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."
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.
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
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.
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.