At a Glance: A rich, diverse and exuberant response
from 30 different U.S. states, Canada and Mexico.
From both men’s and women’s facilities;
From volunteers outside and chaplain/staff inside
Over 60% of respondents have been practicing Centering Prayer for more than 10 years
COVID disruption: COVID has clearly disrupted the outreach, yet many continue to hold prayerful space for those incarcerated; and some have been able to communicate with incarcerated people in new ways during COVID, such as sending in newsletters or handouts, or even in some places in the United States, corresponding via special email arrangements. There is overwhelming consensus from volunteers that “We can’t wait to get back inside!”
Contact and Communication: These two words stand out and represent a consensus of appreciation for the outreach and a desire to connect with others through some sort of network. There is interest in a periodical Zoom meeting to network with persons who are doing prison Centering Prayer outreach.
Further issues that a network of volunteers could explore together that were specifically mentioned:
Difficulty in access and permission at institutions
Corresponding with prisoners
Working with folks recently released/empowering their leadership
Centering Prayer facilitation in prisons
Centering Prayer Introduction in prisons
Resources that can be shared inside/outside
Mentoring new volunteers, including incarcerated and recently incarcerated folks
Grateful and Humbled: Two more words that emphasize the overwhelming sense of gratitude and humility of the people engaged in this work.
Diversity: This word describes two realities. First, there is a call for diversity. More young volunteers; resources that include voices from people of color (Howard Thurman in particular was mentioned); a need for Spanish-speaking facilitators and resources. Secondly, it is amazing to think about the diversity of responses: so many places, institutions, geographical settings, both men’s and women’s facilities, laity and clergy, and denominational backgrounds. This network of volunteers is very ecumenical and inter-denominational in its scope.
“It is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.” –a volunteer doing Centering Prayer outreach in prisons
“Our prisoners are very grateful for the Centering Prayer group. They find it a real blessing.”
“This is the only hour in the week when I feel free.” –an inmate
“I would like to communicate with others in Centering Prayer ministry.” –volunteer
The Prison Outreach Liaison Team formed out of the survey conducted in February and March of 2021 to identify the strengths and opportunities related to Principles 3 and 12 of our Vision: the presence of the Divine in us is the permanent self-giving of God to every human person (3) and we are invited to make available the gift of Centering Prayer to everyone, particularly to the needy and the marginalized(12). Each of us has been profoundly affected by transformation (our own and others’) “inside the walls” . We have tasted new freedom from our own emotional programs for happiness through this outreach and would be glad to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to delve more into the details of the survey and its responses, please go here.
Prison Outreach Liaison Team
Hampton Deck Kathy Devaney
Chandra Hanson Doug Laplante
Ray Mueller Susan Turpin
Rita Weick Paul Witmer