Cynics say that prisoners find God only after they are convicted and sentenced. There might be a germ of truth in that statement, but what does it matter where or when an inmate finds religion?
Some prisons have paid chaplains who minister to the inmates. Prison Congregations of America, Inc., (PAC) believes that when pastors from the community come into a prison and accepts those gathered as members of his or her church they minister with the inmates.
The concept of a prison congregation is simple. According to the PAC website, “The PCA model is unique in that the prison inmates are the members of the worshipping community. They are led by a pastor from the outside who is trained by, and accountable to, the sponsoring denomination. The prison church or worshipping community is supported financially by churches on the outside who also take turns being worship guests.”
Being part of a community, religious or otherwise, can be empowering to an inmate, many who often feel disenfranchised from society. Prison volunteers are often held in high esteem by inmates, because the feeling is that volunteers want to help the prisoners.
PCA believes that ministering should not stop once an inmate is released. PCA members do everything from meeting a prisoner the minute he or she gets out, to participating in reentry training so that they can better aid formerly incarcerated individuals.
According to the PCA website, a prison congregation is a win-win situation:
Inmates get a chance to grow and mature in their faith in a welcoming environment.
The outside church wins because when a church becomes involved with the PCA model, the Spirit is so strong, that church renewal simply happens!
Prisons win because there is a healthy arm of programming for which they have to pay nothing.
Society wins because returning citizens have had the chance to learn and practice the skills needed to succeed on the outside.
To learn more about PCA, Inc. click here to go to website
A Lenten Devotional Booklet is offered to prisoners. Those interested in receiving a copy to share with prisoners are asked to call Mary Mortenson at 800-417-6692, or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org. To download the booklet click here to go to website .
In the February issue of Prison Congregations of America, Inc.. Mortenson writes that when people ask her “Why a congregation?” she answers “I believe were born to be in a community. While our faith is a personal thing, living our faith is a communal thing. We need each other and we are called to serve one another – in community.”
Source: CURE National