Clergy Making a Place: Early Career Pastors as Generative Community Leaders



First Cohort of Clergy Making A Place


The Wake Forest University School of Divinity (WFUSD) is accepting applications for its pastoral leadership initiative, Clergy Making a Place: Early Career Pastors as Generative Community Leaders, made possible by a grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc.  This program will place promising early career clergy serving congregations in cities and towns throughout North Carolina and adjacent regions of Virginia in sustained conversation with the most notable and effective civic and business leaders in the region around key issues facing this area.  Our goal is to offer early career clergy the unique opportunity to develop their leadership skills in conversation with civic and business leaders in their locale so that together they can more effectively engage and respond to the particular social and economic challenges of the communities they serve.

Veronice Miles, Program Director  |  Hilary Floyd, Program Associate  |

Program Design

The program will be based on a cohort model with an emphasis upon place-based congregational and community leadership.  Leaders in place are persons who are deeply engaged with the land, history, people, and patterns of life in their communities; firmly committed to the health and wellbeing of their locale and its inhabitants.  Participants will meet together over a two-year period in order to explore and develop meaningful responses to the persistent challenges facing the “places” where they worship and live out their ministerial vocation, in dialogue with civic and business leaders in their locale. Each group meeting will focus on a pressing social concern that has an impact on community flourishing (e.g. health care, poverty and economic justice, unemployment and regional economic renewal, education, hunger and food access, immigration and racial justice).  Learning opportunities with civic, business, and regional experts on these issues will be paired with opportunities for worship, spiritual renewal, and peer reflection on vocational and professional identity.

Theological Emphasis

The theological rhythm(s) of the church’s worship life will frame our two-year journey and help us discern how the various seasons of the year – Incarnation, Resurrection, Pentecost, and Ordinary Time – invite us to respond to the specific challenges that confront our communities.  Through theological reflection and practices of attentiveness, we will invite clergy participants to imagine how the liturgy or “the work of the people” is continuous with their ongoing commitment to incarnating resurrection in the public places where they serve and lead.

How to Apply

Applications will be accepted until Friday, May 6, 2016.

Who can apply?

We invite applications from pastoral leaders with a strong interest in community engagement and who are serving communities throughout North Carolina and adjacent regions in Virginia.  All applicants should have completed the Master of Divinity or comparable degree in theological education from an ATS accredited program and served in a congregational pastoral leadership position for 5-10 years.

The first cohort began in November 2014. The second cohort will convene in 2016.

What does participation require? Participation requires a two-year commitment, including participation in all cohort meetings and in an international study tour during the second year of the program.  Each clergy participant in this initiative will receive a $3000 stipend over the life of the program. WFUSD will provide for lodging, travel and meals during all program gatherings.

Interested in applying for the 2016 cohort? If you are interested in participating in this program, please review the information about the required letters of recommendation and complete the online application. Those whom you identify as a recommender on the application will receive a recommendation request from the program office with a direct link to the recommendation submission form.

Upon receipt of your completed application, the selection committee will schedule an interview with you so that we might learn more about your sense of vocation and passion for community ministry.  All applicants will receive notice regarding the disposition of their application in advance of the first cohort gathering.

We look forward to receiving your application!

2014 Cohort

blandDray Bland serves as Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Burlington, NC. Dray has served congregations in Florida and North Carolina in the capacities of Youth Pastor and Associate Pastor respectively. Dray matriculated at Florida State University where he received a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Political Science and Religion as well as a Certificate of Public Administration. He attended seminary at Duke University Divinity School where he received the Master of Divinity and a Certificate in Baptist Studies. Currently, Dray is pursuing the Doctor of Ministry in Church Leadership at Southern Methodist University (Perkins School of Theology).

berryEmory Berry, Jr. was born and reared in Miami and Miramar, Florida. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Florida, and he is also a graduate of Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. He completed his Doctorate of Ministry at Virginia Union University. In March of 2010, Emory was called to be the eighth pastor of Fourth Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia. He is also the proud husband of Julie A. Berry and they have been blessed with two adorable children, Emory Berry III and Jaiden Aniya Berry.

greggCarla Gregg-Kearns, a native of Charlotte, graduated from Salem College and Duke Divinity School. Prior to divinity school she worked at a domestic violence shelter in Oregon and with refugees in Texas. Carla has pastored United Church of Christ congregations in Durham and Cary, NC, and she currently pastors at Good Shepherd United Church of Christ in Cary. She is the President of the UCC Southern Conference, co-founder of the NC Women’s Preaching Festival and parent of a feisty kindergartener.

hendler-vossAmanda Hendler-Voss is a founding Co-Pastor of Land of the Sky UCC in Asheville, which celebrated its fifth birthday on Pentecost.  In her role, she leads the Justice, Hospitality, and Children’s Ministry Teams and shares responsibility for worship planning and pastoral care.  In the last year, she facilitated the launch of a new Prison Ministry that now provides a day-long retreat for incarcerated mothers and their youth.  Amanda earned her M.Div from Candler School of Theology at Emory University, graduating with certificates in Black Church Studies and Church and Community programs.  She lives in Canton, NC, with her husband, Seth, and two sons, Myles (age 7) and Simon (age 2).

lemonsRob Lemons serves as Volunteer Coordinator for the Ronald McDonald House in Winston-Salem, NC. He served as Minister of Community Impact and Global Connections at Ardmore Baptist Church in Winston-Salem from 2006 to 2015. Rob previously spent 13 years in management with CVS/Pharmacy and Revco Drug Stores. A native of Martinsville, Va., Rob has lived in the Winston-Salem area for over 30 years.  He is a graduate of High Point University (B.S. Business Management) and Wake Forest University School of Divinity (M.Div.) and holds a certification in Asset Based Community Development from the Shalom Center at Drew University Theological Seminary. Rob and his wife Emily have been married since 1996. They live in Clemmons with their two sons, Bobby (15) and Wesley (13).

mcintyreDrew McIntyre is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church and currently serves as Pastor of West Bend UMC in Asheboro, NC, where he has been appointed since 2009.  His wife, Brittany, is a Family Medicine Resident at Moses Cone.  A native of Winston-Salem, Drew enjoys reading, film, mixed-martial arts, and playing with his dog (a rescued boxer named Jolene) and cat (Sammy, a rescued tabby cat).

reedSylvester M. Reed Jr. is a native of Winston-Salem. He received his Bachelor of Science Degree from Winston Salem State University and a Master of Divinity Degree from Shaw University. However, his greatest blessing from Winston Salem State University was meeting his lovely wife Revonda P. Reed. Out of this covenant union came two blessings Sylvester M. Reed III (12) and Sethan M. Reed (10). Rev. Sylvester M. Reed, Jr is a disciple of St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church. Rev. Reed received his license to preach in 2002 and was ordained in 2005. He currently serves as Senior Pastor of Mount Nebo Baptist Church in Harmony, NC.

hickmanCourtney Young Hickman currently serves as the director of Youth Ministries at Grace United Methodist in Wilmington, NC. Courtney received her bachelor’s degree in business communication studies from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2004 and her masters of divinity from Wake Forest University in 2008. Prior to joining the staff at Grace, Courtney worked in various non-profits in Chapel Hill, Winston-Salem, and Wilmington. In addition to her work at Grace, Courtney writes and edits a youth curriculum called TeenText, a publication of the Educational Center.

What Participants Are Saying

“What I have loved about the early career clergy program has been the opportunity to engage with colleagues in deep and meaningful ways on issues that are pertinent to our congregations.   These relationships where we share experiences, prayer, travel, hard conversations, laughter, frustrations, worship and much more give me hope for what is possible in our congregations and in our communities.  In addition, the breath of professions, organizations, businesses, government agencies, and individuals who come to share in conversation with us has been enriching and enlightening.  These two years have helped me feel grounded, encouraged, connected, and committed in a way that makes me look forward to many years of ministry.” (Carla Gregg-Kearns)

“Wake Forest Divinity School’s Clergy Making a Place program provides vital opportunities to step back from the myriad responsibilities of ministry in order to reflect theologically on the most critical issues facing the church of the future—how will the body of Christ stand with the most vulnerable?  I parent young children while co-pastoring a growing new church start, and I can imagine no better use of my time than this program, which has renewed my call to ministry.  Not only has it drawn me closer to God, but it has also proved invaluable in fostering an ongoing relationship with a tight-knit but diverse group of clergy peers.  They have deepened my faith in the work of the Spirit at this seismic time in the life of the church.  The extraordinary leadership of the Rev. Dr. Veronice Miles drew me into this program and breathes inspiration into every gathering.  Clergy Making a Place has been one of the greatest blessings of the early years of my vocation, bending the trajectory of my ministry.  For that I say, thanks be to God!” (Amanda Hendler-Voss)

Clergy Making a Place has impacted my ministry in a variety of positive ways.  By engaging with leaders in diverse fields seeking to effect positive change across North Carolina, I’ve been better equipped to lead my own congregation in impacting our community.  One concrete example of this is that I was able to make a connection with USDA resources to support an ongoing community meal thanks to one of our presenters.  Furthermore, I’ve been greatly enriched by the coordinators of the program, by excellent worship, and by time to reflect, discuss, and compare notes with an amazing group of fellow clergy with whom I would not have otherwise connected.” (Drew McIntyre)

“Being a part of the Clergy Making a Place cohort has been transformative in many ways. Having the opportunity to engage with civic and business leaders has reignited a passion for involving congregations in ministry outside the walls of the church. It has given me new eyes to see the issues of social justice facing our region and brought to light new solutions. Moreover, it has given me the tools and resources to engage my congregation in meaningful conversations so that we might effectively respond to these challenges in our own community. Finally, it has given me a network of colleagues who support and challenge me both personally and professionally. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity.” (Courtney Hickman)

“I have had a marvelous experience gathering with my ministry peers and wrestling theologically and logistically with the ways in which we are called to be leaders in our communities. It has been a privilege to have conversations with so many leaders from across our region that have their fingers on the pulse of the myriad challenging issues that people in our communities face each day. Those conversations have better equipped me to continue those discussions in my own church and community and have opened doors for ongoing engagement with key people who are influencing and making decisions about these and other important social issues.“ (Rob Lemons)


If you are interested in this initiative and would like to nominate an outstanding clergy leader for participation in the program, please complete the online nomination form.  We will contact all nominees and invite them to begin the application process.