Last night I took part in my second board meeting of Prison Congregations of America. PCA is a nonprofit group working with inmates, corrections officials, local church communities, and mainline denominations to create congregations within prison walls. These are congregations where inmates gather to worship the Lord and support each other with prayer and - just as on the outside - the mutual consolaton of the saints.
The partnership model employed by PCA, involving close collaboration between a prison congregation and a church in the larger community, has already achieved notable success. There are currently 14 prison congregation in 10 states, with plans, God willing, for many more.
Rich Rienstra, pastor/developer of the inmate congregation at Ionia Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in western Michigan, gave the devotions at the start of last night's PCA board meeting. He read from Psalm 146, which praises the God of Jacob, the creator of all things, who keeps faith forever and executes justice for the oppressed.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind,
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down . . .
Rich also read from Psalm 139, addressed by the Psalmist to the God who has searched him and known him and is prepared to follow him all the way to the depths of Sheol. Both of these passages, Rich said, resonate very deeply with members of the prison congregation.
As the board moved on to discuss the exciting opportunities and significant challenges PCA faces in this still-so-tough economy, these readings from the Psalms were the perfect place to start.