Redeeming Injustice and "Restorative Justice" in Prison Ministry
Reflections from a March 22, 2020, Online Worship Service at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville
One thing that I love about the Unitarian Universalist faith and its churches is their willingness to speak on hard topics and their ability to do so with love in mind. While in doing so, ensuring that each person's worth and human dignity remains intact no matter the topic in question. On Sunday, March 22, my church home, the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville, did just that; the worship service was on Redeeming Injustice and the idea of Restorative Justice in American Prisons. The worship service itself was broken into three distinct and memorable parts. First came a background /testimony on the church's involvement in prison ministry dating back 14 years, then two homilies where given. The first from the senior minister of the church and one from a retired prison minster, that due to COVID-19, was delivered by the assistant minister of the church by reading the typed words of the now-retired prison minster who was not able to be physically present on Sunday morning.
During the service, all who spoke did such grace and dignity, and it brought shivers down
my spine. I can only imagine how others reacted to what was said at the moment as again due to COVID-19, the church as moved entirely online, and the service was live-streamed to Facebook. I know that for the aspects and words that stood out the most were those of affirmation to the prisoners' humanity and their dignity though they live behind bars. One thing said, however, stuck with me the most was, and I quote, "People in prisons are humans who long for redemption, for salvation, and love." This quote stuck with me because it is right, while yes, they might be in prison, they are humans first, and humans seek all those things regardless of statues. The only difference for the prisoner is that so often, society turns a blind eye to the lives of prisoners' and dehumanize them in the possess. But by practicing redeeming, injustice was done, and restorative justice, we will be able to begin addressing the corruption of the prison system that we know and work to change the prison from within. This service gave me a lot to think about and challenged my understandings of prison structure and the intuitions themselves. I know that we have our work cut out for us to change the prison system, but after this service, I feel empowered to be a part of that change.