Divinity Dean on Capitol Hill: Talking With Legislators About Building Social Infrastructure in Stressed Communities

Duke Divinity School Dean Greg Jones headed to DC last week to highlight Duke Divinity School’s work throughout North Carolina to the state’s congressional delegation.

During his visit, Jones explained how faith-based entities and the Divinity School are well suited to help communities and government leaders solve structural problems throughout the state. Jones emphasized that initiatives through faith-based institutions unite people because, “they have been in the community for a long time and they are places where people of all ages and different sectors gather.”

Jones met with US Rep. David Price and newly elected Rep. Greg Murphy, who represents North Carolina’s third congressional district, home to the Duke Marine Lab. In addition to highlighting some of Duke Divinity’s work across the state, Jones spoke about the actions the school has taken to assist and address communities struck by hurricanes and flooding.

He also met with Senate staff to discuss overlap between Divinity’s work in the state and the priorities of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee. These included problems related to physician burnout and how the Divinity School’s Theology, Medicine and Culture Initiative addresses health and illness through the intersection of spirituality and medicine.   

At a luncheon, Jones addressed social issues such as disaster recovery and the opioid crisis in a talk before more than 60 attendees at the North Carolina Society’s monthly Tarheel Circle Luncheon. Jones said the solution to these problems lies in the cultivation of “social infrastructure” and of strong, lasting relationships within communities: a task for which churches and Duke Divinity are well positioned to help.

Jones also spoke about the ways Duke Divinity School fosters social infrastructure through its Thriving Rural Communities Initiative, which works to foster thriving rural North Carolina communities by inspiring faithful rural Christian leadership and fruitful rural United Methodist congregations. Jones pointed out that social infrastructure is what “helps break down communication silos. It also enables us to work as catalysts, conveners and curators to produce long-term impacts.”