“Thriving” is a life-word. The term signifies steady progress towards some goal or end. We most often use the word “thriving” to describe some creature or plant that is fulfilling its created purpose, that is fully alive and overflowing with well-being. Something that is thriving is doing well in the way that it is “meant” to do well. It spills forth or abounds with health and vitality: its cup runneth over. There is a suggestion in the term of not just enough, but of more than enough, of plenty. “Thriving” is a vision of abundant life.
The Thriving Rural Communities Initiative foresees and works towards the day when North Carolina’s rural clergy, rural churches, rural communities, and rural countryside thrive in the way God intended.
Director, Thriving Rural Communities
Rev. Brad Thie, a 1998 Duke Divinity School graduate, has pastored United Methodist churches in North Carolina, and he 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 of Friendship UMC in Newton, N.C., a partner church with Thriving Rural Communities. “I have witnessed the transformative power of the ministry,” Thie said. “Rural Fellows have blessed our church, our laity has grown through Duke learning events, and Friendship UMC has been encouraged in her ministry within the community.”
Thie has an M.B.A. from Jacksonville University in Jacksonville, Fla., and a B.A. from Bowling Green State University.
Idia Piacentini was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and moved with her husband to the United States in 2003. In August 2008, she joined the Duke Divinity School as staff assistant to the director of Thriving Rural Communities; she also assists the director of the Hispanic House of Studies. Idia holds a bachelors degree in business administration from the University of Puerto Rico. She worships and serves in various ministries at Reconciliation UMC, a bilingual, multicultural congregation.
Thriving Rural Communities has formed partnerships with nine rural United Methodist churches across North Carolina. These churches provide inspiring examples of how to live the mission of Christ in a rural context.
Each Partner Church receives educational opportunities and grant funding from Duke Divinity School and The Duke Endowment as it seeks further ways to serve its surrounding community. The congregations also serve as special learning centers for Rural Ministry Fellows, who serve their ten-week summer field education placement in one of these congregations, as well as for other clergy and laity throughout North Carolina.
List of partner churches (pdf)
How You Can Be a Part of Thriving Rural Communities:
- Participate in a TRC event or program.
- Share your story. We’re always looking for insights and inspiration to share on our blog, The Covered Dish. If you would like to contribute a piece to publish (once or regularly), please let us know.
- Communicate the vision of God’s love for North Carolina’s rural communities. Resist speaking in ways that paint rural North Carolina as a second-hand or barren place.
- Take the initiative, and tell us how you think we can better support rural leaders.
- Pray for Thriving Rural Communities – for the Spirit’s power and for Christ’s living presence.