The Community of St. Dysmas (CSD) is an ELCA congregation within the walls of the Maryland Correctional Institution. It is supported by the efforts of churches and individuals of the Delaware-Maryland Synod and the Metro Washington DC Synod. Pastor Gerry of The Community of St. Dysmas shares these words:
“Barriers, Hoops and Razor Wire”
I have often thought as I enter on or our St. Dysmas sites to lead worship of all the hassles to get inside the facility. First a long drive to reach the site, then a long drive to the facility itself, and the first of several gates. I am struck by the layer upon layer of razor wire surrounding the prison (Curtis Dawkins in his Book “The Graybar Hotel” says about razor wire; “Razor wire is like Slinkys for masochistic giants that sit atop every fence, doubled up on buildings and the ground. It’s sometime called “concertina”. I don’t know why…I have seen plastic bottles and empty coffee bags impaled permanently on the regularly spaced spikes that are meant to snag the clothing of anyone intent on slinking through. The containers remain there empty-warning flags flying and flapping over the years.”). After passing my worship material and myself through a x ray machine, there is the mandatory pat down including emptying pockets and showing the back of my socks. Only then am I allowed to make the long walk to the designated space for worship. The trek to bring God’s Word and the Sacrament to the men and women “onside” takes patience and resolve.
One of our volunteers, Pastor Gary Rhinesmith from All Saints in Bowie, puts the trek into perspective. “We are told in Matthew 25 that when we visit the person in prison, we are visiting Jesus. Considering all the obstacles and barriers that are put into our path, they sure make it hard to see Jesus.”
This in part is a way of expressing my gratitude to the volunteers of the Community of St. Dysmas for all the hoops that they must jump through to bring Jesus to the men and women who make up this unique congregation. They go through a lot and sacrifice a great deal of personal time to minister “to the least of these.”
In addition, my colleague, Pastor Gary, makes am extremely relevant point. While we are given a mandate by Jesus “to visit the least of these”, society and our culture can put up significant barriers. While not all of you visit “the least of these in prison”, you do live with Jesus’ mandate in Matthew 25. The question for all of us children of God is “what barriers, hoops and razor wire” must you overcome in your ministry to the least of them?
In the Name of Jesus!
Pastor Gerry of The Community of St. Dysmas
PS. Many of the barriers which we overcome is for the sake of security.
*+ “The Graybar Hotel” a collection of short stories by Michigan inmate Curtis Dawkins
+ “Enchanted” a novel where evil and magic collide by Rene Denfeld
+ “America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America” by Jim Wallis – The title says it all!
Pastor Gerry Rickel is the called Pastor of CSD, since September 2011. Pastor Gerry partners with other clergy and rostered leaders to preside at worship services and lead Bible studies at the various sites.
I was in prison, and you came to visit me. Matthew 25:36b
The Community of St. Dysmas
905 Frederick Road + Catonsville, MD 21228
Phone 443-326-1115 + www.stdysmasmd.org + firstname.lastname@example.org