Churches And Friends Rally Behind Dukes

Seventeen+churches+have+gathered+to+support+Dukes+through+the+Justice4Dukes+Coalition.

Julia Jade Moran

Seventeen churches have gathered to support Dukes through the Justice4Dukes Coalition.

Isabella Chan, Editor-In-Chief

Seventeen churches have gathered to support Dukes through the Justice4Dukes Coalition.

“This isn’t about me,” Christopher Dukes announced to his fellow church members. “We are all a vessel of God.”

People surrounding him included members of First Church of Christ, Lakewood Church and supporters of the Justice4Dukes Coalition. All gathered together to listen to Dukes give thanks for their support and speak of the struggles that he’s faced in the past two years.

“We love him” and “his faith has inspired all of us,” were just a few of the small words of praise and support whispered among those crowding First Church of Christ on Sunday.

Dukes got his start at the church working as a section leader while attending Central Connecticut. At the time, Dukes would not call himself a practicing Christian but as “seeds were planted,” his faith began to grow. Despite a short absence after college, Dukes has been with the church ever since.

After the incident on April 24, 2018, members of First Church of Christ reached out to both Dukes and  his wife, Christine A. Berenbach, to offer them spiritual support. Although Berenbach did not accept the offer, Dukes has continued to attend services and maintain being an active member of their spiritual community. Along with this, Beulah Missionary Baptist Church sends Dukes CDs of their services, while Lakewood Church’s Joel Osteen offers him daily sermons.

“I have not known many people to go through trials and tribulation like this. They find themselves broken up, finding themselves committing suicide, but he held his composure and he did a wonderful job. He was always in good spirits, an example to all of us that no matter what we’re going through, stay strong and keep the faith,” Bishop Milton Boyd stated.

“He has kept his integrity and has not allowed for his spirit to be broken. It was very painful and depressing but, through it all, I saw him as a spiritual man,” Boyd continued. “To see where he’s at now and see that they dropped the case, I just thank God for him.”

Several people of these churches and others have worked together to create the Justice4Dukes Coalition, in which participants provide Dukes encouragement throughout the many court hearings he has experienced and continues to go through; in total, 17 churches are represented.

Through his challenges, Dukes has found his faith to lift him up.

“There are some folks who have been there for the majority of the hearing, who have been recipients of the bad news that I kept hearing, getting and the injustices. They’ve stood behind me and prayed with me in the hallways of the court houses,” Duke said.

Even on Christmas Eve of 2018, as he sang in front of the congregation and celebrated Christmas without his kids, the members of his church helped to uplift him.

“I am standing here, in front of this manger of baby Jesus, meanwhile only a couple of people in the house knew here, in the meeting house, that I’m standing up here singing with an ankle monitor on Christmas Eve. It was one of the most humiliating experiences, but the thing that didn’t let it get in the way was worship,” Dukes recalled of the day.

The Davis couple is one of Dukes’s many supporters — both John and Helen have gone to various hearings with fellow church members and have watched resiliently from the back of the courtroom to “show [their] Christian support” to their friend.

“I just want to present the very human side of this, the struggles that he’s been through, the separation, and it’s all been over false testimonies,” Helen stated. “One particular time, he was in family court and found out for the first time in 15 months he was able to see his children. He came out and he was sobbing because he hadn’t been able to see his kids in that long.”

Dukes believes the court has taken all but his faith from him, calling the biggest injustice the loss of being a part of his children’s lives. But he does not feel as though these are merely accidents or punishment but rather calculated acts to create reactions.

“There would be a time when your courage is outweighed by the fear of the unknown. And I can tell you sitting in that house in the shower stall, while flashing lights were shining through my doors, my fears were [gestured high] and my courage [gestured low],” Dukes said as he reflected on the night of the incident — describing the experience almost as if they put him in a pressure cooker, waiting for him to explode, but he didn’t.

“At some point in time, my dog licked me on my wrist and snapped me out of that moment of fear. My courage came back. I’m able to hear what is the voice of God tell me ‘you need to stand up, you know the truth, if you trust me walk out of this house.’ That’s what got me to walk out the house,” Dukes added.