Learning and Leading in Restorative Justice

Date Posted: 8/14/2014

TAC leaders and congregations are finding new ways to help inmates while they are in prison – and in the transition following their release. The Center for Missional Excellence is looking for Houston churches to participate in Restorative Justice “Reentry” Training this fall and other congregations to raise awareness via RJM Sundays.
Betty Waedemon from Christ UMC, Sugar Land has witnessed God performing so many miracles in the lives of inmates, that she can’t help but talk about it and invite others into the Restorative Justice Ministry (RJM) that is a central part of her congregation’s outreach beyond the walls of the church. “Once you go on what we call a Freedom Walk through the halls of the Carol Vance Prison Unit near our church, you see that these guys are real people and very responsive to the gospel,” she says. In fact, Christ UMC Sugarland, with an active group of 50 volunteers, led a workshop this spring on how to host an RJM awareness Sunday. 
That is a good beginning step in this ministry. Next, she encourages churches and individuals to see the ministry rewards of working inside the prison walls via these videos. “Location often dictates ministry focus. For example, our church is located just minutes from a prison,” she adds, “so it makes sense for us to have a regular presence there and lead Bible studies in the prison.  However, St. John’s UMC Downtown Houston is located within walking distance of where inmates are often released from prison, so they are following God’s call to help many with the challenging re-entry process.”
A New Training Opportunity
Faith communities are often the first point of contact for individuals re-entering society from prison. For society to thrive, United Methodists believe that every member needs a chance including those who have been impacted by the criminal justice system. Since some 70,000 people released from Texas prisons each year face major barriers to successful re-entry, the TAC Restorative Justice Committee wants to lead the way in changing the state’s recidivism statistics.
Pastor of Restorative Justice, Dr. Jonathan Chism is helping to coordinate an upcoming training event being hosted at St. John's UMC Downtown. “We are inviting returning citizens and their families from our church and from other churches and religious communities throughout Houston to be involved in the training,” he says, “and I will be leading a workshop.”
Reinvested Communities is a leadership-training program bringing together formerly incarcerated individuals, people of faith, and families with an incarcerated loved one to join together in paving the way for inmates’ successful re-entry. This eight-week program in Houston will offer practical skills training and information via group discussion, interactive exercises, and inspiring speakers helping prepare participants to be leaders for change.
Why Reinvested Communities?
According to TAC Restorative Justice Committee Chair Rev. Mark Pickett, communities face a major challenge in meeting the needs of those coming home from prison or jail. “Together we can break down barriers to re-entry,” urges Mark. To help find solutions, people of all faiths, formerly incarcerated individuals and families of currently or formerly incarcerated individuals are encouraged to apply for the training that will be held from 6:30-9 pm on Thursdays beginning September 4 at St. John’s UMC Downtown in Houston. Doors will open at 5:45pm for pizza and conversation. A graduation celebration will follow the series of trainings.
Register now with Caitlin@texasinterfaith.org or 512-472-3903.

Southwest District Hosting RJM Summit September 27
Don’t miss this chance to learn about how your church can get involved in Restorative Justice Ministry. This special educational summit is featuring Warden Monty Hudspeth, the Winds of Change Inmates Choir, testimonies from current and ex-offenders, a tour of Carol Vance Prison, and more resources helpful to responding to these individuals in the name of Christ.  The Southwest District Restorative Justice Summit will be Saturday, September 27, 2014. This FREE event will be from 9 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. at First UMC, Sugar Land.  Lunch will be provided on the bus ride to Carol Vance Prison, where participants will have the opportunity to tour the facility. “The tour is an incredible experience,” Betty adds, “participants will experience God’s power at work behind the bars.”
Read Informational Letter
Download Flier
Registration at: https://southwestdistrictrestorativejustice.eventbrite.com