In 2019, when members of the Witness and Outreach Committee at Christ the King Lutheran Church (CtK) in Great Falls, VA, learned about the soon-to-be published Hear My Voice: A Prison Prayer Book, we recognized this as an instrument for sharing the Bible’s Good News with some of our siblings in Christ serving sentences in the criminal justice system.
Adding to our interest in this resource was that its co-author, Mitzi Budde, DMin., head librarian and professor at the Virginia Theological Seminary, was worshipping with us periodically along with her husband.
Through Dr. Budde’s guidance and our own investigations, we identified chaplains or prisoner coordinators at four Northern Virginia detention centers who, after reviewing the book, were willing to accept donations of the pocket-sized prayer book. We then arranged for Augsburg Fortress to ship a total of 40 copies directly to those facilities, in accordance with their protocols.
At a meeting of a local Kairos Prison Ministry group, we obtained contact information for Rita Willett, a chaplain with the nonprofit organization GraceInside, whose clergy provide spiritual support to people incarcerated in Virginia’s state prisons. (GraceInside was founded in 1920 by a coalition of denominations responding to the state’s prohibition on using taxpayer money to fund chaplains, religious programming, or ministry in state facilities.)
Chaplain Willett obtained permission from the warden at the state’s only female prison, the Virginia Correctional Center for Women (VCCW), to receive CtK’s gift of 10 copies of Hear My Voice for use in the prison’s library.
As a result of the joyful response from Chaplain Willett and our desire to put copies of this guide for prayer, worship, and faith into the hands of more of the nearly 600 residents of VCCW, our committee used funds from our annual budget to send VCCW 100 additional copies of Hear My Voice in 2020, and another 100 in 2021.
Christ the King’s commitment to this ministry continues.
Meanwhile, we have prayed that the women at VCCW come to know God more deeply and that they draw faith and hope from the book, especially since April 2020, when all state correctional facilities locked down in response to COVID-19, ending the opportunity for in-person visitors. We also have prayed that VCCW residents, whose children, other family members, and chaplains were unable to visit during the pandemic, would feel God’s presence and love through continuing to read Hear My Voice.