St. Davids, PA, January 12, 2018: Eastern University was honored to welcome to our Windows on the World lecture series today, as part of our Martin Luther King, Jr. commemoration, former Templeton Honors College faculty and current Associate Professor of Applied Theology, Howard University School of Divinity, Rev. Dr. Harold Dean Trulear. Also the National Director of Healing Communities USA, Rev. Dr. Trulear’s lecture was titled, In a Building Not Made by Hands: Martin Luther King, Jr. the Beloved Community and Mass Incarceration.
Rev. Dr. Trulear began by movingly singing the lyrics from the song Lord, Keep Me Day by Day, “I want to live, I want to live on in a building not made by hands. I’m just a stranger here traveling through this barren land, Lord I know there’s a building somewhere in a building not made by hands.” Audience members spontaneously joined him in song. Rev. Dr. Trulear explained he heard a man sing this song in a prison in NJ, who had been singing it for 30 years in the prison chapel, and at the time he recognized this man was part of the church universal.
Rev. Dr. Trulear declared, “Our problem as Christians is we look at men and women behind bars as objects of outreach rather than a part of the community…No one had to bring the gospel to the prison. No one had to bring Jesus to the prison. Jesus was already there.”
Dr. Trulear discussed Martin Luther King, Jr.’s book Search for the Beloved Community and how we can take this idea of beloved community and relate it to the idea of mass incarceration.
Rev. Dr. Trulear explained that we need to change the system to give access to marginalized peoples. One part of his vision is to engage congregations in healing and restoration by treating the prison in the same manner as the hospital.
Some of the goals Rev. Dr. Trulear outlined include strengthening individuals, families and communities by creating a climate of welcome and inclusion, reducing stigma and shame, fostering the communities of advocacy, facilitating acceptance of responsibility for actions and behavior and building networks of support.
“We have to recognize that incarceration is throughout salvation history of the Bible. It helps us reduce the stigma; it helps us reduce the shame, when we recognize this is our story. It leads us then to begin to advocate on behalf of those who need alternative sentencing and need community support, rather than warehousing. It addresses the issue of confinement so that there are more humane ways to deal with incarceration besides warehousing. ” Some of the additional initiatives Dr. Trulear encouraged the audience to pursue included improving rehabilitation and facilities, developing realistic reentry strategies and solutions, supporting educational initiatives, addressing the reality of juvenile confinement in adult facilities and supporting programs for expanded community supervision.
Rev. Dr. Trulear said, “We need to see those in the prisons as Jerusalem, as home.” He closed with the audience joining him in singing the same stirring song lyrics he opened the presentation with, “I want to live, I want to live on in a building not made by hands.”