Tuesday, February 19, 2013

February II

From February 7, Annual Meeting:
The Spirit of God is upon me because the Most High has anointed me
 to bring Good News to those who are poor.
God has sent me to proclaim liberty to those held captive,
recovery of sight to those who are blind
& release to those in prison.
—Luke 4.18-19
These words from the prophet Isaiah & quoted by Jesus caught my attention this week. It is a text that would be a prime source for deep exegetical reflection. For tonight it recalls to me the many volunteers who feel called to share Good News, liberty, recovery & release with those of us who are incarcerated at the Dane County Jail.  Together as chaplains we have the honor of working with the board, the facilitators of Bible Studies, worship, support & spirituality groups & Al Anon. My current estimate is in the area of 140 volunteers, a large number of them with jail access!  I truly had no idea & am so grateful. Tonight I have invited three women who give their time to this jail ministry in the areas of networking, reentry & publicity.
For at least ten years the need for a family support group in the community has been on my heart. For so many reasons, families get worn out from the stress & expense of having a loved one who is incarcerated. I was thrilled when I found out that Ruth Poochigian was involved in that process. One less thing for me to take on is always good. I see a development of this type of support group as essential for both the one who is incarcerated & the family as they leave jail or prison. I do believe that what happens in the families & communities upon reentry is one of the keys in reducing recidivism. Ruth is a regular with 1st Congregational, UCC's Prison Ministry Project & serves on the boards for Sister House, Inc & the Dismas Ministry, a Catholic outreach to prisoners.
Mary Batson has been co-facilitating our Women's Beginnings group,
which provides support for women with work release privileges & presentations on community resources from the areas of  Recovery, Employment & Education and Parenting. We have a summary of the Participant Satisfaction Surveys from 2012. We always say that the more a woman can have in place before reentry the greater the chance of success. Mary did internships with Rock County Jail & Journey Mental Health here in Madison. This past year we were excited to acquire a small stipend for her dedicated work from the Association of Spiritual Caregivers.
            In worship this week our focus was love. I shared with the women how love encompasses all the women I have worked with for so many years; they are in my prayers & become part of my 'family'.  I can enthusiastically say this about Cara Erickson. She has been getting the word out for us & living her dreams as a graphic artist; dreams that began in the Dane County Jail. She is the creator& consultant for the Backyard Mosaic Women's Project's website, a related ministry for women with work release privileges. Tonight she brings the new work she is doing for the Jail Ministry & she will be working on our MALC website.
After a Sunday morning service & adult education forum that John, I & Teacher Deb did last year, I received a commission for a stole. I decided to share that creative process with our Women's Spirituality Group.  Because it was a collaboration I have a check with me tonite for our commissioned piece from Pastor Brad Brookins at Mt. Vernon Zwingli, UCC!

A Prophet's Blessing

This blessing
finds its way
behind the bars.
This blessing
works its way
beneath the chains.
This blessing
knows its way
through a broken heart.
This blessing
makes a way
where there is none.
Where there is
no light,
this blessing.
Where there is
no hope,
this blessing.
In the presence
of hate.
In the absence
of love.
In the torment
of pain.
In the grip
of fear.
To the one
in need.
To the one
in the cell.
To the one
in the dark
To the one
in despair.
Let this blessing come
Let this blessing come
as bread.
Let this blessing come
as release.
Let this blessing come
as insight.
Let this blessing come
as freedom.
Let this blessing come.
                        Jan Richardson

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