Introducing the “Coming Home Sangha”
How to support and to share practice with Buddhists and other contemplatives returning to the community after prison was the focus of a meeting held April 22 at the Freedom Project office in Seattle. Participating were Verne Garvie and Katie Talbott of Freedom Project, Genko Kathy Blackman of Dai Bai Zan Cho Bo Zen Ji, Kobai Scott Whitney of Plum Mountain Refuge, and Julie Welch of the Northwest Dharma Association.
A very fruitful discussion produced the following guidelines for a post-prison sangha:
- The name of the group will be “Coming Home Sangha.”
- Coming Home Sangha will welcome people from any contemplative tradition, whether formally religious or secular. It will be open to returnees, prison volunteers, and any other interested community members.
- Meetings will be facilitated by a rotating core of regular facilitators plus guest facilitators invited from various sanghas.
- In addition to Dharma talks or other presentations by guest facilitators, the sangha meetings will also include a regular routine for mindfulness practice including sitting meditation.
- Once established, the Coming Home Sangha may be able to provide guest speakers and other forms of education to regional sanghas and other groups interested in including returnees.
- Coming Home Sangha will begin as a formal group in August of this year.
- The sangha will meet twice a month, on 1st and 3rd Wednesdays, at 7:00 p.m.
- Meeting location will be the Freedom Project office, 1930 6th Avenue South, Seattle.
- There will be another planning meeting at the Freedom Project office on Wednesday, July 8th, at 7:00 p.m.
Much help is needed to make this project a success. Coming Home Sangha needs volunteers to help with additional planning and to get the word out to returnees, prison volunteers and chaplains, and prisoners soon to be released. We also need to engage guest teachers and facilitators from interested sanghas and to secure a roster of core facilitators who will maintain a continuity of practice.
Above all, Coming Home Sangha needs support and enthusiasm from the community. All interested people, regardless of the nature of their contemplative practice, are welcome, including those with no previous experience with prisoners, returnees, or the prison system.
To volunteer or for more information, contact Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about groups mentioned above,
Contributor: Julie Welch.