Duke Memorial United Methodist Church, the city’s largest and one of its oldest United Methodist congregations, has a new pastor who will begin her ministry in Durham on Sunday, June 29.
The Rev. Heather Rodrigues, a 2009 graduate of Duke Divinity School, grew up in the Mennonite faith. Her husband, Pete, whom she met on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, was raised Catholic and as they began their search for a church, they discovered a theological marriage in Methodism.
Her first appointment was associate pastor at Millbrook United Methodist Church in Raleigh. This was an appointment that allowed her to lead and grow in ways such as helping to launch a new community outreach ministry, an expansion of Millbrook’s preschool, strengthening of worship and spiritual growth experiences, inclusion of socioeconomic and racial diversity and the implementation of a church-wide visioning.
Some observers of United Methodist practices thought it a bit unusual when the bishop in the N.C. Conference did not move immediately to fill the Duke Memorial vacancy after co-pastors, the Rev. Roger Owens and his wife, the Rev. Ginger Thomas, moved to other ministry early last summer.
Instead, Bishop Hope Ward appointed an interim pastor, in this case retired Bishop Will Willimon, who had returned to Duke Divinity School after his retirement.
Interim pastors are not the rule in United Methodist churches, but what church would not welcome Willimon whose reputation for packing the sanctuary and stirring up congregations was legendary.
He has lived up to his reputation during the past year. The culmination of his tenure has seen the use of a church consultant who visited Duke Memorial early this year, did a study of and with the congregation and gave the church a road map for a pro-active response to the renaissance that’s in full swing around the church in downtown Durham.
The appointment of a new minister at Duke Memorial is one of the first to be made this year, Willimon said he was told by Ward.
“The trend in appointments seems to be to announce earlier (than the Conference that is held in June) so that transitions can be made in an orderly way,” Willimon said.
“When I was bishop in Alabama, we tried to have all appointments made by the first of April and we asked all moving pastors to join with their leadership of the church to which they were appointed and come up with a “90 Day Plan,” to specify what they would do in their first 90 days to succeed in their new appointment.
“As you know, we are a connectional church, which means, among other things, that our pastors come and go at the decision of the bishop, so we really ought to do these transitions well.”
The new pastor’s husband will be involved in ministry centering on his gifts as a coach. He is basketball coach to a neighborhood team and pastoral coach to pastors and laity alike. The couple have two children: Eli, 10; and Sarah, 5.
Blessing of the Palms
Holy Week in downtown will begin on Sunday with a Blessing of the Palms service at 10:30 a.m. in the parking lot behind First Presbyterian Church at 305 E. Main St.
Members from three churches in the immediate area, St. Philip’s Episcopal, Trinity United Methodist and First Presbyterian will gather for the short service and then form a procession to walk around the area during which stops will be made at each of the churches to bless the ongoing ministries of each church.
Participants will then process to their respective congregations for worship at 11 a.m.
Participants are invited to join the procession. If you don’t have a palm branch, use some other green branch to wave for this joyous occasion that marks Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
Aldersgate United Methodist Church, 1320 Umstead Road, has invited the community to walk its labyrinth, open to the community on Friday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Palm Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
A labyrinth is not a maze, but an ancient form of Christian meditation. There are no tricks or dead ends and you cannot get lost. It offers an opportunity to do quiet meditation or prayer or to sit quietly at the center. The experience can be a mirror of the Christian’s journey toward God or with God.
Holy Week services
The Interdenominational Community Fellowship of Churches annual Holy Week Services will be held at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, 581 New Hope Church Road, Apex, April 14-18.
Scheduled speakers at 7 p.m. each night:
• Monday: The Rev. Harry White Jr, pastor Watts Chapel Baptist, Raleigh.
• Tuesday: The Rev. Carson Jones, pastor Coley Springs Baptist, Warrenton.
• Wednesday: The Rev. Rodney Coleman, pastor First Baptist, Chapel Hill.
• Thursday: The Rev. Franklin Williams Jr., pastor Roanoke Chapel Baptist, Jackson.
• Friday: The Rev. Gary Brown, pastor New Hope Missionary Baptist, Apex.
The public is invited.
The next meeting of Durham Congregations in Action is set for Tuesday, April 22, at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, 403 E. Main St., in downtown.
Lunch for $7 will be served beginning at 11:45 a.m. and will be followed by a program on Voting Law Changes and Preparation.
Democracy NC will explain changes, answer questions and provide handouts to help neighbors and congregations understand their rights and opportunities and to identify ways to work at expanding access to the vote.
All congregations are urged to make sure their spiritual communities are accurately informed and empowered to participate at the ballot box.
One misconception that needs to be cleared up: Voters do not have to show photo IDs until elections in 2016.
Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue presented a Civilian Service Award to the Durham-Chapel Hill Jewish Federation on Thursday at the federation offices at 1937 W. Cornwallis Road in Durham.
Over the past six years, members have provided a feast for those Chapel Hill Police Department employees who are working on Christmas Day. Members of the federation have come out on their time off serving dinner and socialized with police department employees. “We would like to recognize the Durham-Chapel Hill Jewish Federation for their kindness to our department, and offer them our sincere gratitude,” Blue said.
The federation is the umbrella organization representing the Jewish community of Durham, Orange, Chatham, Person, and Alamance counties. Its mission is to connect Jews in the local community, to help those in need both here and abroad, and to provide and support programs and services that enable current and future generations to lead more meaningful lives inspired by Jewish values.