DAY 34: The Role of the Church in Prison and Reentry Ministry

We continue our reflection on God’s call to us through the ELCA’s “60-Day Journey Toward Justice in a Culture of Gun Violence.”

DAY 34: The Role of the Church in Prison and Reentry Ministry

“One of the scariest things for people coming out of prison, particularly if they are a sex offender or have been convicted of a homicide, is the feeling of wearing a scarlet letter and being judged by everyone,” said Renae Griggs, a former police officer and homicide detective who now serves as executive director of Prison Congregations of America.

“Even if they have been in a church inside [prison], have found Christ and their faith is on fire, when they get out, they are absolutely terrified to walk into a church. To them, sadly, this is not the group of people that’s most readily going to receive them; it’s the group that is potentially going to judge and condemn them. We have to change that! It should be the opposite.

“We need an inside/outside approach where we build communities of faith both inside prisons and outside of prisons so that there is a continuum of pastoral care, so these folks know that there’s a welcoming for men and women when they come out of prison. … [They need to know] that it’s safe to walk through the doors of a congregation.

“One of my best friends in the world did 24 years on a homicide. She used to say, ‘Jesus either took it all on the cross, or he didn’t, including my murder.’ We, as the church, need to take that approach and say we are all the same, God sees us all the same. There’s no gradation; we’re all at the foot of the cross, wrapped in God’s grace and mercy—no matter what.”