What if churches treated prisoners with the same care and support that they treat those in their congregation who are sick? What if churches invested in the redemption of incarcerated persons with the same regularity and resources as they do the healing and restoration of those who are sick?
Both persons receive mention by Jesus in Matthew 25. Yet while entire congregations mobilize around the sick, ministry with and among incarcerated persons remains the domain of a select few volunteers. What if we could mobilize entire congregations around incarcerated persons and the families left behind?
Healing Communities USA trains and supports congregations around the country in this important work. The staggering numbers of persons in the criminal justice system makes it virtually impossible that an individual church does not have a family impacted by crime and incarceration. By creating a congregational culture of healing and restoration, a church can reduce the stigma around incarceration and help families come to grips with the ways in which they are directly impacted, and turn to the church for help.
One church in our network experienced this capacity for redemption in a powerful way. After hosting a Saturday training in the Healing Communities model, the next morning’s sermon dealt with the connection between the church and the incarcerated, acknowledging that:
- To stigmatize the incarcerated across the board would be to stigmatize biblical characters like Joseph, Jeremiah, Paul, and others who were imprisoned, and people like Moses, David, and Peter, whose acts of violence would have resulted in harsh sentences in today’s jurisprudence.
- Our belief that all people are created in the image of God brings hope for redemption and restoration.
- Jesus was arrested, tried, convicted, imprisoned, and died in custody.
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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Harold Dean Trulear