On Saturday, December 8, 55 brothers and sisters in the Baltimore-Washington Conference gathered to launch an initiative similar to West Ohio’s All In Community. The diverse and passionate gathering was a result of seven months of intense planning by Deaconess Pat Marks and Kairos volunteer Milt Tipperman.
Early in her call to launch a connectional criminal justice ministry in the Baltimore-Washington Conference, Pat sought to learn what other UM conferences were doing: “When I first started investigating what was going on in The United Methodist Church around criminal justice ministry, West Ohio seemed to be well ahead of everyone else with the All In Community initiative.”
In May when Pat came to Columbus for the United Methodist Women's Assembly, she met with All In Community Consultant Reba Collins. “Pat wanted to pick my brain about how to begin building a similar connectional framework within the Baltimore-Washington Conference,” Reba recalls. Another opportunity to connect with All In Community came in October. Pat spent some time with West Ohio’s 11-member team while attending the National Prison Summit in Nashville.
As the launch date neared, Pat, Milt, Reba, and Emily Jones (UMW Executive Director for Racial Justice) collaborated via video conferencing and email to craft the launch and action steps following the event. Finally, through much prayer and a grant provided by the UMW through the Office of Deaconesses and Home Missioners, Reba and Emily were able to be on-site to facilitate and assist in the ministry’s launch.
Working in small groups with facilitators, the Baltimore-Washington group identified four big rocks to organize efforts around:
1. Improve community awareness about the incarceration crisis and approaches to incarceration.
2. Develop specific services for women who are incarcerated in local jails.
3. Engage communities of faith in providing transitional support and help with returning citizens.
4. Develop collaborative efforts with students, families, and schools to address the school-to-prison pipeline.
Then, a volunteer steering team, comprised of 11 volunteers, were prayed over and commissioned to steward the group’s work going forward.
“It is exciting to see our efforts here in West Ohio inspire and, in some ways, equip other UM leaders. All In Community looks forward to continuing to support remotely the efforts generating in the Baltimore-Washington Conference. In 2019, we are going to be increasing our online resources and training options to make it easier for our Baltimore-Washington brothers and sisters to participate,” says Reba. “For me, this is evidence of the way God works in this world - connecting us through mission and ministry to be with the least and lost.”