Game Day at Pelican Bay
The first visit to Pelican Bay State Prison chapel for the new year came in on sheets of cold rain and tree whipping wind. The schedule for Sunday was directly opposite playoff football and, as a lifelong Green Bay fan, I was glad to be inside very secure walls to keep me from screaming at a TV set.
We had seven attendees for chapel, two first timers, and two eager for front row regulars. Our Scripture reading was from 2 Peter chapter 1:4 as it includes a favorite word of prison preaching, 'escape' as in "through these great and precious promises of God, you make be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust and sinful desires."
Peter begins his greeting proclaiming grace and peace be multiplied to us in our knowledge of God and Jesus Our Lord. Recognizing grace and peace in our lives became our discussion point and understanding ways we might participate in multiplying it to each other gave us something to carry back into the yard and cell blocks. Peter wrote his letter as intentional strategy, "add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge self-control,..." concluding, "if these things be yours and abound you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord."
Making sense of this spiritual knowledge is like an antennae sensitive to the leading, prompting, and encouragement of the Holy Spirit, especially as it pertains to bearing witness in our communities. We agreed maximum security communities are ripe for divine appointment and bounced around a few ideas of how we ,"the least of these" might be on the lookout for conducting introductions between Jesus and folks we would meet during the week.
A smile came across our faces as we realized smiling itself was the beginning of graceful and peaceful connection. We realized we were not required to become Bible experts to further the KIngdom, but merely willing spirits trusting the joy of the Lord to be our strength. The kiss of peace was how the early Christians greeted each other. Prison decorum requires we replace that gesture with handshakes and fistbumps, thus armed and dangerous to the enemies of peace and grace we went out, back into the rain and wind, as ambassadors of The Son, shining in a dark world.