Thursday, March 22, 2007

Let Justice Roll Down...

Originally uploaded by paynehollow.
From a Courier Journal story covering the latest CLOUT meeting, which had around 800 citizens participating - a new record for CLOUT!

"We're here tonight for action, for commitments," Bishop Walter Jones, pastor of Baptized Pentecostal Church of Holiness, said during CLOUT's annual action assembly.

Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together met at Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church downtown to press state officials to commit to increasing funding and training battling in substance abuse for those in trouble with the law.

The group asked Chief Justice Joseph Lambert to promise to enhance Jefferson County drug court programs once the Administrative Office of the Courts takes over the program in July. The program provides intensive treatment while monitoring the progress of those facing criminal charges, rather than sending then to prison.
Lambert pledged that he would make sure the program retains its high quality and expands to include more people. The Jefferson County program has 86 participants, but he would like to see that number grow to more than 200.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Doin' Justice...

Tough Guys
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.
Congratulations to CLOUT (Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together) for the most excellent half page Op-Ed in today's paper! Excerpts below:

…CLOUT is engaged in a campaign to "Stop the Revolving Door" that leads to and from the system, and our research clearly reveals two key facts that help explain why the system operates as it does:
The vast majority of people coming into contact with the criminal justice system suffer from the disease of drug/alcohol addiction.
The system is not placing enough focus on this reality, by providing the kind of coordinated, comprehensive therapeutic approach needed to treat the problem, and to offer alternatives to repeated incarceration.
It is a widely accepted fact that around 80 percent of those coming before the courts have a drug/alcohol problem. Due to changes in various sentencing laws over the years, the number of people being incarcerated has grown dramatically, but the programs to treat this critical contributing factor have not grown with it.
These people will eventually return to the community, and, if they have not received the treatment that they need, they are all but doomed to reoffend and spin right back into the revolving door. In fact, the current recidivism rate in Kentucky is 57 percent -- that is, over half of the people who are released from prison are convicted of another felony within two years. Again, the vast majority of these offenses can be traced back to the offenders' problems with drugs/alcohol…
There are several points at which attention is required.
One is where offenders are entering the system. It is here that alternatives to incarceration, with a focus on treatment, are needed. One such successful approach is Drug Court. The recidivism rate for Drug Court graduates is only 14 percent. The cost of the program is only $3,000 per person per year, versus more than $17,000 for incarceration. Also, for every dollar spent on Drug Court, another $5.53 is returned to the community in a more productive, contributing citizen and in avoided costs to the system.
But here's the kicker: Though there are thousands of people in Louisville Metro who could benefit from this excellent program, only 120 slots are available.
It is time for Drug Court to be taken from the level of being a novelty program in the criminal justice system to being the core business of the courts. As someone recently said, if 80 percent of those coming before the courts have a drug/alcohol problem, then a similar percentage of the system should function as drug court. Simply put, Drug Court needs to be greatly expanded…
Those of us in the Judeo-Christian tradition find in Micah 6:8 the three-part mandate stating what is required of us as God's people. Rather than elaborate systems of sacrifice and ceremony, what God requires is three basic things: that we "do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God." For Christians, this is echoed by Jesus in Matthew 23:23 where he refers to the "weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy and faithfulness."
The faith community in Louisville, as in most communities, does well at walking with God in humility and faithfulness. We meet weekly by the tens of thousands to worship and to learn how to live more faithfully throughout the week as individuals and as congregations.
As for mercy, the faith community of Louisville has a well-deserved national reputation for its works of charity, as exemplified in our network of ecumenical community ministries, which has become a model for how religious congregations can provide more help together than we could ever do alone. But, while ministries that address the immediate needs of individuals are a part of the biblical mandate and must be done, they should not be confused with justice ministry. As Pope John XXIII said, "What is owed in justice should never be given in charity."
When it comes to that third part of the biblical mandate -- to "do justice" -- our record is less impressive. Justice ministry addresses the systems that cause or perpetuate the immediate needs of individuals. We believe that there is much more the religious community could, and should, be doing to meet this part of the biblical mandate.

Complete story found here.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Andy at the Bush Protest

Andy Bush Protest
Originally uploaded by paynehollow.
At Jeff Street right now, we're going through a Visioning Process, where we're prayerfully and creatively considering where we think we want to go as a church in the coming years.

Different folk have been asked to share their visions. Dan shared his last Sunday. It went something like this:

I’d hope that, in many ways, we’ll be doing the same things.

I’d hope that we still cling to evangelism that is the preaching of the good news to the poor, liberty for the captives, healing and comfort for the sick. The Day of Jubilee. I’d hope that we’d still have relevant programs like the Goatwalker, the Drop-In Center, Norma’s House, etc.

I’d hope that individually, we’d still be busy doing God’s work in schools, in shelters, in clinics and hospitals. In working for justice, for peace and for the environment. All the things that we’re doing currently.

I suppose my vision for us would be that we’d still be doing much of the same, and then some. But what does that look like?

I’d hope that we are located in a place that needs a Jeff St – a place where we can best work towards the notion of God’s Kingdom Come on Earth as it is in Heaven. If the Liberty Green Neighborhood is not in need of Jeff St, then I’d hope we’d be somewhere else.

I’d hope that Sunday mornings, there’d be fewer cars outside whatever doors we have. I’d hope that many of us will have spent Saturday, or maybe Friday together playing music, dancing, singing and telling stories together.

I’d hope that maybe the roof of Jeff St was grass- and flower-covered. That we’d have a rain barrel outside our walls (instead of buckets to catch water inside our walls).

What Jeff St might look like might largely depend upon what the world looks like. Will gas prices gone so high that people aren’t driving any more? Will our pollution have caused crises through resource contamination or global warming? What sort of mischief are those who believe in violence-as-solution up to?

Because of who I am, I think there are three main areas I'd like to see changes and growth.

First, I’d hope that one of our ministries would be in teaching people to live sustainably, because 25 years from now, it may be a necessity and not just a nicety. Regardless, I would like to see Jeff St being a local leader in teaching how we ought to live.

Secondly, I’d hope that Jeff St will also be one of many places that have begun to tear down the walls between Muslims and Christians. For two years now, our Reclaiming Christmas Project has been to send a gift to a poor Muslim community. What if each of the millions of wealthy churches (like us) out there did the same thing – what sort of impact would that have for world peace? I’d hope that Jeff St would be regularly working for peace by building bridges to increase understanding between Us and Them (whoever Us and Them may be).

But how can we possibly do all of this? Where would we find the time or energy?

My final hope is that Jeff St might be a model in simple living. That we might learn to get by on one income, or working out of our homes, or by working fewer hours. And by doing this, I’d hope that we could find the time and energy to take on other necessary work: The work of building of God’s Kingdom Come.