Becoming Human: The Holy Spirit and the Rhetoric of Race

Luke A. Powery
Westminster John Knox Press
Published Year: 
Book cover for "Becoming Human: The Holy Spirit and the Rhetoric of Race" featuring a dove flying in front of the sun

Luke A. Powery, the dean of Duke Chapel and associate professor of homiletics at Duke Divinity School, has written a new book, Becoming Human: The Holy Spirit and the Rhetoric of Race. 

Becoming Human contradicts the dominant story told in our society about race: that racial difference is an essential characteristic, fully determining individual and group identity; and racial difference means that some bodies are less human than others.

In the book, Powery writes that the church knows another story: the story of the Pentecost, where the Spirit embraces all bodies, all flesh, all tongues; a story that says the diversity of human bodies is one of the gifts of the Spirit. In that story, different kinds of materiality and embodiment are strengths to be celebrated rather than inconvenient facts to be ignored or feared.

Powery urges the church to live up to the inclusive story of Pentecost in its life of worship and ministry. In the book, he also reviews ways that theology and the practice of preaching can more fully exemplify the diversity of gifts God gives to the church. 

Powery, a national leader in the theological study of the art of preaching, regularly delivers sermons at Duke Chapel as well as at churches throughout the U.S. and abroad. He is often a keynote speaker and lecturer at educational institutions, conferences, symposia, and retreats. Ordained by the Progressive National Baptist Convention, his teaching and research interests are located at the intersection of preaching, worship, pneumatology, and culture, particularly expressions of the African diaspora. He is the author of several books, including Were You There? Lenten Reflections on the Spirituals (Westminster John Knox Press, 2019). He is also a general editor of the nine-volume lectionary commentary series for preaching and worship titled Connections: A Lectionary Commentary for Preaching and Worship

Find the book

In the Spring, the Congregation at Duke Chapel will hold online book groups for Becoming Human that are free and open to the public. The groups will meet via Zoom from January 11 to February 1 on Wednesdays at 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. To participate in a book group, sign up here.

Dean Powery will also lead a seminar on his book on Saturday, February 18, from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Trinity Ave. Presbyterian Church in Durham. Hosted by the congregation, the seminar will begin with refreshments and conclude with a catered lunch. The seminar is open to the public with a fee of $10 per person, which offsets the cost of the lunch. Register for the seminar.