Never in my life have I received so many words of appreciation as I have since starting to tell and teach biblical stories inside “correctional” institutions. This summer, three of us from Grace United Methodist Church of Dayton, Ohio started a Circle of the Word at the women’s prison here in our hometown. Each time we have gone has been an extraordinary experience and we always receive many thank-you’s from the women.
As if that weren’t enough, the prison had a volunteer appreciation event to recognize the contributions of various agencies that lead programs for the women of DCI (Dayton Correctional Institution). There were plenty of faith-based programs, but we seemed to be the only local church represented. Our certificate will be officially presented to the congregation on December 10 and Grace’s biblical storytelling ministry there highlighted.
For our part, we try to communicate to the women how much we appreciate their presence and participation. It’s difficult to convey how much we receive from their insights about the story, and their generous sharing of connections with it from their own life experience. The last time we went I was so caught up in their stories of connection to Mark 1:21-28 (Jesus Rebukes an Unclean Spirit) that I completely lost track of the time. The chaplain had to intervene to make sure the women got back in time for “count.”
So, to be appreciated AND appreciative, start a Circle of the Word in your local jail or a nearby prison. My book will tell you how as well as why—A Breath of Fresh Air: Biblical Storytelling with Prisoners. To learn more, visit my book’s page on the Wipf and Stock Publishers site.