Chapel Hill: Community

At-home minister inspires in Duke Chapel pulpit

The Rev. Elizabeth Marie Melchionna
The Rev. Elizabeth Marie Melchionna The Chapel of the Cross

The Rev. Megan Pardue, senior pastor of Refuge, a unique Durham worshiping community that describes itself as a “home church,” was in the Duke Chapel pulpit on New Year’s Day.

I was struck by her message on Epiphany, the season in the church calendar that focuses on awakenings, new understandings, moments when something, often mundane, speaks to the spark of divinity in one’s soul.

During this season, the climax of the Christmas season, Christians are called to look for how Jesus reveals himself here and now in the 21st century, often in people, incidents and relationships we least expect.

I was also struck by Pardue’s presence in the pulpit. She looked so “in the right place.” It was affirming to be ministered to by a very young woman who was obviously responding to what some Christians say is a “divine call” to this special vocation.

An ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene and a native of Portland, Oregon, Pardue graduated from Duke Divinity School in 2012 and now, in addition to her pastoral duties, is a teaching assistant in the Department of Homiletics (the art of preaching or writing sermons) at Duke.

Some worshipers, who like me, do not see taking a Sunday away from their regular church to go visiting as a sign of disloyalty, can find many venues like Duke Chapel to broaden appreciation of the great variety of Christian worship in our midst.

Over the years, Duke has invited preachers of many persuasions to bring their messages to Durham.

In recent years, the list has included James Forbes, Tom Long, Barbara Brown Taylor, William Barber, Lillian Daniel, Anna Carter Florence, Peter Storey, Brian Blount, Craig Kocher and Norman Wirzba.

Also, local preachers, faculty members at Duke Divinity School, and of course, former chapel deans Will Willimon and Sam Wells.

Although some still think Duke Chapel is an enclave of United Methodists and that the Duke Divinity School trains only Methodist preachers, neither is correct.

Services at Duke Chapel are ecumenical, and its deans have come from several denominations. One of the first was a Quaker, followed by numerous Methodists, a Presbyterian and an Anglican. The present dean, Luke Powery, is an ordained Progressive National Baptist.

Yiddish stories

Two Jewish cultural events, a book talk and a concert, will take place in Durham over the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.

A book talk and reading from “Yiddish Stories Unlike Any You’ve Read Before,” with translator Ellen Cassedy and local Yiddish expert Sheva Zucker and “Oedipus in Brooklyn and Other Stories” by Blume Lempel will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, at the Regulator Bookshop, 720 Ninth St.

A Yiddish concert with Jane Peppler, accompanied by Roger Lynn Spears, will include cabaret tunes, penny songs and old favorites at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15, at the Freedman Center, Beth El Synagogue, 1004 Watts St. Suggested donation $7.

New rector

A special service called the “Renewal of Ministry with the Welcoming of a New Rector” was held at The Chapel of the Cross, 304 E. Franklin St., Chapel Hill last week.

In August, the Rev. Elizabeth Marie Melchionna accepted the call to the church and began her ministry at Chapel of the Cross. Pregnant at the time, she came with the proviso that she take parental leave when the baby came later that month and rejoin the congregation after Thanksgiving. She and her husband, Will Roberts, welcomed the birth of their second son Aug. 28.

In the words of the new rector, “One of the primary acts in this Eucharistic liturgy was for all the gathered people of the parish and those who have come from throughout the Diocese of North Carolina, to renew our baptismal vows. … Together we share in God’s ministry in this place and time.”

The celebrant, leading the Eucharist, was Bishop Anne Hodges-Copple, who once upon a time sang in the choir at Chapel of the Cross and is a former rector at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Durham. The sermon was delivered by the Rev. Andrew McGowan, president and dean of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale.

Molly McConnell, a parish member at Chapel of the Cross, described the church’s first woman rector: “Hospitality and warmth flow out from her and she preaches inspiring sermons. We certainly need people who will welcome the diversity of humanity and creation here and everywhere. We are blessed and grateful to have her and her family with us.”


Piedmont KTC (Karma Thegsum Choling) in Carrboro is offering a meditation workshop on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 14-15, at the Inter-Faith Council building on West Weaver Street in Carrboro.

Lama Jinpa will teach “Taming and Training the Mind.” Sessions Saturday are from 10 a.m. to noon and from 2 to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon

Rare conversation

In February of 2013, two classmates at Myers Park High School in Charlotte, De Kirkpatrick and Jimmie Lee Kirkpatrick, reconnected nearly 50 years after their graduation.

In their catch-up phone call Jimmie Lee asked De what the “H” in his initials “H.D.” stood for. De said “Hugh.”

That’s when both men learned that De’s great-great-grandfather, also named Hugh, owned Jimmie Lee’s great-great-great-grandfahter, a slave named Sam.

Together they began examining their families, their joint heritage and Mecklenburg County where they grew up and where in 1860 one in three people were slaves.

Additionally, as a black man and a white man in the South, they have engaged in a rare and personally intimate conversation on topics that are often avoided: Inequity, race and slavery.

The two men will share their story Sunday, Jan. 15, during the 10 a.m. Adult Forum at United Church of Chapel Hill, 1321 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill.

All are welcome.

Contact Flo Johnston at or call 910-361-4135.