Our interviews with formerly incarcerated people indicate that people who identify as gay, lesbian, transgender, or questioning are often not welcome at worship services or Bible study inside prisons, nor are people who question the teachings of the tradition or the worship leaders can offer a liberal religious home to people who are interested in spirituality more than religion, are reflecting on important questions and seeking truth and meaning, have a gender identity or sexual orientation other than heterosexual, or are survivors of domestic violence.
UU Covenant Groups in Prisons and Jails
UUPMI leads UU covenant groups in prisons and jails. Using a curriculum based on the Unitarian Universalist (UU) seven principles we meet every other week with incarcerated people, in the format of a UU covenant group. UU covenant groups are based on peacemaking circles from the restorative justice movement, and involve two rounds where participants share their experiences and thoughts related to the topic of the session.
Co-facilitators are asked to take a six-hour Circle Facilitator’s Training workshop. We are currently leading UU covenant groups in Cook County Jail, and working on getting them into two Illinois state prisons, one for men and one for women. To register for the next available workshop, please contact us.
In-Prison Worship Services
It is our intent to offer monthly Unitarian Universalist worship services in two prisons/jails, one men’s prison and one women’s prison. We feel called to offer worship that affirms the inherent worth and dignity of every person and focuses on a free and responsible search for truth and meaning and encouragement to spiritual growth. We’ve learned through interviews that many people do not feel welcome at traditional Christian worship services, because of their sexual orientation, their experience of domestic violence, or their questioning attitude. Our worship is open to anyone of any faith background or no faith, sexual orientation, and race or ethnicity.
If you would like to volunteer to co-facilitate a covenant group or to be a worship associate for worship in a prison or jail, please contact us.
NOTE: Volunteers for both worship associates and covenant group co-facilitators must complete the application procedures, criminal background checks, drug tests, and fingerprinting as required by the individual prison or jail they will be going into.