Lifting voices: A music major in college, Powery often fills his teachings with song.
Lifting voices: A music major in college, Powery often fills his teachings with song.

Powery at the Pulpit

New chapel dean is a compelling, compassionate minister.
September 24, 2012

Before he arrived on campus to begin his job as dean of the Duke Chapel, the Rev. Luke Powery already had broken new ground at Duke.

An ordained Baptist minister, Powery became the first African-American dean of the chapel when he was named to the position in July. The thirty-eight-yearold pastor arrives from the Princeton Theological Seminary, where he was the Perry and Georgia Engle Assistant Professor of homiletics. He is known as a compelling preacher and compassionate minister committed to reaching across boundaries.

“He impressed me with his commitment to engaging both the Duke and Durham communities in dialogue,” says Ashley Crowder Stanley ’77, M.Div. ’80, a university trustee, Methodist minister, and member of the search committee. Powery made an impression on the search committee, Stanley says, by stating, “Before I ever speak, I have to listen.”

In addition to overseeing planned worship, counseling, and preaching, the dean of the chapel serves as a focal point for ethical and theological discussions on campus covering a wide range of topical issues. Powery will oversee more than thirty campus ministers and chaplains who provide leadership to more than 1,500 Duke students involved in campus religious life.

Powery was born in New York but grew up in Miami, where his father was a minister in the Holiness-Pentecostal Church. He received a bachelor of arts degree from Stanford University, an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Th.D. from the University of Toronto. His most recent book, Dem Dry Bones: Preaching, Death, and Hope, on the spirituals as a resource for preaching, was published in July by Fortress Press.

Before entering the academy, he was associate pastor of the International Protestant Church of Zurich, an interdenominational and intercultural congregation in Switzerland. He also has served as campus minister at Westminster Choir College of Rider University in New Jersey.

Powery succeeds the Rev. Samuel Wells, who returned to England this summer to become the vicar of St. Martin- in-the-Fields in London.