The Episcopal Diocese has recently reestablished its Prison Ministry Task Force. The Task Force’s mission is to follow the Great Commission of Christ to respect the dignity of all persons. “Welcome Home Neighbor” is one way that deacons in the diocese are connecting with and supporting returning citizens — and contributing to the mission of the Task Force.
As part of their work to proclaim the good news and freedom for prisoners, deacons have partnered with the D.C. Mayor’s Office of Returning Citizen Affairs (MORCA) and the “Welcome Home Neighbor” ministry. MORCA is the first legislatively mandated office in the country specifically serving formerly incarcerated individuals, working to remove barriers to reentry, and empowering residents to connect to services for employment, health, education, housing assistance, and family needs.
Deacon Julie Petersmeyer established the partnership with the MORCA Director Lamont Carey and has sought out deacons throughout the diocese to create partnerships between parishes and MORCA to serve the reentry needs of returning citizens. The Rev. Ricardo Sheppard, Rector of Episcopal Church of the Atonement, and Deacon Antonio J. Baxter have formed a relationship with MORCA and routinely receive referrals from MORCA to provide care packages and a caring relationship to returning citizens. Deacon Baxter has provided about twenty care packages so far to returning citizens which include items such as toiletries, face masks, hand sanitizer, SMARTRIP Transit Cards, gift cards for food, and key rings to aid in welcoming returning citizens with compassion. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of this outreach is the opportunity for returning citizens to interact with people who are interested in their story and willing to be partners in their transformation.
In seeking to build a multi-layered approach to restoring human dignity, the Prison Ministry Task Force serves as a resource to educate parishes on the urgent criminal justice issues that impact all of us and includes restoring relationships between and among the individuals in the justice system and the wider community. With the involvement of dedicated and motivated deacons, the Task Force will continue pursuing strategies to motivate increased participation in preventive and reentry programs and seeking to engage and transform the carceral and justice systems.
The Rev. Antonio Baxter
Deacon, Church of the Atonement, DC
Interested in knowing more about the Prison Ministry Task Force? Contact Hazel Monae, Missioner for Equity and Justice