Some people are called to the families of victims….
… Some people are called to the victims.
… Some people are called to the incarcerated.
… Every church is called to be a healing presence.
Healing Communities is a framework for ministry to men and women returning from or at risk of incarceration, victims of incarceration, the families of both, and the larger community. Healing Communities challenges congregations - through mobilization of its existing resources - to become “Stations of Hope” for persons affected by the criminal justice system. Resources that are helpful in ministries among those impacted include the formal and informal networks of congregational life and the Christian themes of forgiving, healing, redemption, reconciliation, and justice.
Healing Communities Training helps churches identify ways they can act as healing agents for their congregants and community. Each action is built on existing strengths - all located within the existing mission and ministry structure of their local church.
Becoming a Station of Hope includes:
- Stigma Reduction and a Welcoming, Supportive Atmosphere: Healing Communities brings the issue of incarceration and recovery to new visibility in congregations. The aim is to heighten awareness surrounding reentry, help families reduce the sense of stigma and shame over having incarcerated loved ones, and create a welcoming environment for returning neighbors.
- Formal & Informal Support: Congregations can be a source of strength for the family of the incarcerated and/or at risk persons through communal pastoral care, compassion, and support. This might look like pastoral counseling inside and providing a support group to walk with the family through the incarceration of their loved one on the outside. Some members may volunteer for, or even develop, life-skill development programs in jails and prisons. Others may write letters or visit a brother or sister during their incarceration. And still others may serve as mentors prior to and upon release.
- Resources & Connections: The congregation will organically prepare for the returning neighbors' return to the community and congregation. Congregations will be introduced to and connected with resources available in the community for persons and families impacted by incarceration as they “do life” with them.
- Education & Advocacy: Healing communities experience first-hand the injustices of the criminal justice system and they yearn for a different outcome. Based on the incarnational relationships congregations have with those directly impacted by the criminal justice system, these congregations are the primary voices needed to be heard on public-policy criminal justice reform efforts at the local, state, and federal levels. Within congregations are landlords, bankers, employers, healthcare professionals, and others who can help break down the many barriers men and women face upon their return to the community.
WOC’s Stations of Hope will form an effective, powerful movement to change the hurtful effects of the criminal justice system at all levels of infliction. They will become a powerful expression of Jesus’s healing ministry for congregants, incarcerated brothers and sisters, victims of crime, and their community.
If you are interested in your congregation becoming a WOC Healing Community, contact Reba Collins at allincommunity [at] wocumc.org.