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Worship Behind Bars: How Liturgical Practices Can Change a Prison

2020 Calvin Symposium on Worship | Seminar

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We live in an age of mass incarceration. Although the United States makes up approximately five percent of the world’s population, the U.S. incarcerates nearly 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. As Christians, how should we address mass incarceration in the U.S.? This seminar explored the powerful effect two ministries are having at the Richard Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia, Michigan. 

Ten years ago, Celebration Fellowship Church was planted behind bars at Handlon. For a decade, this church has grown in numbers and in Christian community, helping to transform Handlon  from the inside out. Nearly five years ago, Calvin Seminary and Calvin University started the Calvin Prison Initiative (CPI), which offers inmates a chance to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Faith and Community Leadership and provides Christian and moral leadership in prisons. Together these ministries allow inmates to move from worship to the classroom and back again and build a Christian worldview that equips them to be agents of renewal across the prison, powerfully transforming the prison culture. Additional participants joined the discussion, including author and pastor Dominique DuBois Gilliard, and others from Celebration Fellowship and the CPI program.