Sound and Light

Aug 08, 2017

By Mary Mortenson, Executive Director, Prison Congregations of America

This is the time of year when we in South Dakota see the elusive dance of the fireflies and hear the song of the cicadas.  Everyone I know loves the magical fireflies - some call them lightning bugs -, but not everyone would agree that the cacophony of sounds coming from the trees every evening is exactly “song.” I think there is something beautiful about how these insects, hidden and sometimes unpopular, sing their song so triumphantly every evening.  Recently we were sharing special time with old friends to the song of these creatures and the accompanying dance of the fireflies, and I was reminded of prison congregations around the country.

So, what do cicadas and fireflies have to do with prison congregations?  Like the cicadas, people who are incarcerated are often misunderstood, if they are thought of at all.  Yet, when a prison congregation worships, the sounds are strong and clear and beautiful.  In prison, light can seem hidden, yet in worship, it is there.

Those of us who worship inside are witness to the flickering lights born of enthusiasm and joy.  One spring several years ago, Jack and I shared in the “Palm Sunday” service with Women at the Well.  The women each had homemade palms and several times during the service, the “Hosanna” call and response was fairly shouted! In worshipping with both St. Dysmas congregations in South Dakota, we are always reminded how much fun it is to sing in a prison congregation as the volume of the song has less to do with number of singers than it does with the sheer joy of worship. No matter the prison, we are touched by strong, clear voices reading Scripture and leading prayer. Finally, anyone who has ever worshipped in a prison congregation knows that sharing the peace is a chaotic time in which every hand is shaken by every other hand – at least once!

Here’s the deal about these sights and sounds of prison congregational worship – the razor wire does not and cannot contain the light or the sound.  Just like the cicadas’ song and the fireflies’ dance, the prison congregations’ witness spreads to the outside. Indeed, this song and accompanying dance of light is changing the church and through it, the world.  May a loud and joyful song and a graceful dance play in your heart.

Category: Miracle

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