Sabbath space for Christian leaders


The following is a guest post by Dayna Olson-Getty of the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School:

We all know that conflict can take a heavy toll on our physical and emotional well-being. When our calling to embody the gospel leads us to intentionally enter into deep and long-standing conflicts within a congregation, denomination or organization, or to seek to bridge divisions in our communities for the sake of working for justice and peace, the toll can be even higher. A safe space to rest, receive, and be renewed among like-minded peers can provide a powerful antidote to the stress and isolation that this work often brings.

summer-institute_450x300The Duke Divinity School Summer Institute is designed to be just such a space, and we encourage you to join us for it May 27 – June 1.

Our goal is to empower and sustain those whose ministry takes them into difficult spaces and relationships for the sake of leading the church towards more fully embodying God’s kingdom. We provide Sabbath space for deepening and renewing the Christian leaders whose work involves reconciliation, social justice, and peace-building.

We’ve designed the Summer Institute to be a space for clergy and other Christian leaders to develop new friendships with like-minded peers and mentors in the context of a diverse community (our participants come from a wide range of denominations, ministry contexts, and roles).

We begin and end each day with a worship service that is crafted to nurture, challenge, and sustain weary leaders. Throughout the week, theological teaching and reflection from world-class theologians is woven together with inspiring and challenging examples of vibrant Christian leadership in difficult contexts. The result is a framework for personal and communal transformation that leaders can use in a wide range of contexts.

For many pastors, Summer Institute has been tremendously rejuvenating.

Chip Edens, rector of the 5,000 member Christ Episcopal Church in Charlotte, attended the Institute in 2009.

The Institute offered me the most important continuing education experience I have had in my 15 years of ministry. The combination of outstanding lectures from experienced leaders, the conversations I had with a very diverse group of individuals, and the extraordinary worship all challenged me and renewed my determination and hope in the work of reconciliation and justice in my own community. I thank God for the experience.

Gene Graham, a lay-leader from St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas, attended in 2009 and 2010. She characterized her experience as a week of learning and inspiration.

The leadership was outstanding. The participants represented a world-wide network deeply committed to a myriad of reconciliation initiatives.  I left the Institute awakened to the hope and the pain of the reconciliation journey and armed with stories, contacts, and resources to enrich my church’s commitment to the Beloved Community.

Graham has since helped to found reVision, a program that provides a place for youth in crisis in Southwest Houston to disengage from their gang culture, develop a strong peer group of new friends and take control of their futures.

Summer Institute participants spend their afternoons in small interactive seminars that focus on a particular topic and provide opportunities to address their own strategic and pressing concerns and questions. This year’s Institute seminars include:

  • Living in the Tension: Human Sexuality in the Time between the Times with Andrew Marin and Tracy Merrick
  • Shaping Congregations for Faithfulness across Divides with Curtiss DeYoung and Cheryl Sanders
  • Building Beloved Communities of Justice and Advocacy with the Poor with Mary Nelson
  • Everyday Practices for Reconciliation Where You Are with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
  • Introduction to Reconciliation with Edgardo Colón-Emeric
  • Listening Together: Muslims and Christians Reading Scripture with Ellen Davis and Abdullah Antepli
  • Transforming Academic Institutions for Reconciliation with Peter Cha
  • Pursuing Reconciliation Institutionally with Chris Rice and Abi Riak

I encourage you to consider joining us this summer. The “Shaping Congregations” seminar — which focuses on diversity as an increasing, unavoidable and defining force within many congregations — could be particularly insightful for pastors serving churches at all stages of readiness for change.

More information about the program is available on our website: We’ll be accepting applications until April 30, and we do have scholarship funds for those who need them.

One thought on “Sabbath space for Christian leaders

  1. Unfortunately, I read this article too late to participate this year, but I will definitely watch for it next year. It sounds great!

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