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Hubbard pastor seeks dialogue on 'Restorative Justice'
'Tall in Spirit' meetings, which focus on mediation, will start in Woodburn Dec. 1
What did Jesus mean by the word justice"?
Pastor Dianne Rodriguez, of Hubbard United Church of Christ, has been thinking about that.
She reflected on an incident at Forest Grove High School last spring when a student hung a banner saying Build a Wall that incited a walkout of hundreds of Hispanic and Anglo students. Students at other nearby high schools then staged similar protests, including Woodburn. Rodriguez had previously been the interim UCC pastor in Forest Grove and knew the community.
While the perpetrator apologized for his actions, Rodriguez thought that was inadequate.
It did not restore much, she said. Restorative justice would be helping that boy walk safely in the school hallways again, and for Hispanic students to be restored.
Jesus approach to justice wasnt just a legalistic, whos right and whos wrong,' but restoring people, to making them whole, she said.
The Forest Grove incident and many other stories inspired Rodriguez to create a Restorative Justice movement in north Marion County.
It will be called Tall in Spirit and the first meeting will be from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, at the Woodburn Public Library, 280 Garfield St.
The focus will be on disabled people and the lack of justice that many of them feel. Rodriguez recently undertook training with Northwest Resolutions in Portland on how to mediate a restorative justice group.
Tall in Spirit will begin with individual storytelling, then a seeking of consensus of core values such as safety, acceptance and love, and then discussing possible actions, she said.
Listening is key.
I was taught as a spiritual director to meet people where they are, and not where we might, ideally, like them to be, she said.
After the listening and sharing process, actions can be as simple as informal meetings with Woodburn-area business owners, who can hear stories of disabled people who would love to patronize their stores, but cannot get wheelchair access, Rodriguez explained.
Kim Schmidt, a Hubbard UCC parishioner, is helping Rodriguez organize the effort. Schmidt, a fixture in Willamette Valley journalism for 30 years, had congenital brain damage that affects her mobility, and she uses a wheelchair.
The daughter of a homicide detective, Schmidt learned early on the deficiencies of the court system. The courts could determine guilt and innocence, but traumatized victims were seldom made whole by the perpetrators prison sentences, she noticed.
Schmidt suggests more meetings between the victim and convicted perpetrator, where the perpetrator can more likely see the pain they inflicted, and the victim can see that the perpetrator was probably acting out of drug addiction or poverty-driven desperation.
"A restorative process puts more humanity into the system, Schmidt said.
The philosophy is more common than people may think.
The Quakers, many Native American and African cultures, already have 'restorative' deeply imbedded into their sense of justice, Schmidt said.
Rodriguez hopes that the Tall in Spirit meetings can branch out throughout Marion County and beyond. She is in dialogue with a Northwest Resolutions leader, who is also a rabbi, and the two of them have hopes to reach out to other churches and synagogues.
We could also take (it) to schools and prisons, Rodriguez said. "There is a great need.