By Ted Wachtel
Tom Albright—whom I first met when he was a master’s degree student at the IIRP Graduate School—and his wife, Carolyn, founded Ripple in 2006, as a community-focused Christian church serving inner city residents of Allentown, Pennsylvania; a city that, like many others, lost its prosperity when it lost its largest industries.
As their small congregation grew, the Albrights sold their suburban home in 2009, and moved to the city’s economically distressed downtown, to live in the neighborhood that is served by their church.
Their congregation has embraced restorative practices, its principles and processes, as a practical way to have a “ripple effect in our community by sharing Christ’s love through acts of kindness and cultivating healthy relationships.” For example, in the summer of 2014, Ripple offered a 4-week restorative practices course, with a tuition cost of $1 per session.
Restorative practices circle at Ripple Allentown
The course gave people the opportunity to participate in and learn about circles and other restorative practices; how to use them to resolve conflict; and about the basic premise of restorative practices—that it’s usually best to do things with people, rather than to them or for them.
I was invited to participate in the closing “graduation” circle, which was a warm and gratifying experience. The invitation gave me the opportunity to appreciate the empowerment strategies that the Albrights and their colleagues—other volunteer pastors—are spreading.
Their efforts demonstrate ways in which religious institutions can achieve more meaningful engagement among the individuals in their congregations. Tom Albright presented the story of his church at an IIRP World Conference in 2013, shown in this inspirational 17-minute video.