Richmond’s Bon Air Baptist Church will sponsor the premier screening in Virginia of our forthcoming documentary on prisons and faith on Feb. 17, 2014. Watch for more details.

But for now, know that we will be screening the short version of the documentary that will run for less than 30 minutes.

After the viewing, attendees will hear from panelists, two of whom are featured in the documentary.

They are Travis Collins, pastor of Bon Air, and Randy Myers, president of Chaplain Service Prison Ministry of Virginia. Then, the floor will be open to a question-and-answer session with panelists and the film producers.

The screening’s goal is to introduce the documentary to congregational leaders – pastors, chaplains, Woman’s Missionary Union members as well as others involved in corrections.

Given the ecumenical nature of the documentary, we want screenings to be ecumenical. We know, after all, that Catholics and Methodists – among others – have a strong interest in prison ministry.

We hope that the screening will encourage attendees to use the documentary, especially the long version, in their churches.

With an expected runtime of less than an hour, the long version of the documentary is designed to be used over a four-week period in churches, perhaps in Sunday school classes or Wednesday night programming.

The long version is divided into chapters or sessions, allowing viewers to watch and then to discuss each section in a one-hour timeframe.

Chapter one, for example, explores the issues of substance abuse, mental health, recidivism, punishment vs. rehabilitation, and families in crisis.

Other chapters examine what the biblical witness says about the Christian’s moral obligations to engage the prison issue, the false narratives surrounding prison ministry work, and stories of hope.

The stories of hope illustrate how faith-based initiatives make a transformative difference.

When more than 50 percent of released offenders return to prison within three years, that’s deeply disturbing evidence that the system isn’t working.

But when an initiative has a 14 percent recidivism rate for women who complete its program, that’s a story of hope.

We’re convinced that our documentary will better inform, encourage and equip churches to be involved in prison ministry.

Or from a straight biblical perspective, it will help Christians and churches to be more faithful to the moral agenda that Jesus spelled out in Luke 4:18-19 and Matthew 25.

We’re also confident that there is a convergence of interests across partisan and theological divides about the need to address the prison issue.

This is one issue where congregations can join hands inside the sanctuary and across denominational lines to make a real difference.

Screenings are the best way we know to introduce our newest moral resource to congregational leaders and to increase their comfort level in using it.

Using the long version in churches is where the real social change will begin to churn in our culture.

That’s why we are eager to schedule screenings across the country.

Know that the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina will screen the documentary at its annual meeting on March 28-29, 2014.

Central Baptist Church of Bearden in Knoxville is exploring an event. Initiatives for screenings with panel discussions are also underway in Nashville, Raleigh, S.C., Houston and San Antonio, Texas.

Would your church or organization like to sponsor a screening? If so, please email me! We’re seeking collaborative partners.

We expect screening sponsors to build attendance with widespread invitations to area churches, prison ministry organizations, corrections officers and elected officials. Good technology is essential – DVD players and projectors, screens, house sound.

Screening sponsors can expect from us help with media outreach – video clips to TV stations and press releases to newspapers.

Let’s make a difference together on the prison front.

Robert Parham is executive editor of and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.

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