MRPL Public Presentations 2022

Harvard Divinity School Religion and Public Life, Master of Religion and Public Life Final Presentations 2022

Join us in witnessing and celebrating the inaugural cohort of Master of Religion and Public Life candidates as they present their final projects that engage the complexity of religion within their vocations. The final project is shaped in consultation with Dr. Diane L. Moore, the faculty instructor of the Religion and Public Life Seminar, MRPL candidate peers in the seminar, and the students' faculty advisor. MRPL candidates promote a robust and capacious understanding of the power of religion in human experience and contemporary global affairs. 
Click on the name of a MRPL candidate for information about their final presentation and a link to register below: 
  • Maggie Rogers, April 17, performance at Coachella (available via livesteam on YouTube
  • Ans Irfan - April 18, Conceptualizing Religion as a Meta-Structural Determinant of Health
  • Erica Williams - April 26, Set it Off Symposium: Introducing the Foundations of a Movement to End the Dehumanization, Destruction, and Death-Dealing of Poor Black Women in America  
  • Meagan Clark - May 2, Evangelicals Facing East: An American Orthodoxy 
  • John Camardella - May 2, Reimagining Religion in the Public School Classroom 
  • Ellie Duke - May 4, Extraordinary Life
  • Susan Weaver - May 9, Access to Gender-Affirming Care: Challenges of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act 
  • Sarah Pearson - May 10, Manufacturing the Clerical Predator: How the Catholic Hierarchy Creates and Maintains a Culture of Abuse 
  • Alejandra Villegas - May 11, Conjuring Heaven in Hellish Places  
  • Phillip Picardi - May 11, Is Jesus Kinda Hot?  
  • Eric Isaacson - May 12, Masterpiece Cakeshop and "Hostility" to Religious Belief  
Please direct any questions to 

Maggie Rogers 

Sunday, April 17, 7:45 pm PT (10:45 pm ET)
Live at Coachella, available to view via livesteam: https:/ 
Maggie focused her MRPL work on the spirituality of public gatherings and the ethics of power in pop culture. Her public presentation is her Coachella performance on Sunday, April 17, 7:45PT (10:45 ET) and available to view here.

Asns Irfan
Ans Irfan, MRPL Candidate

Conceptualizing Religion as a Meta-Structural Determinant of Health

Monday, April 18, 4-5pm  
Public health expert Ans Irfan’s MRPL project focused on the intersection of religion and public health by problematizing the notion of secularity which is a normative assumption in many of the policymaking ecosystems. He asserts that without questioning the role of religion, our capacity to fully grasp the nuanced, powerful, and complex role of religion as a positive and negative macro-level structural determinant of health is limited. In this webinar, he will explore how public health officials and theorists can better study, understand, analyze, and account for religion's influence in the U.S. public health policies and practices.  


Erica Williams

Reverend Erica Williams, MRPL '22

Set it Off Symposium: Introducing the Foundations of a Movement to End the Dehumanization, Destruction, and Death-Dealing of Poor Black Women in America  

Tuesday, April 26, 5-7pm, Sperry Room, HDS and Livestreamed
Livestreaming on YouTube: 
Set It Off Symposium - headshot of Rev. Erica N. Wiliams on purple background with photos of Black women icons
Spiritual leader, human rights activist, and grassroots organizer Erica Williams’ project for the MRPL is to launch the “Set It Off Movement” which is aimed at ending the dehumanization, destruction, and death-dealing of poor Black women in America. The movement is inspired by the 1996 film Set It Off, which follows four Black women friends in Los Angeles, California, who plan to execute a bank robbery—each doing so for different reasons—to achieve better for themselves and their families.  
The symposium will include a ritual invocation of Ancestors, a panel discussion on how the film Set it Off represents the plight of poor Black women in America, and an introduction of the foundations for the Set it Off Movement which will be formally launched in the fall of 2022.   
The symposium is open to the Harvard Community as a live event and available to others via live stream. All are strongly encouraged to view the film Set it Off before the symposium. The schedule for the evening and those participating are listed below.  
Symposium Details  
  • 5:00pm- Opening ritual honoring our foremothers with Melissa Barthlomew, PhD, JD, MDiv. Associate Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, Belonging, Harvard Divinity School   
  • 5:15pm - Welcome   
  • 5:25pm - Video 
  • 5:30pm - Panel Discussion, "The Dehumanization, Destruction, and Death-Dealing of Poor Black Women in America." The panel will discuss the film Set It Off and how twenty-five years later the movie is still relevant. This film provides a forum to discuss the plight, insight, and fight of poor Black women. The panelists will conceptualize the ways the Set It Off film can be viewed from a womanist ethics/ Black feminist perspective. The panel highlights the urgent need for a movement that addresses the dehumanization, destruction, and death-dealing of poor Black women in America. Panelists:   
    • Moderator: Rev. Erica N. Williams 
    • Liz Miranda MA State Representative (D), Fifth Suffolk District (Dorchester and Roxbury) 
    • Anna Giffty Opoku-Agyeman Author, The Black Agenda: Bold Solutions for a Broken System, Student, Harvard Kennedy School  
    • Minister Savina Martin Tri-Chair Massachusetts Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, Kairos Center Educational and Leadership Development Team, National Union of the Homeless, National Welfare Rights Union 
  • 6:30pm - Song  
  • 6:35pm - (Proclamation) Set It Off Manifesto - It's Time to Set It Off – Rev. Erica N. Williams   
  • 6:45pm - Call to Action   
  • 6:50pm - Closing ritual - Dean Melissa Barthlomew   
  • 7:00pm program ends  
This event is being co-sponsored by the Womanist Club at Harvard Divinity School and Religion and Public Life 
The Harvard Womanist Club (HWC) is an organization for intersectional readers and students who want to infuse social transformation and social justice initiative into their studies or bookshelves. HWC intentionally has the mission of gathering like-minded Black womxn to discuss books, ideas, discover new books, read book reviews, and find essays on gender equity, liberation theology, womanism, Black feminism, feminism, and Africana womanism, and more. The club also explores the past and current political climate while also imagining the future.  

Meagan Clark 

Meagan Clark, MRPL Candidate

Evangelicals Facing East: An American Orthodoxy 

Monday, May 2, 5:30-6:30pm 
Meagan Clark, religion journalist and Managing Editor of, focused her Masters of Religion and Public Life project on researching the phenomenon of American conversions to the often little known or exoticized Eastern Orthodox faith, especially former evangelicals. In an environment of overall decline of organized religion in the U.S., how are so many American Orthodox Christian communities – from Alaska to the Bible Belt – growing and attracting seekers, often without intentional outreach? And how are these new converts from evangelicalism influencing and reshaping Orthodoxy in America? In this webinar, she will present her reporting thus far and engage in conversation with some of the converts and parish leaders she interviewed. The audience will have a chance to ask questions at the end. 


John Camardella 

John Camardella, MRPL Candidate

Reimagining Religion in the Public School Classroom 

Monday, May 2, 7-8pm 
John Camardella is a secondary school educator who has pioneered a cultural studies approach to teaching about religion in his own school and district. For his Master of Religion and Public Life final project, John authored a collection of resources for public school administrators and educators to promote this teaching method as a critical component of advancing culturally responsive practices in the classroom. This webinar will feature a brief history of John's work in the field, a detailed description of his four learning modules, and a call to action for all stakeholders. Dr. Diane Moore of Harvard Divinity School and Benjamin Marcus of Yale Law School will offer introductory comments, with concluding remarks from Dr. David Schuler, Superintendent of District 214. The event will conclude with a short Q&A session. 


Ellie Duke

Ellie Duke, MRPL Candidate

Extraordinary Life 

Wednesday, May 4, 5-7pm (brief presentation at 6pm) 
In-person, private location, please contact Ellie to receive location details (eduke (@) 
Artist and writer Ellie Duke presents a blended memoir-essay accompanied by a body of artwork comprised of video, illustration, and sculpture exploring the intersections of embodied, creative, and spiritual practice; the balance of contemplation and action; and the challenge of radical presence. The collection of stories, reflections, and explorations presents a life in progress, driven by the question: can I become a nun, while staying a None? 
An open palm holds a stone with the text "Open Studio"

Susan Weaver

Susan Weaver, MRPL Candidate

Access to Gender-Affirming Care: Challenges of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act 

Monday, May 9, 4-5pm 
Lawyer Susan Weaver focused her MRPL project on reviewing recent cases in which religiously-affiliated organizations sued to prevent the federal government from requiring them to provide health care services or coverage for gender-affirming health care for transgender people under the Affordable Care Act. These groups argue that doing so burdens their religious beliefs in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In this webinar, she will present her review, reflect upon the implications of these cases, and highlight the underrepresented work of religious groups who support transgender people and their right to gender- affirming health care. 


Sarah Pearson 

Sarah Pearson, MRPL Candidate

Manufacturing the Clerical Predator: How the Catholic Hierarchy Creates and Maintains a Culture of Abuse 

Tuesday, May 10, 4-6pm 
Film Screening and Discussion
The Catholic Church has overseen the world's longest lasting and most widespread campaign of institutional sexual abuse. Why is it that after sixteen centuries of documented evidence and decades of continuous international public exposure, new revelations of the scope and magnitude of the abuse crisis continue to shock the public? In this webinar, organizer and film director Sarah Pearson will present her documentary film featuring former and current priests who reveal how clerical pedophilia is not a phenomenon that occurs as the result of an external perversion of the Catholic hierarchy, but rather, a distinct form of sexual violence that is produced, manufactured, and reproduced within the clerical system. 
Manufacturing the Clerical Predator flyer with speaker info, Tues, May 11th 4-6pm
Manufacturing the Clerical Predator Documentary Film Trailer
Panelists include: 
  • Anne Barrett Doyle, Co-Director, Bishop Accountability 
  • Shaun Dougherty, President, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests 
  • Denise Buchanan, Founding Board Member, Ending Clergy Abuse 
  • Peter Isely, Program Director, Nate’s Mission 

Alejandra Villegas 

Alejandra Amalia Villegas, MRPL Candidate

Conjuring Heaven in Hellish Places  

Wednesday, May 11, 4-5pm 
Alejandra Villegas is a practitioner of ceremonial magick who focused her work in the MRPL on exploring the history of ceremonial magick and its influences and emergence in different historical contexts. Her presentation will include a reflection on her final project which is the creation of a grimoire, a collection of historical magickal techniques to support incarcerated individuals. In this webinar, she will discuss her research process and findings, highlight some practices, and explain the significance of prison chaplaincy designed from the tradition of ceremonial magick. 

  Phillip Picardi 

Phillip Picardi, MRPL Cadidate

Is Jesus Kinda Hot?  

Wednesday, May 11, 7-8:30pm
Journalist Phillip Picardi focused his MRPL project on conceiving and writing his forthcoming memoir, loosely titled, "Is Jesus Kinda Hot?" From May 1st Through May 11th, he’ll publish a series of posts on his newsletter Religiously Blonde, that will explore some of the most important or revelatory lessons from his time at Harvard. The presentation will also unfold on Religiously Blonde's Instagram account and culminate in an Instagram Live event with the New York Times bestselling author and poet Cleo Wade to celebrate the end of the program. 


Eric Alan Isaacson 

Eric Alan Isaacson, MRPL Candidate

Masterpiece Cakeshop and "Hostility" to Religious Belief  

Thursday, May 12, 4-5pm 
Lawyer Eric Alan Isaacson’s MRPL project focused on the Supreme Court’spurportedly “narrow” Masterpiece Cakeshop decision reversing a Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruling that a specialty baker violated Colorado’s civil-rights law by refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. In this webinar, he will argue the decision is significant both (1) because it condemns honest discussions of history by characterizing observations that religion has been employed to justify things like slavery and the Holocaust as impermissible “hostility” to religion; and (2) because it undermines the Court’s own precedents which have displayed even greater hostility to religious belief by condemning Mormon beliefs and practices of the time as “odious,” “barbarous,” “nefarious,” “abhorrent,” and “repugnant.” He also will ponder the implications that more nuanced understandings of religion in public life might hold for litigation under the First Amendment’s religion clauses.