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Reflections on Remembrance

In remembrance at the Joe Byrd cemetery in Huntsville, TX.
By: 
Congregational Outreach Director

Saturday, November 4 dozens of Texans of faith gathered at the Joe Byrd Prison Cemetery in Huntsville for the 5th Annual In Remembrance event. In Remembrance takes place on the Saturday after the All Souls Day remembrance, and is an opportunity for Texans of faith to remember the sacred worth of all humanity by remembering those lives lost in the Texas criminal justice system.

The event began with six faith leaders leading an interfaith prayer vigil at the cemetery pavilion. Following the vigil, participants walked the rows and prayed for the 4,000 lives, families and loved ones represented by the gravestones, laying flowers as they went.

Below are reflections from event participants.

Scott Atnip, Congregational Outreach Director

For five years now, In Remembrance has been a meaningful and spiritual event for me personally. As someone who lives in Huntsville and drives past the prison cemetery almost daily, it has been particularly significant to take time every year to intentionally remember the sacred worth of the thousands who lost their lives in the Texas criminal justice system and were laid to rest at the Joe Byrd Cemetery.

As my children get older, and have both participated, I will always hold on to the special memories of the conversations we have had around the event and the prayers we have prayed for those currently incarcerated and their families.

My prayer for each of us is that we not only remember the sacred worth of “All Souls” once a year, but that we remember and take action in ways that will improve the lives of the disenfranchised and forgotten every day. I look forward to participating in that journey with you.

Kathleen Wells, Texas Impact Board Member from Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth

For the first time a delegation from Trinity Episcopal Church in Fort Worth participated in the Remembrance Day event this year. Trinity and its Social Justice Group have recently focused on racial and prison issues, so this field trip to the Joe Byrd Cemetery in Huntsville was a profound experience for me.

Arriving at the cemetery, I was initially overwhelmed to realize how the 4,000-plus graves visually called out the crushing waste of human, spiritual, and financial resources caused by our profound generational and institutional brokenness. The nameless grave markers identifying only the inmates' TDCJ numbers and dates of death broke my heart.

I am so thankful for Texas Impact's leadership in challenging all Texans to put our spirituality to work, to recognize our incarcerated brothers and sisters as children of God made in God's image, to include these souls too in our All Souls remembrances, and to refocus our ecclesiastical efforts to help heal the social and spiritual fractures in the world that, for example, continue to fill the Joe Byrd Cemetery. 

Rev. Kimberly Carney, pastor Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church

What I appreciate most about the In Remembrance event each year is that it is not political, overly theological, or even overly liturgical. Instead it is a gathering to remember the children of God who have gone before us from this earthly world. We do this each year in our own churches for All Saints Sunday. The difference is that the saints of the church are remembered all year round, the men and women buried in the Joe Byrd cemetery are often not thought about at all. On this day we can say with certainty, that even these beloved children of God are remembered.

Brother David Collingsworth - Producer, The Prison Show 90.1 FM KPFT Houston
Every year we visit Joe Byrd Cemetary I am able to reflect on the men and women buried there and the possibility that that could have been me or one of my brothers. I have served right at 15 years in TDCJ and I have seen many events that could have led me to Joe Byrd. My brother-in-law passed away in TDCJ, but was fortunate enough to have a brother who drove to Galveston to retrieve his body. My Mom and Dad couldn’t have done that, so Joe Byrd would have been my resting place. 
 
For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I love my brothers and sisters left behind and cannot ever forget where they are resting. From the East to the West he will return, and those that are in Christ shall meet him in the air. I’ll be there, and I pray I see you too.
 

To find out how you can participate in the future, contact Congregational Outreach Director Scott Atnip at scott@texasimpact.org.

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