Justice, Mercy and Ministry

Found this while surfing the web tonight, I had actually almost forgotten about it!

General Board of Discipleship Publishes Prison Ministry Tool Box

GBOD’s Discipleship Resources imprint has published a new prison ministry tool box to help congregations address the alarming increase in the U. S. prison population.

The “Congregational Tool Box for Prison Ministry” was created in response to a 2004 General Conference action related to providing restorative justice materials for United Methodist churches.

“The tool box encourages people to look at the whole criminal justice system, while providing practical, hands-on suggestions for ministry in the reality of our current prison system,” says Betsey Heavner, the publication’s author and compiler.

The “Congregational Tool Box for Prison Ministry” ($8.00) is available for download at http://www.upperroom.org/bookstore/description.asp?item_id=456465.

“By engaging in and expanding our work in prison ministry, we are reclaiming that part of our Methodist heritage inspired by John Wesley’s passion for those in prison,” says GBOD top executive Karen Greenwaldt.

Churches that are serious about beginning restorative justice ministries or in re-tooling prison ministries will find helpful ways to care for those incarcerated and their families,
provide for children, visit in prisons and bring justice and reconciliation in their communities.

The publication, which updates the “Prison Ministry Guide” published in 1996, targets Christian communities and individuals who recognize God’s call to be involved in ministries of justice and mercy.

“The ‘1996 Prison Ministry Guide’ was out of date. Yet we were getting requests for the guide on a weekly basis,” says Heavner.

The “Congregational Toolbox for Prison Ministry” overviews criminal justice issues and presents some possible ways for churches to engage in prison ministry.

Justice Department statistics indicate that one in every 136 U. S. residents was behind bars in the summer of 2005.

Though more prisons are being built, they cannot keep up with the dramatic increase in the number of persons being incarcerated.

“Congregational Tool Box for Prison Ministry” content was compiled by Betsey Heavner and edited by George Donigian. Content reviewers and contributors included prison chaplains and restorative justice practitioners Pat Dunbar, Harmon Wray, Tom Porter, Cynthia Peters, Rich Stoglin, Mark Hicks, Ann Edgefield and Holly Hickson.

The 26-page resource includes the following chapters:

.Introduction to the Problem of a Growing Prison Population
.Raising Congregational Awareness for Ministering with Those in Prison
.Getting Started with Prison Ministry
.Seven Ways to Engage in Criminal Justice Work and Prison Ministry.

The General Board of Discipleship’s mission is to support annual conference and local church leaders for their task of equipping world-changing disciples. An agency of The United Methodist Church, The General Board of Discipleship (www.gbod.org) is located at 1908 Grand Ave. in Nashville, TN. For more information, call the Media Relations Office toll free at (877) 899-2780, Ext. 7017.

It seems strange to see an article such as this with my name mentioned and credit given to me for something that was just a part of what I do in life. I remember the effort but didn’t think anything of it because it seemed to be such a small thing. This effort was done on my part during the time of Matthew’s illness and then his death and just over ten years after Mark’s death. I was in the midst of grief and wasn’t even aware of what the results would be, but I remember thinking that maybe if I opened myself up just a little, God would be glorified in some small way. That God use the circumstances for His glory was the prayer on my heart in the moment I first heard the news of Mark’s murder.

Isn’t that the prayer that should always be on our hearts? That God be glorified in all that we say and do? And then sometimes, in spite of our own human frailty something bigger than we could have thought possible happens. Bad things happen to each of us in life. Cars break down, jobs are lost, loved ones die, and the everyday worries remain on our minds. But when we just do what it is we are designed to do without thought of ourselves, bigger things happen. Maybe that’s what God means for us to do when we are told to “pray continually” and “give thanks in all circumstances”.

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18


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