Hearing the Cries for Justice was comprised of a series of three annual summits to bring together people of faith for information, inspiration and training to engage in ministries with people impacted by the criminal justice system. The specific emphasis of each summit was to equip and motivate faith communities to offer meaningful engagement in two arenas: 1) hospitality for persons returning from prison and 2) advocacy for positive reforms to the justice system.
The vision of each summit was to bring a holistic lens to ministries with our justice-involved neighbors, helping people of faith and goodwill “get proximate” (in the words of Bryan Stevenson) with those members of our society who have lived experience of the justice system. We hoped to frame participants’ understanding of the “issue” of criminal justice as a matter of faith—one they are compelled to act on.
We used a restorative justice lens to work toward a goal of healing: strengthening individuals for resilience and hope, naming and grieving the depths of harm experienced, seeking to prevent harm when possible, and restoring right relationships, as appropriate.
The summits were part of a three-year partnership running from 2017-2020 between Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (EMO) and the Episcopal Bishop of Oregon Foundation, Episcopal Diocese of Oregon (EDO) and the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Oregon.
Year One: Jan. 8, 2018 at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Portland
This summit was by far our largest, with over 200 participants and a waiting list of other interested members. A highlight of the day was the choral performance during the opening plenary by the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus, performing a work presenting the last words of several Black men killed by police or other law enforcement agents. We provided five tracks for deeper exploration through the day in our break-out groups, each focused on a different topic within the criminal justice system:
- School-to-Prison Pipeline
- Victim and Survivor Voices
- Prison Reentry Supports
- Policy Advocacy for Reform
- Ministries within Prison
The closing plenary featured a panel of “witnesses” who spoke from their experience and what they’d heard at each of the five workshop tracks.
Year Two: March 20-21, 2019 at First United Methodist Church, Eugene
In partnership with United Methodist Women.
This summit drew roughly 80 attendees. On the opening night, we screened the film Thirteenth, followed by a discussion facilitated by The Rev. J.W. Matt Hennessee, pastor of Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church of Portland the EMO board chair. During the full day of the gathering, we provided a resource fair in between workshops. This was the first summit where we engaged our two-track model, focusing our participants’ energies on reentry and advocacy through over three hours of break-out sessions on each topics. This allowed for a deeper dive into the topics than typical conferences provide and allowed participants to start generating plans for taking their learning home for continued action.
Year Three: March 6-7, 2020 at First Presbyterian Church, Newberg
In partnership with Remnant Initiatives.
This summit drew 60 attendees for the opening night film and 70 for the full day gathering. In addition to outreach to people of faith, there was special outreach to students and teachers at various local colleges, with some classes offering extra credit for attendance. On our opening night, we screened the film The House I Live In, which emphasized the way the “war on drugs” feeds mass incarceration.
location 245 S Bancroft St., Suite B, Portland, OR 97239
phone (503) 221-1054