Churches Addressing Restorative Justice (RJM) Needs in Inspired Ways
Leaders across the conference are hosting and attending events ranging from an RJM Summit, an RJM Special Sunday, A Day of Remembrance and a Coat Drive for inmates transitioning back into society.
“John Wesley’s legacy of involvement and ministry within prisons is in our Methodist DNA,” shares Erik Gragert of First UMC, Sugarland. “These folks are among some of the most marginalized in our society, yet still greatly valued by God who wants to bring them to redemption and reconciliation.”
To help unite the churches in the Southwest District into connectional prison ministry, the Missional Excellence Committee leaders hosted a Southwest District Restorative Justice Summit this fall. “Our goal was to foster a grassroots campaign that would tie independent initiatives together where our district could unite around a cause for greater impact,” adds Erik. Event planners hoped all 54 churches in the district would be represented at the summit and adopt some form of ministry to inmates, victims, families or juveniles under the big umbrella of Restorative Justice Ministry. “We want to share people resources, connections and ideas to be stronger by working together, so this Summit was created to get decision makers – both lay and clergy – to attend, learn and get energized through nuts-and-bolts workshops and sessions that would bring many to tears.”
The first-ever Summit drew over 70 registrants with representation from over half of the district and featured TAC Missional Excellence Director Rev. Diane McGehee among the speaker lineup along with those sharing powerful testimonies of changed hearts and the Winds of Change inmate choir. “The response after the Summit has been strong, with churches wanting to lead members on tours of the prison, and book the choir for their own Restorative Justice Sunday emphasis,” adds Erik. “Our District Superintendent Jay Jackson wants our congregations to continue to partner more by putting 5-6 churches together on a project and by supporting initiatives such as an accredited seminary in prison that will truly help change the prison culture.” For information on prison ministry resources, call Erik at 281-634-8903.
ChristWay UMC Hosting Restorative Justice Sunday
Chuck Talbot, Chairperson of the Restorative Justice Ministry-South District of the Texas Annual Conference invites all to attend on Sunday, October 26, 2014 at 10 am for a special “Look Up. There is Hope” service. Notes Chuck, “Although Epiphany and Kairos prison ministries introduce inmates to Jesus Christ, these programs do not focus on areas like support to families of the incarcerated and aftercare for those formerly incarcerated. It is our hope that this special service will provide families affected by incarceration with information, awareness, and exposure to resources, including and most importantly, spiritual guidance and prayer. Families are often ashamed and feel that there is nowhere to turn for direction. At ChristWay, we value compassion for the lost and those in need. Giving them hope through Jesus Christ can be the difference between that feeling of hopelessness and hope.”
Through decades of ministry experience, he has learned that every day hundreds of families are leaping to their mental, emotional, and spiritual death because of a loved one. They are in a free-fall of unmet expectations in marriages, finances, and employment because of the decisions made by someone else; choices in which the family, the children, had no part but are paying the price.
Adds Chuck, “We want to inspire help and hope for these at-risk families and children, by helping them through a weekly support group to prepare for the day when their loved one comes home from prison. It is a ministry equipping local churches in the rescue of these wounded and unreached families. The end result being that they are better prepared to participate in the recovery and restoration process.”
The Restorative Justice Worship service is a model for other churches who desire to do something similar. It will include messages from key members of the Texas Annual Conference as well as Monty Hudspeth, Warden of the Carole Vance Unit in Richmond, Texas. The Winds of Change Choir will sing and several members will give their testimonies. Service will be followed by a church-wide homemade lunch. ChristWay will also provide tables for organizations that minister to inmates as well as materials from the TDCJ. ChristWay Community Church is a multicultural church that meets at Friendswood UMC-Wesley Hall located at 204 W. Edgewood Drive (FM 2351), Friendswood, Texas 77546. Chuck can be reached via:email@example.com
Upcoming RJM Opportunities around Huntsville
- Wesley Memorial UMC, Huntsville will be hosting the 2nd Annual Day of Remembrance at the Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery where some 3,000 TDCJ inmates are buried whose remains were not claimed by next of kin. On November 1, a 9 am Interfaith Prayer Service will be hosted with light refreshments to follow and a 10 a.m. laying of flowers. Find event details here: http://www.texasinterfaithcenter.org/In-Remembrance
- Additionally, First UMC, Huntsville is collecting “Freedom Jackets” which will be given to returning citizens -- men and women who are released from TDCJ during the winter months. Rev. Mark Pickett, chair of the TAC-RJM team, encourages every UMC church in the conference to participate in collecting coats, sweaters, sweat-shirts or other heavy shirts. When the collection box is full, request a pickup by contacting Rev. Mark Pickett, FUMC, Huntsville- 936-295-5441 or firstname.lastname@example.org