It is hard to ignore the numbers when it comes to crime in Chattanooga. Notwithstanding improvements in public safety during recent years, we continue to experience appallingly high rates of both violent and property related crime in our neighborhoods compared with other communities in Tennessee and across the nation. The cost in human suffering is undeniable – as is the cost to the public purse to manage a criminal justice system which is expanding at almost twice the rate of education in our state.
While the numbers surrounding crime and corrections are informative, it is impossible to fully understand what is at stake until they are reduced to one.
Knowing the numbers without knowing the individuals behind the numbers is a terrible handicap to any community’s response to crime. It leads to superficial strategies that ignore the question of human dignity while – while they may produce short term gains in the numbers – are unlikely to lead to any significant healing for those who are affected by crime.
We would like you to join us this Lent by taking a stand against the numbers to stand with those behind the numbers. Our Lenten Cross Project tells the personal stories of those who have resorted to committing crimes, their victims who are rarely made whole, the loved ones who mostly suffer in silence, public servants who struggle every day to balance punishment and justice, and citizens who go out of their way to create opportunities for reconciliation and new beginnings. The project works by inviting people to focus on a single person in prison while drawing their attention to the many other people who are carrying the burden of their actions.
Participants select the name of a prisoner to pray for during Lent, follow along with a series of daily reflections, and return a modest donation to Chattanooga Endeavors ranging from a nickel a day to a dollar a day for the 40 days of Lent. Continuing the early church tradition of combining almsgiving with prayer to prepare for Easter, we include the option to donate to Chattanooga Endeavors as part of the project. However, we recommend modest donations so anyone, including youth, can to participate fully.
To host the project at your church all you need to do is make space in your vestibule for a Lenten Cross and invite your members to participate. We provide all the material, including the Lenten Cross, literature about the project and our organization, recommended announcements for your bulletin or newsletter, and daily reflections (which are also available to participants by email, text, social media, and download). A donation is not necessary to host the project. However, anything you can provide to defray its costs and to contribute to the success of Chattanooga Endeavors will be very much appreciated.
This is a wonderful way to prepare for the great Feast of Easer by exploring prayerfully why we are called to “remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them.” Simple in many ways, our Lenten Cross Project is an awesome witness to the power of prayer and to the compassion that our faith community shares with those who suffer on every side of our nation’s prison walls.
For more information, download our FAQ for church pastors. And if you would like to speak with someone about opportunities to get involved, please contact Tim Dempsey at (423) 451-6039.