or you can shop for bargains at Tanger Outlet Mall, located on Highway 501, just 15 minutes away.

On-site accommodations are required to attend this event.

Private room ($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.

Clergy Couples

If you are part of a clergy couple and you both wish to attend the event, you each must apply separately. The cost of your shared private hotel room will be split during registration.

Extended Stay

We invite you to consider giving yourself the gift of Sabbath by staying an extra night (Thursday departure). You may choose an extended stay private room option for the increased total price of $215.


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 you purchase them a meal ticket ($55) 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, the cost of meal tickets is kept to a minimum.


We are no longer accepting applications.

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 a few brief essay questions.

Those selected to attend will receive notification and be invited to register beginning in mid-May; all others will be added to a waiting list.


Please contact Duke Divinity School at events@div.duke.edu or (919) 613-5323.