Categories
Beyond the Bars Blog

Johnny’s Long Walk Home

Johnny was in the prison library, looking for answers to his deepest spiritual questions, when he overheard a conversation two tables over. An Orthodox prisoner named Jesse was talking about the early Church. Johnny moved close enough to eavesdrop, an uncomfortable, even dangerous thing to do in prison. Johnny started asking him questions, which led […]

Categories
Beyond the Bars Blog

St. Dismas the Good Thief

“One of the criminals who were hanged railed at [Jesus], saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but […]

Categories
Beyond the Bars Blog Uncategorized

#AscendingTogether Part 3: Dn. Seraphim, Volunteer Prison Chaplain

When Deacon Seraphim Blackstock began visiting men in a Florida prison, he started out, in his own words, “very arrogant”.  “I went into the prisons with the idea I was helping these guys. They’re felons. They’ve committed horrible crimes. I’m doing them a big favor.” Dn. Seraphim would soon find out that there was much […]

Categories
Beyond the Bars Blog BTB

#AscendingTogether Part 2: What Can Prisoners Teach Us About Repentance?

“God is the life of all free beings. He is the salvation of all, of believers and unbelievers, of the just and the unjust, of the pious and the impious, of those freed from the passions or caught up in them, of monks or those living in the world, of the educated or the illiterate, […]

Categories
Beyond the Bars Blog

#AscendingTogether Part 1: Together with Christ in Prison

Where there is real humility, all bonds are made free.” -St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent “These inmates put my prayer life to shame.” -Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, after visiting a prison with OCPM’s Director of Training and Spiritual Care, Fr. Stephen Powley  John was sentenced to eighteen months in a medium security […]

Categories
Beyond the Bars Blog BTB

Mentally Ill Prisoners: Icons of Christ

For nearly three years, Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM) staff have been regularly writing to a prisoner, whom I will call Michael, who lives in a state mental hospital and suffers from delusions. The staff send Michael personal letters, cards with pictures of nature and wildlife, icon cards and even funny illustrations. Often, Michael’s letters […]

Categories
Beyond the Bars Blog

The light of Christ reaches even into prison cells this Christmas

Jen became a grandmother at a much younger age than she ever imagined. She felt bitter that a new, unexpected grandbaby would derail her teenage son’s future.  When her grandson, Matt, was born at Christmas and she finally had a chance to hold him, her anger faded away. “I looked at him and it melted my […]

Categories
An UpWord Glance Beyond the Bars Blog

Thanksgiving behind bars

Recently, we received a donation from the Missouri Department of Corrections — but the State of Missouri was not the donor; a prisoner was. That’s right, incarcerated men and women, who often earn just a few cents per hour, donate to OCPM. And those who earn no money often donate their stamps to OCPM so […]

Categories
Beyond the Bars Blog

An OCPM visit to Pennsylvania Part Two

by Niko Petrogeorge Recently, my colleague Fr. Stephen Powley made a pilgrimage to St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. Among the many esteemed staff at St. Tikhon’s is our friend, Fr. John Kowalczyk, who is a chaplain at a nearby prison and also teaches a class on “Foundations of Pastoral Theology” to our seminarians.  […]

Categories
Beyond the Bars Blog

An OCPM visit to Pennsylvania Part One

by Niko Petrogeorge If someone approaches you with anger how do you respond? Last week, my colleague Fr. Stephen Powley and I visited SCI Waymart, a state prison in Pennsylvania. We made rounds with Fr. John Kowalczyk, an Orthodox priest and contract chaplain at SCI Waymart. At a certain point, we walked into a unit […]