Tonight my friend Lynne sang In the Bleak Midwinter at 5 o'clock worship. It was very affecting; a beautiful song, beautifully sung.
In the bleak midwinter,
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone.
Christina Rosetti was not writing about prison on a literal level. She was writing about the moment before the Incarnation, before a people in darkness saw a great light.
Figuratively, however, Rosetti's imagery evokes the winter of the heart that prison must be. The isolation and hopeless desperation experienced by many inmates are hard for those of us on the outside to understand. But we should not doubt the depth of the despair within the walls.
Prison ministry seeks to respond to this terrible void, in a place where all seems hard as iron. That is why I serve as a board member of Prison Congregations of America, which works to organize church communities within prisons.
In such a community, centered on Christ, the spirit flows. Water is no longer like a stone, but rather a cup of kindness to each storm-tossed soul.