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Church vandals apologise to congregation

Apr 15, 2011

from the article by Rene Gerryts on Bridport News:

Four of the youngsters responsible for vandalising a Bridport church stood before its congregation on Sunday to apologise.

The quartet – whose images were captured on CCTV – agreed to take part in the new Restorative Justice scheme.

....Mr Evans said: “It is the first time I have been involved in this sort of system and it was terrific.

“What I didn’t want, and what the church didn’t want, was for them to get any form of police record. Our hearts went out to the parents. There was considerable sympathy for them.

“We are not talking about hardened criminals here.”

He added far from condemning, worshippers really appreciated the youngsters’ public apology at Sunday’s service.

He said: “There was no sense of going through the motions to get out of trouble. They were really sincere in what they said.

“What they did was serious and it has hurt a lot of people but they put it right big time.”

The young people have volunteered to return to the church and help with spring cleaning.

Read the whole article.

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Melanie G. Snyder
Melanie G. Snyder says:
Apr 19, 2011 03:41 PM

Sounds like the people at the Bridport church really "walk the talk" of forgiveness and reconciliation. Kudos to them! I happened to speak at a church in Lancaster County, PA last week that also experienced vandalism (in their case, graffiti & vulgarity spray-painted on the outside of the church building). That congregation's immediate response to the graffiti was to create a huge banner with a message to the perpetrators saying that God loves them, and welcoming them to come into their church. They hung the banner over top of the graffiti. Restorative stories like these are so important to publicize, to counter the negative stories of people and organizations bent on revenge, retribution and punishment.

lisa rea
lisa rea says:
Apr 20, 2011 04:38 PM

Thank you this story. I read the comment by Melanie above and was not sure I agreed. I wrote a blog post for rjonline on graffiti abatement and restorative justice (<a href="http://www.restorativejustice.org/RJOB/tagging-and-restorative-justice" rel="nofollow">http://www.restorativejustice.org/[&hellip;]/tagging-and-restorative-justice</a>). <br /> <br />I was encouraged to see that the youths, once caught, apologized. But restorative justice would also require that the youths make things right--as much as possible. The story reads that the youths volunteered to come back to the church and help with &quot;spring cleaning&quot;. I would suggest that the youths do more than that. They should have cleaned the church of all the graffiti damage they caused. That action could have been &quot;negotiated&quot; between the church officials and the youth (&amp; their parents, perhaps). <br /> <br />Melanie mentioned her own experience of a church expressing love to the youths who vandalized a church in Lancaster county, PA. That is fine; however, restorative justice would also seek to hold the youth (or adults) accountable. Thus, through accountability the offender is held responsible for his actions. <br />This is not retribution or revenge. It is the clear thinking application of restorative justice principles. <br /> <br />In both cases, it seems a stronger emphasis on &quot;making things right&quot; would have been more appropriate. I do believe a public apology is a good thing, especially in this case (from the article) where a church corporately was the victim. <br /> <br />Lisa Rea

Ken Kimsey
Ken Kimsey says:
Apr 22, 2011 12:07 PM

I tend to agree that holding the offenders to a higher level of accountability is not necessarily revenge. If done in a forgiving and restorative spirit, this higher requirement can yield more dramatic results. <br /> <br />Sometimes it's easier for a big-hearted church simply to say &quot;all is forgiven,&quot; than to engage over a longer term with the individuals who have expressed regret for the damage they have done. This involves forgiveness through a joint commitment to making things right. It seems to me that a deeper mutual respect would result if the parties commit, over time, to repair the damage with the active oversight of the injured party. If a forgiving spirit prevails, relationships could form which would be more transformative (for all parties involved) than might occur from a simple, &quot;All is forgiven.&quot; <br /> <br />Ken <br />fairnessworks.com

lisa rea
lisa rea says:
Apr 25, 2011 04:04 PM

I did not write this original post but I would like to respond to Ken's comments above. The primary tenets of restorative justice include offender accountability. I would never describe the process of holding offenders accountable as &quot;revenge&quot;. Just the opposite, actually. And that is why it is restorative. <br /> <br />Offenders must face their victims, ideally, and understand the impact their actions have had on their victims. Crime injures---but offenders are the cause of that injury. Thus, they alone should be the ones to repair the harm. Through this process the offender is more like to change and thus learn. <br /> <br />Advocates for restorative justice like myself are committed to these princples because they work. We are seeking ways to tranform our justice system so that offenders change and are less likely to reoffend and victims can be restored as much as possible---and as directly as possible. <br /> <br />Lisa Rea <br />

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