A Congregation in a Prison - Really?
Welcome to Prison Congregations of America, a ministry which plants denominationally sponsored worshipping communities is prisons across the country. The PCA model is unique in that the prison inmates are the members of the worshipping community. They are led by a pastor from the outside who is trained by and accountable to the sponsoring denomination. The prison church or worshipping community is supported financially by churches on the outside who also take turns being worship guests. While the prison congregation has denominational sponsorship, the ministry is completely ecumenical, open and welcome to all. This is truly ministry with, rather than ministry to, those who are incarcerated.
A worshipping community inside a prison works the same as outside, given the parameters of the facility. There are worship and Bible study, sometimes choir practice and lay leadership teams. There are mission projects which include crocheting hats and mittens for homeless people, raising money through a CROP walk in the prison yard, engaging in a prayer shawl ministry, and sending missionaries from the outside out to serve those in need on behalf of the prison church.
A natural outgrowth of the inside-outside relationship built through the PCA model is an interest in reentry. Sometimes that means that good-hearted people meet a returning citizen at the gate upon his/her release. More and more often, however, groups of people avail themselves of reentry training so that they can offer support and accountability to people getting out of prison.
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