Thanking God for Justice: Cathedral of St. John the Divine holds service following Chauvin verdict

Parishioners gathered for the service.
Photo by Dean Moses

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine held a special prayer service Wednesday to reflect on the Derek Chauvin guilty verdict for the murder of George Floyd.    

The dean of St. John the Divine, Reverend Clifton Daniel, sees the steps of the historic Cathedral located on 1047 Amsterdam Ave. at 112th Street as “the community’s porch,” where parishioners, locals and police officers gathered on April 21. 

The cathedral’s clergy have held numerous services standing in solidarity with the Black and Brown community and the Black Lives Matter cause, so the noon gathering continued a long lineage of supporting vulnerable persons. Speakers evoked memories of the last 12 months and beyond, reading aloud newspaper articles that first reported Floyd’s murder and the subsequent protests.

The dean also called April 21 a day of celebration in a step toward equal justice and applauded the jury for the conviction of the former police officer on murder and manslaughter charges.

The Dean of St. John the Divine Reverend Clifton Daniel. Photo by Dean Moses

“It was a watershed step on the long march toward justice, justice for George Floyd and justice for so many other victims of brutality,” Daniel said.

Bishop Andrew Dietsche concurred.

“It may be that, while yesterday’s actions are unlikely to make a permanent change in anything, they can be the beginning of something new born in America because we saw people gathered yesterday prepared for public demonstration and protest,” the bishop said. “There was an expectation that if the verdict had been an acquittal, our cities would be on fire today. Before we went to bed last night, I said to my wife there are people sleeping in peace in their beds tonight who might have been dead. The fruits of what we saw yesterday of the just decision played itself out for the rest of the day and into the night as peace.”

Onlookers clutch their chest. Photo by Dean Moses

However, as much as the spiritual event was intended to help with the healing process going forward, faith members acknowledged that nothing changed overnight, and more than likely, there will be additional gatherings rife with sorrow over injustice. 

Revered Terrence Alexander Lee spoke about Ma’Khia Bryant, the 16-year-old girl who was shot and killed by an officer in Ohio 30 minutes before the verdict was read. But he also lifted up those he called angels who witnessed and recorded Floyd’s murder.

“We will forever thank God for them, the eyewitnesses who were there. I call them the rams in the bush, the angels dispatched by God to carry the message of truth and to tell the story,” Lee said.

Revered Terrence Alexander Lee. Photo by Dean Moses

As the ceremony came to a close and the clergy members prayed for a brighter, unified future,  some almost did not want to hear the verdict.

“I was trying avoid listening to the verdict because for so long there has been so much injustice, so to hear it again I don’t know if my soul would have been able to handle it,” Gale Felix told amNewYork Metro.

But even though she believes justice was served, she still feels sad.

Gale Felix attends the service of prayer, justice and truth after the verdict in Derek Chauvin case. Photo by Dean Moses

“I feel numb because even though he is going to go to jail, it is another family affected by this unseen thing of racism, so now his family is going to have trauma for him going to jail — now it’s two families,” Felix said.         

The prayer service brought everyone together. Photo by Dean Moses