Tag Archives: Jail

What the Presiding Bishop Said

Tweet from RealEpiscopal 11 Jan 2017, Katy Dickinson and Presiding Bishop Panel on 7 Jan 2017, photo by Elrond Lawrence

“You are doing it.  Keep going.” is what Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said in Salinas, California, on 7 January 2017. I was a member of the panel that asked questions after his keynote. From my notes, my opening question was:

“The Silicon Valley has a skewed population.  In the high tech world where I work, there are about 25% female, 4% Latino, and 2% Black in the computing professions.  In Elmwood Jail where I lead an Education for Ministry seminar each week, men and women are separate and there are 42% Latino and 29% Black. I feel like I live in two worlds. What can we do to reach out, to bring this divided community together?”

When Bishop Michael answered “You are doing it.  Keep going.”  I heard that the answer lay in outreach ministries like mine – and in telling people about that work. Individuals with a foot on both sides can connect a community.

It is a good but a little scary to have an experimental program succeed so well.  I have been thinking a great deal about what Bishop Michael said – and about what to do next.  The Episcopal Diocese of El Camino RealSaint Andrew’s Episcopal ChurchCIC, and EfM have strongly backed our jail-based seminar during the last year.  My first step was to talk with the CIC Chaplain for Elmwood, and then with the EfM program at the University of the South – School of Theology, about starting an additional class at Elmwood.  They support expanding the program.  Now to find more funding!

Canon Stephanie Spellers, Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Salinas, 7 Jan 2017

Canon Stephanie Spellers, Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Salinas, 7 Jan 2017

Canon Stephanie Spellers, Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Salinas, 7 Jan 2017

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Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson and Elrond Lawrence

 

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Images of God

1. Basilica of San Vitale - Lamb of God mosaic

This is an online version of a handout I created for my weekly Education for Ministry seminar at Elmwood Correctional Facility (County Jail – in Milpitas, California).  The students in EfM Year 1 (the Hebrew Bible) were reading Genesis 1:27 “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Here are twenty varied images of God, dated from 527 – 2014, plus Bible verses describing God, for class discussion.

Here is a Printable Version of this material.  Click on each image to see details!

2. Vault mosaic - San Vitale - Ravenna 2016

List of Pictures:

Description More Information Image Source
1. Lamb of God (Jesus Christ) – mosaic in the presbytery, Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy (527 CE) Basilica of San Vitale Basilica of San Vitale – Lamb of God mosaic
2. God in Heaven – mosaic in the apse, Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy (527 CE) Basilica of San Vitale Vault_mosaic_-_San_Vitale_-_Ravenna_2016
3. Christ Pantocrator – All Powerful – mosaic, chapel of San Zeno, Rome, Italy (822) Santa Prassede Mosaic of the vault of the chapel of San Zeno (IX century)
4. God as Architect of the Universe – Frontispiece of Bible Moralisee, Paris, France (1230) Bible moralisée God the Geometer
5. God the Father – painting by Giotto, Florence, Italy (1330) Giotto God the Father with Angels
6. Ghent Altarpiece (detail) – painting by Hubert and Jan van Eyck, Saint Bavo Cathedral, Ghent, Belgium (1432) Ghent Altarpiece Retable de l’Agneau mystique (Altarpiece of the Mystical Lamb)
7. The Creation of the Heavenly Bodies (detail) – painting by Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, Sistine Chapel, Rome, Italy (1512) Michelangelo Poster Sistine Chapel: Creation of the universe
8. God the Father – painting by Cima Da Conegliano, Venice, Italy (1517) Cima da Conegliano Cima da Conegliano, God the Father
9. God the Father – painting by Ludovico Mazzolino, Ferrara, Italy (1520) Ludovico Mazzolino Ludovico_Mazzolino_-_God_the_Father
10. God the Father – painting by Girolamo dai Libri, Verona, Italy (1555) Girolamo dai Libri God_the_Father_with_His_Right_Hand_Raised_in_Blessing
11. Picture Bible “Die Bibel in Bildern” (detail) – engraving by Julius Schnorr (1860) Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld Schnorr_von_Carolsfeld_Bibel_in_Bildern
12. Holy Lord Sabaoth – Russian Icon (date?) Russian icons Holy Lord Saboath
13. Kakure Kirishitan Heaven – scroll painting, Ikitsuki Island, Nagasaki, Japan (date?) Kakure Kirishitan The Hidden Christians – Stephen Turnbull
14. God as Mother Hen – Dominus Flevit Church, Jerusalem, Israel (1955) Dominus Flevit Church Mosaic_Art_at_Dominus_Flevit
15. God as Dove (Holy Spirit) – stained glass by James Scanlan, Cathedral of St. Mary & St. Anne, Cork, Ireland (1990) Catholic Cathedral of St. Mary & St. Anne Stained Glass at the Cathedral of St. Mary & St. Anne
16. Father (and Holy Spirit) – stained glass at St. Virgil Church, in Morris Plains, New Jersey USA (contemporary, date?) St. Virgil Parish Stained Glass Masquerade
17. George Burns as God, from movies “Oh, God!” (1977), and “Oh, God, Book II” (1980) Oh, God! Classics of the Corn
18. Alanis Morissette as God, from movies “Dogma” (1999), and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” (2001) Dogma (film) God as Woman
19. Morgan Freeman as God, from movies “Bruce Almighty” (2003), and “Evan Almighty” (2007) Evan Almighty Evan Almighty Morgan Freeman as God
20. Ethiopian Orthodox Trinity – painted hide (2014) Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church 2016 Picture by Katy Dickinson

Pictures of God:

3. Mosaic of the vault of the chapel of San Zeno (IX century)

4. God the Geometer

5. Giotto - God the Father with Angels

6. van Eyck - Altarpiece of the Mystical Lamb

7. Michaelangelo - Poster Sistine Chapel: Creation of the universe

8. Cima da Conegliano, God the Father

9. Ludovico_Mazzolino, God the Father

10. Girolamo dai Libri, God the Father

11. Schnorr_von_Carolsfeld_Bibel_in_Bildern

12. Holy Lord Sabaoth - icon

13. Kakure Kirishitan Heaven

14. Mosaic Art at Dominus Flevit

15. Dove Stained Glass - Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Anne

16. Father (and Holy Spirit) - St. Virgil Parish

17. George Burns as God

18. Alanis Morissette as God

19. Morgan Freeman as God

20. Ethiopian Orthodox Trinity

Pictures of God in the Bible (Selected):

Bear
“I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps” Hosea 13:8

Dove
“And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.” Matthew 3:16

Eagle
“He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft.” Deuteronomy 32:10-11

Hen
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”
Luke 13:34

Lamb
“This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing. The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’”
John 1:28-29

Woman

  • “Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.” Hosea 11:3-4
  • “You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.” Deuteronomy 32:18
  • “For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept myself still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant.” Isaiah 42:14
  • “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” Isaiah 49:15
  • “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” Isaiah 66:13
  • “As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until he has mercy upon us.” Psalm 123:2
  • “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.” Psalm 131:2

See linked pages for individual image copyrights
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Technology for the Incarcerated

Christmas 2016 Elmwood Jail

I read Dr. Arshya Vahabzadeh‘s recent article “How Technology Could Improve Mental Health in Prisons – But So Far Isn’t” (13 Dec 2016, in Fast Company) and considered other ways in which technology helps inmates.  I lead a weekly Education for Ministry seminar at Elmwood Correctional Facility (County Jail – in Milpitas, California). Here is how I see technology helping the ten men in my seminar:

  1. Because they do not have computer access, I make a standing offer to research topics that arise from our class discussions and bring the curious students more information.  Last night, I delivered printouts on Suetonius, Julius Caesar, prophecy in the Book of Daniel, the Caiaphas Ossuary, Galilee Boat, Ketef Hinnom, and Tel Dan Stele, plus a biography of Pontius Pilate. Wikipedia‘s easy access to vast fields of knowledge means in only an hour a week, I can bring the inmates a richer view into the world of the Hebrew BibleNew Testament, and Christian history.
  2. I was one of the St. Andrew’s prison ministry team who brought worship and song to Elmwood on Christmas Day. When leaving, I noticed a group of lovely deep purple irises blooming next to the back parking lot. Further on, I stopped to take a photo of two ducks on the water behind the jail. Just then, a big white egret erupted from under the bridge where I stood – as if an angel were arising from the water.  Because of easy and cheap digital photography and my color printer, I can show the inmates pictures of how nature was celebrating Christmas with them.
  3. One of my students was transferred from Elmwood jail into the state prison system.  He is highly intelligent and deeply faithful and wants to keep up his Christian studies.  Because prisons and jails will accept book deliveries directly from Amazon, I can use ecommerce to send him better books than are available in the prison library.  For Christmas, I sent him two EfM books: Transformed Lives: Making Sense of Atonement Today, and Care for Creation (a franciscan spirituality of the earth). We hope he will be transferred to a prison that offers an EfM Online course or one with an in-person class.
  4. The Elmwood class asked for song books in both English and Spanish so that they can sing hymns together.  I found Oramos Cantando – We Pray in Song. There are Spanish-only and English-only hymnals but this seems to be the only bilingual song book available. I even checked with our church’s Director of Music – who said he did not know of any.  I was able to locate eight paperback copies in good condition for less than $10/each on Amazon, delivered in a week from eight different used book sellers located all over the USA.

Oramos Cantando - We Pray in Song, 2005
Christmas 2016 Elmwood Jail

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Updated 3 January 2017
Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Learning in Jail, Using Wikipedia

EfM at Elmwood Jail, Milpitas CA, Sep 2016

I lead a weekly Education for Ministry seminar at Elmwood Correctional Facility (County Jail in Milpitas, California). This month, we started our second EfM term inside Elmwood. Our seminar includes six men in Year-1 (studying Collins’ Introduction to the Hebrew Bible) plus four continuing to Year-2 (studying Powell’s Introducing the New Testament: A Historical, Literary, and Theological Survey). We use college-level texts plus Bibles, Books of Common Prayer, and the EfM Reading and Reflection Guide, with other resources in both English and Spanish.

I am also the EfM Mentor for another weekly seminar hosted by Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church (Saratoga, CA). One of the differences between my two classes is availability of outside reference materials. The student inmates do not have web access. So, I make a standing offer to print out articles from Wikipedia and other sources to supplement assigned texts. The EfM students at Elmwood are deeply curious and want to learn all they can, especially about text and biblical references and topics raised during our theological reflections.

Yesterday night, I was asked to look up the Oracle of Delphi, lyrics to two hymns, and Milton’s “Paradise Lost”. I bring in printouts  glued at the corner (staples are forbidden).  During the last year, I have provided Wikipedia articles on these topics:

Amenemope (pharaoh) Apostle (Christian) Archangel Ark of the Covenant Assumption of Moses
Baptism of Jesus Bel and the Dragon Ben Sira Bible translations into English Book of Amos
Book of Baruch Book of Jasher (biblical references) Book of the Wars of the Lord Book of Kings Cain and Abel
Cenacle Civil and political rights Code of Hammurabi Crossing the Red Sea Crusades
David Davidic line Diodorus Siculus Don Quixote Francis of Assisi
Golden calf Gospel of Jesus’ Wife Herodotus Historical criticism History of ancient Israel and Judah
Huldrych Zwingli Ignatius of Loyola Innocence Project Instruction of Amenemope Isaac
John Calvin Levite Maimonides Martin Luther Nephilim
Noah Nostradamus Oxford Martyrs Paleontology in New York Paul the Apostle
Peter Qarqar Rechabite Sanchuniathon Sirach
Sodom and Gomorrah Ten Commandments Ten Lost Tribes Tertullian Third Temple
Unknown years of Jesus Western Wall William Shakespeare Zayin .

If you are interested in volunteering in a Santa Clara County (Silicon Valley) jail, please contact the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy (CIC).

Elmwood Jail, Milpitas CA, Oct 2016

Elmwood Jail, Milpitas CA, Oct 2016

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Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson, with the Rev. Jennifer Bales

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Honoring Jail Ministry

Katy Dickinson's Simple Servant-efm-elmwood Jail Award, 4 Nov 2016

Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves honored dozens of jail and prison ministry volunteers last month, among them, myself. Since 2007 Bishop Mary has served as the third bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real (ECR) in California. Since 2015, she has also been the Vice President of the House of Bishops. Some years ago, Bishop Mary created the Simple Servant Award to honor those working as faithful ministers in the community.

I was out of town – in Sewanee, Tennessee, renewing my Education for Ministry Mentor Accreditation, and being trained as the Diocesan Coordinator for EfM – so I missed the Simple Servant presentation at the ECR annual convention on 4 November 2016. However, my husband John Plocher helped Bishop Mary prepare her presentation slides, so I was able to contribute photos and information in advance.  The Reverend Peggy Bryan worked with two of my student inmates on the artwork for the certificate.

Jack Fanning and I received our certificates the following week.  Jack helped me to start the first EfM program at Elmwood Correctional Facility (Milpitas, California).  There are about 25 EfM seminars in prisons in the USA but ours seems to be the first class in a county jail. We just started our second EfM term inside Elmwood. Our seminar includes have six men in Year-1 plus four continuing to Year-2.  Thanks to the University of the South, The Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real, CIC Ministries, and Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church for their joint and generous support of this program!

If you are interested in volunteering in a Santa Clara County (Silicon Valley) jail, please contact the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy (CIC).

Katy Dickinson and Jack Fanning with Simple Servant Awards, 13 Nov 2016

Two photos taken by Elrond Lawrence of the 4 November 2016 presentation in Salinas:

Simple Servant Award by the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real, 4 Nov 2016 - photo by Elrond Lawrence

Simple Servant Award by the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real, 4 Nov 2016 - photo by Elrond Lawrence

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Top Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson, 2 Lowest Images Copyright 2016 by Elrond Lawrence

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Standing Up in Court

Santa Clara County California, Hall of Justice and Main Jail, San Jose 21 July 2016

For the first time, today I was a witness in a criminal justice hearing. As I wrote on 11 April 2016, I have been teaching in jail every week as part of Education for Ministry (EfM), an extension program of the University of the South – School of Theology, for which I am an Accredited Mentor and the El Camino Real Diocesan Coordinator.

One of the Elmwood Jail student-mentees in my EfM seminar had a Romero hearing today and I was in court as a character witness. “The People of the State of California v. Superior Court (Romero), 13 CAL. 4TH 497, 917 P.2D 628 (Cal. 1996), was a landmark case in the state of California that gave California Superior Court judges the ability to dismiss a criminal defendant’s ‘strike prior’ pursuant to the California Three-strikes law, thereby avoiding a 25-to-life minimum sentence” (quote from Wikipedia).  In today’s Romero hearing, the Defendant (my student-mentee) had the opportunity to reduce his sentence from an indeterminate number of years (that is, being sentenced to triple digit years without parole) to a sentence that may be completed during his lifetime.  I was the only witness present in court today but others had written letters to the judge asking for mercy in his case.  The hearing was brief but thorough.  The judge listened to me and the lawyers for the Defendant and Plaintiff (“the people”), then reviewed submitted documents.  What seemed to make a positive difference in this case was that the Defendant:

  • Has shown remorse and accepted responsibility for his actions
  • Has demonstrated a sustained change in his behavior, character, and prospects for the future
  • Did not use physical violence
  • Is middle aged already

I was glad that the judge ruled in favor of the Defendant today and gave him a sentence of 30 years without parole.  My student-mentee will be an old man when he gets out of prison but with luck and good behavior, he will get out someday.  This was the result he had hoped for.

When I serve each year as a Mentor in the TechWomen program of the US State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, my Mentees may go on to start businesses, accelerate their professional careers, attend graduate school, and change the world for the better.  When I am a Mentor each year for the EfM class hosted by Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church,  my student-mentees after four years of study graduate with more awareness of their personal ministry and with a solid education in the Bible, church history, theology, and ethics.

I am learning that as a Mentor for an EfM seminar in a county jail, my student-mentees gain the same education and potential for awareness of their personal ministry but have smaller potential to change the world for the better.  Even after they leave jail or prison, their socioeconomic status is so low that their prospects are modest as members of the community.  I am learning to celebrate the wins we can get, among them: passing the high school equivalency exam, reconciling with family, being accepted into a good reentry program, and getting a positive Romero judgement as we did today.

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Santa Clara County California, Hall of Justice, San Jose 26 May 2016

Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Bishop Mary Visits Jail

Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, Deacon Robert Seifert at Elmwood Jail, Milpitas CA, 12 June 2016

Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves and Deacon Robert Seifert spent the afternoon at Elmwood Jail yesterday with the Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church jail ministry team, lead by the Reverend Peggy Bryan. In addition to the St. Andrew’s volunteers, Elmwood Chaplain Jennifer Bales went with us yesterday to two dorms. The first was a minimum security area holding about fifty inmates where St. Andrew’s offers Christian worship service every Sunday afternoon. The second area was a medium security dorm where I teach a Education for Ministry (EfM) seminar every Wednesday night. EfM is a University of the South – School of Theology extension program.

In thanks for her support – both financially in paying for half the cost of their EfM books and tuition, and spiritually with her prayers – the inmates signed a printout of our group-written “Collect for Week 14” as a gift for Bishop Mary. “Collect” is another word for prayer.  We wrote this collect as part of our 1 June theological reflection exercise in class.  The text is:

Collect for Week 14

Dear God, omnipotent in heaven, creator, Love, and perfect.

You watch over the oppressed, create people in perfection, never leave us alone, bring joy, and protect your creation.

We pray that you give us freedom, protection, wisdom, and guidance. Increase our faith, give us knowledge to know you better.
So that we are in heaven with you.

We praise your Holy Name. We keep our eyes on the prize: getting into heaven and gaining eternal life.

Amen.

My goal in asking Bishop Mary to visit was that the inmates would know that whether they are released soon or spend the rest of their lives in prison, they are valued human beings and part of a faith community who are praying for them.  Many if not most of the Elmwood inmates are recovering (or not) from substance abuse, or are mentally ill.  “Of the 3,600 inmates at the Main Jail and Elmwood in Milpitas, 43 percent suffer from a mental illness” officials reported in September 2015.  Many of the 120 recommendations by the Blue Ribbon Commission for improved jail operations are with regard to Mental Health services. Even for the healthy, jail is a depressing place.  Knowing that they are important to someone is a step forward.

If you are interested in volunteering to visit jail in Santa Clara County (Silicon Valley), California, please contact the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy (CIC).

Elmwood Jail Education for Ministry Collect June 2016

Elmwood Jail Milpitas CA March 2016

Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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