Church says sex offenders have right to worship too
The First Congregational United Church of Christ in Wisconsin has started offering adult-only services as a way to reach out to convicted sex offenders who can't attend regular ones with children since that would violate their probation or parole orders. Although the bi-weekly meetings have attracted about 10-12 people, none of them in the targeted audience. Most are just parishioners who prefer child-free services. Others have been there to show their support. The church think it's because word hasn't really gotten out yet.
"It may also be that the people we would like to serve have had very bad personal experiences with organized religion. Coming to church is an act of courage for them," the Rv. Jerry Hancock, director of the church's prison ministry told The Christian Post.
The idea to create the adult-only services was born after a probation officer approached the church last year asking if it offered any services that didn't include children. "It's not designed to be therapeutic," Hancock told the Wisconsin State Journal. "It's not a support group. We are using the same text, the same order of worship and the same sermon topic that was used the previous Sunday."
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I must admit that my first reaction to this was one of shock. I mean, why would convicted sex-offenders deserve any kind of special treatment? The crimes they've committed are heinous and if part of their punishment doesn't allow them to participate in certain aspects of society then so be it, right?
But then, as I read a bit more, I realized a couple of things. First, not all sex-offenders are created equal. In other words, while sexual offenses include child molestation and possession of child pornography, they also include urinating in public, streaking and even sexting. Secondly, according to experts in rehabilitation, faith-based groups can play an important role when it comes to an offender's support system.
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In the end, what caught my attention the most is that the First Congregational United Church of Christ likes to profess that "No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here." At least they're being true to their word.
What do you think? How would you react if your church did something similar?
Image via Chris Yarzab/flickr