Wanna Get Away?

Sep 23, 2018

by Pastor Rick Admiraal, New Life Prison Community, Newton, Iowa

In one of their catchy ad campaigns, Southwest airlines famously asks us this question: "Wanna Get Away?"  Those attending Prison Congregations of America's retreat for prison pastors certainly answered this question in the affirmative. Yes!  I do wanna get away!  The third weekend in September was the time for our annual spiritual retreat.  In fact, Mary Mortenson did an exceptional job planning the third annual retreat for prison pastors.  Ten pastors from five states traveled to the Sophia Retreat Center in Atchison, Kansas.  A ministry of the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica, the Sophia Center was truly a place where we received hospitality. 

The sisters did a great job of living out the words of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of Matthew: "Then the King will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." (Matthew 25:34-36) 

We were strangers to them before our arrival but Sister Carol Ann promised us that the sisters would continue to pray for us forever!  The pastor of St. Dysmas in Maryland, Rev. Susan Beck shares her thoughts with us: "Yes, this was an amazing experience. The camaraderie was instant--what a blessing for this new kid on the block.  And yes, the venue was great. The sisters really did welcome us as if they were welcoming Jesus."

I believe going on retreat periodically is absolutely critical.  I've been to all three of the prison pastors retreats in South Dakota, Indiana, and Kansas respectively.  It's extremely important to continually renew your spirit so that you don't become burned out in ministry.  The Sophia Center was a great location for all of us to rediscover peace. 

The schedule had copious amounts of time in which we could take walks, take naps or enjoy healthy conversations with old friends or new friends.  There was also time for prayer, worship and instruction.  Richard Bruxvoort Colligan was our leader in both worship and instruction.  Richard loves the Psalms and has composed many original songs based on the ancient and famous 150 poems.  He played his guitar marvelously and encouraged us to sing along with him.  He was so gracious.  His words and music soothed the soul.  He taught us about the three Psalm Seasons: 1) Thriving; 2) Desolation (lament) and 3) Wonder.  He challenged us to integrate more lament into our teaching, preaching and worship since the laments can meet people right where they're at. 

One of Richard's songs was based on Psalm 1 and contained a beautiful beatitude: "Blessed, blessed are we to abide in God's Word, nourished through every season, blessed are we."  If you love the lyrics then you'd certainly love it as song - "Like a Tree" is Richard's title.  Also sharing a beatitude was a 90 year old sister we met who continues to do jail ministry in her glory years, even walking all the way to the downtown jail and back.  Inspirational at any age, she radiated joy: “We are blessed to be able to do this."

I soaked up wisdom from the wise lady who belonged to this Benedictine women's monastery.  I certainly do share her sentiments.  We are blessed to be able to minister to the men and women who are locked up because in them we recognize the face of Christ.   As you can see from my reflections, we learned a lot from one another while also experiencing serenity.  What an incredibly beneficial time.  Much gratitude goes out to Prison Congregations of America for providing this service to our pastors.  I hope we do it again next year!

Rick Admiraal is the pastor of New Life Prison Community, a prison congregation in Newton, Iowa. New Life is in its 8th year of ministry to the incarcerated.  Rick & his wife Rose have a son and a daughter: John recently graduated from Calvin College while Annaliese is a junior at Pella Christian High School.  Pella is home for the Admiraal family.



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Category: sabbath

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