Will your community join us on Second Chances Sabbath? Will you join us in centering the stories of those on the margins, behind the prison walls? Will you hear the cries for justice?

Faith life is all about transformation, and people who've been to prison know a lot about it.  On Second Chances Sabbath, we center the stories and needs of people who are returning to our communities from prison, and starting a new stage of their journey. How can your congregation help people get the Second Chances they deserve? How can you start educating your community about the Second Chances we all need?

Second Chances Sabbath is a time for faith communities to lift up ways the justice system impacts us all. It is a day of worship dedicated to hearing the stories of those impacted directly by the justice system, and consider our shared responsibility to help healing take place. It is a day to make connections between our faith traditions and the current legal system.

When is Second Chances Sabbath? April is "Second Chances" month nationwide. If you can’t join that month, host a Second Chances Sabbath any day!

Download the Second Chances Sabbath Guide 2020 for worship, preaching, adult education and action ideas. Faith ​leaders, spiritual directors, outreach or mission committees,​ teachers,​ education groups and​ individuals​:​ please read and use this guide in your community. You are also welcome to use this special Second Chances Sabbath bulletin insert to help educate your congregation.

More resources to learn, pray, and act:

> Our Criminal Justice Sabbath Worship Guide 2019 has several prayers for your use.

> Download the 2018 Criminal Justice Sabbath Guide for reflections and also an extensive list of educational resources (last half of the guide) for adult education classes and personal study.

> Our Education page has dozens of books, articles, movies, podcasts, and more resources for adult and youth education activities to learn about the US justice system.

> There is Good News Even in a Broken System - a sermon reflection resource.
2017 Sabbath Resource Guide​ - two sermons, adult education guide, and reflections included.
2016 Sabbath Resource Guide​ - three sermons included.

During Second Chances Sabbath, EMO invites Oregonians to listen to stories at the heart of our justice system from people who:

  • Have survived crime and violence.
  • Are or have been in prison.
  • Work or volunteer in prisons, courts, law enforcement, jails and supervision.
  • Work in domestic violence shelters and foster care.
  • Have experienced our inhospitable immigration system.
  • And those who have known what it is to be a child impacted by crime, violence, and mass incarceration.

There's no one way to hold a Second Chances or Criminal Justice Sabbath, and what this event looks like will depend on your faith tradition and the stories of people in your community. You can include a special prayer in your worship service, screen an educational film (such as the documentary 13th), use your sermon or message to speak about violence or mass incarceration, host a table to sign letters to agency officials, hold a drive for toys or other items needed by people in prisons and their families, offer a blessing to members of your congregation who volunteer or work in correctional facilities, host a restorative justice training with your youth group, or receive a special offering for victim service agencies or for groups (like ours!) working for justice.

St John Criminal Justice Sunday
St John the Baptist Episcopal parish in Portland held a Criminal Justice Sunday on September 2, 2018.

Faith communities across Oregon are raising awareness about criminal justice issues as a matter of faith:

  • First Presbyterian Church of Newberg hosted our annual summit, Hearing the Cries: Healing Injustice, in March 2020.
  • First Presbyterian Church of Portland hosted an adult education event with EMO staff speaking after worship on their Criminal Justice Sabbath in January 2020.
  • First United Methodist Church of Eugene hosted the 2019 summit of Hearing the Cries for Justice in March 2019.
  • First Unitarian Universalist Church in Portland hosted a film screening of Rikers: An American Jail, in partnership with EMO and its Ending the New Jim Crow social action group, in September 2018.
  • The Presbytery of the Cascades held a workshop about criminal justice reform, with EMO speakers, at its Spring Meeting in March 2018.
  • The Episcopal Church of the Good Samaritan in Corvallis hosted a Criminal Justice Sabbath in July.
  • St John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Portland hosted a Criminal Justice Sabbath in September, with a blessing for prison ministry volunteers.
  • St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Ontario hosts an annual Criminal Justice Sabbath, and continues its connection with its parochial parish, Grace Chapel, inside the Snake River Correctional Facility.

In 2020, Second Chances are nationwide! After five years of offering resources for Criminal Justice Sabbath, this year we shifted our focus to Second Chances Sabbath, to emphasize the need for congregations to engage in re-entry ministries. This also allows us to show solidarity with groups from diverse political, faith, and professional backgrounds, who are together recognizing Second Chances in April. We were honored to work with a group in Illinois, the We Raise Foundation, to share some of our worship resources for their own guide. Check out their resource guide here! We're all working together to share compassion.

If you've already started planning your congregation's Second Chances Sabbath, great! If you haven't started planning your Sabbath, feel free to get in touch with us as soon as you're ready. Contact us at cosa@emoregon.org, and we will talk through options with you to make the most of your day.

Prayers for Criminal Justice Sabbath

Whether on your own or with your faith group, use this day to pray for those impacted by the criminal justice system. These Prayers for Criminal Justice Sabbath   are available for you to use in your worship service; please attribute the source as EMO's Criminal Justice Ministries, Rev. Audrey Zunkel-deCoursey, 2018.

 A Prayer at the Prison Fence

God of Justice and Mercy;
Inside this prison are some of your children.
Some live here. Some work here.
Some are here to visit. Some are here to volunteer.
Some are saved here. Some die here.

We lift up every soul who passes through this space.
May we who leave through these gates
Remember those members of our community who cannot leave,
and act on our responsibilities to them.
May we who live here remember
that we have people who love us.
May we all remember
that walls do not divide community.
Relationship can transcend all distances.
Spirits can commune in love across fences.

Love connects us and holds us accountable
to be the best human beings we can be,
wherever we may be, inside or outside,

Love connects us and calls us to work for justice,
an end to violence, transforming systems of oppression,
whoever we may be, starting with ourselves and our daily walk.

Love connects us and fills us with innate value
that no one can take away, because the Source of that love
is the Creator, and we are God’s beloved children.

In the world you made,
every space is blessed, every breath is sacred.
Even when we humans draw lines and build walls,
trying to make some spaces profane or beyond society’s concern,
even here, Your Loving Spirit flows through and connects us.

We are sisters and brothers.
We are one human family.
We all have a role to play to make the world more peaceful,
more just, more compassionate,
more humane, more divine.
Empowered by the Holy Spirit of life and love,
let us start today.

A Prayer of Confession for Restored Justice

Holy One;
You gave us the law of love -
a new law to make the whole world renewed.

We are called to imitate you in mercy, not judgment.
We are called to live as examples, not enforcers.
We are called to trust there is enough, and to share.

Restoring justice takes hard work
from the whole community.
And so often, we fail
to live up to the dreams you have for us.
We confess that too often we resort to judgment,
instead of looking at our own errors.
We confess that too often we content ourselves
with our privilege,
instead of seeking out acts of solidarity.
We confess that too often we scapegoat others,
instead of looking at the complexity,
and our own complicity
in systems of oppression and violence.
We confess that too often we justify our own actions,
by putting others down.

We know that you have seen our errors
and have equipped us to make amends.
Help us face ourselves and our human frailty
with humility and not fear.
Help us become healers, though wounded,
and restorers of justice where it has been breached.

A Prayer with our Sisters and Brothers

Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer;
We are one human family, though separated at times.
The men and women inside prisons and jails and detention centers
are our brothers and sisters.
We are connected in ways both seen and unseen,
ways that are life-giving and ways that threaten us all.
No one is free when any one of us is oppressed,
or caged, or violated, or forgotten.
Today, we remember these connections
and our mutual responsibilities to one another.

On this Criminal Justice Sabbath,
we remember every person whose life has been touched
by crime, violence, and mass incarceration.
We affirm that they are beloved members of our community.

We lift up people who have survived crime
or lost their lives to it,
that they might know their stories are heard and matter.

We lift up people living in prisons and jails,
that they might know they are still part of our community
and that they are never walled off from you.

We lift up people re-entering society after prison,
that they might find a welcome amidst disorientation and courage to start on a new path.

We lift up people with records,
long after their sentences are served,
that they might overcome barriers and biases
to find restored places in community.

We lift up people who work and volunteer in prisons and jails,
that they might remember the wider community they represent
and its pro-social values of compassion and collaboration.

We lift up people working with survivors of crime,
that they might find balm to heal broken hearts.

We lift up foster families and case managers and social workers,
that they might provide a safety net where families cannot.

We lift up people working in the court systems and law enforcement,
that they might be renewed and recommitted to their work as public service
and its opportunities to offer healing in places of hurt.

We lift up activists, advocates, and elected leaders
working to transform broken systems
and make real our dreams of a better future.

We lift up people migrating across borders,
leaving traumas and hardship in their homelands
only to find themselves thrust into an inhospitable legal system.

We lift up medical staff, recovery supports, and mental healthcare providers,
healing the harms of trauma in mind, body, and soul.

We lift up restorative justice practitioners,
guiding conflicts to deeper healing in collaborative resolution.

We lift up communities
weakened by the absence of too many moms and dads.

We lift up every child whose parent is incarcerated,
that they might know they are loved and valuable beyond measure.

We pray that until crime and violence and oppression
no longer touch so many lives,
that we will continue to remember these people.

We will continue to listen to the hard stories.
We will continue to work for healing.
We will continue to help restore justice.

Empowered by Your Spirit, we commit ourselves to this work.