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.

Partner Churches

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.

Four Bri(ddd)ge students post outside of Open Table

Get Involved

How You Can Be a Part of Thriving Rural Communities:
  • Participate in a TRC event or program.
  • 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.

TRC Leadership and Staff

Brad Thie headshot, posed in front of Goodson Chapel window in black suit and light blue shirt and blue tie
Brad Thie
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.

Ken Spencer poses in a suit jacket and blue shirt near Duke Chapel
Ken Spencer
Director of Wesleyan Engagement
Shannon Gigliotti headshot
Shannon Gilgiotti
Staff Assistant