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Duke Chapel Dean Sam Wells Named Vicar of St. Martin-in-the-Fields
Durham, NC - The Rev. Dr. Samuel Wells, who has served as the dean of Duke Chapel since 2005, announced Thursday he will leave Duke early next summer to become the vicar of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London.
"I've loved being a part of Duke as we have explored together what faith means to head, heart and hand in a diverse culture at a challenging time," Wells said. "It has been an amazing privilege and joy to lead the ministry of the Chapel and share in the vibrant Duke and Durham communities. I shall miss it more than I can say."
Wells will return to England to lead a prominent church that enjoys a close relationship with national leaders. Located in Trafalgar Square beside the National Gallery, the church is renowned for its high profile in the arts and engagement with poverty, often appearing in public broadcasts tied to issues of social justice.
"St. Martin's is at the crossroads of London and the world, of faith and action, of social justice and the arts, of tradition and innovation, of commerce and charity, of political and personal struggle," Wells said. "It is a great honor to be invited to join this dynamic ministry."
The appointment committee reached its decision unanimously, saying, "We believe that Sam's rich and varied experience, alongside his theological depth and integrity, make him ideal to be Vicar of St. Martin's."
In addition to serving as dean of the university's iconic chapel, where he leads weekly services and oversees a staff of 25, Wells has worked closely with the associate dean for religious life to assist 28 student groups that minister to the spiritual needs of Duke students. He has been an active leader of the Duke and Durham communities, making connections with students, campus deans and others to address ethical issues and establish close ties with diverse faith groups. He also has emerged as an influential voice on behalf of the poor, recently co-authoring "Living Without Enemies," a book describing care for those directly affected by gun violence.
Known for his eloquence as a preacher and theologian, Wells has attracted a wide following within the Duke community and more widely through live Internet sermons and video recordings on Duke on Demand. A research professor of Christian ethics who has published 17 books, Wells also has been active in the university's academic life, teaching graduate students in the Divinity School and undergraduate students in the Sanford School of Public Policy.
"Duke has been fortunate to have Sam Wells' devoted service for the past seven years," said Duke President Richard Brodhead. "We will miss Sam in the pulpit, where he preaches with uncommon insight and force. He has also connected Duke Chapel broadly across the university and Durham, and he and Jo Bailey Wells have been a powerful presence in this community. I am grateful for their time with us."
Brodhead expects to establish a search committee in January to help identify a successor to Wells. He also recognized the contributions of Wells' wife, the Rev. Dr. Jo Bailey Wells, a professor at Duke Divinity School and founder of the Anglican Episcopal House of Studies. She will continue in priestly ministry and seek a new post in London. The Wellses have two children.
Dedicated in 1935, Duke Chapel is an interdenominational Christian chapel and the university's most famous landmark. It seats more than 1,600 people and stands 210 feet tall, with magnificent stained glass windows, three large pipe organs and a bell tower that rises above the center of the campus.
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