Church of the Damascus Road (1)
Feb 26, 2017
By Mary Mortenson, Executive Director, Prison Congregations of America
For the liturgical types in our midst, we are soon in the season of Lent, that time of introspection and preparation for Easter. I confess that for years, I really didn’t like Lent with all its somberness and minor chorded music. I would be impatient with the season, because I knew the rest of the story and just wanted to run with those other Marys to the empty tomb. Then a few years ago a wise friend reminded me that without the cross, there is no empty tomb. He taught me to be fully present in the season of Lent – to use the time for study and prayer and consideration.
I was raised in the church, and so it surprises me that I went all the way to mature age before accepting the wisdom of my friend. I had surely heard his words or those like them before, but it took years to sink in. I am blessed to be in the company of wise and loving Christians who simultaneously accept and challenge my beliefs.
I think that is what congregation is all about. I think that congregation, while certainly a gathering of believers, is also a gathering of doubters and the confused. It is in this loving, safe atmosphere that we continue to grow and mature as Christians. It is this type of community that we strive to build through Prison Congregations of America. I have seen time and again, prison congregation members reach out to one another in care – and sometimes in challenge. When we see a prison congregation behave in this “Jesus way,” then we know that we, in our outside churches, can do likewise. It’s one of the many reasons why the church and the world need prison congregations – as long as there are prisons, anyway.