New Covenant holds Community Day and Expungement Clinic

(l-r) Criminal Court Clerk Howard Gentry, Ryan Gentry and Nashville Mayor David Briley take in the Community Day festivities. (photo by Cass Teague)

The historic New Covenant Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) hosted a Community Day on Saturday, August 17 from 11 am – 3 pm at the church. This year’s event featured the Music City Community Court Expungement Clinic and Pro Se Indigency Saturday Docket with Judge Rachel Bell from 9 am-2 pm, concurrent with the Community Day and Resource Fair for Clinic and Docket participants.

The Expungement Clinic and Pro Se Indigency Saturday Docket with Judge Bell is one way New Covenant takes the initiative to improve the quality of life for the community. The expungement clinic is an opportunity to clear criminal records that can present obstacles when applying for getting jobs, homes or other opportunities. The clinic is made possible with the support of public officials in addition to more than two dozen volunteer attorneys and law students, who donate their time to help participants sort through the legal issues.

Presiding Judge Rachel L. Bell shared, “It was an exciting day at New Covenant Christian Church, Disciples of Christ. We were well pleased with the turn-out for our 29th Expungement Clinic & Resource Fair. This time we were also able to re-launch the Saturday, Pro-Se Indigency Docket, that we normally hold on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. in the Justice A.A. Birch Building. The partnership with Howard Gentry and the Criminal Court Clerk’s Office is solid and we have more ideas on the horizon. I’m always happy when we are able to use our power and resources to move the needle to help marginalized people. As you know, I truly believe, “Justice does NOT stop at the courthouse steps! TM”.

The Expungement Clinic and Pro Se Indigency Saturday Docket with Judge Bell were supported by Criminal Court Clerk Howard Gentry, along with the Tennessee Faith & Justice Alliance, and the Tennessee Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division. The General Sessions Music City Community Court, Division VIII (8) was founded by Judge Rachel L. Bell in 2012. Since its inception, the court has piloted several community initiatives focused on preventive and diversionary justice focused on the concept, that “Justice does not stop at the courthouse steps” and charged to do all it can to help break the playground (school) to prison pipeline and restore/rehabilitate lives.

During this free public event, the community enjoyed free food and beverages, activities for children including the ever-popular boucy house and face-painting, a Metro Parks music stage with live performances, and dozens of local vendors. Community resources and social service entities, along with a free shoes giveaway were available. The highlight of the day for several of the youth was the bicycle giveaway at the end of the program.
While the complete list of vendors is too long to list, it should be noted that Meharry Medical College students were quite prominent, as their medical and dental students gave health screenings.

The dental students also provided free toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss. Another local post-secondary educational institution, Nashville State was represented by Evelyn Hadley, who advised community of all ages on how to enter and succeed in college. And Metro council candidate Rev. Howard Jones provided ice cream treats that were deeply apprecciated on a very hot summer day.

Dr. Judy D. Cummings is Senior Pastor of the historic New Covenant Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) which is located at 2201 Osage Street, Nashville, and is the first woman to pastor this historic church in its 160 years of existence. Under her visionary leadership, New Covenant is a justice seeking, multi-cultural, open and affirming congregation who seeks to be an “Oasis of Wholeness, Building CommUnity Inside and Out.” A public justice theologian, Dr. Cummings is one of Nashville’s most influential leaders and as a trained community organizer is frequently called upon to speak and to act on issues of injustice.

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