UM Churches invited to live out Wesleyan Heritage in ministry to newly released prison inmates

2/24/2009

Asbury United Methodist Church in Madison (Northeast District) has been invited by the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) to assist in finding faith-based community support for newly released prison inmates.  

The ADOC believes that faith-based community support is an excellent way to introduce former inmates to wholesome and meaningful relationships within the community.  The component of this program focused on the need for inmate transition support from local churches is called the Communities of Faith Network.  These new relationships may also provide the opportunity for gainful employment and productive community involvement. 

Bishop Will Willimon says, “Asbury is one of our most mission-minded congregations. In this ministry to released prisoners this congregation is enacting our Wesleyan concern for ‘the least of these.’ I am proud of the work Asbury is doing and ask other congregations to consider joining this ministry opportunity.” 

Christian faith-based organizations of all denominations throughout Alabama are being called upon to become members of the Communities of Faith Network and to open their hearts to these former inmates as the Lord Jesus taught His followers:  "When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'" The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of least of these brothers of mine you did for me"  Matthew 25:39-40                                                     

Right now there are 200+ inmates in the Prison Pre-release Program at the Limestone Prison and more due in any day.  Most of these men have asked to be matched with a church that will help mentor them through their transition process.

The Communities of Faith Network Team at Asbury UMC in Madison, Alabama is asking churches from across the state to prayerfully consider becoming mentors for former inmates who are returning to your community. 

All returning inmates will have successfully completed a 120-day Pre-release Program which provides a broad range of courses (i.e., vocational training and life skills), worship opportunities and family reunification training/experiences.

As a mentor church you can help in many ways, but specifically we request the following:

  • Provide unconditional love and support to the returning inmate through prayer and fellowship without expectation of church membership or attendance.
     
  • Identify the person who will be the Community of Faith Network focal point for your church.
     
  • Develop a list of resources in your community such as food pantry, medical assistance, transportation, clothing, education, etc – anything a newly released man might need to establish himself in the community.  Financial support may also be crucial.
     
  • Create your profile on the Alabama state sponsored network at www.alabamacprnetwork.com .  This is a networking site for coordinating the communities and agencies which are participating in the inmate transition program.


Asbury Associate Pastor John Ryberg also suggests a resource about prison ministry. He recommends a book some of the team at Asbury are reading entitled I Was In Prison: United Methodist Perspectives on Prison Ministry edited by Shopshire Sr., Hicks, and Stoglin.  A product of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry for the United Methodist Church, this book addresses the United Methodist Church’s role in criminal justice, prison ministry, and the difficult reentry hardships faced by ex-offenders trying to re-integrated into society.  Chapter 8 discusses the issues of “restoration of prisoners to persons, primary groups, and communities outside the walls that await and sometimes fear their return”  

To learn more about becoming a mentor church, please contact:  Asbury United Methodist Church  Phone:  256 837-9696 ext.315 or via email at prerelease@asburyumc.ws .


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