Patapsco Friends Meeting worship with men in Hagerstown prison
Submitted by Susannah on Fri, 07/03/2015 - 11:21
Several years ago, a man incarcerated in a state prison in Hagerstown, MD wrote to Patapsco Friends meeting to say that he wanted us to start a Quaker worship group in the prison. He said that he had participated in a worship group at a prison he had been transferred from and that if we would come regularly, he would find others who wanted to sign up. He was as good as his word, and we have been meeting each Saturday morning for several years with a group ranging from as few as 3 to as many as 9 each week. We have about 20 minutes of silence (sort of- the guards are pretty loud, but the concentration within our room is deep) and, for the remainder of our hour and a half, explore some queries or quotations the men bring, or discuss pamphlets together. We have had some difficulty finding low-literacy reading materials suitable for some of the men - we have had three who learned to read in prison, while others read very well, so it is has been a challenge.
The experience has brought the issues of mass incarceration into sharp focus. Several of the men are serving extremely long sentences for crimes committed decades ago in their early youth. Several have struggled with mental health or substance abuse issues. One has a developmental disability. We have been moved and inspired by their determination to live as Quakers in prison. You can read the spiritual state of the meeting reports submitted by the men at Hagerstown, the South Mountain Fellowship, on the website for Patapsco Friends Meeting.
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Ellicott City , MD