A group of 630 persons gathered on the campus of a small liberal arts university in Iowa this past week for what they call “Synod School.” It’s like a “summer camp” for kids, parents, and even grandparents– but with better sleeping facilities (and a “step back in time” for those who lived in a college dorm room 50 years ago!).
The gathering of hundreds of Presbyterians from the six north central states comprising the “Synod of Lakes and Prairies” dates back to the 1950s. This summer was its 66th year! Persons attending as children and youth are now bringing their own children (or grandchildren!). It’s a family affair, with activities and classes for all ages.
Synod School brings together some of the best musicians, teachers, preachers and discussion leaders. Participants spend 8 to 10 hours each day doing crafts and arts or engaging in discussions relevant to the church, world, families, and personal growth. The theme this year was “Cultivating Civil Community.”
I taught a course on “Presbyterians Doin’ Justice” that focused on the initiatives of the Presbyterian Church in the past century to reduce injustice, violence, and inequality in the criminal justice system. I learned as much as the participants in my class as I gathered materials and read historical documents. Extensive work is done to support Committee Recommendations to the biennial General Assembly of the PC(USA). The research and writing are comparable to the quality of most college-level textbooks.
Going back as early as 1910 the Presbyterian Church took a stand for reducing crime and victimization by improving societal attitudes toward offenders and reforming them; pushing for better education, moral training and job skills for youth; and replacing revenge with restorative justice.
The class focused on five criminal justice topics that have received the most attention by the PC(USA) in the past twenty years:
- Abolition of For-Profit Private Prisons
- Moratorium on Capital Punishment
- Gun Violence Prevention
- Restorative Justice
- Bail Reform
Criminologists and Criminal Justice professionals agree that citizen involvement and understanding of crime and justice are essential for reducing victimization and improving public safety in America. “Stay tuned” as we take a closer look in the next few weeks at what we can do about crime and justice in America. I value your following this weblog, and like reading and hearing your comments. Thanks!