WISDOM Religious Leaders’ 11X15 sign-on letter
(To sign on, e-mail your name, city and congregation name to email@example.com)
- Reflection by Rabbi Dena Feingold
- Reflection by Rev. David Anderson
- Reflection by Rev. Willie Brisco
- The Rev. Dr. Matthew L. Sauer 11×15 Press Conference Feb. 21, 2012
- Rev. Diane Murray Thoughts for the Feb. 21, 2012 News Conference
Read Rev. Jerry Hancock’s compelling post as we move into the election season:
Reflection by Rev. Steve Savides, We Are Still Here
I grew up kitty-corner to the state prison in Waupun. That’s where the old parsonage was for Union Congregational Church where my dad was pastor. One of my earliest memories has to do with the seven of us eating lunch when the noon whistle went off. My dad looked at the five of us kids, ages 13, 11, 9, 7 and 4, and as the whistle sounded, announced, “They’re coming over the wall!” Five sets of eyes opened wide in fear until my Mom loudly chided my father for scaring all of us.
I guess the first lesson learned from that experience was that pastors have a weird sense of humor.
The more important lesson was learned years later when I found out that Dad had served as a volunteer chaplain at the prison. He wasn’t afraid of the inmates serving out their sentences. They were people just like all the members of his parish, in need of love and care, understanding and compassion, a chance to try again—what we Christians call “gospel.”
When I followed Dad into ministry, I also ended up following him into jails and prisons. I can remember how one of my first prison visits happened when one of my parishioners from the southern part of the state ended up in Waupun. I had never done a prison visit before and was surprised that I had to leave my belt and my umbrella behind. Actually, on my walk to the unit, the rain helped wash away some of my childish fear.
Since then I have visited perhaps fifteen or twenty of my church members in prisons and jails. What I have discovered in my visits are the same kind of people Dad discovered—folks in need of love and care, understanding and compassion, a chance to try again. The old fear is gone and replaced by something else, a sense that my pastoral visits are not enough.
How many times have you or I visited someone jailed for a nonviolent drug crime who is waiting months on end for a chance to get into a diversion or rehab program? How many times have you or I shared the frustration of wasted time as a person of worth is simply being warehoused? How many times have you or I felt at least a small measure of the great weight of injustice pressing down on those whose lives and talents are slowly being lost?
One of my favorite passages from scripture occurs in the book of Acts when Paul and Silas are unjustly imprisoned in Philippi. An earthquake comes, undoubtedly by the power of God, to break the chains of the inmates and open wide the prison doors. But Paul and Silas don’t leave; they won’t trade their justice calling for their personal freedom. The jailer is panicked, assuming all the prisoners have escaped and that he will be blamed. He is about to harm himself when Paul announces, “We are still here.”
That’s our message this morning and this day. That’s our message to our legislators and to our inmates, to our churches and to our prisons. We aren’t afraid anymore. And we are still here.
Asking for justice, working for hope, we are still here. Demanding an end to the warehousing of people and the wasting of lives, we are still here.
Concerned for the safety of our communities and convinced that we have been given a better way, we are still here.
People of faith, united for justice, across the state, across beliefs, and across generations, we are still here.
We aren’t afraid anymore and we are still here.