Duke Divinity School celebrated its 97th Baccalaureate Service on Saturday, May 13 at 6:30 p.m. in Duke University Chapel, with Dr. Warren Smith, professor of historical theology and director of the Th.D. program, delivering a sermon that proclaimed the birth of the church from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as the second Easter miracle.

Preaching on John 20:19-21, Smith asked the graduates: “Do you believe that the people of the church are God’s instrument for the salvation of the world?” Jesus brought into the world a new reality, and after Jesus commissioned the disciples in the Upper Room, says Smith, he breathed on them the Holy Spirit, empowering them for the work they had been commissioned to do and “because Christ’s Spirit is in us, we are able to participate in that new reality.”

He encouraged the graduates to embrace the power of the church in today’s world, saying, "The resurrecting power of Christ is not reserved for the end time, it is in the church now. The power that unites the Trinity is the power of the Spirit that unites us in love and makes us one body whether we like it or not. As we drop you at the doors of your church, hold fast to the second Easter miracle for you cannot minister unless you believe that you were anointed by the Holy Spirit and the Spirit has been at work with your people long before you got here.” Watch the service.

In the service with Duke Divinity School Dean Edgardo Colón-Emeric presiding, a total of 209 Duke Divinity School students were awarded degrees as follows: Master of Divinity, 98; Doctor of Ministry, 42; Master of Theological Studies, 35; Master of Arts in Christian Practice, 20; Master of Theology, 8; and Doctor of Theology, 6.

Photos of students anf aculty at the 2023 Closing Convocation Service
Students and faculty at the 2023 Closing Convocation service.

Dean Colón-Emeric also announced the student recipients of several academic awards for the 2022-23 academic year during the 97th Closing Convocation on April 19. The worship service was live-streamed on YouTube channel from Duke Chapel. Dr. Daniel Castelo, associate dean for academic formation and William Kellon Quick Professor of Theology and Methodist Studies, preached the sermon at the service with Rev. Meghan Benson, the Divinity School chaplain, as the presiding minister.

Castelo preached, “I trust that in your experience at Duke Divinity you have been shaped to see and understand Jesus more clearly since you came here. I trust that Jesus’ words have sunk into your ears just a bit deeper as a result of God’s presence in your life in this place.

“In these days, I encourage you to take inventory of that process, as you take into account the fullness of your education. It is right and proper, as an act of thanksgiving and praise, to look at how far we have come.”

The academic awards and this year's recipients were:

  • Award for Excellence in Bible — Timothy Bennett Crouch (New Testament) and Noah Dellinger (Old Testament)
  • Frederick Buechner Writing Award — Margaret Allison Garde
  • Richard P. Heitzenrater Award for Excellence in History — Timothy Bennett Crouch
  • Seminarian Award of the Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts — Victoria Marie Blount
  • Hoyt Hickman Award for Excellence in Liturgics — Joseph Dawson Lane
  • Jameson Jones Preaching Award  — Yazmin Nicole Faye Spearman
  • McMurry Richey Awards — Brianna Anita Karpowich (Field Education), Michael Anthony Jones (Missions), and Jordan Christopher Braswell (Student Pastor)
Photos of students and faculty at the 2023 Senior Cross Service
Students and faculty at the 2023 Senior Cross Service, where each graduating student is given a stained glass cross.