Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Shepastor: "A Strange Freedom"

Today is Independence Day in America. On this day we commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, declaring the United States independent from Great Britain. Independence and freedom are beautiful things. Freedom, however, in the words of the late theologian, Dr. Howard Thurman, can be “strange.”
Individuals who have taken a wrong turn in life and ended up in prison face a challenging reality as they walk back into freedom. Although released from a prison cell, they frequently face another kind of imprisonment – an inability to find meaningful employment, societal unforgiveness, loneliness and constant reminders of their past. While some may believe that ex-offenders are getting what they deserve, Jesus calls the Church to embrace a spirit of compassion, reconciliation and rehabilitation. Today Shepastor highlights a developing ministry of the Covenant Baptist Church in Wickliffe, Ohio, “COTAAN,” Covenant Outreach Through Advocacy and Agency Networking. COTAAN is a prison aftercare program for women and girls.
Read about COTAAN below…
About COTAAN...
COTAAN is a prison aftercare program for women and girls Pronounced, "Cotton," the program is designed to be a “soft” landing for those coming from a “hard” start.
Cleveland, Ohio has been named the second poorest city in the country. Statistics reveal that the Greater Cleveland area is home to many “returning citizens.” These men and women have served their sentences and are attempting to resume their lives in the community. Many, however, find it extremely difficult to get re-established. While several programs focus upon assistance to male ex-offenders, fewer options are available for women and girls returning home from incarceration.
Covenant's Response
In 2010, In response to the above stated need, Covenant Baptist Church began the process of developing COTAAN: “Covenant Outreach Through Advocacy and Agency Networking,” a life-changing ministry that assists women and girls returning to society after prison. Minister Kathryn R. Johnson, Covenant Associate Minister and former marketing manager and non-profit administrator was named program director. In 2012 COTAAN was selected by and became the ministry focus for American Baptist Women and Girls Ministries. ABW set a goal of raising $25,000 for COTAAN from American Baptist women across the country. The campaign is on going.
Program Goals:
The goal of COTAAN is two-fold: To provide (1) spiritual guidance and support and (2) identifiable paths to economic self-sufficiency for women and girls who are ex-offenders. COTAAN hopes to provide women and girls returning home from incarceration with spiritual and educational assistance that will help them to become productive citizens re-entering society. Covenant believes the impact of a faith-based program will lead ex-offenders in making positive decisions in other aspects of their lives. Covenant also believes that financial education and planning is a critical aspect of sustained and productive re-entry into society.
The program includes weekly group spiritual guidance sessions, Bible study, and individual spiritual care meetings led by the senior pastor and clergy from the community. The program will also include twice monthly financial education classes. The Director will hold a weekly meeting with clients to track progress, assist with any program needs, and offer support. The use of inspirational DVDs, videos, and presentations will focus on faith, spiritual and personal growth, and overcoming life’s challenges. Speakers from the church and community will provide motivational talks and testimonials. The clients will be encouraged to attend weekly worship services and Bible study. Covenant’s hope is that COTAAN will provide examples of “radical discipleship” showing fully the impact of the program’s guiding scripture, Luke 4:18,
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed" Luke 4:18, New International Version of the Bible
For more information about COTAAN or to enroll, contact Minister Kathryn Johnson at (440) 585-7350 or via email at .
You can hear more about COTAAN in the July 2nd American Baptist Women and Girls Ministry Podcast series and blog, “In Their Shoes” by clicking on the link below:
You may also read about COTAAN’s thirteen week program by visiting
If you have not already done so, take a moment to register for the “Empowering and Encouraging Women in Ministry” conference today! Visit and click on “donate n register” to download the registration brochure today.
Have a happy, safe and thoughtful Independence Day!
Post a comment or send me an email at
Until next Wednesday, In Faith, Hope and Perseverance, Pastor Chris

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