The Collegeville Institute Fellows gathered on July 28-29 at the Minnesota Humanities Center in St. Paul. This fifth meeting (out of eight meetings that will take place over a 22-month period) focused on criminal justice in Minnesota.
The Fellows heard presentations on criminal justice from three diverse leaders and engaged these leaders with questions and discussion. They also reflected theologically on what they learned about the criminal justice system from the presentations. The guest presenters were:
- Judge Denise Reilly—a former prosecutor and district court judge with several terms in juvenile court, including a term as presiding judge, who was recently appointed by the governor to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
- Reverend Hillary Freeman—an expert on ex-offender re-entry programs who shared about the importance of “relational ministry,” such as mentoring, with ex-offenders. She lamented that many church members and congregations avoid relational ministry with ex-offenders at all costs. “But isn’t that what Jesus calls us to?”
- Timothy Dolan—a former Minneapolis police chief who spoke about the challenges of being a leader in law enforcement in today’s world. One of his passions is encouraging officers to work with communities in different ways from typical patterns. Dolan maintains that better law enforcement strategies have officers getting out of their squad cars on foot and bike, talking to citizens at church and community events, and being involved in non-911-related activities.
Each Fellow is also working on a project in his or her own congregation or community. In addition to discussing criminal justice at this meeting, the fellows engaged in lively dialogue about Jim Collins’s book, Good to Great and the Social Sector, relating to their projects. They discussed what “great” may mean for their projects, the types of leadership required, who the “right people” are for the work involved, what disciplines are needed for their projects to succeed, and what will help their projects gain momentum.
The Collegeville Institute Fellows Program brings an ecumenical group of twelve participants together with professionals from other sectors of Minnesota society, toward the goal of helping to strengthen these religious leaders’ sense of themselves as civic leaders and public theologians. In addition to criminal justice the Fellows will be engaging professionals on the topics of business, poverty, immigration, health care, and education. A second cohort will begin in 2015.