The Congregation at Duke University Chapel

History of The Congregation At Duke University Chapel

Founded in 1985

In The Beginning

1890 - 1984

aerial photo of ChapelAn aerial view of Duke University Chapel.

The story of The Congregation at Duke University Chapel starts with the Chapel itself. When Trinity College, a small Methodist college in Randolph County, North Carolina, moved to the city of Durham in 1890, it was with the support and generosity of many Durham industry leaders. Most notable among these were Julian Shakespeare Carr, and Washington and Benjamin Duke. The college thrived and grew in its more urban environment. In 1910, William Preston Few became President of the College, and he was determined to make it a university comparable to those where he was educated, Harvard and Yale.

Over the years President Few managed to convince the Duke family of this vision. Much planning went on in the early 1920s, until James Buchanan Duke committed sixteen million dollars for purchase of land, and to begin the buildings. J.B. Duke was then the President of the Southern Electric Company (now Duke Energy), the American Tobacco Company, and the British American Tobacco Company, and with the funding established, planning the building of the university began. There were land constraints to building the university around the existing Trinity College in downtown Durham, so a 10,000 acre area of farm, field, and forest land was purchased to the west of Trinity College. The decision was made to create two campuses, one on the Trinity College land, and the other on the undeveloped land which was called Duke Forest. The East Campus was built between 1925 and 1927, and is designed in a gracious American Georgian style for the eleven buildings facing a large quadrangle. The West Campus was built from 1927-1930 in an English Tudor Gothic style. The Duke family was always more interested in buildings and grounds than in the world of academe, so J.B.Duke was involved in many of the decisions about buildings and building materials.

photo of Chapel under construction in 1932 Duke Chapel under construction in 1932.

His most particular request for the West Campus was as follows:

I want the central building to be a church, a great towering church, which will dominate all of the surrounding buildings, because such an edifice would be bound to have a profound influence on the spiritual life of the young men and women who come here.

So, the Chapel was the first building designed, but the last building built. It was started in 1930 and completed and dedicated in 1935.

portrait of Julian AbeleA portrait of Mr. Julian Abele, the architect of Duke University Chapel.

When Mr. Duke saw the architectural drawings prepared by Mr. Julian Abele, the chief designer for the Trumbauer Company, the Chapel looked like most cathedrals, with the bell tower over the center of the cruciate building. Mr. Duke noted that this meant the building did not dominate the surrounding buildings. Mr. Abele moved the bell tower to the foot of the cross, making its two-hundred-ten-foot tower clearly dominate the campus. As the Chapel rose, town and gown alike waited with anticipation to see it finished.

The Presidents of Duke University appointed the Minister to the University, whose function was to oversee the chaplains of the religious life groups, and to manage the Chapel and assign preachers for the Chapel services. The Chapel was to be interdenominational, though the early preachers and ministers were Methodist, harking to the heritage of Trinity College. From 1935 to 1950, worshippers were made up of faculty members, employees and students who were called The Duke University Church.  James T. Cleland became Minister to the University and Dean of the Chapel in 1950. He was a Scots Presbyterian. He disbanded the Duke University Church, and formed the Duke Church Group (DCG), which lasted until 1985. This organization was entirely made up of faculty and staff members. They attended services, contributed to the Chapel ministries, and held meetings in members' homes. Students were involved as ushers, choir members, and communion servers. They participated in service projects, but they were not members. Anyone was welcome to attend services, and there were always many worshippers beyond the members of the Duke Church Group. The attraction of the building, the preachers, and the music drew many occasional and some regular attendees from outside the university. In 1984, President Terry Sanford appointed Dr. William H. Willimon to be Minister to the University.

The Foundation


photo of Will WillimonDr. William Willimon enabled the formation of The Congregation.

Dr. Willimon formed a steering committee1 to work on the creation of a new church. The first meeting was April 12, 1985, when drafting of the structure of a proposal was begun. The issue of naming the church was the first discussion. The committee did not want confusion with Duke's Chapel Methodist Church or for the name to seem a threat to other local churches. "Congregation" was decided upon as the most appropriate. The administrative structure of the church was discussed, such as committees for various duties, and how executive functions should be managed. The new Congregation's involvement with the physical aspects of the Chapel building was studied, as this church would be worshipping in a university building and did not need to support one of their own. Communion was discussed, and the historical role of the Duke Church Group (DCG) in preparation, cleanup, and care of robes and linens was noted, making an Altar Guild an appropriate function of the Congregation.

Dr. Willimon pointed out that the Duke Campus Ministry had a worship committee, which dealt with special services, and there was a DCG group worship committee that had dealt with regular services. Members of the steering committee agreed to coordinate with these groups. Finally, a lengthy discussion of finances took place, which included the issue of separating funding of the Congregation from gifts to the Friends of Duke University Chapel. A subset of the steering committee was assigned to make a plan for the formation of the Congregation at Duke University Chapel.

On April 23, 1985 the subcommittee produced "a Proposal for the Formation of The Congregation at Duke University Chapel". The opening paragraph of this proposal explained the reason for this new venture.

We have become particularly concerned about those persons (among them are graduate and professional students, a few undergraduates, faculty and employees of Duke) for whom Duke University Chapel is their primary worshipping community. Many of these persons desire a close relationship with the Chapel which would provide a congregational group composed of these persons who desire opportunities for worship, nurture, and service greater than attendance alone provides. While we encourage people to join a local church in Durham, we also understand why there will always be some people for whom a close tie with the Chapel will be appropriate. The many decades of active participation by the Duke church Group are a testimony to this continuing need.

The proposal listed five items:

  1. That a group called "Congregation at Duke University Chapel" be formed and open to all those persons for whom Duke Univeristy Chapel is their primary worshipping community.
  2. Members and Student Associate Members are those Christians who commit their time, talents and financial gifts to support the ministry of Duke University Chapel.
  3. The Minister and Assistant Minister to the University shall serve as pastors to the Congregation and shall enlist other clergy within the group or shall help the group employ other clergy to coordinate pastoral care to the members of the group as well as to conduct funerals, baptisms, weddings and hospital visitation.
  4. Lay persons shall be elected each year to serve as a Congregational Council for the Congregation.
  5. The Congregation will be ecumenical and interdenominational in nature and shall not be affiliated with any single denomination, though it may cooperate with other Christian groups in various mission and service projects.

When the Steering Committee met May 7 1985, the organizational structure was approved. The Congregational Council would oversee the standing committees of the Congregation and assure that its policies were carried out. There were to be six committees: Pastoral Leadership/Assistance, Missions/Outreach, Finance, Fellowship/Education, Altar Guild, and Membership. Several of the committees would establish ties to existing Campus Ministry committees.

The proposal was sent out to the membership of the Duke Church Group and others who might be interested. Officers and committee chairs were elected, and the first Council meeting was held on June 2, 1985. Duke Church Group members were assumed to become Congregation members unless they chose not to do so. Duke Campus Ministries (DCM) and their Prophetic Concerns Committee supported twenty community organizations, and the new Missions/Outreach Committee was asked to interact with this group and to make a financial pledge to their work. It was decided to have representation in Durham Congregations in Action (DCIA) as well.

In July, the Pastoral Leadership Committee selected a Divinity School student, Dede Funkhouser, as a pastoral assistant part time. The Finance Committee set a budget of $4000, some of this to pay the pastoral assistant, and a pledge drive was started. The Altar Guild began recruiting members. Dr. Willimon requested support for the Pastor's Emergency Fund and Chapel Music.

August of 1985 saw the treasury at $2,700, and membership at 132. Fellowship began planning a reception for returning students and a dedication service. At the August Council meeting, the issue of reserved seating for the Congregation was discussed and unanimously rejected. The Chapel Forum (predecessor to the Adult Forum) was planned to start in September.

Sunday, September 22, 1985, at five o'clock in the afternoon a special service was held in Duke University Chapel entitled, "an Order of Organizing The Congregation at Duke Univeristy Chapel". The service included baptism, confirmation, and renewal services, and concluded with Holy Communion. Presiding ministers were The Reverend Dr. William H. Willimon, The Reverend Nancy A. Ferree, and The Reverend Dede Funkhouser. This provided the beautiful public proclamation that Duke University now had a church inside.

Historical Break

Those who are reading this history in the twenty-first century need to know more than about what the Congregation Council and committees did, to understand how far we have come. The problems of parking and office and classroom space started from 1985, hence this deviation from the history.

The campus in 1985 was very different from the one thirty years later. Parking was a persistent problem for access to the Chapel. The DCG was accustomed to parking behind the Old Divinity School (1928) which had a level lot for a large number of cars. In 1972 both an educational wing for the Divinity School (New Divinity) and a new Telecom Building were added, seriously encroaching on the parking area, which was diminished to a handful of spaces. The Bryan Center, built in 1982, provided surface parking and the University opened other lots for parking on Sunday morning. But finally the building of Parking Deck IV in 2004 made access to the Chapel more reliable.

The Chapel building itself had minimal free space for the new church. The basement housed numerous offices of University Chaplains, a rather simple kitchen with a small seating area, and a few tables. There was a conference room, a modest lounge, and closets for the choir. In the 1970s a large space was allotted for the organ curator as the new Flentrop organ required frequent tuning and maintenance. An office, space for any Sunday school classes, or any education programs was unavailable. Over the years, the Chapel basement was gradually transformed. Large Religious Life groups found other space for their chaplains' offices, bought or rented houses near the campus to move from their cramped Chapel quarters. The kitchen was remodeled in 2000, and the provision of a lounge space, a large table and plenty of chairs, has made this a comfortable place for fellowship events, meetings and for the nursery. The Congregation office finally moved from what had been a cleaning closet in 1999 to the current location, enabling the staff to actually have space for files, supplies and privacy. And finally in 2014, a former mechanical area was cleared so that the Congregation has what you see today, a real church office, and it only took 29 years! The new wing of the Divinity School, which opened in 2005, was the final touch to provide classroom space on Sunday morning for Congregation classes in all age groups.

Back to the Beginning

1986 - 1992

The first year was committed to putting together an organization that would have its own identity, which would fit into and assist with the mission of Duke University Chapel. Within a few months after the dedication service, it became apparent that Dr. Willimon and The Reverend Ferree would have a difficult time meeting the needs of the Duke Campus Ministries while serving as pastors to a congregation that needed to develop and thrive. This need was apparent despite the fact that the Congregation had hired a Divinity School intern as a pastoral assistant. Also, there was concern from the Durham community churches that they would lose members to the Congregation, and Dr. Willimon was the target of this negative feeling. Accordingly, in the spring of 1986, the Congregation Council agreed to seek its own pastor.

The leadership of the Congregation Council over the establishment and organization of this new church was in the hands of three Council Presidents: William Stokes, 1985-1987, William Briner, 1987-1989, and Sylvia Arnett, 1989-1992. While there were many supporting hands and hearts, the early leaders faced a lot of challenges and had few precedents to follow.

photo of Margaret ViaThe Rev. Margaret Via served as the first Pastor to the Congregation.

The Reverend Margaret Via was a member of the Duke Church Group and joined the Congregation along with her husband, Dan, a professor in the Divinity School. She was asked to develop the role of Pastor to the Congregation and was originally hired part time through June of 1986 at a not-so-generous salary of $9.00 an hour. The treasury of the Congregation had been enriched by an early pledge drive in the summer and fall, but the total was only $8,416. Reverend Via worked with the Council to outline the needs of a congregation that had almost an equal number of members less than twenty-one years of age and over seventy years of age.

While the Congregation Council wrestled with multiple issues, the tasks done by the DCG needed to be carried on. Ellie Ferguson and Mary Putman began organizing the Altar Guild. This group assisted with managing the Chapel nursery, getting materials, and finding volunteers to help the paid attendant. They also noted the shortage of chalices, and linens for an increased number of communion services.

photo of two members at fellowship event with foodFounding members Bernice Hopkins and Susanne Walton enjoying a fellowship event.

The Fellowship/Education Committee started a post-service coffee to help the members get to know each other and organized a beginning Sunday morning adult Christian education program. The latter was to include the older children and youth, and it met in a classroom in Old Divinity.

By July, The Articles of Incorporation were completed by Susan Booth VanSant and Mary Skinner, and the Congregation eventually became exempt from federal tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, contributions to which are deductible under Section 170(c)(2) of the Internal Revenue Law of 1954, or by a nonprofit corporation under Chapter 55A of the General Statutes of North Carolina.

In August of 1986, Reverend Margaret Via became the pastor for the Congregation, with the pastoral intern as her assistant. However, her husband, Dan Via, was to go on sabbatical to Harvard for the fall semester. Dr. Walter Westafer, another minister in the Congregation and the Vice President, agreed to serve as interim pastor.

Reverend Via laid out the responsibilities and requirements for active membership in the church in the spring of 1987. First was a commitment of one's time, energy, talents and financial support. Membership could be by profession of faith and baptism, by a letter of transfer from another church, or by a statement of faith from any Christian denomination that does not grant transfer letters. Membership could also be by a statement of faith while living here as a student or part-time resident. Affiliate membership would only be granted in exceptional circumstances at the discretion of the pastor.

She noted that having a Christian education program for children in 1986 was not an option because of the lack of space for classes, and she thought it unwise to encourage families with young children to join the Congregation. Reverend Via was particularly skilled at pastoral care, and the membership benefitted from her devoted attention to their needs.

photo of Josephine Clement and Mayme PerryDurham City Council member Josephine Clement and Congregation founding member Mayme Perry were among those who toured local missions agencies in 1993.

The Secretary of the Congregation Council, Katie Paul, the Membership Chair, Mayme Perry, and Reverend Via all had a great deal of correspondence and general paperwork to do, and no office in which to do it. Reverend Via kept some files in the trunk of her car. All kept files and records in their homes and when necessary got together to merge members' records. In 1988, a dedicated phone line was finally put in Reverend Via's home for her to be able to keep Congregation calls separate from personal ones.

The first newsletter began in the spring of 1987, edited by Walter Westafer (who would continue until 1996). The format he established would continue: a letter from the pastor, summary of Council actions, announcements of upcoming events, reports on education classes, and requests for help by committee chairs, or the pastor. By 1990 a monthly birthday list was included.

The Membership Committee worked to keep up with old and new members, and the chair, Mayme Perry, kept detailed records in longhand. She purchased a bulletin board for the narthex and posted pictures of the members along with information about the Congregation. New members received a letter of welcome and were urged to join a committee.

photo of fellowship with food in basement of ChapelThe basement of the Chapel has been the location for many fellowship events.

The Fellowship Committee was at the heart of creating occasions for members to meet, share food, pray, and have fun. This committee was split early from education, as the members found the combination unworkable. There had been a first Sunday brunch at local hotels for some years, and these continued when the DCG ended. They were attended by about twenty- five to thirty members. Post-service coffees were intermittent events. Sylvia Arnett located all the members geographically and originally identified six neighborhood groups: Duke Forest/Colony Park, Chapel Hill, Hope Valley, Raleigh, and North Durham. A leader was identified for each area, who contacted any new member who lived in, or moved into the area. Some groups socialized regularly, others chose to host a post-service coffee, or met more rarely. Eventually there were fourteen geographic groups, which were identified in the directory each year.

The Education Committee started a series of classes before the Sunday service, usually in blocks of four, taught by Dr. Willimon, or Reverend Ferree, and attended by adults and youth. This gradually evolved into what was called the Chapel Forum, established by 1988-89. There was no formal youth group but the youth coalesced through this, a few retreats, and service projects. The first confirmation class had twelve youth who were confirmed in 1989.

The Pastoral Assistance/Leadership Committee was gradually phased out by 1989, but during its tenure served to function partly as an administrative and Chapel support committee. A Chapel Endowment fund was begun in 1986 with a goal of $50,000. In 1988 the Congregation took responsibility for a Holy Communion service after the main Sunday service, presided over by Reverend Via with members of the Congregation as servers. This committee advised the hiring of a Divinity School student as an administrative assistant to Reverend Via to help with the paperwork and found a janitorial closet for a small office space in the basement of the Chapel in late 1988. In 1989, Ann Hall was hired as a part-time administrative assistant, and she also helped as a Chapel attendant.

The ushers had traditionally been undergraduate students. Since they were only available twenty one weeks a year, the Congregation began recruiting ushers for the other thirty one Sundays, and by 1990 were generally ushering almost all Sundays. Recruitment of ushers was a constant plea in the newsletters.

During these early years, and for some time after, the Congregation held a service in the Chapel during Commencement. While the graduation exercises were going on in Wallace Wade Stadium, Sam Hammond, the Carilloneur, was waiting in the Bell Tower of the Chapel to signal the end of Commencement. So the service proceeded in the usual manner, though somewhat foreshortened, with the sermon coming at about 11:20 a.m. When the first bell sounded, the service ended and everyone scrambled to get to their cars and away before the new graduates came up to the campus from the stadium. It was a popular service, perhaps because of the timing.

The beginning years saw changes the Chapel as well. In 1989 Dr. Willimon, and Reverend Nancy Ferree-Clark2 received new titles, as Dean and Assistant Dean of the Chapel. Dean Willimon increased the number of communion services each semester from two to five, and there were more weekday prayer and other services.

In 1992, Dan Via retired from the Divinity School faculty, and he and Margaret made plans to move nearer to their family in New England. Margaret's leadership and devotion to the Congregation had built it into a real Body of Christ and a church home for those who had long worshipped in the Chapel, and others who had attended and become members. Reverend Via spelled out in one newsletter what the Congregation had accomplished for Duke Chapel. It had provided a stable attendance across the calendar year, and supported the nursery, the choir, and provided the after-service communion. The provision of ushers and greeters helped make the Chapel more welcoming to Sunday visitors. The structure laid down in the first seven years gave the Congregation a firm footing for the future.

Growth and Development

1992 - 2000

Over the next decade, the Congregation Council was ably led by Presidents Sylvia Arnett, Ellie Ferguson, and Harry Rodenhizer, III. During Sylvia Arnett's term, a search for a new pastor was conducted.

photo of Nancy Ferree-ClarkPastor Nancy Ferree-Clark served as the second Pastor to the Congregation.

Nancy Ferree-Clark was appointed as Pastor for the Congregation in 1992. Having been on the Chapel staff from the beginning, she knew most of the members and had a good relationship with Dean Willimon. To have a pastor who understood both the University and the Congregation made her especially valuable to the development of the church. During her early years as pastor, she was ably assisted by Reverend Ed Elliott, a retired pastor, who helped with pastoral issues, supported Congregation programs, and served as a steady right arm. One of her strengths was her organizational ability.

photo of Jim Ferguson, The Rev. Ferree-Clark, Betsy Close, and Ned ArnettJim Ferguson, Nancy Ferree-Clark, Betsy Close, and Ned Arnett working together.

In these years, five program areas were defined: Administration, Chapel Support, Christian Nurture, Congregational Care, and Outreach Ministry. The Administration Program included audits, long-range planning, finance, nominating committee, newsletter, and eventually a website. Nancy's husband, Tom, gradually took over the information technology needed to track offerings, gifts, and tax statements. In 1992 a Mission Statement was created, and a congregation Directory and Handbook were published. The Chapel Endowment fund got closer to the goal of $50,000 by reaching $41,000. By 1999, the membership had reached 490.

The organizations in Chapel Support took on a number of new tasks. By 1991 the ushers were mostly Congregation members, with occasional student participation. The Altar Guild continued to prepare for and care for communion services, chalices, the cross and torches, and supervise the nursery. From 1994 the Crucifer and torch bearers were Congregation members whenever the Chapel Choir was not singing.. In 1992 the Congregation took on the task of counting the offering and directing it appropriately.

photo of Allen Sanders, Walter Westafer, and Maple SandersAllen Sanders, Walter Westafer, and Maple Sanders volunteered in various roles for the Congregation.

Allen and Maple Sanders took charge and gathered a group of money counters who worked diligently each Sunday and at major special services at Christmas and Easter.

Ellie and Jim Ferguson, with their loyal helpers, Charlie Roedel and Leroy McRae, stepped up to ever more elegant Christmas decorations, so that the Chapel glowed during Advent.

photo of a children's Christmas Eve serviceStories come alive in a Children's Christmas Eve Service.

The Children's Christmas Eve Service, which had started as a small reenactment of the Christmas story, grew each year into an event that filled the Chapel with parents, angels and shepherds as many Congregation members, young and old, played their parts as actors or stage hands.

In 1992, Becky Scott began doing a tour of the Chapel after the worship service, to expand visitors' experience there. Bob Dunham saw the interest in learning about the Chapel building, and he organized a group of members to give a tour each Sunday. Using the help and material of University Archivist Bill King, he taught the volunteers about the building, the woodwork and the windows. By 1998, fourteen docents were offering tours each Sunday after worship.

In 1994, the Congregation bought, with the advice of Chapel Organist, David Arcus, a piano for Chapel Music. This enabled the choirs and visiting musicians to be able to do some rehearsing or warm up in the downstairs lounge of the Chapel.

photo of The Rev. Ferree-Clark with the font and Ed KarolakThe baptismal font is delivered in 2001 with Nancy Ferree-Clark and Ed Karolak.

In 1998, the Council decided to give the Chapel a baptismal font. This project required design expertise as well as the craftsmanship to create an appropriate font. A Kentucky woodworker made the base, and Edward Karolak, a knowledgeable wood craftsman himself, made several trips to oversee that part of the project. The silver bowl was made in Spain. The cost was $23,000, which was financed from a number of sources and a few gifts.

The tenth anniversary of the Congregation was celebrated in 1995 with a potluck dinner. David Arcus was commissioned to compose a hymn in celebration of the milestone. The hymn, O Sing to the Lord, continues to be sung in the Chapel.

During these development years the Congregation had two Divinity School interns, one serving children, and the other youth and missions. The Christian Nurture Program Area broadened spiritual education of the membership across all age groups during the 1990s. Donna Smith, the Divinity School intern in 1994-1995, began the Children's Celebration Class, which involved finding space and gaining the help of parents. Phyllis and Mel Snyder were volunteers who supported and added to Donna's work. When she graduated, a series of interns followed her pattern3. The Parents Group supported the students and classes.

photo of a children's living nativity sceneThe living nativity was re-enacted outdoors.

An annual Living Nativity was held during Advent on a neighboring farm each year, with a real manger and sheep each year from 1996 through 2009. This was always a Christmas season delight for the children.

The youth began a Koinonia meeting every other Friday evening beginning in 1992. The youth also organized a Bible study and planned retreat weekends. Confirmation classes were held every two years, and the youth came to appreciate having the strong support of adult sponsors, whom they might not otherwise have known.

Adult members continued with the weekly lectionary study, and the Adult Forum was managed by a strong committee. Presenters included ministers, Divinity School faculty members, community leaders, and Congregation members. Reverend Ferree-Clark introduced the Disciple Bible Study, a thirty-two week course in four levels. Disciple I was first taught in 1995, and in subsequent years Disciple II, III, and IV were offered. The Christian Believer course (thirty weeks) began to be offered in 1999. These classes were taught at first by the pastor or a Divinity School student familiar with the course, but as the years went on several Congregation members took up teaching roles. There were shorter Bible study programs in Advent and Lent.

photo of Max Schiebel and Bob DurdenMax Schiebel and Bob Durden enjoying a fellowship event.

The Congregational Care Program's most visible activity was, of course, the Fellowship Committee. Over the years, Ginny Cole, Christine Hodder, and many others provided leadership and planned events of all sorts. The monthly Sunday brunches after service that had started with the DCG continued for some years but gradually stopped. A "Lunch With the Preacher" after the service was started when visiting preachers came, and this was held three times a year from 1992 to 1994. The usual major events were the annual anniversary celebration, annual business meeting luncheon, Lenten meal, an Epiphany celebration, and monthly post-service coffees. A new member lunch with members of the Congregational Council began, to invite new members to join committees and contribute their time in areas of their interest. A summer picnic was held beginning in 1995. In 1996, a membership lapel pin was designed and created to make it easy for members to identify each other, and also for those who visited the Chapel to be introduced to the Congregation. The Neighborhood Groups continued with mixed success. New members were informed of the groups, and the group leader called to welcome them. The young adults began a monthly dinner at a local restaurant in 1991, which was a source of support and friendship.

In 1997, the Stephen Ministry program was started. This lay caregiving ministry is a supplement to pastoral care. It teaches lay persons to provide one-on-one care for individuals who request support, usually in a confidential weekly visit. Jim Phillips, Sylvia Arnett, and Nancy Ferree-Clark took the training course to be leaders, and over the next fourteen years they and a number of others mentored fourteen Congregation members to be trained Stephen Ministers. Several area churches also had Stephen Ministries, and persons seeking support could be referred to any Stephen Minister. Few Congregation members chose to apply to our Stephen Ministers, but they did serve referrals from the other churches. Those that were Stephen Ministers found that the training was excellent in helping them help others, and all learned a great deal about dealing with personal issues. The program was not continued after 2011.

Loaves and Fishes was formed in 1998. This group supplied meals to families when a hospitalization, illness, or new baby made this form of support a welcome gift. Over the years, many families have been served by many members in this program.

With the growth of the Congregation, and accompanying growth of its budget, the Outreach Ministry accomplished amazing things during the next twelve years. A Local Missions Committee distributed grants to local agencies eventually totaling $16,000 annually. Applications were reviewed and the amounts distributed were decided upon by the committee and approved by the Council. Liaison with DCIA continued with a representative appointed, and several members worked for Meals on Wheels, one of their special charities.

Providing and serving bimonthly dinners at Urban Ministries that had started in the 1980's continued under the leadership of Ned Arnett, and these would continue with Ned for thirty years! Many members unfailingly contributed lasagnas and/or served them on a Sunday or a Wednesday evening each month every year of the Congregation's existence.

A Host Homes project, members providing overnight accommodations for families with a loved one in Duke Hospital, was started in 1993 and continued for several years. The Congregation joined Duke students in building a Habitat for Humanity House in 1992 for the first time and has done so nearly every two years since then.

Gleaning with the St. Andrews Society each fall began in 1994. The Congregation enthusiastically joined the annual Crop Walk, and each year generated significant funds for local food banks. Members were included in Chapel mission trips abroad, principally to Central America.

The finances of the Congregation continued to improve with the generosity of the membership. By 2000 the budget was over $100,000 and there was usually a surplus each year. When this occurred, half the overage was added to the Outreach budget. Some of this was also used to fund the baptismal font. It became possible to provide Reverend Ferree-Clark with appropriate salary and benefits and to meet ongoing obligations. In 1999 office space finally became available at the end of the hall near the kitchen. It was large enough to accommodate a small seating area, three desks, a few filing cabinets and give the Congregation a home in the Chapel. Additional storage space was provided in a safe in the Wesley Fellowship office.

During this period, the stability of having the Dean of the chapel, and a pastor who knew the Chapel staff well, made relationships easy and comfortable. The Congregation also benefitted from many new members, those who retired to Durham with past ties to Duke University, those who sang in the Chapel Choir, and new faculty families. The monthly Newsletter kept the membership informed and connected. William Westafer, the first editor, served from 1987-1996, followed by Bob Dunham from 1996-2002.

A New Century Begins

2001 - 2007

The early years of the twenty-first century went along smoothly. Dean Willimon's fifteen years of service to the University Chapel were celebrated in 1999, and the Congregation celebrated their fifteenth anniversary in September of 2000 with a special service and dinner and much joy. A great many new projects were taken on during this period.

Under the leadership of Marilyn Yarborough from 2000-2003, the first set of bylaws were created in 2002, a rather slim document. The Vice President, Judy Hays, initiated a membership survey in 2002 to determine the members' needs and goals in preparation for making a strategic plan for the Congregation. The kitchen renovation, to which the Congregation had contributed, was completed, giving the Fellowship Committee much needed working space, and the nursery more pleasant quarters. The delayed arrival of the baptismal font finally allowed it to be dedicated at a special service in 2001.

In 2003, Ann Hall left the Congregation to join the Duke Memorial United Methodist Church, though she remained a part-time Chapel Attendant. Mary Tenuta joined the staff as administrative assistant for one year, and Mary Ann Manconi arrived in 2004. She became a real anchor in the Congregation Office. She was not only well organized but was an accomplished graphic designer, helping with the layout of the newsletter and other office communications. Her ability to listen was so good that members often just called her for comfort.

Christian Education programs continued for the adults with the Adult Forum, Disciple classes, Lectionary and short courses.

photo of youth groupThe youth group sometime meets outside of the Chapel.

The arrival of George Ragsdale as the Youth intern spurred growth of the programs for youth. In addition to their Sunday school class, he built a strong Youth Fellowship on Sunday evenings. The group met on Sunday evenings for fellowship, food, and worship and had service projects, retreats, lock ins at the chapel, a ski weekend in the winter, and a summer YEAH (Youth Engaged in Acts of Hospitality) week in the Durham community. Since the Congregation youth come from many areas, it is always complicated to get them back to the Chapel on Sunday night, so often parents were included. As a help with the food expenses, the Youth Fellowship was added to the annual budget.

There was a great advance for children when Phyllis Snyder joined the staff as Director of Children's Ministry in 2002. Phyllis also entered Divinity School part-time in 2004. She took over the Children's Celebration Class and worked with the parents group on all the children's programs.

photo of Leogane clinicThe building for the clinic in Haiti supported by Family Health Ministries.

The Outreach Program had a number of new developments. The first of these was a connection to the Family Health Ministries in Leogane, Haiti. This mission served a very poor rural area that had minimal access to preventive health care. A small team went in 2004, and others went every two years until 2010.

In 2002 the Congregation joined the Interfaith Hospitality Network. This was a group of 29 congregations with 11 host sites, which supported and provided food and shelter to homeless families, while stable housing and work was found for them. Since the Congregation could not supply overnight accommodation for the families as some churches did, our members provided food, supervision, and overnight staffing on a rotating basis. Ira Mueller was a long-time leader of this effort.

Ed and Linda Karolak, who were leading Local Missions, organized bus tours to visit the Durham agencies that our grants supported. These left from the Chapel after the service. The bus trips occurred at intervals each year in this decade

photo of people in front of busSome Congregation members participated in bus trips to visit local mission partners.

The Congregation and Friends of Duke Chapel sponsored two spring retreats to the Benedictine Monastery of Christ in the Desert in 2004-2005 for a week of contemplative meditation.

A much more complex mission project began in 2003. It overlaps the service of numerous Presidents and Councils of the Congregation. Reverend Ferree-Clark learned of Montagnard Christian minority groups asking for protection from armed groups clearing their land, causing them to flee. A support program was developed by the US State Department, partnering with national groups such as Lutheran Family Services and Church World Service which offered advice to local congregations that agreed to sponsor refugee families. Reverend Ferree-Clark asked three members of the Congregation, Edward Karolak, John Alles, and Stephen Harper to form a committee to sponsor a refugee family. A committee of twelve was formed, an apartment found, clothing, furniture, utensils, dishes were donated, and finances provided. Of course, the enormous amount of paperwork, social services, jobs, Medicaid, immigration forms, etc. were all part of the responsibility. The first family, two nineteen-year-olds who met and were married in a United Nations holding camp in Cambodia, arrived at Raleigh-Durham Airport in January 2003. Tok Siu and Bui Ksor were cold, frightened, and spoke no English. They were taken to a warm apartment with unknown appliances and plumbing, but friendly and caring helpers. They wished for a Christian wedding. With the help of Dean Willimon, the Congregation arranged Tok Siu and Bui Ksor's wedding in Duke University Chapel and the celebration following. Their daughter Lila was born prematurely a year later, adding yet more complications to the committee's work. Three more Montagnard families followed, and these families have adapted to life in the United States remarkably well. Tok and Bui became citizens in 2008, and their daughter Lila is a healthy teenager. It is impossible to document here the many Congregation members, graduate students, and employers, who helped tutor, transport, and provide food, car, clothes, and friendship. The families have made incredible progress, learning a whole new language and way of life, being successful at work, raising healthy children, and participating in the life of the Congregation.

Under the leadership of President Judy Hays beginning in 2003, the Chapel staff and the Congregation alike would undergo major changes while trying to maintain their equilibrium. The Congregation Council approved hiring a Youth and Missions Assistant Pastor, and Josh Huber arrived in the fall of 2005. Fortunately, as far as the youth were concerned, he was available to take over from George Ragsdale, the Divinity School intern, who had managed to create an active and involved youth group over his two years of service.

In the Administrative area there were other changes. Mary Bosco edited the newsletter from 2001 - 2003, then Mary Ruth Miller took over as editor in 2003 and continued until 2010. The newsletter became available online via the web site Tom Clark had set up, and he became web master for the Congregation in the late 1990s.

A strategic plan was laid out, preceded by the Congregation survey. A new set of Bylaws and Procedures, much more detailed and complete, was produced by Judy Hays, Chuck King, Carlton Lee, Patsy Willimon, and others in 2005 and approved by the membership. A new Congregation lapel pin was designed, created, and proudly displayed by the membership.

Meanwhile, in 2004, the Congregation faced the major news that Dean Willimon was elected a Bishop in the United Methodist Church. He was to serve the North Alabama Conference, Birmingham Area. Needless to say, this was sad news for the Congregation members for whom he had been a constant for twenty years. The Chapel had a fine send-off dinner with lots of laughter, tears, and commemorative gifts, in which the Congregation participated with enthusiasm. Craig Kocher, the Associate Dean, was named as Interim Dean of the Chapel while a search was instituted for a new dean.

photo of Sam WellsDr. Samuel Wells served as Dean of Duke University Chapel.

As David Langford became President of the Congregation in the summer of 2005, the appointment of the new Dean of the Chapel was announced. Dr. Samuel Wells, an Englishman and an Anglican priest, was named. He was an academic whose area of concentration was Christian Ethics, but he had served as a parish priest in a poor area. The Congregation planned a warm welcome for Dean Wells, who arrived prior to his family, and he was welcomed at the very special twentieth anniversary celebration of the Congregation at Duke University Chapel.

The Twentieth Anniversary was the occasion for the commissioning of a new hymn, with text by Richard Hays and music by David Arcus, One Body, One Spirit, sung on the Sunday of the celebration. The anniversary party was held at the Museum of Life and Science with a special guest. Brigadier General USAF, (Ret), Charles Duke, Jr. who was an astronaut on the Apollo 16 Mission and was the tenth and youngest person to walk on the moon. Following his mission, he became a committed Christian and devoted himself to prison ministry. The children enjoyed the museum, and the adults had the opportunity for food and fellowship and to talk with both Dean Wells and General Duke. It was a grand afternoon.

During President Hays' term, and continuing through David Langford's three years as President, the Congregation Council began to hold their meetings in the Episcopal Center on Central Campus, which offered more space, and a kitchen. Occasional Congregation events were held there as well. When David Langford came into office a new committee was appointed, the Staff Parish Committee. This committee functioned as liaison between the staff and the Congregation, and was available to settle any differences or conflicts that arose.

The years of 2005-7 were unsettled. It was understood that the Congregation was not a part of the University, but it did occupy University space, and, in essence, paid for that by supporting the work of the Chapel. A new dean might not envision this as appropriate for a University Religious Life Program. In this case, Dean Wells appeared delighted to find an actual congregation in the Chapel, as that was familiar territory for him. He immediately renewed the original arrangements that had existed with Dean Willimon for the Congregation relationships with the Chapel. A few members of the Congregation chose to leave when Dean Willimon left, but they were rather quickly replaced by new members.

Nevertheless, there were changes that impacted the Congregation. Initially this involved the Chapel Support Program. The first was that beginning in 2006, communion was offered every other week.

photo children making communion breadChildren have made bread for Sunday morning communion.

The Altar Guild stepped up to the task by adding new members, and there were more than a few meetings about the bread formerly used. Another was that Dean Wells wanted the ushers to count the number of students who attended each Sunday. This problem was harder. Since some of the ushers were youth, their idea of "young people" was not the same as the older ushers, so the counts were skewed by who was doing the counting. He also noted the large number of daily visitors to the Chapel and learned that Mollie Keel, the long time Chapel Attendant, could not do much more than greet visitors as she had other duties that kept her at her desk. Dean Wells and Mollie asked Lois Oliver to find docents to serve during the week. At first there were thirteen docents, one present about two hours each morning or afternoon. The numbers declined over the years, as the demand for tours was better understood, but continued with reduced hours.

Dean Wells' wife, Jo Bailey Wells, who was a distinguished academic theologian and would be a professor in the Divinity School, and his two young children arrived in the fall of 2005. He approached Reverend Ferree-Clark about a Christian education program called Godly Play, which he said changed his life, that he had learned from its developer in the UK, Jerome Berryman. Phyllis Snyder also knew about Godly Play from a class in the Duke Divinity School. So with the approval of the pastor, Phyllis Snyder, Leigh Wynkoop, and Leisa Dennehy went to Godly Play training in November 2006.

photo of first Godly Play class in the Chapel cryptGodly Play first met in the crypt.

Dean Wells arranged for them to use the crypt in the Chapel for the children from age four to eight. Since an environmental component to the stories is necessary, Mel Snyder built custom shelves to fit the space and stained them to match the woodwork in the crypt. Many members of the Congregation donated the story equipment necessary for the classes, and most members saw the Godly Play program demonstrated several times. Unfortunately, later this classroom had to be dismantled as no second egress is possible from the crypt, but Mel's shelves are now in the Congregation office. Godly Play has been a part of retreats, community events, and is a vital part of the children's experience in the Congregation.

In 2007 Phyllis Snyder stepped out of her staff position, and Elizabeth Clift became Director of Children's Ministry and served until 2009, followed by Chamberlyn Marks. Phyllis became the volunteer Godly Play coordinator. Josh Huber left the staff in February of 2007 to go to graduate school, and Todd Mayberry was hired as an interim youth pastor, followed by McKennon Shea. He became Assistant Pastor in the fall of 2008.

Dean Wells began a community ministry at the Chapel, which included efforts to move some activities into the West End of Durham. A former crack house was leased on Chapel Hill Street to house students in the Chapel Pathways program, and Congregation members were very involved in the cleanup, painting, and furnishing of the house. In 2008 the first students moved in.

photo of Dean Wells, Rev. Paige, Rev. Ferree-ClarkDean Sam Wells, Pastor Michael Paige, and Pastor Nancy Ferree-Clark collaborate.

That same year, the Chapel and the Congregation made a connection to Antioch Baptist Church in Northeast Durham, which began with a service in the Chapel and dinner in the lounge for both congregations on a Sunday evening.

The congregation had some retreats for adult members as early as 1992 but these were intermittent from 1992-1995, as venues were difficult to find. By 1999, the winter retreat was re-established. Each retreat had a strong theme, strong leaders from the community, and the Divinity School, and each new dean led one as they were appointed. These were excellent combinations of Christian education and fellowship. In 2008 the Spring Overnight Retreat at the Caraway Conference Center began. This joyful weekend occasion for the whole Congregation was enthusiastically received. Organized by Terry Yuschok, Layne Baker, and Melissa Mills, the retreat combined thoughtful Christian education with prayer, exchange of concerns and ideas, and opportunities for reflection in a beautiful setting. Both adults and children could enjoy the fun of the lake, and the amenities of the building for games, swimming and just relaxing together. Having the Sunday service outdoors overlooking the lake made the end of the retreat a special memory.

The Fellowship Committee restarted the Second Sunday Coffees in 2008, and these became firmly established as a good way for new members to get to know old ones, and for young people to get to know each other. It also became a traditional place for Ned Arnett and Ernie Ruckert to display their expertise as the poets of the Congregation, and nearly every second Sunday we heard a lovely poem that brightened our morning.

photo of Scott Southern and The Rev. Dan Day in Fellowship Committee apronsScott Southern and Dan Day wearing their aprons.

The arrival of Duke blue aprons for the committee made the members a cheerful group of greeters and organizers each time. The Ecks, the Arnesons, and the Southerns became familiar leaders in this newly reestablished event. The latter two couples also led the graduate student ministry with monthly lunches. In this period the young adults began to organize first Friday dinners at local restaurants for fun and fellowship. They were occasionally joined by "not so young" adults.

President Langford moved the annual meetings to brunches rather than dinners, and the Congregation gathered each fall to celebrate another year of growth of programs and accomplishment.

In 2007, Allen and Maple Sanders retired as Money Counters after leading that service to the Chapel for fifteen years, and they were honored by the Congregation at a luncheon. The next year, Joe Schnople retired from leading the prayer service after five years of leading the prayer group.

By this point, the Congregation's financial position had become much more secure. The annual budget was in the range of $290,000, and the Finance Committee was able to meet its obligations and usually had a small overage each year. The Outreach Program was distributing about $20,000 per year to local agencies, and many of these coincided with the Chapel's new Mission of the Month offering collection. The endowments had been met, and a policy was approved for memorial and honoring contributions: gifts over $500 go to the Memorial fund for General Ministries; gifts under $500 are directed to the Pastor's Discretionary Fund.

The Next Big Change

2008 - 2012

In June 2008, Jim Wisner became President of the Congregation. Following the Chapel's example, he moved to a house in the West End of Durham, and it was large enough, and he was generous enough to host a number of Congregation groups for various meetings. By the winter of 2009, it was being used a lot.

McKennon Shea accepted a position at the Divinity School and was scheduled to leave in July of 2009, so the Staff Parish Committee initiated a search for an assistant pastor. Bruce Puckett was appointed, and arrived in June, in time to have an overlap with Reverend Shea. He quickly took over responsibility for Youth and Missions and was warmly received by all. He and Reverend Ferree-Clark made a good team, and with Mary Ann Manconi, the Congregation Office was running smoothly. The next revision of the Policies and Procedures Manual was begun and would be completed by 2010.

There were several new study courses during the year, and the Fellowship Committee had the first pancake breakfast on Transfiguration Sunday. Marcia Altmeyer started a new Women's group.

Meanwhile, Kate DeAlmeida began a project of creating a cookbook of Congregation member recipes in honor of the upcoming twenty-fifth anniversary of the Congregation. Her crew of fourteen worked to collect the recipes, photographs, and words of wisdom which would appear in the book when it was published.

photo of quilters with quilts
The Chapel Quilters display some of their handiwork.

Outreach Programs continued to develop. In 2009, a program of Prayer Quilts was started, suggested by Pastor Nancy and led by Ginnie Ruckert, who gathered a group of eight to ten quilters. They met at the Episcopal Center, carrying their equipment in for each session, originally making the quilts for the Interfaith Hospitality Network. These quilts have ties, which are knotted with prayers for the recipient. The group then moved to the Ruckert's home, and thereafter to Ann Recesso's home, and six regulars continue to meet. The quilts are given to those who are in need of a warm and caring touch, and prayers for an illness or grief. They estimate they have made over one hundred quilts over the years.

In 2010, Sonia Tilley was added to the staff as Director of Christian Education. She expanded supervision of the nursery and had oversight of all education programs. Three young adult volunteers assisted Bruce Puckett with the youth group: Duncan Wilson, Deb Hackney, and Walker Robinson. The Student Outreach Committee obtained contact addresses for members away at college and sent occasional care packages.

In May, Nancy Ferree-Clark announced that she was leaving for Tacoma, Washington, where her husband Tom had accepted a position as medical examiner. This was a blow to the Congregation, as it seemed to sever the last tie with the foundation of the church. The council decided to do something special to honor Reverend Ferree-Clark. In nine weeks, the Congregation raised $80,000 to fund a building to house volunteers at the hospital in Leogane, Haiti, to be named for Reverend Ferree-Clark. The Guest House was completed and dedicated in 2011.

During the year 2010 there were several looks back over Pastor Nancy's eighteen years, and one Adult Forum hosted Reverend Margaret Via and Reverend Ferree-Clark sharing stories on the history of the Congregation. In August, Reverend Ferree-Clark wrote her last pastoral letter in the newsletter summarizing her years with the Congregation. The last service at which Reverend Ferree-Clark preached, her daughter Elizabeth played the organ prelude, and Dr.Tom Clark was the organist, so it was a Clark service all around.

photo of The Rev. Bruce PuckettBruce Puckett served as the Pastor to the Congregation.

Karen Witzleben was now President of the Congregation, Bruce Puckett became the interim pastor, and plans were in progress for a grand celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Congregation at Duke Chapel. David Arcus composed a hymn, titled Give Me The Faith. In the fall, the elegant Come to the Table cookbook was published and went on sale. It not only included recipes but provided a history of the Congregation and listed the Pastors and the office staff members. Scattered through the recipes were graces to accompany the meals. It even made a major article in the Durham Herald Sun

Two services were dedicated to the anniversary. The first was Saturday, September 25, 2010, and the presiding ministers were Margaret Via, Nancy Ferree-Clark, and Bruce Puckett. Dean Wells gave a homily, and the Vespers Choir and David Arcus provided the music. The Congregation gathered for a potluck supper downstairs following the service. The next morning, the main Chapel service was dedicated to the Congregation, and all three pastors again participated.

Over the 2010-2011 winter, a search committee worked to find a new senior pastor. In June 2011 a suitable candidate was approved, as required, by Dean Wells, and presented at a meeting of the Congregation. The required 90% affirmation vote was not achieved, and Reverend Puckett continued as Interim Pastor.

A second search committee began work in the fall of 2011 on a finding a new pastor. The budget was now up to $305,000, and the Outreach Program was distributing about $30,000 annually. The Council approved a grant of $20,000 a year to the Pathways Program when the Lilly Grant ended. Fred Westbrook took over the information technology service from Tom Clark and replaced the Congregation database with a commercial one. He also was revamping the web site.

Missions and Outreach, now under Marilyn Christian's leadership, continued to expand its programs. The Congregation became Hope Companion Partners with ZOE's Orphan Development Program. Student Outreach began a program of driving international students out to shop for supplies at local stores for a day before the university classes started to help them settle in. Members learned about many ethnic shops they had never known existed. The Quilting group gave a quilt to Antioch Baptist Church and continued to make them for the Interfaith Hospitality Network. The first shared Christmas dinner with Antioch Baptist Church, with our members supplying hams or turkeys and eating with the guests, had been in December.

photo of three helpers at a Habitat buildThree volunteers help at a Habitat build.

The Congregation worked on a Habitat house for a Montagnard family, which was completed by the next spring.

Just as the Congregation was anticipating that things were going along smoothly, changes came. In late 2011, the Archbishop of Canterbury appointed Dean Wells as Vicar of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. His loss was unexpectedly soon, even though most members knew he wanted his children to grow up in England eventually. There was a period of dismay, but the Congregation continued to carry on their work, while trusting that their church would stay strong.

The winter and spring retreats and other education activities proceeded, but Reverend Puckett was obviously short-staffed. Another search brought Reverend Brad Troxell on the staff in March of 2012 as Assistant Pastor for Youth and Missions. He was an instant hit with the youth group and equally welcome with the Missions and Outreach Program. He and Reverend Puckett also began a series of pastoral visits to meet members.

In May 2012, there was a farewell party for the Wells family. The quilters made a beautiful wall hanging and other mementos were given. The members wished Godspeed to all the family and Dean Wells assured them they would see him again in Durham.

The summer of 2012 saw the members at the annual picnic and a Durham Bulls game. Sonia Tilley left the staff after two years as Education Minister, and Phyllis Snyder was appointed Children's Pastor.

The Children's program grew under her leadership with the development of a new class for children called Wee Praise. This class, led by Kate DeAlmeida, for the youngest children (ages one to three with their parents), meant that all children now had a place for Christian education in the Congregation.

New Beginnings

2012 - 2015

photo of Luke PoweryDr. Luke Powery serves as Dean of Duke University Chapel.

Stephen Harper, President of the Congregation beginning in the summer of 2012, was the second president to welcome a new Dean of Duke Chapel. Dr. Luke Powery was appointed in the fall of 2012, and his installation service was held in the Chapel on a lovely fall day. It was followed by a grand lunch of Caribbean food on the quad, celebrating Dean Powery's roots in Florida. He welcomed the Congregation, and his wife and two children became part of the Congregation's programs.

photo of Carol GreggDr. Carol Gregg serves as Pastor to the Congregation.

The search committee hosted a very special winter retreat on February 9, 2013, which was led by the candidate for Pastor of the Congregation, Reverend Carol Gregg. It was held at St. Luke's Episcopal Church on a sunny day, and a full house of Congregation members learned about Reverend Gregg's life, her family, and her faith. There was also good food and fun. A special business meeting on February 24, 2013 affirmed Reverend Gregg's appointment as the third Pastor of the Congregation at Duke University Chapel.

In April, Reverend Bruce Puckett, resigned and moved to the Chapel staff as Community Minister, and the Congregation members were happy to have him and his family still close. A grand send-off party was held for Reverend Puckett and his family, who meant so much to the Congregation.

In October of 2013 the 28th anniversary breakfast was celebrated. Reverend Gregg started a program of classes for new members, which were held twice a year. These classes explain the responsibilities and roles of members of the church. Reverend Troxell started a Youth Council similar to the adult Congregation Council to organize the youth programs. Anna Shea started a weekly play group for toddlers in local parks.

Whitney Schwab became President of the Congregation in June of 2014, and "Deepening Connections" was chosen as the tagline for the Congregation. A bylaws task force was appointed to update these. Mary Ann Manconi, who had been working from home with back problems had undergone surgery and resigned. Nelson Strother joined the staff as Administrative Assistant. As a longstanding member of the Congregation, he was well-known to the membership and a welcome and knowledgeable addition.

With the arrival of easy-to-read permanent name tags, courtesy of our new pastor, the second-Sunday coffees became more lively. New and old members could easily identify each other, get acquainted, and learn about each other. Returning the name tags afterwards became routine, so when the members gathered at fellowship events, young and old knew to get their tag, so connections indeed began to deepen.

photo of supper serversCricket Scovil, Joe Schnople, and Nancy Wawroursek prepare to serve dinner.

After thirty years of serving the homeless at Urban Ministries, Ned Arnett stepped down from leading the Congregation's service at Urban Ministries Homeless Shelter. Cricket Scovil took over as leader of that program.

More involvement with outreach programs began with monthly service projects at the agencies to which the Congregation gave grants. Working with the agencies gave members a better understanding of where their gifts made a difference.

A Calling Ministry was begun, led by several members who call each person during their birthday month to keep up the connections. Reverend Gregg began contacting members who are seldom seen in the Chapel or at Fellowship events to keep them in touch with the church. The Women's Ministries continued to be active, as did the Young Adult Monthly Friday dinners at local restaurants.

In the winter of 2015, yet another major change was announced. It was known for some time that some repairs were needed to the Chapel building, but the extent had not been clear. The Chapel was to be closed the 11th of May 2015 and not to reopen until graduation of 2016. At first, it seemed that the basement, where the Congregation office was located, would still be functional, but that eventually turned out not to be the case. The office was moved temporarily to Northgate Shopping Center in August.

Dean Powery announced that the summer Chapel services would be held in the Baldwin Auditorium on East Campus. He had been speaking philosophically about a Chapel Without Walls, and now he literally had a Chapel without walls. The Congregation Council and the staff now had to plan for life in new places.

photo of BradEd Harlow, Brad Troxell, and Audrey Harlow at the Bon Voyage party.

While barely adjusting to this news, it was learned that Brad Troxell had been called to serve as a chaplain in the United States Navy. This was a disappointment for all, but for the Youth Group especially. In July, in a church fellowship hall at the edge of East Campus, a gala Bon Voyage party was held. It was organized by Deb Hackney with help from others and included videos, songs, and a fine Mexican lunch. There was much joy, a few tears, and a good Anchors Aweigh for Pastor Brad.

The adaptation to Baldwin Auditorium was complicated, from parking, to managing communion, and even to collecting the offering, There was a small gathering for fellowship with tea and lemonade under the trees after the service to connect, and the members carried on until the fall.

Then came Page Auditorium, which was the next home of the Chapel without walls, where we could see the real Chapel shrouded in scaffolding. Here too were differences. The choir was behind us in the balcony, there were no candles, communion traffic was confusing, but the services were still worshipful, and the membership still gathered. Instead of potlucks, we had snack-lucks on the Chapel Quad. It was the Congregation's thirtieth year, and surprisingly, a number of new members joined during this year of exile from the Chapel building.

photo of lunch celebrating 30th anniversaryMembers celebrated the 30th anniversary of The Congregation at lunch.

On November 8, 2015, the Congregation at Duke University Chapel celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in the Von Canon Room of the Bryan Center. A number of the founding members were present, and letters from the two previous pastors, Margaret Via and Nancy Ferree-Clark, were read. There were personal reflections from Jim and Ellie Ferguson on their thirty years as founding members.

It is hard to imagine what Duke University Chapel would be without the Congregation. This church has fulfilled its mission of being a true body of Christ by reaching out and serving others, teaching the faith, continuing to learn about their faith, while also supporting the Chapel and its programs. We can look back with pride over these thirty years of growth and development and give thanks to God for all those who made it possible.

photo of people exiting worship service 2016Worshipers depart from a Chapel worship service in 2016; let the service begin.

Lois Oliver, editor

Year in Review


All of us resist change. In 2015 the Congregation at Duke Chapel faced a lot of changes.  We should rejoice that we found the flexibility to continue to worship, work, play, and study in new places.  We joined the Duke students by experiencing three terms; we had a semester in Duke Chapel, a summer session in Baldwin Auditorium, and a fall semester in Page Auditorium.  We understood the need for the restoration of the Chapel stone, woodwork and windows, and look forward to returning to our “great towering church” next spring.


Through all three terms our body of Christ adapted, and continued the important work of our church.  Wee Praise, Godly Play, Children and Youth classes, Adult Forum continued, and Bible Study groups met.  Fellowship events kept us together, with a pancake breakfast, Lenten, and Pentecost meals in the Chapel Lounge, cookies and lemonade on the East Campus quad, and snack-lucks on the Chapel Quad.  Monthly dinners, Playgroups, and Women’s Ministry, not needing the Chapel building, went on faithfully.  Our missions and outreach leaders kept us busy all year with twelve service projects allowing us to not only make financial contributions to local agencies, but to be hands on with them in their work.  Urban Ministries Shelter dinners, back pew collections (though not always in a pew), and special collections were all carried forward.

The year had many high spots. In the spring semester, the winter retreat led by Mel Williams taught us to consider Compassion in Action, and to be intentional in our missions program.  Lent had three study courses, and, of course, the many services of Holy Week culminated in the beautiful Easter celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

2015CarawayPatioThe overnight retreat at the Caraway Conference Center brought us together for strengthening our faith and having fun and fellowship in the mountains in our summer session.   Christopher Jacobson led the fall semester retreat, teaching us to appreciate the gift of sacred music.   The annual business meeting in Gilbert-Addoms Residence Hall was both fun and businesslike, with videos as well as election of new council members, and reports from everywhere.  We posed for our pictures for our new directory, so we could put our faces with our names and addresses.

The youth group had a winter ski retreat, as well as an overnight Lock-In during Holy Week, which they shared with youth groups from three other churches. We welcomed eighteen new members, two new babies and three marriages. We congratulated five high school graduates, nine college graduates, and four graduate school graduates, plus our distant Zoe Ministry Program graduates in Rwanda.

In July we gathered in Asbury2015Brad United Methodist Church to provide a grand farewell and Godspeed to Associate Pastor Brad Troxell as he left us to become a United States Navy Chaplain.  With food from Brad’s favorite source, Nana Taco, memories from the children, videos from the youth, and an elegant song and dance number from the Hulett sisters, plus speeches of thanks, it was great afternoon to send Brad sailing off.

In November we gathered in Von Canon Hall of the Bryan Student Center for a luncheon celebration of our thirtieth anniversary.  The history of our church was reviewed by founding members.  Letters from our two previous pastors, Margaret Via and Nancy Ferree-Clark, enriched our memories, and linked us to our past.


Our ability to be flexible was also tested.  The ushers, in particular, had to find ways to make offering plates cross gaps, and to direct us, without traffic jams, to communion servers in Baldwin Auditorium, and then do it all again in Page Auditorium.  We all missed the wide central aisle of the Chapel. The altar guild needed to manage the preparation of communion, and the clean up after the service in different places in the two new venues.  The choir members found their robes in storage containers in the parking lot outside Page Auditorium, and most finally just took them home.   The collection counters had to find a spot in each new ‘church’ to do their work for both the Congregation and the Chapel.  In August, the youth had to welcome and get to know their interim pastor, Adam Benson.

In July, suddenly, it was decided2015unpacking to close the Chapel basement, which meant that the Congregation Office had to move in a month.  With the help of several volunteers, Carol Gregg, Phyllis Snyder, and Nelson Strother packed up the office and made a pilgrimage across town to their new temporary office in Northgate Mall and unpacked.   Then, there was the problem of finding where everything was in the new space.  We continued to be welcomed in the new setting by our staff, who made the move look easier than it was.

The Congregation should take pride in our flexibility to continue our worship, our service, our fellowship, and our study in this year of relocations.

Year in Review


2016 brought The Congregation a new, though part-time, Assistant Pastor, Andrew Phillips, who would be responsible on weekends for youth Sunday school and Youth Fellowship. The membership was still in exile in Page Auditorium for worship, and continuing the usual Christian education programs of Adult Forum, Wee Praise, Godly Play, and Youth Sunday School in Divinity School classrooms. The Women's Group began their meetings again in January, and the monthly Young Adult Friday dinners continued.

group photo at winter retreat

In February the adults had a winter retreat where Dr. Mary McClintock Fulkerson, Professor of Theology, led us in a study of race relations, and we shared learning, prayer and fellowship. The youth had a winter retreat (with skiing), and the Congregation helped over February and March with a Habitat House. Surprisingly, without being in our Chapel home, a new member group of five participated in the four week new member class.

The Lenten season book group studied Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim's Tale by Ian Morgan Cross. As Easter approached the children looked forward to the Easter egg hunt, and the adults prepared by attending the Easter week services. The joy of the resurrection was beautifully celebrated in Page Auditorium.

child with basket of Easter eggs photo of people at a Snack Luck In April, the Fellowship Committee held a Snack-luck on the Chapel Quad with plenty of delicious snack food, reminding us of how much we had missed our potluck lunches in the Chapel basement! Meanwhile, each week we were noticing that the scaffolding around the Chapel was descending, and it was clear that the deadline for re-opening was coming. A few days before the re-opening, the office was moved back into their quarters in the basement. The Altar Guild was allowed in as well to get the communion chalices, crosses, torches, candlesticks, and baptismal font cleaned up, polished and ready for use after a year, some having been gathering tarnish for a year.

Finally on May 11, 2016, President Brodhead and Dean Powery cut the ribbon to open the Chapel and we saw the clean, beautiful building restored to its full glory.  photo of ribbon cutting ceremony reopening the ChapelIn June, The Congregation gathered at the overnight retreat at the Caraway Conference Center in Asheboro with a theme of Love. Chaplain Peggy Davis Gold was the leader.  Her work in HIV/AIDS ministry caring for others helped us to learn to love and help one another. The young and old membership enjoyed the study, prayer and play and the beautiful setting surrounded by love.
photo of group at overnight retreat

There were leadership changes for this year as well. Frank Coble was the new President of the Congregation.  Andrew Phillips became full time Assistant Pastor for Youth, Young Adults, and Missions and Outreach in July. Phyllis Snyder added Communications Specialist, Newsletter, and Member Database to her Education Ministry responsibilities. Nelson Strother’s title changed to Financial and Information Technology Administrator.

phto of youth group on service projectThe summer was busy with a youth summer trip to Appalachia, and the youth group did a summer retreat of weeding and harvesting at Camp Chestnut Ridge. There was a picnic in Pineywood Park and a Durham Bulls game with the veterans. Of course the summer was interesting because of the new parking system in the Bryan Center Garage, which even necessitated announcements in the Chapel!

In the fall, the Congregation welcomed our Divinity School Intern, Denise Noble, who led a Bible study class on Sunday mornings. We helped with the annual Potato Drop sorting a few tons of potatoes, and meeting a lot of Duke undergraduates in the process. The fall retreat was an all-day mental health training session, entitled Mental Health First Aid Training, which was well attended. There was a fall book group, and a six week Growing Thru Grief program.

photo of Bible study classWe should be grateful for our Pastor, Carol Gregg, who has visited those of us who were ill or injured, or dying, or just needed support or comfort. She has been reaching out to members who are on the rolls but not involved in Congregation life. She has recruited members to help with this. Each member gets a call around their birthday, new babies get a Heavenly Hugs Hat, the Quilters provide prayer quilts, and back pew collections helped many this year. We are all much better connected following our pastor's leadership. Pastor Gregg baptized three babies and welcomed nineteen new members. The Congregation Council, and the Congregation staff have made 2016 a very special year!

Year in Review


poinsettias decorating the Chapel during Advent

The Congregation had a full year of activity of all kinds; worship, learning, work, music, play and warm fellowship. Coming together as a community in Christ made us grateful for all our times together, and gave us memories to last.

Our leaders were vital in keeping us going. Pastors Carol Gregg, Phyllis Snyder and Andrew Phillips, and our Congregation Council under Presidents Whitney Schwab and Frank Coble, plus Nelson Strother managing the office and coordinating everything, made all the activities seem to happen almost seamlessly. Our Duke Divinity School intern, Denise Noble enjoyed her year with us so much she signed on for another.

The Fellowship activities included the addition of a Second Wednesday Lunch in area restaurants each month, and last winter, the Fellowship lunches were moved across the quad to the Brodhead Center for the once a month gathering in the Great Hall. In the spring, the Congregation picnicked at the West Point on the Eno River. Of course, there were the ever popular snacklucks, from time to time. The most exciting adventure for ten of us was the trip to the Hinton Center in western North Carolina to watch the total eclipse of the sun.

group at eclipse week-end

The work of The Congregation through Missions and Outreach is often unsung but always ongoing and carried out by dedicated members. Cricket Scovil managed the Urban Ministries dinners, keeping the volunteers and the homeless smiling each time. There were Monthly Service Projects through the year, allowing us to work in the community agencies we support. A popular one was making sandwiches for Meals on Wheels (which we have supported since 1985), and 23 people can make hundreds of sandwiches! A youth service learning trip helped build a chicken coop through the Hinton Center. In the fall, a group helped glean sweet potatoes, and there were many other projects, to which members of varying talents offered their skills.

Meals on Wheels group making sandwiches

Christian Education across all ages was an important component of our lives this year. The emphasis of the Education Committee was on "sustainability". The Annual Overnight Retreat led by Norm Wirzba, was "Eating for the Kingdom of God", stressing our own sustainability and that of the earth, and the fall retreat with Will Willimon concentrated on "Money and Christians" sustaining the church. The Lenten book studies all centered on the theme, and offered thoughtful ways of looking at the subject from a Christian viewpoint. In the fall, Andrew Phillips offered a class called Pilgrim: (Re)exploring Christianity, for moving deeper into faith. There was some educational offering nearly every month of the year beyond the regular Sunday morning classes.

group at overnight retreat with Pentecost streamers

The Congregation has always been faithful in supporting the Chapel, singing in the choir, ushering, setting up communion, counting the offering, answering prayer requests, giving tours and offering financial support. So, in 2017 we added some new things. In September, a Welcome Ministry appeared in the Narthex, to greet worshippers and answer questions about the Chapel and The Congregation. Opportunities to climb the Chapel tower were offered for members and university students on several occasions.

tower of the Chapel against an evening sky

The Congregation welcomed thirty new members this year and many are already serving as faithful workers in our church. Overall, we were blessed in so many ways in 2017, and we welcome the coming of our Lord with joy, and with gratitude to God.

Year in Review


In 2018 the Congregation was committed to Deeping Connections in many ways, through worship, fellowship, learning, music, serving others, and praying for others. Our Christian community made connections, and memories, and grew in faith.

There were, as always, changes within our leadership. Led by our Senior Pastor, Carol Gregg, and Phyllis Snyder, Children’s Pastor and Communications Specialist, with Nelson Strother, Financial and IT Administrator, there were smooth transitions in other positions. Andrew Phillips, our Assistant Pastor, moved to Michigan in June, where he serves two churches, and in August we welcomed Josh Stanley as our Pastor for Education and Discipleship. Denise Noble, our Divinity School Intern, finished her service in May, and in the fall we chose Lynn Holmes as her successor. Each of our departing staff had a warm send off by The Congregation. The behind-the-scenes work of the Staff Parish Relations Committee is responsible for making these changes happen so well.

photo of Josh Stanley photo of Lynn Holmes photo of Andrew Phillips


Frank Coble completed his term as President of The Congregation in June and Jan Gwyer was chosen as our new President. The Congregation Council membership also had changes in program chairs, and committee leadership and we are grateful for their dedicated service.

Fellowship activities were everywhere, from the welcoming faces in the narthex to Wednesday lunches, and Second Sunday lunch in the Brodhead Center, young adult dinners, and youth group outings. The Fellowship committee also supported many of the educational programs, and, of course, organized our celebrations.

photo of group at fall picnic

The Missions and Outreach programs continue to be many and varied, from financial support, to active involvement in Saturday work projects at the agencies we support. Almost every week, the Congregation manages to fill the back pew with donations for one agency or another. We built a house with Habitat, knitted hats, served meals at Urban Ministries, gleaned yams, attended vigils, made sandwiches for Meals on Wheels, Crop Walked, served meals at Families Moving Forward, and much more. New this year was a Lenten Service Trip, in which hearty volunteers gave a week of service helping others in hurricane relief.

photo of working during a service project photo of volunteers at Urban Ministries dinner photo of working on service trip


The regular Sunday morning Education Programs offered a rich variety of learning for adults as well as children and youth. Our Intern, and our Assistant Pastor, taught special courses during the spring. Kate DeAlmeida brought music through her work with the very young. Kaity Woodrum and Elaine DeAlmeida led music classes for the elementary ages during the summer. There were a number of book groups throughout the year, helping us to explore our faith more deeply. The winter retreat was led by Mary Grace McCoy on "Interior Movements and Holy Desires". The fall retreat, led by Ellen Davis examined "Covenant Community". The overnight retreat in the spring was led by Dr. Stephen Chapman, who gave us a wonderful overview of the book of Deuteronomy. This overview prepared us for the Chapel's summer sermon series on Deuteronomy and our concurrent Bible study on this important book.

fun in lake at retreat photo of youth group photo of outdoor worship service at retreat


The Congregation's Chapel Support programs assisted with Sunday services, and worked with the choir, and toured visitors as they have since the beginning. We celebrated the long service of Rodney Wynkoop as he stepped down as choir director. We also honored Christy Lohr Sapp, Assistant Dean, when she left the Chapel in July. It seemed that our long time connection to Bruce Puckett will continue as he became Assistant Dean of the Chapel in November.

photo of Rodney Wynkoop and Christy Lohr Sapp

Nine were baptized into the faith this year. Twenty three new members joined the Congregation this year, and there were seven new confirmands in the spring. These new connections will enrich our body of Christ. As we continue to celebrate the birth of Our Savior with great joy, we also expect the New Year to deepen our connections to Him.

1 Barbara Booth, William Briner (Chair), James Ferguson, Carolyn Lane, Richard Massey, Mary Parkerson, Katie Paul, Mayme Perry (Secretary), Mary Putman, William Stars, William Stokes, and Will Willimon

2 Nancy married Thomas Clark in May 1987.

3 Karen Berry, Tom Riley, Kathryn Self, Tamara Gray, and Jayanth Magar

Congregation Council Presidents

Bill Stokes
1985 - 1987

Bill Briner
1987 - 1990

Sylvia Arnett
1990 - 1992

Ellie Ferguson
1992 - 1995

Harry Rodenhizer, III
1995 - 1998

Nancy Jirtle
1998 - 2000

Marilyn Yarborough
2000 - 2003

Judy Hays
2003 - 2005

David Langford
2005 - 2008

Jim Wisner
2008 - 2010

Karen Witzleben
2010 - 2012

Steve Harper
2012 - 2014

Whitney Schwab
2014 - 2016

Frank Coble

Jan Gwyer

Craig DeAlmeida

Lucy Worth