A Congregation in a Prison - Really?
Welcome to Prison Congregations of America, a ministry which plants denominationally sponsored worshipping communities is prisons across the country. The PCA model is unique in that the prison inmates are the members of the worshipping community. They are led by a pastor from the outside who is trained by and accountable to the sponsoring denomination. The prison church or worshipping community is supported financially by churches on the outside who also take turns being worship guests. While the prison congregation has denominational sponsorship, the ministry is completely ecumenical, open and welcome to all. This is truly ministry with, rather than ministry to, those who are incarcerated.
A worshipping community inside a prison works the same as outside, given the parameters of the facility. There are worship and Bible study, sometimes choir practice and lay leadership teams. There are mission projects which include crocheting hats and mittens for homeless people, raising money through a CROP walk in the prison yard, engaging in a prayer shawl ministry, and sending missionaries from the outside out to serve those in need on behalf of the prison church.
A natural outgrowth of the inside-outside relationship built through the PCA model is an interest in reentry. Sometimes that means that good-hearted people meet a returning citizen at the gate upon his/her release. More and more often, however, groups of people avail themselves of reentry training so that they can offer support and accountability to people getting out of prison.
Want to know more? PCA has some exciting events coming up!
Registration is now open for the 2015 Come and See conference, which is scheduled for October 15-16 in Ankeny, Iowa. Hosted by Women at the Well, it will be held at Ankeny First United Methodist Church, 206 SW Walnut St. This is an opportunity to learn about and experience the PCA model of prison ministry. Presentations will include panel discussions by prison administrators, ex-offenders, prison pastors and reentry personnel and will be highlighted by attending a worship service inside the walls of the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women in Mitchellville, IA.
On October 16-17, 2015, immediately following Come and See, PCA and Women at the Well will be co-sponsoring a conference called Right Next Door: Beyond the Walls of Church and Neighbor. Goals of the conference are to inspire, equip and engage individuals and churches in ministry with persons in their community that are often mostly invisible. We know about these people, because we minister with them inside the prison, and the ways they can become isolated through challenges like mental illness, domestic violence, sexual assault, and the like. Keynote speaker will be Sister Helen Prejean (depicted in the film Dead Man Walking). Dr. Harold Dean Trulear, director of the Healing Communities Prison Ministry and Prisoner Reentry Project of the Philadelphia Leadership Foundation will also be a presenter at the conference.
Benefit Banquet and Ingathering
Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Sioux Falls, SD
October 24, 2015
Tickets are $25/person; table of 8/$200
Keynote speaker will be PCA Board member and pastor of the Church of the Damascus Road, Rev. Paul Stone. Musical entertainment will be by the Master’s Voice Quartet.
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