A self-described heretic, Candice Morris is a shining example of how to love a community in a way that opens space for an examination of one’s beliefs and inherited doctrines. Recognizing that she longed for a validation of her beliefs long before she came to Wake Divinity, Candice admits that amidst that validation, her personal theology has also evolved significantly. Although she had already begun to dismantle some of the theologies she was “fed” from her youth, her time here enabled her to “embrace something I didn’t even know existed.”
This last year at Wake Divinity has been bittersweet for Candice because she has not been as present in the community as she would have liked. “I saw Dr. Leonard coming out of the library and I started crying because I realize how much I miss being in the middle of this community.” At the same time, she feels fortunate that her schedule has allowed her to be available to the work God has called her to in this moment—being a full-time caretaker for an aging couple, one of whom recently passed. Being a caretaker has been a “synergy of providence,” an experience that was not what she expected, “but more than I could ever have imagined.”
Candice’s understanding of how she is called to ministry is echoed in her self-ascribed moniker of heretic. Not knowing what a divinity degree would lead to, Candice embarked on her journey here as the result of a “William James religious conversion experience.” She was working in a job that provided little personal satisfaction, and when she prayed “to find joy in the misery,” she heard a voice tell her to go to divinity school. As she prepares to leave Wake Divinity, she has “vague notions” of what she would like to do. “I will be unorthodox in an unorthodox community.” For Candice, the process has at time been overwhelming, “an exercise in yielding to God’s will.”
Her journey prior to divinity school is just as interesting as how she envisions it continuing. One of our non-traditional students, Candice brings a breadth of experience that is unique to our student population. In her life she has served in the Air Force, worked as a park ranger for the Department of Defense, and was a crime scene technician for the local police department. Yet, out of all of these experiences, “divinity school is the hardest thing” she has ever done.
When I asked Candice what she has been most proud of in her time here, she stated, “We have tried to push the margins beyond those who are on the margins.” For her, this is extremely important if the church is going to grow. “As the academy evolves, so will the church. As the students evolve, so will the church.” This evolution is where Candice finds hope for the church.
Accompanying her on her journey is her spouse, whom she has been with since 1998 and married last year. One of her theological companions, surprisingly, is Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas series. “Dean Koontz is a mystic. If you want to learn about theology, ways of being in the world, read the Odd Thomas series. Dean is one of the best kept secrets of divinity.” Although Candice’s long-term plans beyond Wake Div remain a mystery, she trusts that God will lead guide her to where she is most needed, even as she secretly desires a cameo appearance on The Big Bang Theory. In all of this, it is clear that Candice has a passion for living as an agent of God, ever “intentional about praying and waiting for guidance from God in everything.”