Transformation over Punishment: Story Share with Elizabeth Malone Alteet

On August 20th, members of the Brethren in Christ Church from across the country gathered on Zoom to tell stories of the peace and justice work to which we are being called to do and what we have seen done.

I (Ben White) shared this quote from Henri Nouwen to begin our time. I really do believe that is stories that we need — even more than more information.

“One of the remarkable qualities of the story is that it creates space. We can dwell in a story, walk around, find our own place. The story confronts but does not oppress; the story inspires but does not manipulate.The story invites us to an encounter, a dialog, a mutual sharing. A story that guides is a story that opens a door and offers us space in which to search and boundaries to help us find what we seek, but it does not tell us what to do or how to do it. The story brings us into touch with the vision and so guides us. Wiesel writes, God made man because he loves stories.

As long as we have stories to tell to each other there is hope. As long as we can remind each other of the lives of men and women in whom the love of God becomes manifest, there is reason to move forward to new land in which new stories are hidden.”

Henri Nouwen – The Living Reminder

Then Ryan Skove got us to sing with the promise of our New Jerusalem and the hope that transcends whatever darkness looms, and Sibonukukle Ncube prayed for us.

Then we got to hear from Elizabeth Malone Alteet, a member of Madison Street Church and MCC board member. who got to make two productions with incarcerated folks in California as a drama professor in their Bachelor’s degree program. She showed clips of their productions which were written and performed by the students with Elizabeth’s help, and she told us some of the stories of the men who inspired the plays. It got our hearts moving for our own storytelling. We split into breakout groups and told our own stories of involvement with the criminal justice system and advocacy for its reform.

Here’s what we shared in the larger group

  • There is transformational power in making a personal relationship with incarcerated people. It challenges our notions of retribution that are still strongly seated in our hearts. Jesus wants to overthrow that seat of power and one way he could do that is through personal relationship with a person who is incarcerated.
  • We can continue to help educate our church folks about injustice in our systems
  • Create more events for personal storytelling from people who have themselves been in prison. Let’s destigmatize formerly incarcerated people. 
  • Adopt inclusive, redemptive language — ex fellon, ex-con? No!
  • Advocate for alternatives Example: Greg Boyle and Homeboy Industries. Their motto is “Nothing stops a bullet like a job.” Boyle’s books: Tattoos on the Heart, Barking at the Choir, Netflix Documentary – GDog

Here are some opportunities that Elizabeth Malone Alteet shared:

More stories to share? More resources? Our next Shine Bright Story Share is October 15th at 8:30 PM EST. What should we talk about? Put them in the comments or share them on our facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/PeaceandJusticeProject