Friends Logo V2Christmas 2008 Edition
The Newsletter of The Friends of Dismas
Personal Message
From Rev. Harry Nigh

Harry Nigh
For the past four years in Weavings, our little email newsletter I've tried to tell some of the stories and reflect on our community ministry with men and women coming home from prison. With the recent incorporation of Friends of Dismas, we want to re-launch Weavings as a bi-monthly newsletter of the good news that is happening all around us where volunteers and ex-prisoners are building a "community of hope". And although it may look like we've become technologically sophisticated, I assure you that we are the same unlearned folks just trying to learn how to listen and to love in faith. Come and join us!
Friends of Dismas
becomes a Registered Charity!  
Friends Logo V2
We are pleased to formally announce that the Friends of Dismas is an official charity registered federally with the Canada Revenue Agency. This means many things - one of which is we can now issue tax deductible receipts for contributions. To date we have had over 50 donations and we thank everyone who has been involved.
To donate please send a cheque to the following:
Friends of Dismas
PO Box 117, Markham Station
Markham, ON L3P 3J5
or to donate on-line with a credit card visit the link below which will take you to our partner for on-line donations CanadaHelps.
CanadaHelps Logo 
Thanks to all our friends for caring.
Dismas Fellowship Logo dec08Toronto Dismas Fellowship 2009 Dates
The Toronto Dismas Fellowship meetings are held on Friday evenings at Walmer Baptist Church. The dates for 2009 are as follows:
January: 16 & 30
February: TBD & 27
March : 13 & 27
April: 10 & 24
May: 15 & 29
June: 12 & 26
July: 17
August: 21
September: 11 & 25
October: 9 & 13
November: 6 & 20
December: 4 &18
For information on Walmer Baptist please click below:

Volunteer Orientation Training this January
In January we will offer new volunteers an orientation to community ministry with ex-prisoners. This four-session orientation of approximately 4 hours each, deals with your questions about volunteering with ex-prisoners and allows you to discern if this is an area of ministry appropriate for you.

To Find out more about this training please visit our website: 


Ministry of Works: Community Dinner @ Keele
Sharing Food is one of marks of friendship and community.
Every second week a group of volunteers prepares a meal, brings it to the Keele Community Correction Centre halfway house and shares it with the men that live at the centre.
It is a time of community, and for many of the men at the Keele Centre, it is the only meal they will eat with other people that week.
If you think your faith community group might be interested in preparing and/or hosting an evening then please visit our website by clicking on the link below for more information. 
Welcome & Thanks for Your Patience & Participation 
AnnouncementAs Harry mentioned in his personal message this is the first edition of our new electronic newsletter and we are also pre-launching our new website for newsletter subscribers. Please note that it is still very much under construction so you may see some incomplete things there from time to time. 
You are getting Weavings in electronic form because you have been involved in some way with Restorative Justice over these past years and we consider you a friend. We would like you to know a few things:
  • If for any reason you would like to unsubscribe to this Newsletter then please feel free to do so by hitting the unsubscribe button below;
  • If you do this then we will NOT be able to send you any e-mails on Restorative Justice events so if you would simply like to unsubscribe from the newsletter then send us an e-mail at:;
  • If you would like to send us information and/or articles for the newsletter then please feel free to do so as well by e-mail at:

Thanks for your contributions to the work of Restorative Justice and we look forward to many new adventures ahead.

 The Weavings Team
Full Immersion: A Baptism of Hope  
By: Rev. Linda Levin, Runnymede United Church 

This Halloween, when others were "shelling out" candy to little goblins and princesses knocking at their doors, I was "masquerading" as a Baptist minister, participating in my first ever, full immersion baptism.
Neal, a friend from Dismas (ex offender fellowship), had asked to be baptized. Harry, the community chaplain, had graciously invited me to participate. When I balked, he impishly asked when I thought I'd get another chance ... and so ...
I confess, since I was a newbie, I was concerned with practical questions, like the perennial "What to wear?" And "How cold will the water be? How do I avoid leaving puddles in the church?" And the last second panic of "How exactly do I hold a man's nose as he goes under?"
  To Read More Click Here  
There was No 'Other' AnymoreDebbie Ackley
By: Debbie Ackley

On November 17, I read from Born from Silence at two penitentiaries in Gravenhurst, Ontario: Beaver Creek and Fenbrook Institutions during Restorative Justice Week. This year the theme was "Fostering a Restorative World View". In three of the four readings with inmates and staff (held separately), the reading was done in a circle. I am so grateful to chaplains Harry Nigh, Eusebia da Silva and the chaplains of both institutions: Arn Main; Miles Schell and Abraham Yonas for inviting me to do this.
It was one more layer of healing for me as the men and the staff listened to my story with attentiveness, openness and a willingness to "make room for my story" in the house of our own beings. I came home knowing something deep had been healed and transformed in me. There was no "other" anymore.  I, too, was able to take in filaments of story that they were willing to share with me. It was the first time my story had been heard in the "criminal justice system" and after four years this was one more necessary step in healing and restoration.
On November 21, I also read in a circle at a Dismas Fellowship meeting, a support group for men and women released from prison. The experience was similar, but perhaps because I heard two other stories in more detail this time, I came away with their stories in the forefront of my soul. After many years of facilitating dialogue circles, this experience of reading my poetry in circle brought a new depth to my understanding of co-creating "safe containers" for shared story telling. Our world views are carried in stories. This round of story telling did one small thing toward fostering a restorative world view.

Debbie Ackley lives in Toronto where 4 years ago her teenage son was brutally swarmed and beaten by 15 other youth at a party in Rosedale. Only two youth were ever charged (one of whom was drafted to the NHL shortly afterwards) and with mistakes in collecting evidence no one was ever convicted. Debbie's whole family endured this trauma. Her book of poetry, Born From Silence gives witness to her struggle to find meaning and hope. As she says, her experience of reading in Fenbrook and Beaver Creek was the first time she was able to tell her story within the criminal justice system.
Woman's Quiet Day Retreats  
Manresa 2This past summer in July 2008 Community Chaplaincy held the first silent weekend retreat for women on parole. It was a healing experience for many and it has led to the creation of Quiet Day Retreats, one for each season of the year: Autumn, Winter, and Spring.
The next retreat day will take place on Monday, February 16, 2009 at Manresa Retreat Centre in Pickering. Using the vehicles of film and ritual we will explore ways to be attentive to God's presence within and among us.

The Quiet Day Retreat is an opportunity to be in nature, to rest in peaceful surroundings, to pray, and to share in group. It is an opportunity to slow down and be touched by God's presence as well as the community of women who gather together. Participants at the last two retreats shared how the quiet time away also enabled them to let go of some burdens they had been carrying. Our hope is that at the end of the retreat participants will have an increased awareness of how much they are loved and valued. 

If you are interested in participating in the retreat and/or helping in a variety of ways please contact Eusebia da Silva at 416 540-5064 or at

Restorative Justice Conference 2008

Faith Active Now!  

On Saturday November 15th at Trinity-St. Paul's United Church in Toronto over 150 people gathered to learn about and discuss to make our faith active in the work of Restorative Justice.
Keynotes from Harry Nigh, the 2007 Ron Wiebe award recipient and members from set the stage. 
There were a number of interactive workshops on how we can all become involved in active ministry to those touched by crime. These included:
·Residential Schools - Stories of shame, loss, healing and forgiveness
·A Congregational Approach to Reintegrating Ex-Prisoners
·Congregational-Based Crime Prevention and Intervention
·Faith Responding to Communities Impacted by Crime
·The Road to Healing and Forgiveness
To conclude the day, there was a Call to Action. To get a copy of the Faith Active Now!  Call to Action document please visit:
To find out the specifics of one of the Ministry of Works programs you and your faith community can get involved with today please read the story to your left on the Community Dinner Program at the Keele Centre.
Please plan to join us next year for our conference!
Thank You for 'doing the humble work.'
In closing a thank you from all of us and may the blessings of the Christmas season be with all of you.  Below is a quotation from Mother Teresa that captures the work you do - thank you for caring and for not being afraid to do the humble work:
 "Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work."