When I was about 6 or 7 years old, I tore the tag off a piece of furniture… you know, the one that says, “Do Not Remove This Tag Under the Penalty of Law.” After I did that, I was told what it said, my father and older brother began to tease me about how I broke the law and was going to jail. I was frightened beyond belief and I remember my big fear was that I was losing my family.
Moving forward many, many years in my life to a couple of years ago, I received a call from the switchboard at the local hospital. The operator asked me if I was able to come to the hospital. There was a patient in the ICU that really needed to talk to a chaplain. I told her I would be right over, I live less than a mile from the local hospital.
I arrived in the ICU, and was directed to the appropriate room. To make a long story short, after some conversation with the patient, he told me that he had committed a heinous crime that had resulted in the death of a close family member, and then he attempted to kill himself. He knew he was going to jail as soon as his self-inflicted wounds healed enough that he could be transferred to the jail.
But in all of this emotion and fear, there was underneath it all, a beloved child of God that was reaching out for help and a path to some form of remorse and reconciliation, whatever that was destined to look like.
It is easy to think about our brothers and sisters who are incarcerated and say that they are where they are because of their own choices. It is easy to use terms like penalties and consequences. In other words, it is easy for us to not think about these people and their needs… their spiritual needs. It is easy to forget that they, too, are beloved of God. But they are. We are called and we promise to care for them each time we repeat our baptismal vows.
In this installment of our continuing series of the ministry of deacons in the diocese, The Rev. Adrienne Clamp talks about the ministry she is doing with incarcerated women in Montgomery County. She is not the only deacon involved in this type of ministry. In fact, prior to Covid, many deacons and parishes were engaged in this ministry, and many are moving back into the facilities now and caring for these beloved brothers and sisters that God has given us to care for. Caring for their spiritual needs as they pay their debt and working to help them with successful reentry into society. Deacon Adirenne’s is one story of the many in our diocese who have answered God’s call to care for these beloveds.
As a 6 year old boy, I did not go to jail. But I have never forgotten how afraid I was. I have grown to realize that there was much more to lose than what my young mind could comprehend then. And it makes me realize that even though mistakes and missteps happen, regardless of intention, God still loves. And God still holds us as beloved.
If you feel called to find out more about ministry to the incarcerated, please feel free to contact me, and I will put you in touch with one of our deacons or parishes engaged in this ministry. You can reach me by email.
With you on the journey,
The Venerable Steve Seely