A message from the Rev. Dr. Luke A. Powery, dean of Duke University Chapel:
Due to the global pandemic, we’ve been through a lot this year as a world, nation, state, city, and university community. Think not only about all of the death from COVID-19, but all the effects of the pandemic—economically, socially, and mentally. Our way of life has changed and is changing and there are so many questions about the future.
How will COVID shape higher education, the global economy, the mental health of young people, local businesses and employment, and so much more? How will the vaccine impact our lives, individually and collectively? There are so many questions that we just can’t answer as of yet. This unknown future is unsettling to many because we realize that the future we once imagined will be different going forward.
In this way, we are like the women who arrived at the empty tomb of Jesus on that first Easter morning. They recognized that the future they imagined—that included a dead Jesus—was obviously not what the future was going to be because Jesus was raised and his resurrection altered their future and ours (Mark 16:1-8).
What the women are told at the empty tomb is not to be alarmed and that “Jesus is going ahead of them to Galilee….” This means that Jesus is already in our future ahead of us. He’s in our future that we can’t even imagine right now and have yet to experience. He’s in our future and is our future and no pandemic can stop this and no vaccine can make this happen. The only sure thing about the future is that Jesus is in it. He’s gone ahead. This is the promise of the resurrection. This is the Easter hope. Our future is with him and he beckons us forward into the future God has for us even with all of the uncertainties. He’s gone ahead to pave the path for our future, even the one at Duke Chapel.
I take heart in this. I have seen that, even through a season of such great challenge, the Chapel has experienced great blessing on numerous levels. You’ll get a glimpse of that in this issue of Chapel View. For instance, the resurrection life of God has been so gracious to us through the life of National Advisory Board Chair Charlie Berardesco, who’s finishing his term on the board this summer. Charlie, along with others, has brought a renaissance to this advisory board since 2012, and we are experiencing the fruit of his strong leadership. Another life we cherish that brought resounding resurrection joy to us through music for many years is Sam Hammond, university carillonneur emeritus; his life rang out with resurrection hope during all seasons of life.
The Spirit of resurrection continues to blow hope and joy through beautiful people as we go into the future God has for us. The Chapel is so blessed to continue to move forward to Jesus as we respond to the all-inclusive love of God, bridging faith and learning by nurturing and embodying the intellectual, ethical, and spiritual life.
In peace, Dean Luke A. Powery
In the Words of Dean Powery
Even though he was recovering from a broken leg for much of the semester, Dean Powery continued to write, preach, and speak. He wrote biweekly columns for The Chronicle with words of wisdom for students, delivered the sermon for the Divinity School’s closing convocation, held a public conversation with a leading scholar of the theologian Howard Thurman, published an essay in a new book honoring the great teacher of preaching Fred B. Craddock, and more. Find a selection of the dean’s recent public remarks and writings on the Chapel website’s From the Dean section.
From the Board Chair
A message from Charles Berardesco, T ’80, chair of the Chapel's National Advisory Board:
As I write this letter, my last as chair of the Duke Chapel’s National Advisory Board, we in Washington, D.C. are in full-blown spring—and dashing towards summer. And we are seeing the impact of the COVID vaccinations all around us—lifting of mask mandates, opening of venues, and increased dining opportunities, just to name a few. My husband Jeffrey and I were able to sing together as part of our choir at St. Alban’s Episcopal, our local D.C. church, for the first time since last March 2020. It was a moving and joyous moment for us both.
For our beloved Duke Chapel, we are seeing similar events. In-person worship has resumed, consistent with the university’s safety protocols. While we will continue with online offerings, which have proved to be extremely popular, the return to in-person worship is a cause for celebration across the Duke community.
While the COVID pandemic has had devastating effects on so much of the world, I believe it has also led us to reconsider some of our assumptions and inclinations. On a personal level, it has made me think more carefully about how I can better sustain relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. For Duke Chapel, it helped to drive the desire to better connect with the worldwide supporters of the Chapel. This has led to a broad array of online offerings, from worship to music to education. The response has been incredibly positive, with views of the Chapel’s various offerings skyrocketing.
This is all consistent with a vision I have tried to advocate for during my time on the National Advisory Board—the opportunity for Duke Chapel to have an international impact on faith formation, music, and worship. Duke Chapel is in fact unique—a vibrant faith community, combining preaching, education, music, and student engagement, located and supported by an international research institution committed to the Chapel’s mission and importance. Combining these attributes with the ability to communicate them throughout the globe creates the real opportunity for Duke Chapel to be one of the most significant centers of faith and learning.
So, it is a bittersweet moment for me as my board term ends. We have gone through a period of real challenge, and yet the Chapel is positioned as never before to have an impact not only on the Duke campus and Durham community but throughout our nation and the world. It is an exciting time for our beloved Chapel, and while I will not be on the board, I hereby renew my personal commitment to continue to support the Chapel and its amazing staff as they move forward into the future. I shall miss my colleagues on the board, and the amazing Chapel staff that has supported the board in our work.
All the best, Charlie Berardesco
Life During the Pandemic: Experiences from the Chapel Community
Andrew Raines, T ’21, was supposed to spend the fall semester in Germany doing research for his thesis, but the pandemic changed his plans. Instead, he went home to Olanta, South Carolina, and spent the semester working for his brother splicing fiber-optic cable and helping his mother process COVID tests at the local hospital.
“It was a big time for interiority and being by myself,” said Raines, a Chapel Scholar and history major. “I read a lot of books, or listened to a lot of books.”
In the spring, he returned to Duke to take online classes and reconnect with friends. A member of the Duke Episcopal Center, he participated in Chapel Choir virtual anthem recordings, met online with other Chapel Scholars, and preached in the Chapel for a Holy Week midday service.
“The people of Duke Chapel were there for me this semester and that was really important,” he said.
Raines was, of course, not the only person navigating a year of unanticipated challenges. Over the past year, the Coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc around the globe, ending many lives and upending nearly all lives. The Duke Chapel community was affected by the pandemic in ways that were quite public—services shifted to online-only, access to the building was restricted, all gatherings were held on Zoom, longstanding ceremonies were made virtual, and the Chapel carillon tolled to mark the loss of lives. At the same time, the pandemic also shaped the lives of students, staff, volunteers, supporters, and community partners connected to the Chapel in ways that were less visible. From the isolation of studying alone all day to volunteering at COVID vaccination clinics to developing new patterns of prayer, Chapel community members endured a year that one person called “incredibly heavy”—and many are still processing.
Prayer and Worship Around Campus
During the spring semester, Campus Religious Life groups continued to support students and held prayer and worship services. Here are a few of scenes of what that looked like:
Audio-Visual Exhibition Highlights Black Women Pastors
On Sunday, March 21, Duke senior Tatyana Richardson stepped into the pulpit to deliver a sermon before the empty pews of Duke Chapel. A double major in religion and African American studies, Richardson was selected as this year’s Student Preacher. With congregants watching the livestream and listening on the radio, Richardson preached a sermon Surrendering in the Chaos based on a on a section of the fifth chapter of the Book of Hebrews.
“I was drawn to the passage because it allows for reflection on Christ in his humanity, letting us look at Christ in a different light than we usually see him in,” said Richardson, a member of the Duke Wesley Fellowship. “I hope that people will hear that God is always here to carry our weight when it gets too heavy for us to bear alone and that no pain surpasses His ability to help us find peace in chaos.”
Taking a Virtual Trip to the Top of the Chapel
With public health restrictions in place through the semester, graduating seniors couldn’t participate in the campus tradition on the Last Day of Classes (LDOC) of climbing the 239 steps of the Chapel tower. Instead, Chapel staff worked with student LDOC organizers to create a video capturing the history, sights, and sounds of a trip up the tower—and then handed out “239*” buttons outside of the Chapel to students who completed this “virtual tower climb.” Watch the video:
Gathering Again In-Person for Worship
On Pentecost, May 23, congregants gathered in the Chapel to glorify God in song, prayer, and proclamation.
Community Ministry Adapts During Pandemic
A Working@Duke story describes how the "Faith Team" ministry adapted during the pandemic. A collaboration among the Chapel, the Congregation at Duke University Chapel, and the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham, the ministry supports people returning from prison to the community.
“Often, people recently released from prison don’t have a community around them,” Chapel Community Minister Rev. Breana van Velzen says in the article. “The whole point of this program is to become that community for someone.”
PathWays Fellows Concluding a Year of Service and Discernment
As this year’s Chapel's PathWays Fellows conclude their year of service and discernment, they held a retreat at Elijah's Farm in Rougemont, North Carolina.
Three of the fellows— Grace Feng, Karissa Tu and Junette Yu—spent the year helping to coordinate support for people in quarantine with COVID-19 through a program by Duke’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.
“I found it rewarding to work with diverse community-based organizations to build capacity to respond to residents' emergency needs," Yu said in a story about their work.
Leaning into Justice
As part of the online series Coming Full Circle: Leaning into Justice Together, the Chapel hosted a discussion on March 16 on “Breaking the Cycle, Restoring Community” with two community organizers. Letha Muhammad, director of the Education Justice Alliance in Raleigh, and Aviance Brown, case facilitator for Restorative Justice Durham, discussed their work around mass incarceration, young adults, and their faith perspectives on why justice matters. Watch the conversation: