“What stays with me from Set at Liberty is the sense of togetherness we experienced as people connected in new ways. We were being honest about our experiences, struggles, and differences while meeting each other with a sense of love.” ~ Liz Loeb, participant and facilitator
The energy was palpable. On two cold days in January, over 200 clergy, lay leaders and faith-based activists from a variety of religious backgrounds gathered to address the faith implications and public policy challenges of the sinful system of mass incarceration.
Convened by the Kaleo Center at United with a team of co-sponsors, this faith summit drew Baptists and Pentecostals, Lutherans and United Church of Christ members, Reform and Conservative Jews,Unitarian-Universalists and others. They shared with each other the core spiritual principles that inspire them to confront racism and mass incarceration. New young activists and seasoned organizers exchanged ideas, energy and vision. People of all colors made commitments to confront racist systems.
“Set at Liberty” began on Tuesday evening at Shiloh Temple in Minneapolis, with a passionate call by Dr. Iva Carruthers of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference. Dr. Carruthers described the soul wounds caused by the war on drugs and for-profit prisons. She named the anguish of a world in which “God can’t breathe” and so many lives—especially those of young men and women of color—are destroyed. United student Nancy Ellis expressed the longings of many in her sung benediction, “Open my eyes that I may see.”
Wednesday morning opened with interfaith reflections led by President Barbara Holmes, Rabbi Michael Latz and Rev. Victoria Safford. The remainder of the day was spent in workshops and life-changing conversations. Workshops offered participants practical skill-building, deepening relationships and opportunities to make a difference.
A faith summit on mass incarceration is a significant event. What happens next? “First,” says Kaleo Center director Steve Newcom, “we learn from our co-sponsors and participants what worked, what didn’t work and how we can get better at what we do. Second, we stand with our partners.
Kaleo Center’s mission is to inspire, connect and prepare faith leaders to be powerful agents of social change. Set at Liberty connected people who don’t normally work together, promoted reflection on faith and social action, and furthered the ‘ground game’ of our community partners. We stand with our partners in their efforts and look forward to seeing what new initiatives and partnerships emerge from this faith-filled summit.”