Timothy James Duncan

August 12, 1957May 7, 2020

COLUMBIA - The Rev. Dr. Tim Hoyt Duncan had a passion for living life in the moment, whether he was painting, riding his Yamaha V Star motorcycle, practicing contemplative silence, or being fully present in the lives of family, friends and the parishioners he loved.

His compassion and tenderness for nurturing the human heart sprang from a deep well of belief that the world could be more just and fair.

Tim died Thursday, May 7, 2020, after a three-and-a-half year struggle with multiple myeloma, but his life as a Presbyterian minister and pilgrim traveler was defined by a lifelong call for social justice and the opening of the creative conscious. He was 62.

Tim, who retired from Shandon Presbyterian Church in Columbia after his cancer diagnosis, is survived by his wife, Nancy Hoyt Duncan, his cherished partner whom he described as his “soulmate.”

A Minnesota native with a mischievous grin and distinctive Midwestern accent, Tim tried to stir the humanity and connection among people. He encouraged people of all faiths to work toward the “beloved community” that the Rev. Martin Luther King had described during the civil rights movement of Tim’s youth.

He was not shy about taking on social ills that included racial inequality, domestic violence and poverty. But he leavened his preaching with calls for grace.

An artist by training, he found creative outlet and joy in painting, mounting an exhibition at Shandon last fall called “Journey of the Soul: The Art of Tim Hoyt Duncan.” He loved music and drew young people to his sermons with deft theological references to lyrics from the rock bands he loved, including Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones.

Tim sought to live by the words of Micah 6:8: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” He signed off most of his emails and letters with these words.

Tim credited his faith and Nancy with piloting him through his cancer journey which began just five months after he was named head of staff at Shandon Presbyterian in August 2016.

He had been the congregation’s charismatic associate pastor between 1990-2003, meeting and marrying Nancy in 1992. The couple returned to Columbia after pastoral appointments in Richmond, Va., where he was associate for leadership development for the Presbytery of the James, and Northport, Long Island, New York, where he was pastor of First Presbyterian Church for a decade.

When Shandon’s pastoral nominating committee announced in early 2016 the decision to call Tim, a cheer rose from the normally reserved congregation.

Tim encouraged outreach and felt particularly blessed when Bethel AME Church and Shandon Presbyterian mingled their congregations for a joint worship service on Good Friday.

He took early retirement in September 2018 to focus on his health. But he kept friends and family apprised of his cancer journey through the CaringBridge web site.

His last journal entry on May 3 reflected the impish humor that characterized his approach to life even in the midst of declining health. “I wish it was news of Nancy and I taking a trip to Alaska, the one state I've not yet visited, but we will have to settle for 49 of 50, as I am now a part of the Hospice Program,” he wrote. Timothy James Duncan was born on August 12, 1957, in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, the youngest of eight children of the late James William Duncan and Kathleen Ann Ritchie Duncan. He graduated with a degree in studio art from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., in 1979 and earned a master of divinity degree from Louisville Seminary in Kentucky in 1983. He earned a doctor of divinity degree from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago in 1992. His first call was as associate pastor at John Knox Presbyterian Church in Greenville.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his siblings, Janet Louise Kooistra (Roger), Robert Ritchie Duncan (Dawn), Dian Kay Cedar (John), Stephen Douglas Duncan (Barbara), Gerald Allan Duncan, and Nancy Lee Duncan; his parents-in-law, William and Sara Hoyt; and sisters-in-law, Jane Leidlein (Hugh) and Harriette Hoyt (Brian); and many beloved nieces and nephews. In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by and a sister, Mary Lou Romero.

His family wishes to thank his primary care physician, Dr. Hampton Alford, and the health care team at Lexington Oncology, Dr. Chelsea Stillwell and Myra Hawkins, for the incredible compassion and care they provided for him. The family is also grateful to Amy Bowen from Amedisys Hospice for her nurturing support during Tim’s final days.

Memorials may be made to Shandon Presbyterian Church (Outreach Ministry), 607 Woodrow Street, Columbia, SC 29205; or Gustavus Adolphus College (Gustavus Fund), Office of Institutional Advancement, 800 West College Avenue, St. Peter, MN 56082.

Memories may be shared at


Timothy James Duncan

have a memory or condolence to add?

Bruce Harvey

May 7, 2021

I remember back in 2005-06 being with Tim, Carol Schneider, Cindy Ruhl, Lisa Hedrick, and Mary Lou McMillan on Carol's screen porch working on an overture to ordain Christian Educators in the Presbyterian Church, USA. We did serious work, but had a wonderful time doing it as we shared personal stories and insights. Tim would sometimes arrive on his motorcycle. Those times were some of best times in my 40 years working in the church because of the group of people. I know Tim and Carol are gone. I remember those times each time I drive by Charlottesville.
Bruce Harvey

Rob Jones

January 26, 2021

My Wife & I joined Shandon Presbyterian after our first visit because we visited the "young adults" Sunday school class and Tim & Nancy co hosted the class. We were hooked from day one!
Thank - you both for your inspiration.

Steve Duncan

January 25, 2021

As the youngest of 8, Tim was the pride and joy of our family from baby on up. We are very proud of his life accomplishments and the fact that he left a positive impression upon anyone and everyone he came in contact with throughout his short life. He is the second of the eight to leave us on this earth and will be greatly missed forever.

We are thankful and grateful he left us with not only the gift of memories of him, but a great and wonderful sister-in-law, Nancy Hoyt Duncan. He is alive in us today through her presence.

Here he is as a one-two old with our Dad James (Tim's middle name, who passed away when Tim was 8 years old) and our sister Nancy.

Nancy Reycraft

May 16, 2020

With Rev. William Rambo in May, 2007

Nancy Reycraft

May 16, 2020

Lee and I have fond memories of a trip to the beach at Robert Moses State Park with Tim and Nancy in the back seat of our MiniCooper convertible (with the top down, of course). We walked through the State Park and then through the more private parts of the beach to enjoy dinner in Kismet before our return drive to Northport.
Years later, we remember that Tim stopped to stay with us in St Louis, as he returned by car from Ghost Ranch to Northport NY.
The angels have gained a dear, wonderful spirit.
Love and hugs to Nancy.

David Maki

May 14, 2020

Our family and the Duncan family attended Jacobson Presbyterian Church in Jacobson, Minnesota for many years. I fondly remember church picnics, vacation bible school, Christmas and Easter events, and the youth group activities. Though I left Minnesota in 1972 and am admittedly a decade older than Tim, I remember him as a very kind, polite, and bright young man. After reading his obituary I am very proud of his many accomplishments and that he continued to spread God's word throughout his life. (And that he kept his Minnesota accent!)

May God bless Tim. I send my deepest condolences to his wife and the entire Duncan family.

Kathy Nealand

May 12, 2020

Nancy, I am so sorry to hear about Tim's passing. He was such a great pastor. He was also such a great supporter of new pastors. I loved having the opportunity to get to know both of you. You are in my prayers.

Nelly DeVault

May 11, 2020

I met Tim and Nancy when my cousin Jen and I flew to their home after my high school graduation. I will always remember his and Nancy’s open and welcome embrace of me into their family circle even though I was a stranger! I am so sad to lose the gentle passion of Tim in this world but rejoice for his release from pain.

Barry Tighe

May 11, 2020

Tim and Nancy have been our friends for some years and we have shared many good times with them. My one regret is that he and I never got to ride our motorcycles together. If all people of faith were more like Tim there would be a lot more people interested in religion. He was one of the good ones. Many thanks.

Bob Moore

May 10, 2020

I did not know Tim for as long or as well as I would have liked, but I have great memories of him. My best memory was of one experience in Greece. He and Nancy accompanied me and my wife, Meribeth, and 35 others on a trip to Greece. When we visited the place where the ancient Olympics were held, the guide arranged us all in a circle and explained how the games caused a pause in any wars that were going on. They were a time of peace and friendly competition. Then she asked if anyone would like to say a word or a prayer for world peace. Everyone's eyes immediately turned to Tim. In just a few days he had caused the rest of us to see him as a moral leader.
After a moment of hesitation, Tim began an ad lib prayer for peace in the world that demonstrated a confidence in the possibility of building "the beloved community." All of us left that place with moist eyes and a renewed faith in our ability to live in peace with our fellow human beings.