Monday, February 22, 2010

Church, Community, and the Court System

What's it take to make a neighborhood a better place to live? Lots.

It takes all sort of key people within the community to care, to collaborate together, and to be helpful. The churches in a neighborhood ought to be the most obvious place for this kind of helpful, collaborate care. Well, that's the attitude that Anchor has, along with a bunch of churches in our neighborhood.

I have to say, I was very, very, very proud of Anchor - nineteen of us showed up for the first of four meetings with Judge Charles Pratt and our neighborhood churches. We're meeting together to learn more about how Judge Pratt's Family Court operates, as well as how the court system works for juveniles and adults. By learning how the courts work, we better learn what role the church can play - to be helpful to the courts and to the community.

Our church is becoming home to more and more individuals and families that are currently dealing with the courts and/or prisons. Or it's a part of their past, and is still yet affecting their life. As the church embraces and disciples more people with this stuff going on in their life, more and more wisdom is needed to be more and more helpful.

It's an honor to have Judge Pratt so eagerly partner with our coalition of neighborhood churches, to instruct us and invest in us. And we are eager to help him be more effective as a judge.

Yesterday First Mennonite Church hosted our meetings, led by Pastor Peter Janzen. Judge Pratt introduced us (some of us for the second or third time...) to the 40 Assets, a key component to helping families actually change for the good. He then walked us through a case study of a little girl who was allegedly molested by her father. Judge Pratt explained how his court worked, how DCS gets involved, how foster care gets involved, and how different decisions by the parents create different potential outcomes. Sad and fascinating stuff.

It's important for churches to be emotionally supportive of families involved with DCS, but to not enable them, or to nurture any kind of disregard for DCS. There are many sides to one story, and it's always wise to accumulate facts before making decisions to "help."

Next week Dr. Steve Cain of Trinity United Methodist is hosting, then Anchor, and then Rev. Laura Sherwood of Grace Presbyterian. Rev. Hal Thomas of Faith United Presbyterian is also involved. Rev. Dave Altman and North Highlands Church of Christ, Rev. Larry Maddox of Three Rivers Wesleyan, and Rev. Don Sandman of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran are also interested and involved in our coalition, willing to find ways to help make our neighborhood a better place to live.

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

This is the kind of work we are doing. The Same Spirit that was on Jesus is at work within and amongst us. As churches, we want to be good news to the neighborhood. We're getting there...

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