Practice & Presence helps health care practitioners imagine and engage their vocations with clarity, faith, and joy

2:30pm, Friday, October 6th – 7:30pm, Saturday, October 7th, 2023


When Jesus healed, he reversed disorder and decay, liberated people from hostile powers, and restored them to relationship in community. Modern health care tends to focus only on the first of these, seeking to reverse disorder through technical fixes. How might those who inhabit modern health care look towards Jesus’ pattern of healing, and to Christian theology more broadly, to enrich and renew their work?

Join us as we explore together why theology matters for health care, and together look to Jesus to renew our vocations to healing.

After a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19 gathering restrictions, we were delighted to host Practice & Presence once again in 2022. Please note, this conference is designed to be an in-person gathering, and as such virtual attendance is not offered.

The one exception is that the first plenary session featuring at 3pm on Friday, October 6th, 2023 will have a hybrid offering via our virtual TMC Seminar Series. Registration for the 2023-2024 TMC Seminar Series will be available in summer 2023.

Blocks of hotel rooms have been reserved at the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club ($229/night) and The Lodge at Duke Medical Center ($119/night).

The hotel block has been extended! Reservations for the room block must now be made by September 15, 2023.

To book at room at the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club, click this link:

Washington Duke Inn Block

To book a room in The Lodge, click this link:

The Lodge Block

Early Registration: For those who register by Friday, September 1, 2023

Standard: $250
Trainee or Clergy: $150
Student: $75

Regular Registration: For those who register between September 2-30, 2023
Standard: $350
Trainee or Clergy: $250
Student: $125

Registration closes Saturday, September 30, 2023

Plenary Speakers

Friday, October 6, 3:00pm: Cultivating Wonder

Devan Stahl is an Associate Professor of Religion and Bioethics at Baylor University. She specializes in bioethics and disability ethics and works as a clinical ethicist consultant for the Baylor, Scott, and White Health System. Her latest book, Disability’s Challenge to Theology: Genes, Eugenics, and the Metaphysics of Modern Medicine (Notre Dame Press) develops a Christian response to genetic technologies using the insights of disability scholars.

Brett McCarty is a theological ethicist whose work centers on questions of faithful action within healthcare. He is associate director of the Theology, Medicine, and Culture Initiative at Duke Divinity School, and he holds a joint appointment in the School of Medicine’s Department of Population Health Sciences. Professor McCarty is also a faculty fellow of the Kenan Institute for Ethics and a faculty associate of the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & History of Medicine. His publications include essays in The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics, and the compilation Spirituality and Religion within the Practice of Medicine. His research and teaching interests occur at the intersections of bioethics, political theology, public health, and theological anthropology. His current research projects focus on competing conceptions of agency within the modern hospital, religious responses to the opioid crisis, and historical and contemporary connections between Christian bioethics and political theology.

Friday, October 6, 6:15pm: Overcoming a Culture of Absence in Health Care

John Swinton is Professor in Practical Theology and Pastoral Care and Chair in Divinity and Religious Studies at the University of Aberdeen. For more than a decade he worked as a registered mental health nurse. He also worked for a number of years as a hospital and community mental health Chaplain alongside of people with severe mental health challenges who were moving from the hospital into the community. In 2004, he founded the University of Aberdeen’s Centre for Spirituality, Health and Disability. He has published widely within the area of mental health, dementia, disability theology, spirituality and healthcare, qualitative research and pastoral care. He is the author of a number of monographs including: Becoming Friends of Time: Disability, Timefullness and Gentle Discipleship (Baylor Press 2017), Finding Jesus in the Storm: The spiritual lives of people with mental health challenges. (Eerdmans 2020)  and Dementia: Living in the memories of God (Eerdmans 2012). In 2022 John became chaplain to the Queen of England.

Farr Curlin is a hospice and palliative care physician who joined Duke University in January 2014 where he holds joint appointments in the School of Medicine, including its Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & History of Medicine, and in Duke Divinity School, including its Initiative on Theology, Medicine and Culture. He works with Duke colleagues to foster scholarship, study, and training regarding the intersections of medicine, ethics, and religion. After graduating from medical school, he completed internal medicine residency training and fellowships in both health services research and clinical ethics at the University of Chicago before joining its faculty in 2003. Dr. Curlin’s empirical research charts the influence of physicians’ moral traditions and commitments, both religious and secular, on physicians’ clinical practices. As an ethicist, he addresses questions regarding whether and in what ways physicians’ religious commitments ought to shape their clinical practices in a plural democracy. Dr. Curlin and colleagues have authored numerous manuscripts published in medicine and bioethics literature, including a New England Journal of Medicine paper titled, “Religion, Conscience and Controversial Clinical Practices.” He is particularly concerned with the moral and spiritual dimensions of medical practice and the doctor-patient relationship, and with the moral and professional formation of physicians. His areas of expertise are medicine, medical ethics, doctor-patient relationship, religion and medicine, and conscience. At the University of Chicago, Dr. Curlin founded and was co-director of the Program on Medicine and Religion.

Saturday, October 7, 9:45am: Christianity’s Surprise

C. Kavin Rowe is the Vice Dean of the Faculty and the George Washington Ivey Distinguished Professor of New Testament. The first of three volumes of his collected essays has recently been published as Leading Christian Communities (Eerdmans, 2023). He is the author of four other books: Christianity’s Surprise: A Sure and Certain Hope (Abingdon, 2020), One True Life: the Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions (Yale University Press, 2016), World Upside Down: Reading Acts in the Graeco-Roman Age (Oxford University Press, 2009, paperback 2010), and Early Narrative Christology (de Gruyter, 2006, repr. Baker Academic, 2009). He has published dozens of articles and essays, and co-edited The Word Leaps the Gap (Eerdmans, 2008) and Rethinking the Unity and Reception of Luke and Acts (University of South Carolina Press, 2010). He is on the editorial board of several international peer-review journals and has also frequently written articles for

Rowe has been a Fulbright Scholar, Regional Scholar for the Society of Biblical Literature, chair of the Society’s Southeastern Region New Testament section, president of the Society’s Southeastern Region, and was elected to the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas. He was awarded a Lilly Faculty Fellowship, a Christian Faith and Life Grant from the Louisville Institute, the John Templeton Prize for Theological Promise, the Paul J. Achtemeier Award, and a Distinguished Scholars grant from the McDonald Agape Foundation.

Emmy Yang is an internal medicine resident at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a graduate of Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai. As a medical student, she completed a Master of Theological Studies as a TMC Fellow at Duke Divinity School. Her thesis focused on “a theological exploration of time and implications on medicine and care for the elderly.” She has published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, CMDA Today, and Christianity Today and has been recognized for her patient-centered care with induction into the Gold Humanism Honorary Society. She is constantly humbled by the practice of medicine and the friends and mentors she has met through TMC. 

Saturday, October 7, 6:15pm: A Theology of Flourishing For All

Wylin Wilson’s work lies at the intersection of religion, gender, and bioethics. Her academic interests also include rural bioethics and Black church studies. Prior to joining Duke Divinity School in 2020, she was a teaching faculty member at the Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics and a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School. She has also served as visiting lecturer and research associate at the Harvard Divinity School Women’s Studies in Religion Program. Professor Wilson is the former associate director of Education at the Tuskegee University National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care, and former faculty member in the College of Agriculture, Environment, and Nutrition Sciences at Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Alabama. Professor Wilson served on the Mount Auburn Hospital Ethics Committee in Cambridge, Mass., the advisory board for the Rural Child Hunger Summit, and as volunteer spiritual care giver for Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services in Somerville, Mass. She is a member of the American Academy of Religion’s Bioethics and Religion Program Unit Steering Committee. Among her publications is her book, Economic Ethics and the Black Church.

Warren Kinghorn is a psychiatrist whose work centers on the role of religious communities in caring for persons with mental health problems and on ways in which Christians engage practices of modern health care. Jointly appointed within Duke Divinity School and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences of Duke University Medical Center, he is co-director of the Theology, Medicine, and Culture Initiative and is a staff psychiatrist at the Durham VA Medical Center. He has written on the moral and theological dimensions of combat trauma and moral injury, on the moral and political context of psychiatric diagnosis, and on the way that St. Thomas Aquinas’ image of the human as wayfarer might inform contemporary practices of ministry and mental health care.

2016 – Practice & Presence: A Gathering for Christians in Health Care

Practice & Presence Agenda 2016

2017 – Practice & Presence: A Gathering for Christians in Health Care

Practice & Presence Agenda and Workshops 2017

2018 – “I Was Sick and You Visited Me”: Learning Presence with Those Who Suffer

Practice & Presence Agenda 2018

Practice & Presence Workshops 2018

2019 – Faithful Health Care in an Anxious Age

Practice & Presence Agenda 2019

Practice & Presence Seminars 2019

2020 & 2021

Our 2020 and 2021 gatherings were cancelled due to COVID-19 travel and gathering restrictions. 

2022 – From Machines to Creatures: Healing Our Vision of Health

Practice & Presence Agenda 2022

Jointly Accredited Provider

Free Continuing Education credits available for: physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and chaplains.

Duke University Health System Clinical Education and Professional Development is accredited by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) and is authorized to issue the IACET CEU. As an IACET Accredited Provider Duke University Health System Clinical Education and Professional Development offers CEUs for its programs that qualify under the ANSI/IACET Standard. Duke University Health System Clinical Education and Professional Development is authorized by IACET to offer up to 0.75 CEUs for each activity.

In support of improving patient care, the Duke University Health System Department of Clinical Education and Professional Development is accredited by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), and the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), to provide continuing education for the health care team.

Category 1: Duke University Health System Department of Clinical Education and Professional Development designates this activity for a maximum of 7.5 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)TM. Physicians should claim only credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Nurse CE: Duke University Health System Department of Clinical Education and Professional Development designates this activity for up to 7.5 credit hours for nurses. Nurses should claim only credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in this activity.

Are you a Christian in health care who longs to experience your healing work as a calling? Do you believe that the church should matter for modern health care? Do you long to connect your work with your Christian commitments?

From Friday afternoon through Saturday evening on the campus of Duke University, nurses, physicians, therapists, students, chaplains, and other health care practitioners will gather:

  • To tune our eyes and hearts to see how God is present in our work in health care
  • To engage scripture, theology, and Christian history—open to how our imaginations and our practices might be transformed
  • To grow in friendship with one another in the context of shared meals, conversation, prayer and worship
  • To rest, reflect, and respond to God’s love for us and for our world.