Report to the State Committee on Institutional Work – Texas October 7, 2017
Patty Woodard, the DFW Zone representative on the Board of the State Committee thanked the current DFW Zone Board Members: Sally Griggs, Secretary, Darrell Doss, Treasurer, Liz Smith, and introduced Bob Woodard, Chairman to give the report.
Frankly, I am humbled to be standing here. It was about 7 or 8 years ago that a man sitting right in the front row, Dick Upshaw, met me on my first visit to a Texas State prison. And since then, this activity has changed my life. It is one of the best things to happen to me in my life.
Like many if not all of you, I am extremely grateful to be a part of this healing ministry in support of the cause of Christian Science.
And so, this report is one filled with gratitude… for each of you, for all the Volunteer Chaplains including those not present at this meeting, the Branch Churches and the members of their Congregations, the State Committee, The Mother Church, and the men and women we meet in the institutions: the correctional officers, Prison Chaplains, the Volunteer Chaplains from other religions whom we often interact with, and of course the many inmates we serve
(I had planned to include the following paragraph but Elizabeth did a beautiful job of covering this in her remarks!)
I am pleased to report that the good work being done in Texas by Volunteer Chaplains was recognized by The Mother Church at this year’s Annual Meeting which highlighted a DFW Zone Branch Church and some of those in this room for the positive impact institutional work is having on revitalizing the members and the healing activity of their Branch Church.
So here are some numbers from the DFW Zone.
Our 20 Volunteers come from 8 of the 19 Branch Churches and Societies within the DFW Zone. Could I please ask those volunteers from the DFW Zone to stand please. I think we have 8 of the 20 volunteers here today! Dick Upshaw, Patty Woodard, Elizabeth Arnett, Eleanor Bigbie, Liz Smith, Jack Robinson, myself, and please welcome back Troy Patterson who has been First Reader, Arlington. Thank you for coming.
This past year we added 4 new volunteers and here is some good news. Is there anyone here from Austin? One of our volunteers, a devoted Volunteer who has been regularly serving at Coffield since we started services will be relocating to Austin by the end of the year. I have Bill Klenzendorf’s contact information so please see me after the meeting!
These 20 volunteers provide 18 services per month in 5 institutions: 2 State Prisons: Coffield, and Michael, 2 Federal Prisons: Seagoville and Carswell, and Dallas County Jail (2 locations). Inmate attendance ranges from 2 per service up to over 65 per service. And this year we held our 4th annual Thanksgiving Service at Coffield in February with 125 inmates in attendance.
A special thank you to the Branch Churches that sponsored the 7 lectures held during the year. Lectures are one of the keys to the success that we are having in the DFW Zone.
And we wish to express our heartfelt gratitude to the State Committee and the work of Elizabeth Arnett who fulfills all those requests for weekly Bible Lessons sent to hundreds of men within and outside the DFW Zone. We could not do what we do or accomplish the growth we have accomplished if it were not for Elizabeth Arnett in supporting this Zone.
I have a couple of pages of fruitage from Volunteer Chaplains which I will include in a written report to the State Committee.
I would like to share one of these accounts.
This Volunteer reported;
“One thing I try to do when I meet an inmate for the first time is to ask how he or she learned about our services. Just last month one inmate told me he was attending a religious class in the Chapel at the same time during one of our services. And he overhead the words from the Christian Science lesson sermon and said to himself, ‘that is what I am looking for’ and has began attending our weekly services.”
In closing, we are pleased to report that two former inmates who joined TMC while incarcerated are regularly attending weekly Branch Church services and Wednesday meetings and are grateful that they have received benevolence from one Branch Church as well as educational and general assistance from The Sunnyside Foundation.
The former inmate who attended this meeting last year has become an active member of Third Church, Dallas, is fully employed, and living independently.
We all have much to be grateful for.
Chairman, DFW Zone
Attachment: Healings / Remarks by Volunteers
Healings/Remarks by Volunteers
(Jack Robinson, Elizabeth Arnett, and Dick Upshaw will share their offerings in person) AND THEY DID as did Troy Patterson who also attended.
I am rather new at this, having attended only a handful of services so far. But, beginning next month, I will be on the regular monthly rotation at Coffield. A few weeks ago, when Woody introduced me to the Coffield group, I had a short but memorable exchange with a few of the guys after the service. There were three or four of them talking and I walked up to them just as one was saying to the others: “I love Wednesdays”. Another said, “yes – Wednesday, because of the Christian Science Service, is now my favorite day of the week”. The other guys agreed and expressed deep appreciation for the dedication, reliability and conviction of the Christian Scientists that they have come to know and appreciate during their time at Coffield. This is a standard that I will work hard to uphold as I take up monthly duties. The work that has been going on and continues to be done is having a very positive, uplifting effect on these men – it is very clear from their demeanor and even the look in their eyes. They are finding spiritual inspiration that is sustaining them. It is a privilege to serve on this committee. (Allan V)
We have just two men coming and both deeply value Christian Science and appreciate the services. Both men read quite a bit of other religious oriented books. One fellow came in eager to share a paragraph and how it relates to what he’s been reading in SH. (he has read all of SH). Comment in response was, “Why wouldn’t it be recognized by others when there is only one God, one Father!” The other gentleman has seen a commonality in other books – connecting them to SH. They are thinkers! (Dwight H)
One gentleman made the comment regarding Christian Science, “This has really changed my life!” What an incredible statement to say that something has “changed a life”. But that’s what happens in the prison work. A lot of relationships are built. It has been a growing opportunity for me; I was forced to study a little harder and to be prepared for questions. (Bill K)
We work at the jails, which is a very transient place. Rarely do we get repeats, but we’ve had a couple guys who had found SH left in their cell and brought it with them to a service. We keep a very open thought as to how to lead each service; each service is approached with an open heart. Sometimes guys come with their very worn and used Bibles. These are the ones who make the connection with SH as they read and see how the Bible is referenced. “She (MBE) really knew her Bible well!” One fellow, who was quite interested in physics, loved a couple of references made in the service to physics; asking me to find that specifically in the SH he was taking with him. (Colby H)
I am impressed more and more how different it is every time we go and provide a service. The Pentacost always comes at some point during our time. There is a softening of thought, a cohesiveness, a connection made. At one service, I incorrectly invited some men to join us from a different pod, not realizing the two pods never mix. The guard called me on it when realizing there were more men in our room than she could account for. I quickly and humbly apologized. “This is completely my fault; I am new here. And I promise you I will never do it again.” As I turned to face the room of men, several were looking at me with the most surprised expression. One fellow said, “If we had behaved like that, we would be here.” (Vida W)
One fellow came to our lecture in prison and sat right up front. At the time, he had a very serious kidney infection – hadn’t slept for several nights. The lecturer stressed the important of loving our neighbor, loving our enemy. The man thought right away of a fellow inmate whom he hated, and realized he needed to change that; now. So he did; he made the decision not to hate him, but to love him. When he woke up the next morning, he was healed, completely. (Greg M)
I spoke with an inmate who attends our regular CS services at Michael Unit. He told me he had spent many, many years in Ad Seg (administrative segregation, meaning 23 hr/day alone in a cell) and he loved the solitude because it enabled him to study Christian Science uninterrupted. He has observed that many people depend on the noise and chaos that seem to prevail in prison because it blocks out the ability (or necessity) to listen to or be conscious of one’s own thoughts. He has learned to find his own peace in the midst of all that noise.
Liz and I also had a wonderful change of heart today about how we are seeing our chaplain. We applaud his constant regard for our safety and the smooth operation of our service every Monday. We are committed to seeing one Mind, unity, harmony – not several minds in conflict. It was such a wonderful release of anxiety and sense of complaint and we both felt uplifted. So we were not at all surprised by the large turnout and the wonderful way our CS service took place today.
(Referring to above) What impressed me the most was yesterday morning instead of feeling a little apprehensive as I have been for quite a few months now, I was ready to go, feeling great peace of mind. When Eleanor and I met up to ride together, we found we both felt good about our chaplain, had better insight about some things that still needed prayerful attention but could now see things from a different perspective and were together in the timing of this outcome for the day which was interesting but lovely – exactly what we expected from our prayers and metaphysical support by all.
With much gratitude for this church supported activity.
One man told of a healing he had after a piece of heavy machinery ran over his foot. He simply refused to be impressed and jumped up to continue on with what he was doing!
One inmate told how he had a serious problem and lost a lot of weight. Even after surgery he was still in pain. He thought about how C.S. teaches that it was only mortal mind telling him this. He came back to the CS services, was able to stop his pain medication and has accepted CS as his way of living, believing in his true spiritual life.
One man told us that he is no longer worried about what others think, only what God knows.
Another inmate told about a healing of a sinus infection.
One special story is about a group of men that would come to the services and would sit in the back and talk during th
e service. As time went by, this group moved to the front and began to liste
n with interest!
There is always much gratitude expressed by the men to us at the services. They don’t realize that we’re growing and learning as much as they are.