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Religious Resources for Criminal Justice Concerns

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Worship Resources
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Composed by Rev. Cheryl Smith, Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, Huntsville, TX

As we prepare to honor the sacredness of life for those whose lives have been called unsacred, let us remember all the victims of crimes committed against society.

  Those whose lives have been taken from them

  Those who have grieved for the loss of a loved one murdered.

                  Those children who have grown up without a parent due to crime.

                  Those whose lives have been lived in fear due to unsafe neighborhoods filled with violence.

                  Those children who have had their innocence violated through exploitation.

                  Those who have been trafficked and used like commodities.

                  Those who have had their homes violated and worldly goods stolen.

                  Those who suffer due to addictions of their own or of others.

Give us the insight and the desire to alleviate suffering in all forms insofar as in us lies, this day and every day. 


Composed by Rev. Cheryl Smith, Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, Huntsville, TX

Let us now confess and lament our own failings before the Creator and each other.

We acknowledge the things we have done and left undone while people have made choices that led them to prison.

We have enabled or blamed those who suffer from addictions rather than facilitate their treatment.

With our national resources, we have funded war and other forms of violence over taking care of our most vulnerable citizens.

We have imprisoned people to punish them and have not focused on restoring them to abundant life.

We have enjoyed our own prosperity and been willing to let thousands of families live in poverty, making them more vulnerable to choosing crime as a way of supporting themselves.

We have made a division in our hearts that allows us to view some people as worthy of compassion and others not.

We have paid too little attention to the election of officials and the operation of our courts such that unfair judgments can occur amidst our silence.

We have not mentored at-risk youth and yet have blamed them when they followed the gangs and drug dealers who did mentor them.

We have not visited the prisoners, telling ourselves that we do not know how, or that it would make us uncomfortable.

In these and many other ways, we have taken the light and enlightenment within us and cloaked it, being content with our own blessings.

Open our eyes that we might see.

Enter our hearts that we might love.

Fill us with loving compassion so that our lives may have meaning.

A Blessing to Remember Inmates

Buried at the Joe Byrd Cemetery, Huntsville, Texas

November 2, 2013

by Rabbi Dan Gordon

Dear Heavenly Parent,

Our GD and GD of ALL of our ancestors:

We take a special moment to remember those whom many try to forget.  In Your sacred Book of Genesis, You declared that human beings were created in Your image, in the image of the Divine.  Our United States Constitution also proclaims that all are created equal.  The Talmud teaches that the human beginning was from ONE human being, so that nobody could claim, “My father was better than your father.” 

Dear GD, You have empowered us, the wise and the fallible, to create systems of justice.  And we also know, there is only one true Judge.  Rich or poor, educated or ignorant, faithful or questioning, we all come to the same end.  None of us looks forward to the day when we will also nourish the ground under our feet.  William Shakespeare’s character Marc Antony said of Julius Ceasar, “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”  And yet, we continue to pray for the opposite: We pray that at the end of our days, we will be remembered with love and respect, and that our survivors will remember the good and forget the bad.

The end of life brings us to the greatest of all equalizers.  Let us remember each of these human souls is worthy.  Perhaps some stray further than others; yet we cannot know the true meaning of goodness without also knowing its opposite.  Light means nothing without darkness.  May those who could not conform to the laws of the land now be remembered as they are part of the land.

Over three thousand years ago, the Israelites set off on a journey … to find a Promised Land.  Some contend we are all still looking.  Throughout a journey through the wilderness and the mystery of the future, we received a blessing from GD through His servants, Moses and Aaron.  From Numbers, Chapter 6, this blessing is a reminder that GD is with all of us on our journeys.  I recite this blessing with the prayer that each of us can use our Divine gifts to help others get a little closer.

Y’va-re-che-cha Adonai Va-yish-ma-reh-cha

May GD bless you and watch over you.

         Ya-air Adonai pa-nav Ay-le-cha, v’y’choo-neh-cha

May GD’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you.

         Yee-sah Adonai pa-nav Ay-le-cha, v’ya-seim l’cha Shalom.

May GD’s presence shine upon you and grant you peace.

And we all say, AMEN

GD Bless you and GD bless America.


Above photo used courtesy of FiDalwood via Flickr Creative Commons.