At a Glance:
Volunteering to offer Centering Prayer inside the walls of a correctional facility is often a solo practice. Jails and prisons have their unique rules, obstacles and joys, all of which vary according to the jurisdiction. This can be challenging even for seasoned volunteers. One of the blessings of Covid and Zoom is the opportunity to meet in mutual support and appreciation for the blessings and transformation the practice of Centering Prayer brings to those in the circle, including the volunteer.
IMPORTANT NEWS: In order to better facilitate mutual support and mentoring among volunteers while improving our ability to connect volunteers with those inside the walls, we are building a database of all known Centering Prayer prison outreach volunteers (including former, current, and potential new volunteers). Please visit the Volunteers Survey page for details and to be part of this important project. Please help spread the word!
The Volunteer Support Working Group of CO’s Prison Outreach Service Team hosts online discussions every 4th Monday of the month. We are currently exploring a new time: 7 PM Eastern (6 PM Central, 5 PM Mountain, 4 PM Pacific). Even months offer a speaker or specific topic of interest and odd month meetings offer a general discussion. The Zoom links will be sent via email to all who have expressed interest in attending periodic Zoom gatherings for prison outreach volunteers.
*** PLEASE NOTE: There will be no Volunteer Support gathering in August; hope to see you again in September. ***
Additionally, since DVDs can sometimes be a way for prison outreach volunteers to share video content with Centering Prayer groups where there isn’t internet access, COPOST has a library of recycled Contemplative Outreach DVDs that can be shipped to active prison outreach volunteers. For details, please email Ray Mueller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
RECENT MEETING TOPICS
– Roundtable Presentation and Discussion: Leading Centering Prayer with Women Inside. Sr. Catherine Marie, Paul Witmer, Mary Taylor.
–Trauma Sensitive Mindfulness by Paul Witmer: Paul introduced us to the work of David Treleaven, “Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness” (Practices for safe and transformative healing) and recommended Resmaa Menakem, “My Grandmother’s Hands”. Participants learned about the impact of trauma on those with whom we pray, recognizing the signs, and were offered practical suggestions for our practices so we can meet the needs of each person inside. The link to the presentation is here.
– Lizzie Udwin: Prison Contemplative Fellowship’s release of resources available for Prison Outreach Volunteers (the recording of this presentation can be accessed here; the PCF website and all materials can be accessed at: uspcf.org)
-Three Examples of Centering Prayer: Demonstrations from Prison and Jail
-How it All Began: Stories from the first known Centering Prayer group
These are some of the sentiments expressed in our recent Volunteer Support Zoom call:
- The suggestion to keep my eyes open in a soft gaze while in the group was just the kind of advice I was looking for. A practical tip!
- Right now, I am drawn to reclaiming this ministry of Centering in the jail. I have learned how little the power of this ministry has had to do with me, and how much transformation and learning I have experienced.
- As we participate in Centering Prayer with those inside the walls, remember that we offer a mirror for them to reflect on how we are all growing, changing, and transforming.
- I saw these volunteers coming in, taking their time to sit quietly and pray with me, and that made me think ‘O man, if these volunteers are willing to come and sit with me, I might qualify one day to become normal again.
- There was a participant who was there for the very first time, and she was going to be sentenced the next week. She had just one single experience of the method and a period of silent prayer and she experienced a transformation. When she came back to the group, she had been sentenced to 25 years and she said ‘I can do this time now’. This is why silence is so necessary.
- It was never about me — what I could give or couldn’t give. It was always about presence.
- What you need to be a volunteer is faithfulness to your own practice and a willingness to show up.
- The prisoners are so wonderful, so courageous, so ready to have silence.
If you are thinking about offering Centering Prayer in a jail or prison, please join the monthly Volunteer Support meeting listed above and/or the What’s Inside group and view this link.