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FALL 2020
Members of the National Indigenous Ministry Council of the PCC met with the moderator and some denomina- tional staff in June to discuss urgent concerns and severe circumstances facing many Indigenous Peoples in Canada. The discussions involved issues of insufficient housing, poor access to health care, police violence, the lack of safe drinking water on First Nations’ reserve lands, impinged rights under the Canadian Char ter of Rights and Freedoms, and broken treaties, par ticularly violation of land rights, discrimination, and the com- plex implications of intergenerational
trauma on communities that have been targeted through colonial instru- ments like the residential school sys- tem.
The church must stand in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples and work for an end to all forms of systemic rac- ism against Indigenous Peoples and communities. A variety of statements, studies and letters have been created by The Presbyterian Church in Canada in response to these issues. Members of the church are encouraged to use them in their own advocacy for justice effor ts. Visit indigenous-peoples.
 Justice, Healing and Reconciliation
 Presbyterians Sharing supports Indigenous ministries and advocates for justice for all Indigenous Peoples in our ongoing commitment to long-term healing and reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
   Prison Chaplaincy Past and Present: A Vital Ministry of the PCC
 By the Rev. Dr. Glenn McCullough, RP
“I was in prison and you visited me...” (Matthew 25:36).
The PCC has a long history of min- istry in Canadian prisons, where chaplains have been called to play many roles—offering spiritual care and comfort to inmates, and also advocating for reform of the prison system as a whole. This vital work continues today.
Historically it was chaplains who, for example, opposed the practice of corporal punishment in prisons. We see this in the Brown Commis- sion of 1848—the first government inquiry into conditions in Canadian prisons—which offered a scathing indictment of “brutalizing” practices at Kingston Penitentiary. The com- mission noted that it was the chap- lains who had continually expressed opposition to these cruel practices, but that their prophetic voice went unheard. Likewise, chaplains were instrumental in establishing both libraries and schools in Canadian institutions, and in the Statute of 1851, they were officially given re- sponsibility over “the chapel, the school, and the library.” And it was chaplains who led the charge for humane treatment of young offend- ers. For over 20 years in their annual
repor ts, for example, the chaplains at Kingston Penitentiary pressed this issue, advocating for a unique program of rehabilitation for young inmates, including education, work training and recreation. It took many years, but this program was eventu- ally implemented through legislation in 1908.
In short, the prophetic voice of chaplaincy has historically empha- sized rehabilitation rather than ret- ribution, transformation rather than punishment, based on the Gospel message of a God who forgives. And out of this history, the principles of Restorative Justice took shape, prin- ciples that have become integral to the work of the Canadian correctional system today.
Restorative Justice seeks to repair the damage done by criminal acts, by bringing offenders and victims into meaningful contact, encourag- ing offenders to take responsibility for their actions, and allowing victims and communities a chance to assist in shaping offenders’ obligations. In short, Restorative Justice shifts the emphasis from impersonal systems to personal relationships. It provides opportunities to heal damaged re- lationships, in both individuals and communities, through meaningful acts of reconciliation. Chaplains con- tinue to play a vital role in this pro-
cess, as mediators between offend- ers and the wider community.
In my work as the PCC representa- tive on the Interfaith Committee on Chaplaincy for Corrections Canada, I have had the privilege of meet- ing many passionate and dedicated chaplains across the country. And I have seen the esteem in which they are held by both inmates and prison staff, as a vital spiritual presence in a very constrained institutional setting. As one Warden told me, “My chap- lain is the first person I would hire, and the last person I would let go of in this institution.”
While chaplains continue the impor tant work of spiritual care, advocacy and Restorative Justice, their role is also changing to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse inmate population. Today correc- tional chaplains are responsible for coordinating a multi-faith team of spiritual leaders and volunteers from all traditions. Together they seek to meet the diverse spiritual needs of all offenders, by managing dietary needs, facilitating various spiritual practices, observing traditional cer- emonies and holy days, and by connecting offenders with religious communities outside the institution. In all of these roles, lead chaplains act both as representatives of their own faith tradition, and as facilita-
tors of all faith traditions. Chaplains are also increasingly called to un- derstand the unique mental health needs of inmates as they provide one-on-one counselling, and take on the growing administrative duties of case management.
In these changing times, our PCC seminaries continue to support the training of future chaplains with in- novative and relevant programs. The new Master of Pastoral Studies (MPS) program at Knox College, for example, not only grounds students in the Reformed tradition, but also introduces them to various models of mental health and psychotherapy and describes how these models can be integrated with Christian faith. MPS students are equipped to serve in various spiritual care settings, in- cluding prisons, hospitals and vari- ous faith-based and non-profit social service agencies.
Congregations also have a vital role to play in prison ministry. Chap-
lains often tell me how difficult it is for offenders to find acceptance in church communities, and to find a church home when they leave their institutions. To former inmates, most churches don’t feel like wel- coming communities, and many congregations are not aware of their hidden barriers. It is so easy for an “us and them” mentality to creep into our thinking and our behaviour, even in ways that we don’t notice. What we need is churches that un- derstand radical hospitality, that break down barriers to real com- munity, and where people from all backgrounds and contexts can feel welcome and accepted. This front- line congregational work is not easy, and it takes concer ted effor t. But the rewards are worth it when we see the evidence of lives transformed by communities centred in Jesus Christ. After all, it was Christ who said that, in serving those in prison, we are actually serving Him.

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