Care to Change the World? The Restorative Justice Ministry Team at Unity Church Unitarian
Post by Steve Nelson, Amicus Communications Director
“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” – Margaret Mead (1902-1978)
I’ve seen this quote from anthropologist Margaret Mead so many times I can no longer even begin to count, but that’s because it resonates with people. There’s a truth to it that gives us hope that our contributions might just be enough to make things a little better.
For several years now I’ve been a part of a group of a few caring people, and as we get ready to take a summer break, I just want to tip my electronic hat to them and make the simple suggestion that those in the community who are thinking about restorative justice take a page from their playbook and do restorative justice.
The Restorative Justice Ministry Team at Unity Church Unitarian has been around since 2003 when Amicus President and Unity member Louise Wolfgramm gave a sermon talking about the needs of men and women who were coming out of prison. Shortly afterward, a group of people in the church got together and started talking about the issue and how they might help.
Nine years later the group consists of a core of about nine or 10 people who meet monthly and work on projects which directly support restorative justice.
These include running a winter clothing and hygiene item donation program that netted nearly 2,000 items this past year. These items were given to people seeking help shortly after leaving incarceration.
While others took the podium at the state capitol for Second Chance Day on the Hill talking about the cause of restorative justice and second chances for people with criminal records, this group was at the registration table welcoming people in, making sure they had a t-shirt and that they knew how to connect with their legislator.
One team member rings the church bell and spreads the word that another state-sanctioned execution has taken place in this country.
Another has facilitated a circle at the women’s correctional facility in Shakopee and is starting a program which offers the circle process to help families and others come together on painful issues.
Another coordinates a monthly meal for members of the St. Paul Circle of Peace, providing sustenance while youth involved in the criminal justice system reconnect with their community and talk about alternatives to death and violence in their neighborhoods.
Responding to studies proving that inmates with healthy connections to the world outside of prison and regular visits are more likely to be successful in the community after release, the Restorative Justice Team has recruited many church members for Amicus’ One to One prison inmate visiting program and established a “Pen Friends” letter writing campaign. Many of them have volunteered themselves, sometimes repeatedly.
By and large, the Restorative Justice team consists of people without any specific expertise in the criminal justice field. They’re good people, but they’re no different from anyone reading this blog.
Bit by bit though, they’re bringing Margaret Mead’s quote to life and changing their corner of the world. So who might you work with to take care of your corner?