Tag Archives: Jail

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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Starting Book Two

Last month, I finished revising and printing/binding 256 pages (in 17 sessions of Book One – “The Hebrew Bible“) for the pilot version of the new “The Transforming Literature of the Bible” (TLB) course. Today, I finished revising 140 pages in the first 9 sessions (out of 19) of TLB Book Two (“The New Testament“).  Production starts tomorrow.  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.

Six students are finishing the 17 sessions in Book One this Friday.  We start studying Book Two next week.  The inmates are very enthusiastic, doing their extensive homework reading and participating energetically in in-class discussions and reflections.  There is a waiting list of inmates from two dorms to join us.

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 have 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)

The Book Two (New Testament) students will read these literary selections in Part One “A Journey With Mark“:

  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)

One of the TLB students wants me to start another Education for Ministry (EfM) seminar in their dorm after I finish Books One and Two of TLB. Joel Martinez and I are Co-Mentors for a weekly EfM seminar which started in 2015 in another dorm where inmates tend to stay inside longer. I designed TLB to be finished in 5 months but EfM takes four 9-month terms to complete. I told him that if he can find ten other students who will be there for long enough, I will start another EfM class.

Other than my ongoing project as the Mentor for the Shakespeare Reading Group, TLB is one of the few times since I was graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in English (with a specialty in Shakespeare) that my knowledge and passion for literature has been of such use.  I am very much enjoying reviewing potential TLB selections.  Thanks to my daughter Jessica Dickinson Goodman for her advice on some of the selections, and to John for reviewing my drafts.

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Image Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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Day 4, General Convention

Rev. Irene Tanabe of Hawaii speaking for immigration reform GC79, 7 July 2018

This was the third legislative session day of the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church “GC79” (in Austin, Texas).  I am with the Deputation of the Diocese of El Camino Real (Central California).

I started today at a hearing of immigration and refugee issues before the Committees on Social Justice Policy.  Particularly moving were the stories of the Rev. Nancy Frausto of California on behalf of the Dreamers and of the Rev. Irene Tanabe of Hawaii who said “Let it never happen again” speaking against the path America is on toward another system like the Japanese American Internment 1942-1946.  During the morning legislative session, the House of Deputies and House of Bishops met in joint session for a discussion of evangelism.

During the afternoon legislative session, A068 (the resolution to revise the 1979 Book of Common Prayer or BCP) was passed by the House of Deputies after long and passionate discussion.  48 speakers were carried over from the long discussion queue of yesterday.  The BCP revision will take about ten years and will be published in English, Spanish, French, and Haitian Creole.  This still needs to be passed by the House of Bishops.

Since 1549, the BCP has been a venerable, remarkable, and elegant source for liturgy, process and prayer. It is also a book I use many times each week during my classes in Elmwood jail.  Jail is an environment thick with distrust for authority and with conspiracy theories. Being able to hand each inmate-student the main source for our church’s liturgy, process and prayer and to tell them that they now have the same material as everyone else is powerful.  The simple transparency and trust inherent in the BCP is inspiring.

In the late afternoon, GC79 moved from the Austin Convention Center to the Palmer Events Center for a Revival.  This featured exhilarating music and a rousing sermon by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. At one point, a blue haired Latina singer was dancing with the stage full of bishops. The Revival was followed by a barbecue.  There was such a crowd at the dinner that some of us got little to eat but the conversations were worth it.

My Austin Hilton hotel room lights seem to be possessed. They turn off and on at random. Sometimes in the middle of the night I will wake up because all the lights have suddenly switched on.  In the last four days, I have had the hotel technical staff look at the problem three times.  I do hope it is now fixed!

These blog posts and other GC79 news are now posted on the Diocese of El Camino Real website. Thanks, Elrond!

Rev. Nancy Frausto speaking for immigration reform GC79, 7 July 2018

House of Deputies vote to revise Book of Common Prayer, GC79 on 7 July 2018

Episcopal General Convention revival band and singers 7 July 2018

Episcopal General Convention Revival, GC79 on 7 July 2018

Episcopal General Convention Revival, GC79 on 7 July 2018

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Episcopal General Convention, Austin Texas, Day 1

Diocese of El Camino Real sign, Episcopal General Convention, House of Deputies, 4 July 2018

I arrived late last night in Austin, Texas, for the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church.  General Convention is the main governing and legislative body of the Episcopal Church and meets every three years.  I am with the Deputation of the Diocese of El Camino Real (Central California). Our Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves is in the House of Bishops (of which she is a Vice President) and we are in the House of Deputies.  This is the second time I have participated in General Convention – and I will again be blogging about the event.

I am not assigned to any committees, so I plan to attend as many Social Justice resolution hearings as I can.  For United States policy, I am particularly interested in the resolutions on mass incarceration and immigration. For Social Justice and International Policy, I want to sit in on the hearings about Israel and Palestine.  I am also showing interested groups the first half of the “Transforming Literature of the Bible” course materials I have edited and am already using at Elmwood Jail.  In addition, I looking forward to meeting with the Education for Ministry staff who are here in the Exhibit Hall with the University of the South – School of Theology.

According to the Episcopal News Service, the big topics for discussion at this General Convention are:

  1. Marriage Equality
  2. Revising the Book of Common Prayer
  3. The Episcopal Church and the #MeToo movement (for which we had a moving Bishops Listening service tonight)
  4. A salary for the president of the House of Deputies
  5. Following up on the church’s three priorities: evangelism, racial reconciliation and justice and care of creation
  6. Formulating the 2019-2021 triennial budget
  7. Middle East peace

In many ways, General Convention is like a family reunion every three years.  We get to talk with folks with whom we have a great deal in common but do not see very often.  Today, I already met briefly with the Rev. Canon Eric Law (Kaleidoscope Institute, Los Angeles), some of whose work I am using at Elmwood Jail. We had a rousing welcome (“not a sermon”) by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry who received two standing ovations.  I will be here until 13th July.

Today is not only American Independence Day but also my 18th wedding anniversary with John Plocher – happy day, love!

These blog posts and other GC79 news are posted on the Diocese of El Camino Real website.

Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves poster at Episcopal General Convention 4 July 2018

Katy Dickinson and Rev. Canon Eric Law Kaleidoscope 4 July 2018

Episcopal General Convention 4 July 2018

Transforming Literature of the Bible - Old Testament June 2018

4th of July Independence Day flowers at Saint Andrew's Episcopal Church Saratoga California 2018

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Images Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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