Restorative Justice: Healing of Memories Tennessee

Restorative Justice: Healing of Memories Tennessee

Crowdfunding Completed: October 8, 2016

Amount Funded: $3173

Project Owner: Unitarian Universalist Church of Chattanooga

Short Description of Project

The UU Church of Chattanooga hosts Truth, Healing & Reconciliation sessions between the Chattanooga Police Department and African American community.

How was this project connected to UU?

This project was envisioned by the Rev. Dr. Cathy Harrington, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Chattanooga, whose personal experiences with violence and loss as well as her experiences as a volunteer police chaplain, make her intensely aware of the systemic injustices in our world and the need for healing. The Unitarian Universalist Church of Chattanooga is supporting this effort through the use of the church building, hosting lodging and meals, and promotion of the event.
Unitarian Universalism has a long history of promoting social justice. Attempting to heal the violence in our communities is an important step towards increasing justice for all. We are collaborating with the Chattanooga Police Department and leaders in the African American community to involve people who will most benefit from the experience of these sessions.

Full Description of Project

Our Challenge:

Chattanooga, Tennessee, like many cities and towns in our country, suffers from a long history of racism and inequality. This has given rise to gang violence and to fear and distrust between police and community members, especially members of minority communities. The situation is so extreme that the former public safety coordinator for the city used the term “PRESENT traumatic stress disorder” to describe the experiences of the local African American community. As Unitarian Universalists, we can’t sit on the sidelines and watch the continued violence from a distance. We have been involved in multiple interracial and interfaith community events promoting social justice. We currently have a Black Lives Matter banner prominently displayed on our church building, but we are ready to go beyond just hanging a sign.

Our Plan:

Members of the Los Angeles Police Department and community stand with Father Lapsley
Citizens and police officers from Los Angeles with Father Lapsley during a Healing of Memories Workshop
In an effort to bridge the divide and promote understanding, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Chattanooga will host Father Michael Lapsley and the Institute for the Healing of Memories on October 21-23, 2016. During these days, Father Lapsley, an Anglican priest who lost both hands and one eye to a letter bomb while working against apartheid in South Africa, will lead members of the Chattanooga Police Department and members of the African American community through the Healing of Memories Workshop, an intense process based on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. We hope that this initial weekend will be one step towards healing the divide that separates the local police department and the communities they are sworn to protect, thus promoting justice and equity for all community members. As Unitarian Universalists, we see this outreach as an opportunity to live our principles outside the walls of our church by respecting the worth of every person and promoting social justice.

Father Lapsley speaks with Bishop Desmond Tutu in Cape Town South Africa
Father Lapsley speaking with Bishop Desmond Tutu
The Healing of Memories Workshop, which are held all around the world, is a major step to begin the healing journey. It provides a safe place for participants to explore personal histories and gain insight and empathy for themselves and others. Participation provides a safe experiential and interactive way to overcome of anger, loss, grief and guilt and can be one step on the journey to healing and wholeness. It contributes not only to personal healing, but also to the healing of interpersonal relationships. The key to the workshop is that it provides a safe environment for the participants to tell their stories. Many have kept these buried deep inside themselves and this has been a barrier to their healing. As they tell their stories and listen to others, they realize that they share a common human bond and that we are all wounded in some way by past experiences. The workshops have been used to assist victims of 9/11, police officers, veterans, victims of violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, etc. For more information about Healing of Memories, visit their website ( or view the PBS documentary, Wounded Priest (

Our Fundraising Goal:

Our immediate goal is to raise $3000 to cover 75% of project expenses. The total expenses are $1000 for travel expenses for Father Lapsley and a second facilitator, $2000 for the honorarium for the workshops. The remaining costs will be covered by members and committees of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Chattanooga.

Our Long-term Vision:

We hope that this initial 3 day experience will increase the community’s understanding of the benefits of this approach to justice. Healing of Memories, North America, has 5 locations throughout the US, with none in the southeast. Our long term goal is to become the 6th location in North America, offering sessions for multiple groups, including groups in conflict, veterans, and other groups seeking healing. As part of this process, we will develop a base of trained facilitators to lead these sessions.