Tag Archives: Jail

Happy 1st Anniversary, Stepping Stones!

Stepping Stones ministry, 27 Oct 2019

Happy First Anniversary, Stepping Stones!

Stepping Stone Gathering:
Supporting & Celebrating Reentry & Recovery!

Worship and Celebrate with us: Sundays, 8:15-9:15 am
at Grace Baptist Church, 484 E. San Fernando Street, San Jose.

Led by the Rev. Peggy Bryan and Jackie Fanning.

ALL WELCOME! No Exceptions. Please Spread the Word!

This is a joint ministry of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (Saratoga) and Grace Baptist Church (San Jose).

Contact: The Rev. Dr. Liliana Da Valle, Senior Pastor of Grace, and the Rev. Peggy Bryan, Associate Rector of Saint Andrew’s.
More: Stepping Stone Gathering on Facebook.

Thanks to Crystal for her lovely song!

Letters of Congratulation

From the Right Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real

Dear Friends,

Happy anniversary as a worshiping community! I am thankful for each of you and for the courage you have to make the journey of recovery in the world. Community is a powerful force indeed. We are always better together! I encourage you to continue to gather, to pray, to give thanks to God for each day and for the opportunities that grace offers you.

There are always more gifts than we can see or know, always an abundance of love and power around us that can build us up and give glory to God. May you continue to find ways to serve others as you care for yourselves for “it is in giving that we receive”. Abundance will build upon itself as we trust this truth.

May you know God’s peace in your hearts and respect and love between you. By your presence you will attract others to join you, sharing the good news and power of the grace of Jesus to heal and to strengthen us to live for the glory of God!

Blessings,
Bishop Mary

From the Rev. Channing Smith, Rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church

Dear Stepping Stones worship service at Grace,

Congratulations on your one-year anniversary and your remarkable success in establishing a truly Christian community where all are welcome and all can lead. Those who join you each Sunday know that they will find a place of belonging and share in a discussion of Jesus’ teachings about how to live your life. It is clear that you are a family and that extends beyond your time together on Sunday. You are there for each other in remarkable and generous
ways.

I also give thanks for The Rev. Peggy Bryan and many other lay leaders who have lived into God’s call to be a church without boundaries. Her energy, humor, creativity and commitment are clearly evident in vitality of your worship together. No doubt your have found the goodness of coming into the awareness of God’s love together and giving thanks.

I celebrate with you the blessing of this community and give God thanks for you and for the actions of God’s spirit among you. Please know that you are very much a part of our identity as a parish. In many ways, you remind all of our ministries that God is with us, and that we reflect God’s love as we welcome one another as fellow human beings on life’s journey together.

May God continue to bless you personally and as a worship service. May you always thrive! I look forward to watching you continue to do this incredible ministry of Jesus together.

God’s peace, love, and blessing,

The Rev. Channing Smith

Stepping Stones ministry, 27 Oct 2019
Stepping Stones ministry, 27 Oct 2019
Stepping Stones ministry, 27 Oct 2019


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Images Copyright 2019 by Katy Dickinson. Thanks to Mary Ann Gee for the group picture!

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Honoring the Reverend David Robinson, Jail Chaplain

David Robinson Cross of Light Vacaville 1978 photo

On 12 October 2019, the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy and its large volunteer community honored the Rev. David Robinson who recently retired as CIC Executive Director. The program for the event was titled “Jail Break – Freedom on the Inside.” Dave is a remarkable and inspiring leader who has served in jails and prisons for over forty years, 34 of them working for CIC. Dave was also honored as a Community Hero in 2016 by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors with the Commendation pictured here. Dave’s successor as CIC Executive Director is the Rev. Liz Milner who gave one of the tributes, gently teasing him about the mascot rat skeleton in his office (now named “Dave Junior”), and celebrating Dave who:

  • Talked in depth with over 32,000 inmates
  • Put on over 5,000 worship services in Elmwood men’s chapel
  • Provided services to over 100,000 inmates
  • Screened and delivered over 1,700 notices of death of a loved one to inmates
  • Had over 108,000 staples removed from Daily Breads so that chaplains could give them out

Eloquent tributes to Dave were given by Christian, Buddhist, and Muslim chaplains, men and women for whom he has long been a mentor and role model. Some read letters from incarcerated men who wanted to pay tribute to their pastor.

At the party, Dave made available a photo he calls “The Cross of Light.” He wrote: “I took this picture in 1978 at the Correctional Medical Facility in Vacaville during my chaplain internship. Given all the security restrictions of a maximum security psychiatric prison, it was a complicated process… The symbol of a cross of light in this hell hole has been a constant reminder and challenge of God’s Powerful presence in the places of greatest need.”

I met Dave in 2015 when I was first trained as a volunteer jail chaplain. I am grateful that he took a chance on me and my vision for a weekly college-level faith-based inmate study program. I will always remember what I thought was a preliminary phone call during which I explained my idea to him. It ended with Dave saying, “Are Wednesday nights good for you?” I have been going into Elmwood jail almost every Wednesday night since that call. I have gone into jail as a mentor, teacher, and chaplain volunteer about 350 times to present the Education for Ministry, and Transforming Literature of the Bible programs with my Co-Mentors in two dorms. This ministry continues to be one of the most positive, profound, and powerful experiences of my life.

Thank you, Dave, for your service and love where it is most needed.

David Robinson Jail Break Chaplain retirement 12 Oct 2019
David Robinson Jail Break Chaplain retirement 12 Oct 2019
David Robinson Jail Break Chaplain retirement 12 Oct 2019
David Robinson Jail Break Chaplain retirement 12 Oct 2019
David Robinson Jail Break Chaplain retirement 12 Oct 2019
David Robinson Jail Break Chaplain retirement 12 Oct 20192019 CIC Leadership
David Robinson CIC Santa Clara Board of Supervisors Award 8 Dec 20152016 Commendation
David Robinson CIC Santa Clara Board of Supervisors Award 8 Dec 20152016 Commendation
Visit the Prisoner banner Grace Baptist Church San Jose CA April 2015

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Images Copyright 2015- 2019 by Katy Dickinson, except for “The Cross of Light” – Image Copyright 1978 by David Robinson.

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Jail Classes Thriving

The two classes I mentor at Elmwood Jail are thriving. The Education for Ministry (EfM) class has been going since 2015, and the Transforming Literature of the Bible (TLB) class started this year. Both will be recruiting new inmate students this month for the next sessions.

The Rev. Canon William Barnwell created TLB in the early 1980s at the University of New Orleans, and continued its development for many years at National Cathedral. Between May and August 2018, in consultation with Canon William, I revised the 36 sessions in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Testament, kept some of the original literature, and added more diverse selections appropriate to jail ministry in California. The literary selections are included to provide a diverse context in which to understand some of the major themes in the Bible passages under consideration. In May, I started the first TLB Hebrew Bible pilot class in a minimum security men’s dorm. This TLB program is in addition to the EfM program also presented weekly, in a medium security dorm at Elmwood.

We finished the first full (two term) TLB pilot class in October – graduating our first students. The overall rating for the class is 93% Excellent, with 93% of students reporting that they would Definitely recommend the class to others.  One student who just graduated turned down an early release date so that he could finish the class. Thirteen signed up for the third TLB term that started in October.

I am grateful to my Co-Mentors Diane Lovelace and Joel Martinez, and my husband, John Plocher (with the Rev. Peggy Bryan as backup). This program is supported by the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy  (CIC), St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, and the University of the South – School of Theology, EfM Program. Thanks to Collette Lynner of CIC for supporting TLB production.

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Photos Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson

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Collect from Jail

I am getting ready to go to my Education for Ministry (EfM) seminar at Elmwood Jail in Milpitas tonight. Before driving from San Jose to Milpitas after dinner, I make printouts of the varied information the guys requested during the last class. Today, I am bringing in:

Each term, the students write at least one Collect together at the end of a theological reflection. A collect is a prayer meant to gather the intentions of the people and the focus of worship into a succinct prayer.  Their group prayer last week was:

Dear God: holy, righteous, omnipresent, all-knowing, superstar, elusive, father of lights, love…

You are: so cool, great, ever-powerful, gracious, miraculous, creative…

We pray that you: forgive us for our sins, bless us, reconcile us with those we have hurt, make us more humble in spirit, make us happy, will illuminate our hearts and minds…

So that we: can forgive ourselves, live what we confess with our mouths, can live our lives in a state of grace, can be your hands and feet in the world.

Amen.

I have from time to time posted other collects written by earlier Elmwood classes.

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Photos Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson

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Starting Master of Arts in Social Transformation, Finished Revising TLB

Today is my first day of orientation at Pacific School of Religion (PSR) in Berkeley for the Master of Arts in Social Transformation degree.

Yesterday, I finished editing and revising the final document for the “Transforming Literature of the Bible” (TLB) program. I have been working on TLB since May 2018 and have finished two books, 36 sessions, 604 pages total.

This has been a busy few days but I wanted to finish TLB before starting studies at PSR.  Literary selections are included in TLB to provide a diverse context in which to understand some of the major themes in the Bible passages under consideration.  In addition to readings in the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), the students of Book One also read:

  1. “The Welcome Table” story by Alice Walker (1973)
  2. “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1955)
  3. “My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears” poem by Mohja Kahf (2003)
  4. “The Son from America” story by Isaac Bashevis Singer (1973)
  5. “The Big Red Apples” story by Zitkála-Šá  aka Red Bird (1900)
  6. “My Last Duchess” poem by Robert Browning (1842)
  7. “I Have a Dream” speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King (1963)
  8. O Pioneers! excerpt by Willa Cather (1913)
  9. “The Family of Little Feet” story by Sandra Cisneros (1984)
  10. The Gangster We Are All Looking For excerpt by Lê Thị Diễm Thúy (2003)

In Book Two, in addition to New Testament readings, the literary selections are:

  1. “At the Arraignment” poem by Debra Spencer (2004)
  2. “A Private Experience” story excerpt by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2009)
  3. “Sonnet XXVII” by William Shakespeare (1609)
  4. “Under the Poplars” poem by César Vallejo (1919)
  5. “The Grand Inquisitor” excerpt from The Brothers Karamazov, by Feodor Dostoevsky (1879-1880)
  6. Farewell to Manzanar excerpt by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston & James D. Houston (1973)
  7. “XVI” poem by Emily Dickinson (circa 1890)
  8. “Limits” poem by Jorge Luis Borges (circa 1961)
  9. “A Discreet Miracle” excerpt by Isabel Allende, from The Stories of Eva Luna (1989)
  10. “The Fullness of Time” poem by James Stephens (circa 1900)

I am collaborating on the revision of TLB with the Rev. Canon William H. Barnwell who wrote the original course. In addition to revising Canon William’s 2008 course materials, I am running a pilot version of the class itself at Elmwood Jail (Milpitas, California). I am grateful to my Co-Mentors Diane Lovelace, and my husband, John Plocher (with the Rev. Peggy Bryan as backup). This program is supported by the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy  (CIC) and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.  Thanks to Collette Lynner of CIC for supporting TLB production.

More pictures from my PSR Orientation week:

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Photos Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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The Way of Love – in Jail

Joel Martinez and I are Education for Ministry (EfM) Co-Mentors for a weekly class at Elmwood Jail in Milpitas, California.  We were recently part of a class to renew our mentor accreditation in the University of the South – School of Theology‘s EfM program.  During the training, Joel and I discussed how we could extend the theological reflections and discussions with the jail inmates.  We decided to use the structure of “The Way of Love – Practices for a Jesus-Centered Life” – a new program of the Episcopal Church, by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Canon Stephanie Spellers.

Joel reviewed the published material and prepared a handout about The Way of Love.  I edited the handout and added more Bible quotes and passages from the Book of Common Prayer.  We distributed the handout as homework to the EfM seminar on 15 August 2018.  With permission of the inmates, Below is some of what they said in class 22 August 2018 about what they found valuable and world continue to work on in their lives. This EfM program is supported by the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.

More: Joel’s blog on 26 August 2018, discussing The Way of Love with St.Andrew’s Youth.

TURN

Meditating on issues, problems, and God – alone, without distractions when possible EfM, having a solo-cell, quiet time Pay it forward, doing nice things for others without expectation of reimbursement
Praying Spiritual discussions, joining EfM Meeting with spiritual advisor, EfM, prayers at night
Will continue to work with priest, other EfM students and mentors Pray at night and daytime – for other people and for my family .

LEARN

Compare scripture stories and verses to life experiences See an action that reflects what God wants us to do – doing the right thing for the right reason. Know that I am doing OK in this situation Reading scripture in a more modern context – seeing Jesus in the world today – “new age Jesus” – even among non-Christians
Imagining scripture scenarios inspires – look for wording to break down meaning – how it is presented Share with EfM classmates, cellie, my Mom Referring to prior Bible passages that were meaningful when I read them before

PRAY

Remember to pray at meals and certain times of the day – thank God throughout the day A single cell helps – quiet time Use the “Catholic Prayers” book – favorite prayers tied to times of day – grace at meals – say guardian angel prayer when I wake up
Grace before meals, thanks throughout the day Read “Daily Bread” every morning, pray with EfM class Devotions before dinner

WORSHIP

Saturday chapel, Sunday mass, read the Bible after church, read biographies of saints EfM weekly – being part of the class Only regular service in the jail dorm is Catholic, go to Episcopal service when available

BLESS

Talk about God a lot – show my faith through kindness and love, smiling, laughing Give people hope – spin negative to positive Opportunities to advise, counsel, bless, help feed when I can, give wisdom and encouragement – do what I can
Can try to advise but can’t always convince, bless the hungry and those truly in need, choose to help based on real need – try to be smart and not be taken advantage of Never say no – follow the example of St. Francis – learning when to set barriers .

GO

Programs  help – like RRR (Re-educate, Recovery, Re-entry), and MRT (Moral Recognition Therapy), and Enneagram, and EfM Outside programs for recovery – letters and certificates help to get in EfM, thanking God during the court process, talking with other inmates when in transit
Sometimes have good conversations in the holding tanks Coach and guide new inmates – scared people – reassure them .

REST

Meditation, working out, stretching Exercise, sleep, daydream Stopped being a dorm Trustee so could get more sleep
Rest in God’s grace – know he is sufficient – pray for help to get through this (not to get out of it) Meditation – close my eyes and breathe – meditate lying down: pull energy through body into the world Use “Be still and know that I am God” prayer for meditation, to quiet my mind – still trying

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The Way of Love image is from The Episcopal Church, 2018.

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Re-Binding Books for Jail

Part of my leading seminars at Elmwood Jail (Milpitas, California) is finding study materials for the inmates: journals and pencils as well as dictionaries, prayer books and Bibles. Books going into jail cannot have hard covers since those have the potential to be turned into weapons.  If hardcover books are donated to the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy, the covers have to be ripped off before use. Ripping off the cover makes a book more vulnerable to falling apart, especially in the rough and dirty jail environment. So, I figured out an alternative: how to re-bind books using manila folders and a hot glue gun.  Collette Lynner of CIC asked me to teach volunteers at Menlo Church how to repair and re-cover donated books so they would last longer in jail.  Collette and Rié Collett put together 30 volunteers in two teams.  On 28 July 2018, we re-bound 465 Bibles, enough for CIC to distribute in about six months.

This is bookbinding at its most basic – with a focus on low expense and high durability.  This method is not appropriate for valuable volumes but works very well for books that need to last a long time in a hard place.  Here are the steps:

  1. If the book’s back cover is loose, or some sections of printed text (called signatures) are loose, use the hot glue to stick them back together before starting the re-binding.  Running a thin bead of glue into the crack between the signatures will re-attach the book to itself.  Running a wide zigzag of hot glue between the book back (called the case) and the sewn-together paper signatures (called the text block) will attach them firmly together.
    • Hot glue is hot and it is easy to burn yourself. If the glue gets on you, rub it off quickly.
    • Hot glue only stays really hot for about 3 seconds after it leaves the gun – that is how long you have to adjust things before your glue gets too hard.
    • Put the glue on the book, not on the board.
  2. Remove the book boards (sides of the hardcover binding) by cutting carefully along the spine, leaving at least a 1/4″ hinge beyond the fold.  Leaving the spine binding intact protects the book better and keeps the original printing on the spine intact.
  3. Cut pieces of manila folder or heavy paper (about 50 pound card stock) to the size of the removed book boards.  There should be about 1/4″ of card on the sides beyond where the book pages end.
  4. Run a bead of hot glue under the hinge – at the cut edge of the spine – then push the cut pieces of heavy paper into the glue.  If you can do so without touching the glue, push the edges of the spine into the glue.
  5. Trim off any loose threads or extra bits of glue.
  6. Either write the name of the book on the new soft book boards, or use printed labels.

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Image Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson. Thanks to Collette Lynner for her photo of the Bibles in many languages.

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