The Trinity Prison Project
My car reaches the end of the road and there it is: a campus surrounded by walls of razor wire. Of course, this cluster of buildings is not a place for people to fulfill their dreams but is for those whose lives have gone terribly awry; they are in prison. Yet, like at our Trinity campus, at this prison people can study the Bible in a creative, educational, class filled with learning and laughter. The Trinity Prison Project is underway.
Last spring, our former Director of Admissions, Rev. Seth Bridger, put me in contact with Mr. Gary Mohr, the Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, and an active ELCA layman. Mr. Mohr, other prison officials, and I had an important meeting in his office in downtown Columbus. I shared my experience teaching in Sing Sing Prison through New York Theological Seminary, prior to coming to Trinity, and explained that I hoped to teach in prisons in Ohio. Mr. Mohr was immediately supportive and responded, “We need to treat our people like people,” referring to the inmates. Over the next few months, I worked with the Department of Corrections to develop the Trinity Prison Project.
Starting last September, Trinity students accompany me every Thursday afternoon to Pickaway Prison in Orient, Ohio, about a half hour from Bexley. Volunteers can only come one time, unless they choose to undergo more extensive training, and typically three people come with me each week. I teach an introductory Old Testament course to fifteen men who are incarcerated, and the Trinity students serve as small group leaders. After my lecture, the class breaks into small groups for reflection questions. The students lead these discussions, then report back to the larger group, affirming the contributions of all participants. The experience is eye-opening. Debbie Pinnegar, M.Div. ’20, commented, “I had never before interacted with people in prison, and I feel better equipped to visit prisons in my ministry going forward.” In this way, the Trinity Prison Project helps our students live out the Gospel and live into the seminary’s mission of forming leaders for Christ’s church at work in the world.
I would like to invite you, as a member of the larger Trinity community, to join us. The Trinity Prison project will continue through the end of this semester then resume in the spring, leaving campus at 2:30 on Thursday afternoon and returning by 6 pm. Please send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org
) with a cc to the Trinity Prison Project Coordinator, Jeff Ogonowksi M.Div. ’20 (email@example.com
), to arrange dates and details. Come and experience the joy of Matthew 25:39-40, when Jesus explains where he can be found.
39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?'
40 And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'
The Rev. Dr. Julie Faith Parker,
Assistant Professor of Old Testament
Missed Last Week's Thoughts?