Pastor’s Weekly Message: 03.20.14

Grace Waves

Friends:

Our Lenten Forum Series is focused on the Lord’s Prayer.  Come learn about the heart of Jesus’ teaching and practice.

The Theme for our Lenten Soup and Sacrament is The Mystery and Music of the Pascal Season.  We begin our meal and reflection at 6:30; share a simple Eucharist and then the Easter Choir rehearses until 8:30.  The Choir will also be rehearsing on Sundays after worship.  Join us on Wednesday’s and enrich your Lenten Journey.

Please keep in your prayers: Evangeline (newly born granddaughter of Grace), Karl, Ari, Gloria Aver, Rich Lisa, Joan Squire, Lars, Fred, Ralph, Ruth, the people and children of Syria, Ukraine, the Congo, Yemen, Thailand and the victims of Fukushima on the 3rd anniversary of their disaster.

Prison Ministry—Here is a wonderful article from Gun Johnston about our first Peace-Prison Worship Celebration:

When our South African friend, Mudsunga Farizani, came visiting last spring, she told us of the visits the women in Venda, our sister parish, pay to the women in their local prison. All of a sudden Nancy and I came up with the exact same idea since our Intern Minister, Brock, is based at the Dublin Women´s Correctional facility half of his time and  is being trained to be a full-fledged pastor at our church by Pastor Steve. It´s amazing that the idea came from S. Africa and fit in with us so perfectly.

A small support group of volunteers meet up with Brock once a month, and early on we signed documents in order to be allowed in to the prison. Red tape takes time, as we all know, but on Monday everything was in order for us to join Brock for our first evening service. Unfortunately Nancy is on her way to Arizona, so she could not be with us last night when we car pooled over in the evening sun. We were met by honking Canada geese on the lawns, so peaceful and serene, until we saw the rustic coils of barbed wire everywhere around the campus. Back to reality! We are out of our element, and the reality of a prisoner´s daily life is very difficult for us to comprehend.

My initial aspiration was to simply be with these women to give them a feeling that someone out there cares and listens. Many of them are separated from the children in addition to losing their freedom. As a woman and mother, I shudder at the very thought of their despair and longings.

We are ready, all five of us, two men and three women. Brock arrives, and we are introduced to the striking young female chaplain when she greets us with the guitar under her arm. That looks promising! Music lightens any situation of apprehension.

We are asked to collect our ID´s, driver´s licenses, and fill out a standard form, assuring that we do not carry drugs or contra band. Shoes, belts and what -ever we have in our pockets go into baskets to be screened, just like we are asked to do at the airport before boarding a flight. We sign in and get an invisible stamp on our left hand which we show under a blue light when we enter. So far so good!

The chapel is located close by, and in the hall way there is an inviting reading room and quilts on the walls, very cozy and warm.  One of the young prisoners opens the door and we are awed by the glorious stain glass window and sparkling chandeliers in rows under the ceiling.

We spread out and wait for the worshippers to arrive. The young women place themselves together and seem to be good friends, all clad in light gray sweats and white tennis shoes, some  of them slim while others are overweight. We are watching each other and hope to meet a bit closer. Through this Lenten service they are asked to read out loud from the scripture, and volunteers cheerfully get up to the podium. Brock asks them what the text says to them, and before we know it, these women are eagerly sharing, very appropriately and personally what is on their mind, health, children and what it is going to be like to get out again. One of them is extra peppy and vibrant. She is being released on April 1 to go back to a new life in Arizona, feeling God´s presence. We hope she has a supportive family, so she doesn´t get back with the wrong crowd again. They are so sheltered here without worries for daily bread and care, but at the same time desperately needing their children. One of the women tells us she has nine kids, most of them adopted out, but she hopes to hear from one daughter. It is heart wrenching to watch their faces in agony, but we also exchange smiles across the room, just what I had been hoping for. Smiles are a universal language, indeed.

The female head chaplain is asked in to play her guitar when we sing together. It was a blessed interlude.

We end up with a back and forth conversation and when we part they hug us, something that is not allowed, due to the smuggling risks. They knew it, but we only found out afterwards. Human closeness is so important yet discouraged. It tugs at our hearts when we go out into freedom we take so for granted, get our licenses back and take farewells until next time.

When Brock´s time is up at the end of June, he would like to see us take over this service, and we all felt so good about our first visit that I sincerely hope it will work out according to his wishes. We had a great introduction and sensed that we had made a little difference in those young women´s lives. Maybe they carried us in their thoughts and prayers that evening before bedtime as well. I hope we gave them a sliver of hope and light in their day, and that we are a good motivation to stay on the straight path once they get back into freedom again.

Lenten Blessings,  Pr. Steve