By Lauren Rutherford
In Missouri, less than 5 percent of Methodist congregations participate in restorative justice or prison ministry. That percentage is small, but the need isn’t: The ratio of Methodist churches in Missouri to prisons in the state is 41 churches to one prison.
The need is great, but the number hands and feet available to do the work of Christ is greater.
On April 26, Dan Steska, who works in the Conference Mission, Service and Justice office, hosted a meeting to discuss pursuing and promoting prison ministry at the Conference level. Wardens, longtime restorative justice workers, ministry workers and others had a seat at the table and a voice in the discussion.
The consensus was clear: The Missouri Conference should place a greater emphasis on restorative justice work. But what exactly does restorative justice mean?
Restorative justice is a reconciling and healing process that asks questions such as, “Who has been harmed?” “What is the harm?” “What needs to be done to repair the harm?” and “Who needs to repair the harm?”
The focus on harm and healing involves more than just the victim and perpetrator: The community plays an important role, too. God’s people are part of the community, and each of us as a believer in Christ has a unique call to serve those in need. That includes those in prison.
Going forward, the Conference hopes to promote this effort in three thematic areas: prevention, restoration and redemption. Promotion will take the form of dispelling myths about prison ministry, providing learning opportunities, offering ways to serve those in prison or just released, promoting educational events and more.
Are you interested in getting your church involved with restorative justice ministry? Plan to attend Dan’s workshop at Annual Conference in the afternoon on Sunday, June 5. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is also a special offering for Restorative Justice being taken at Annual Conference Session. If you would like to contribute to the cause of Restorative Justice, send a check to the Missouri Annual Conference at 3601 Amron Court, Columbia, MO, 65202 with Restorative Justice on the memo.