Catholic Church Laments Restoratively

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church near downtown Minneapolis has embraced the values and practices of restorative justice, and with the leadership of Fr. Daniel Griffith, the church is promoting restorative healing work to go both inward and outward. In the wake of the tragic killing in Minneapolis, the church is able to collectively lament in solidarity with people beyond their walls, partly due to their own history of grieving and healing within their walls.

Church websites are generally not known for having the phrase restorative justice sprinkled throughout their webpages. Our Lady of Lourdes’ site, however, is a rare exception and even has the term positioned as a prominent homepage link above the menu bar.

In a recent blog message to parishioners that lamented the death of George Floyd (May 29, 2020), Fr. Griffith expressed his wishes for extending restorative supports outwardly. “I sincerely hope that Our Lady of Lourdes can play a role in initiating and/or supporting this community-wide dialogue” in Minneapolis.

In a more recent letter (“In a Time of Heavy Sadness: What Can Catholics Do?”) Fr. Griffith writes:

I see a clear role for restorative practices which can provide a forum for people of color to tell their stories – stories that similarly include injustice and harm. Some may say, you are inviting or creating a culture of victimization. No, this act of accompanying another as they seek greater justice and respect is human, Christian and simply the only way to true transformation, healing and reconciliation.

It is not surprising to learn that the readiness of this church to serve, and its quick responsiveness to local harm, is directly related to the church’s own corporate inner journey of healing. For the past several years, parishioners have participated in a carefully guided restorative process to heal the harms of past clergy sex abuse.  It makes perfect sense, according to the well-known phrase from Henri Nouwen’s book, for them to be Wounded Healers for others who are more recently wounded. Having experienced the power of healing dialogue, they are in a stronger place of empowerment to facilitate the healing of others. This is a beautiful example of the biblical pattern of Vulnerability coinciding with Responsibility. The result of this, of course, is a justice that gives more life rather than giving more death.

For more information about Catholic church resources that are responding to clergy sex abuse with restorative healing processes, view a listing on the lower part of this webpage on the Lady of Lourdes site.

Photo: Healing spring water from Lourdes, France.

Webinar Launches Restorative Church

In 2016, Chris Marshall and Ted Lewis led a webinar that integrated restorative justice, restorative theology, and restorative practices for church communities, hosted by the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice at Eastern Mennonite University. Through publishing connections at Wipf & Stock Publishers, Lewis and Marshall had previously corresponded for several years over a mutual interest in strengthening conversations between restorative justice theorists and practitioners, theologians showing interest in restorative justice, and church leaders incorporating restorative practices in their church communities.

Watch the Restorative Justice, Restorative Theology, Restorative Church webinar on the Zehr Institute site or watch a Youtube version of the webinar.

One month later, viewers of the webinar were invited to an online follow-up session to have further discussion about the topic and to consider new opportunities to advance the intersection of Restorative Justice, Restorative Theology, Restorative Church Practices. With the help of Jeff Newcomer-Miller, Ted continued to facilitate additional zoom meetings to invite new inputs and widen the network of supporters. 

In 2017 Ted and Chris, along with Tom Noakes-Duncan from New Zealand, led a workshop on the same topic in Oakland at the NACRJ (National Association for Community and Restorative Justice) conference. (View Workshop PowerPoint). 

In 2018, Chris Marshall published a book that represents the core mission the Restorative Church project.  All Things Reconciled: Essays on Restorative Justice, Religious Violence, and the Interpretation of Scripture.  Read more about Chris Marshall’s writings

At the following NACRJ conference in Denver, 2019, Ted coordinated the first Restorative Church Gathering as a post-conference workshop, during which he announced the start of the Restorative Church website. View workshop outline: Restorative Church June 17, 2019. The next projected post-NACRJ conference is projected to take place in June 2022 in Chicago.

An early version of the integration of RJ, RTh and RCh was led by Ted Lewis in a workshop at the Ekklesia Project conference in Chicago, 2013. View PDF workshop outline: RJ and Church Workshop Outline EP

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