Prison Fellowship Stands in the Gap to Support Staff
Chaplains are on the front lines of prison ministry. The weight of their responsibilities is enormous on a normal day. They lead group services, provide guidance and counseling, coordinate religious programming across a variety of faiths, and console people who cannot attend the funeral of a loved one.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, our understanding of "normal" changed. In the criminal justice system, almost overnight prison gates across the U.S. closed to volunteers. Yet chaplains remained active wherever possible, with programs shuttered or drastically reduced, no volunteers allowed inside the prison facility, and prisoner populations desperate for spiritual support.
During the most challenging time of their careers, chaplains have looked to Prison Fellowship® as they embraced new ways to serve the prisoners in their care.
A FLOOD OF SUPPORT
In an effort to support chaplains, Prison Fellowship came alongside them with a variety of crucial resources. These resources have met needs for prisoners and strengthened relationships with chaplains. They have also laid the groundwork for strengthened partnerships beneficial to all involved. Resources include:
- Floodlight™, an online platform providing uplifting and educational digital content. This platform is available at no cost to chaplains for use on facilities' TV systems and individual prison-issued tablets.
- The Storehouse, an online, chaplains-only resource shop. The Storehouse offers Prison Fellowship Angel Tree™ materials, small-group studies, copies of the Inside Journal Life Recovery Bible in English and Spanish, and more.
- Inside Journal®, Prison Fellowship's newspaper offering Gospel-centered encouragement and motivation.
- Virtual Hope Events, which feature musicians, speakers, and other performers. During the 2021 Easter weekend alone, virtual Hope Events reached approximately 11,000 incarcerated men and women in 18 states.
MEETING A DESPERATE NEED
The last year posed unique challenges for prisons everywhere. Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women (KCIW) is no exception, according to Chaplain David Webb.
Throughout the pandemic, Chaplain Webb has remained a familiar face to the incarcerated women he serves. Despite widespread closures, Chaplain Webb visited each unit, wing by wing, to pray with prisoners and conduct religious services. He conducted video training to help volunteers learn to serve virtually. In addition, he helped coordinate livestreamed funeral visits from the chapel for those who have lost loved ones during the last year. Regularly, Chaplain Webb led video devotionals to share on the facility's internal TV system for the large population.
For these efforts, Chaplain Webb received recognition on the facility's staff spotlight of the week.
Prison Fellowship field director Scotty Halsey has stayed in regular touch with Chaplain Webb and kept him up to speed on resources accessible through Storehouse and Floodlight. Angel Tree Christmas™, the Inside Journal newspaper, and the Inside Journal Life Recovery Bible are all offered at KCIW.
And over Easter weekend, for the first time, a virtual Prison Fellowship Hope Event™ brought the good news of Christ's resurrection to women hungry for hope.
"The virtual Easter Hope Event was well-received," said Chaplain Webb. "The inmates who spoke with me about that were very enthusiastic."
Patrick McCown, a chaplain at North Central Unit in Arkansas, coordinated Hope Event watch parties for his prison also. There, event participants received the Gospel message in both English and Spanish.
"This is a current example of the kind of technology chaplains have desperately needed on the front lines as we work to advance the Gospel," said Chaplain McCown. "God bless Prison Fellowship!"
CHAMPIONING PRISON CHAPLAINS
According to the Pew Research Center, nearly three-quarters (73%) of state chaplains consider religious-based programs in prison to be "absolutely critical" to an incarcerated person's successful rehabilitation.
Volunteers are critical to help make those programs a reality. Here are some ways to support chaplains, especially as more prisons begin to reopen safely:
- Offer to spend a morning or afternoon helping the chaplain with clerical work or preparations for an upcoming event for prisoners.
- Invite the chaplain to attend your small group or program. Use the opportunity to publicly thank him or her for making all the helpful programs available to prisoners.
- Encourage prisoners to pray for the chaplain and write notes of appreciation when the chaplain's office helps them in a special way.
DID YOU ENJOY THIS ARTICLE?
Make sure you don' t miss out on any of our helpful articles and incredible transformation stories! Sign up to receive our weekly newsletter, and you' ll get great content delivered directly to your inbox.
Your privacy is safe with us. We will never sell, trade, or share your personal information.