Long before we became a world-class research university, certainly before we had basketball teams worthy of note, Duke University – and our precursor institutions, Trinity College, Normal College and Union Institute – were training persons to serve congregations. Like many of our peer institutions, we were founded out of a commitment to the rigorous preparation of the clergy and the robust moral formation of the laity, out of a belief that society flourished when communities of faith were strong.
Today, that belief still animates much of the work of Duke Divinity School. We are dedicated to the formation of persons who will serve faithfully from pulpits and from pews, who will help communities of faith live into and out of their deepest purpose and into their callings in the world. In our understanding, congregations are irreplaceable institutions that contribute to the thriving of communities and the healing of the world. In and of themselves, they are signs of hope, embodiments and expressions of the coming reign of God, and as such, they need and deserve the most effective and faithful leaders possible.
When the Alban board of directors announced that they had decided to entrust the Alban name and legacy to the Divinity School, from our vantage point in Durham, we saw continuity between the missions and the histories of these two institutions. We have both been dedicated to the cultivation of strong leaders for and within faith communities, to research that improves the lives and strengthens the witness of congregations. We have been dedicated to the resourcing of congregations through learning events and publications. Throughout our histories, in various ways, both Duke and Alban have been committed to the flourishing of congregations.
Now that Alban has come to Duke Divinity School, we are identifying the ways that we will live into this overlapping mission. In this, there will be some continuity with what Alban members and friends have long-known. We at Duke will continue to offer print and electronic resources to congregations. Along with publisher Rowman & Littlefield, we will continue to identify and recruit authors who will write under the Alban imprint, and we will continue to produce Alban Weekly, that rich weekly resource drawn from a variety of sources that offers practical wisdom and stories of hope about leading congregations today. We are also working on a new alban.org that will again make available the archive of Alban Weekly, as well as Congregations, so that these publications might find a wider audience.
Alban’s move to the Divinity School will also allow for the development of new resources for congregational leaders, principally through our congregation-to-congregation (C2C) learning initiative.
Over time, our work at Duke has taught us that most congregations have a deep practical wisdom that has been incubated through struggle and success in ministry. Congregations have faced obstacles and challenges and figured out innovative and transformative responses that have enabled them to serve the needs of their members and their communities. They have experimented and excelled, tried and failed, but throughout, they have learned.
Yet, most congregations do not have the means or the platform to share what they have learned with others who may be facing similar challenges or experimenting in similar ways. Congregations have learned how to live and learn in isolation from one another, even if they are geographically proximate, even if they share the same heritage or denominational affiliation.
Alban at Duke Divinity School understands as part of its work to overcome the silos in which many congregations exist. We hope to help congregations harvest their own wisdom and share it broadly. We call this congregation-to-congregation (C2C) learning, and it will be one of our core activities in the years ahead. We believe that congregations can be among the best teachers for other congregations, and C2C learning is designed to facilitate that process.
Likewise, there are a number of networks of consultants, judicatories and agencies that exist to support congregations and their leaders, but far too often, congregational leaders only know and rely on a few points within those networks that they have found to be trustworthy in the past. We believe that C2C learning will help to make these networks of resources more visible and their resident wisdom more accessible, which will strengthen both the networks themselves and the congregations which they exist to serve. As new nodes in these networks are identified, they will be highlighted and profiled through Alban Weekly.
Additionally, we anticipate that, through these C2C learning experiences, a constellation of significant opportunities and challenges for contemporary congregations will arise. While many of these challenges and opportunities are being addressed at the congregational level, there are also a large number that require marshaling resources from beyond local congregations. They require collaboration between congregational leaders, researchers, denominational leaders, foundation executives and theological school faculty and administrators. Alban at Duke Divinity School will be convening these people to catalyze conversation and action. These convenings will also, we believe, generate a wealth of additional print and electronic resources for congregational and denominational leaders.
As Alban comes to Duke Divinity School, we see this as an opportunity to live more deeply into our founding institutional vocation – to equip congregations and their leaders so that those congregations might flourish and impact their communities and the world.
We are excited to inherit the legacy of Alban and eager to carry it forward.