Hudson River Presbytery
Meeting Jesus in Maximum Security
April 14, 2016
When we read Matthew 25 and think about visiting “the least of these” in prison, it is easy to focus on our own virtue. We forget that in those visits we meet Jesus; and meeting Jesus can be joyous, humbling and life-changing.
Women who live near Bedford Presbyterian Church in Hudson River Presbytery are discovering the joys of these encounters.
In the fall of 2013, the church started a program, Woman 2 Woman, in which women from the church and the neighborhood began to visit their neighbors inside New York state’s only maximum-security prison for women. Women from this affluent section of Westchester County are matched with an inmate, and they commit to visit this inmate at least once a month for at least a year. The church offers training and ongoing support for the visitors. Within two years, the numbers have grown to more than 50.
These visits are life-giving for the inmates, some of whom otherwise have no contact with the outside during their long sentences. Suddenly they feel seen, recognized and respected as human, valued for their resilience in the face of traumas dating back to early childhood. The horrors of their previous lives and of their crimes are heard with understanding and not judgment. As one woman said, the visits “let us know we’re not alone.”
And the relationships are life-changing for the visitors as well. They reach across frightening barriers of race, culture, education and class to discover another human being very much like themselves. The visits are a pleasure, not a duty. One visitor explained, “It’s about simple kindness, far-reaching in its healing qualities.”
Nancy Gernert, Coordinator of Woman 2 Woman and Ruling Elder at Bedford Presbyterian Church
Let us join in prayer for:
Rev. Gavin D. Meek, Interim General Presbyter
Rev. Rhonda Kruse, Connections and Change Presbyter
Rev. Dr. Susan De George, Stated Clerk
Emily Monk, Manager of Finance
Elder Jean Kaiser, Administrative Assistant
Dr. Hans Hallundbaek, Prison Partnership Coordinator
Rev. Noelle Damico, Director of Communications
Rev. Abbie Huff, Missionary, Nyack Project
Lori Hylton, Food Justice Advocate and Office Assistant
Rev. Peter Surgenor, Director, Holmes Camp and Conference Center
Presbytery Partnerships Overseas
Joining Hands Peru / Red Uniendo Manos
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
Forgiving God, clear our eyes and open our hearts that we may see ourselves in the “other” and acknowledge the “other” as part of us. Amen.