Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Our pianist, Marian Korth blesses us every time she come to play for our Women's Worship. And then, because she seems to love to write as much as she does make music, she often blesses us again with her weekly blog. This one is all about us!



Thursday, March 27, 2014

A View from a Liaison

Bonnie Block is the liaison representing St. John's Lutheran Church
According to the MALC website:  MALC was formed in 1970 in response to a request by Madison Mayor Otto Festge, who believed that the area's Lutheran Churches could work together to provide common ministry, including serving people incarcerated in the Dane County Jail as well as people worldwide through support of international aid agencies. I realized the "support of international aid agencies" is why MALC coordinates the annual box car loading of quilts for Lutheran World Relief. (For more info and the chaplain's blogs see http://www.malc-online.org/about-us)
Over half of the Jail Ministry is funded through contributions from 43 congregations (ELCA, LCMS and UCC) and the rest through individual gifts and fund raising events like the Quilt Auction and a "Jazz for the Jail" concert (mark your calendars for the 2014 concert on June 8th.) 
There were interesting reports from Chaplains John Mix and Julia Weaver on their work.  Julia also staffs the Backyard Mosaic Women's Project which meets weekly at St. John's.  It is a support group for women just released from the Jail or in the Huber work release program.  We also heard the stories of two people who have been jailed and how the Jail Ministry helped them turn their lives around.  Another speaker was Christa Fisher who is the first ever Clinical Pastoral Education student with MALC.  Also working with the chaplains is Brittany Seyller, a UW-Madison intern with the jail mental health staff.
The Wish List of things needed by inmates is: small packs of colored pencils, composition notebooks for journaling (nothing with spirals), stamped envelopes, stationary items, pencils, current daily readings, recovery books, calendars, reading glasses and greeting cards slipped into the tops of each envelope so no sorting is required. As long as the cold weather lasts the Jail could also use winter coats for people who are being released from the Jail.  Julia is also asking for prayer shawls for women who are going into treatment programs.  You can bring any of these items to the church office at St. John's.  
In closing let me share this prayer/poem included in Julia's written report and compiled from the stated intentions of the Women's Spirituality Group that meets inside the Jail:
Oh God,
I need everything!
To learn to love & be loved
To forgive myself & others
To let go
To remember your favor
To remember that you love me in spite of myself,
Who I am & and what I have done
& in the face of my enemies
May I be mindful
May I listen
May I be open
May I come closer to You
May my faith continue to grow
Put more love & pardon for others in me
Help me practice listening, hearing & discerning
Help me fast for a greater connection with You
Today, may we be safe together
& learn for each other


Friday, February 28, 2014

When Is The Time Right?

Christa Fisher is a student at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa where she is pursuing her Masters of Divinity Degree. Her studies this semester are focused on women's jail ministry. Under the supervision of Chaplain Julia Weaver, Christa is functioning as a chaplaincy student in the Dane County Jail.

When is the Time Right?
Christa J Fisher

"While confined here in Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities 'unwise and untimely.'" Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr, April 16, 1963

Looking back on the Civil Rights Movement, it is hard to imagine anyone criticizing Martin Luther King Jr's pursuit of justice and equality. Yet he and his colleagues were condemned and rejected by many people including those they believed to be their advocates – liberal whites and economically advantaged blacks. Worried for their safety, security, and comfort, King's "advocates" insisted he was being irrational, risking too much, and acting impetuously. They implored him to stop and wait until a more appropriate time. After weighing the "brutal facts" of racism against the potential consequences of action and inaction, King found himself with "no alternative." Working within the constraints of an unjust system, King did the very best he could with the resources available to him. Despite his great hope and brave actions, he found himself in jail, confined to a cell and labeled a "criminal."

Some may consider it a stretch to compare King's incarceration with that of the men and women residing in our correctional institutions. Yet, according to the law, King was a "criminal." The justice system does not differentiate between the intentions of those who violate the law. If that were the case, King would have never been arrested and our jail and prison populations would be significantly smaller. Like King, the crimes committed by many of the men and women in Dane County Jail are a result of best choices made under tenuous circumstances. Unlike King however, who had a well-organized, educated, and expansive support network, many of the men and women in Dane County are navigating this complex and impersonal system on their own. With limited resources, ineffective support systems, and fading hope, people often end up rationalizing and accepting what would otherwise be unacceptable options. The run-away teen who was forced to choose between returning to an abusive home or trading sex for "safe" shelter; the single-mother who stole groceries when her minimum-wage paying job fell short each month; the man who choose to sell drugs in order to earn money for expensive medical treatments and prescriptions; and the woman who took drugs to numb the pain of unhealed trauma or to medicate untreated mental illness.

Stories like these are common - stories of people who violated the law because they believed they had "no alternative." Each doing the best they could with their limited resources. I'm not suggesting that selling drugs or trading sex are good or noble choices. Rather, I am suggesting the system King endeavored to fix is still broken. A system is broken when people are forced to choose between criminal activities and human rights (food, shelter, health care). A system is broken when people consider sexual exploitation, theft, and drug dealing to be their best options. The system the Civil Rights Movement sought to transform was one which forced King to choose between violating the law and compromising human dignity; a system in which life-threatening, civil disobedience was considered a best option.

When is it wise to strive for justice and equality? When is it timely to persevere on behalf of human dignity? For whose rights do we align ourselves, our time, and our money? According to King, social and civil transformation is necessary anytime "the cup of endurance runs over and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair." What do our actions or inactions tell our exhausted and despairing brothers and sisters throughout Dane County who are, at this very moment, considering criminal activity to be their best option? When is it time for us to "wait" no more? When is it wise and timely for us to create systems which support all people, equipping everyone with the resources necessary to truly make the best decisions possible?

Thursday, January 30, 2014


It the beginning of a new year and January has slipped by so quickly.
I always ask the women who participate in worship to do two things this time of year; set an intention and review the jail ministry. Their reponses are striking in a number of ways. Their intentions almost always include sobriety and their families.
In their reviews of how the ministry serves them, they almost always want more; more individual spiritual care, more churches involved in the ministry, more Bible studies & worship opportunities, more guidance for trauma and recovery, more literature, more thanksgiving, more prayer. The more says to me that they realize the opportunities and resources we provide and recognize the gift of it all. But they are hungry for even more! The challenge for myself, the ministry, the churches, the community is, can we do more?
This past year we have benefited and grown from having our own graphic designer, Cara Erickson. We have a new logo and the website has been renewed. We have new ideas for 2014.
 We have a new co-facilitator for our Women's Beginnings Group. Brittany Seyller is a UW-Madison intern with the mental health staff at the jail. She has already become an asset and inspiration for our group.
Christa Fisher will be our first ever Clinical Pastoral Education student. She will be co-facilitating the Backyard Mosaic Women's Project and Women's Worship. She too instantly began to use her gifts and is an inspirational presence.
With new ideas and new people we can improve and expand!
Improvement comes from a surrender of will to GOD, a willingness of self-change. Each of us is different, however we have shared intent.  Michelle