2022 - 2023

Project status: Completed

The Office of Black Church Studies at Duke Divinity School and the Duke Clergy Health Initiative created and conducted a program to improve the well-being of clergy who are Black, Asian American, Native American, and Latinx in North and South Carolina and are part of a Methodist denomination or have ties to Duke Divinity School. The program ran from February 2022-March 2023 and served 273 clergy plus guests whom they invited to accompany them on one or more retreats.


The To Heal the Wounded Soul Program consisted of:

  • participating in an arc of three retreats, spread across a year, with themes of relief, recovery, and resilience;
  • learning from thought leaders at the retreats who offered worship and theological framing;
  • benefitting from a facilitated peer support group during each of the retreats and two facilitated peer group sessions outside of the retreats;
  • engaging with well-being practices; and
  • working with lay leaders to develop a list of referrals for a variety of congregant needs, to reduce stress and make it easier for clergy to respond to congregant needs when they arise.

Comments from focus groups revealed that prior to the retreats, clergy were overwhelmed, stressed, and facing burnout, with some stating that they were struggling spiritually. All felt a strong need to take a break, without an obvious way to do so prior to To Heal the Wounded Soul. A year later, the participants reported increased well-being and attributed improvements in feelings of ministry renewal to participation in To Heal the Wounded Soul, pointing specifically to the perceived benefits of the peer support groups and the culturally affirming breaks offered by the retreats. In addition, they believed the new meditation practices, communication techniques, and strategies for setting boundaries would benefit their self-care in the future.

Participants completed surveys prior to their first retreat and just prior to or after their final retreat. Overall, the findings suggest a positive trend in wellbeing that may have been due to the To Heal the Wounded Soul project. Because of our study design, we cannot rule out that the changes are due to other improvements in life, such as changes following the most severe times of the COVID-19 pandemic. The most notable improvement was the percentage of participants scoring as having flourishing mental health, which increased from 58% of participants at baseline to 74% of participants post-intervention. Improvements were also seen in depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, occupational distress, and burnout. We have communicated these findings to the denominational officials who supported these efforts.

To Heal the Wounded Soul is a unique project designed specifically for clergy during COVID-19, with special emphasis on addressing racialized stress through Black, Latinx, Asian American, and Indigenous clergy coming together for relief, restoration, and resilience.



Chalice Overy, MDiv, Program Director

Tamario Howze, MDiv, Program Director

Nicole Beckwith, MPH, Program Leader

Logan Tice, MA, Research Program Leader

Donna Coletrane Battle, PhD, MDiv, Peer Group Director

Denisha Nicole Williams, MDiv, Coordinator

Jia Yao, MA, Data Analyst


David Goatley, PhD, MDiv, Co-Principal Investigator 

Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, PhD, Co-Principal Investigator



The Duke Endowment


Logan Tice, MA, Research Program Leader

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