Maurice is an Episcopal priest and historian of Christianity who reflects on religion and violence, having received his M.Div. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. Most of his ministry has focused on higher education, having previously served as Associate Dean for Religious Life at Stanford University. In 2015 he was appointed Chaplain of the Colleges and Assistant Professor of Religious Studies (by courtesy) at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY. Maurice contributes to this blog with his Chicago friends in the hope that personal reflection and heartfelt discussion lead to building beloved community.
Tonight Cliff and I stole a few moments of recreation. We wondered whether seeing the documentary Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine was the best way to spend them. After dealing with religion, race, and violence in the last two sermons and a book study, I had said to him earlier, “That’s it. No more violence. It is just too painful. I am worn out and I need a break.”
We saw it anyway. As fate would have it, writer and director Michele Josue, her co-producer Liam McNiff, and another of Matt’s friends were there for the showing. Afterwards we had a chance to linger over conversation in the cool Berkeley evening air. I am glad we went.
I cannot help but feel compassion for slain officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, and Shaneka Thompson, wounded ex-girlfriend of the murderer—that infamous murderer whose name I will not even glorify by mentioning—and their family members. I have just as much compassion for them as I feel for all those who have been the victims of domestic violence, community violence, police brutality, and state violence. I also pray for the Episcopal Bishops of New York, Long Island and environs, and for New York Mayor de Blasio, as they will undoubtedly have to reckon with a church and a city that likely is as divided about the matter as the proper course of action for moving forward.
Imelda graciously handed me the box of little candles for the vigil, her eyes full of compassion. The flickering beneath those little blue holders scattered the darkness that night. I could not have known then that in my penultimate year in Memorial Church, I would dip into that box yet again in hopes of scattering the darkness and dust of what was left of the World Trade Center towers.