The difficulties of 2020 did not fade in 2021 as many of us had hoped. Instead, a tough first pandemic year was followed by another one. Here are some stories, essays and interviews about the work Christian leaders did to survive and even thrive in this challenging environment.

Constant change and uncertainty plagued faith leaders throughout the year. Many had to shift worship plans multiple times with the advent of both vaccines and new waves of the coronavirus. The Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol highlighted the country’s increasing polarization and conflict, which continued to play a part in public messaging about the pandemic.

Faith & Leadership published essays, feature stories and interviews in response to the struggles our readers and writers faced. In keeping with our annual tradition, we have selected 10 highlights of our work over the past year, from an interview with pastors experiencing the long-term impact of George Floyd’s murder to an essay about a family heirloom and its lessons for inclusion in the church.

As part of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, which is funded by Lilly Endowment Inc., and with support from the Issachar Fund, we hope that our work has helped readers navigate the complex landscape of Christian leadership today.

Looking ahead with hope, we will continue to provide pieces that illustrate how Christian leaders can make a positive impact on their respective communities, no matter what the new year brings.

Here are some highlights from 2021.


The path to reparations

Beyond the first step of acknowledgment, some faith communities are taking up concrete reparations as a way of demonstrating authentic repentance for their role in systemic oppression.

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Angela Khabeb and Ingrid Rasmussen: We need to figure out what healing looks like after the murder of George Floyd

One year after the protests of the murder of George Floyd rocked both Minneapolis and the world, two pastors in the center of the uprising reflected on the changes that have taken place.

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The parable of the shopping carts

After months of trying to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19, our frustration with those who reject all measures is real, writes an editor of Faith & Leadership.

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Eat. Pray. Skate: A skateboarding ministry offers unconditional love to teens

Serious JuJu is a ministry that meets young people where they are — in a skate park.

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My church is a beautiful waste of money

By the metrics of business management and capitalism, the work of churches and pastors is redundant.

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Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows: Congregations should see their buildings as assets, not albatrosses

Talking about church buildings is fun for the bishop of the Diocese of Indianapolis — not just because she is trained in architecture and historic preservation, but also because it leads to questions like, “What is this congregation for?”

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Tired of constantly adapting to worship in a pandemic? You’re not alone

Many churches thought that vaccines would pave the way back to normal worship, but new COVID-19 realities are forcing us to keep pivoting.

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Translating God’s inclusive embrace through love and lace

Researching the tradition behind a family heirloom enriched the wedding celebration of two young men, writes a managing director of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity.

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Francis Collins: Science is ‘a glimpse of God’s mind’

As a community anchored on the principle of truth, the church can play a leading role in guiding us out of the pandemic, says the director of the National Institutes of Health.

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A seminary program cultivates healthy economies to grow healthy communities

Fresno Pacific University aims to reinvigorate a city through social entrepreneurship.

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