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Duke Police Investigating Vandalism At Chapel
Durham, NC - The Duke University Police Department is investigating a vandalism incident involving the Duke Chapel's stained glass windows. Investigators say rocks were used to puncture three windows on the side of the Chapel facing the Bryan Center between just after midnight Thursday to early that morning.
According to police, there are no known suspects at this time, and investigators ask anyone with information to call (919) 684 4713, or the department's 24-hour line (919) 684-2444.
In a statement to the community, Dean of the Chapel Sam Wells said, "I believe it's right to express concern about the directing of stones at the Chapel because there can be a connection between throwing stones at precious buildings and throwing stones at even more precious people," Wells said. "But I also wish to express hope. My prayer is that, just as Paul's transformation began with his condoning a violent act of stone-throwing, so those who recently saw fit to throw stones at Duke Chapel may soon come to see their actions in a different light - and thus that this sad moment be transformed into the beginning of something beautiful, for them, and for us all."
The full text of Wells' statement is included below.
Duke President Richard H. Brodhead, who inspected the damage Thursday, added his concern. "The Chapel is our most important and visible symbol, and this sad, stupid act is an insult to every member of the Duke community. We are doing everything we can to understand what happened, and identify the responsible individuals."
More information about the history of the Chapel's stained glass windows is available on the Duke Chapel website.
Message from Dean Sam Wells
You may have heard that three of the Chapel's stained glass windows were broken on the night of Wednesday, April 27, 2011, during the campus Last Day of Classes celebrations. The holes in the windows are 5-10" in diameter. The windows are all on the lectern side of the main aisle, representing, respectively, the Wise Men on their way to Bethlehem, Jesus upon a pinnacle, and the Transfiguration.
It is too early to speculate about who might have wanted to do this, and about what they would wish others to infer as to the meaning of their actions. For example there were many people on the Duke campus on Wednesday night - students, staff, faculty, and visitors. The Chapel is a symbol of the university as a whole, but also a building with religious and specifically Christian resonances. We can't know whether the action was simply reckless, or had more sinister intent; whether the target of this gesture was the university as a whole, Christianity in particular, or simply a beautiful and relatively unprotected building.
What we can be a little more sure of is that the rocks used were perhaps 10" wide, and thus heavy; that they must have been brought some distance, since no materials of the kind are available nearby; and that to make three holes, at the same height, at equally-spaced windows, from a distance of perhaps 40 yards, must have required significant strength and notable accuracy of aim. It does not bear the signs of a spontaneous act of vandalism.
In the season of Easter Christians celebrate the way the church came into being in response to Jesus' resurrection. One of the church's first ministers was Stephen. His joy in his faith was so effervescent and outspoken that it led to his being stoned to death. One of those who stood by and condoned those events was Saul - who soon afterwards became the apostle Paul, and came to see things very differently.
I believe it's right to express concern about the directing of stones at the Chapel because there can be a connection between throwing stones at precious buildings and throwing stones at even more precious people. But I also wish to express hope. My prayer is that, just as Paul's transformation began with his condoning a violent act of stone-throwing, so those who recently saw fit to throw stones at Duke Chapel may soon come to see their actions in a different light - and thus that this sad moment be transformed into the beginning of something beautiful, for them, and for us all.
Dean of Duke Chapel
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