The following story comes to us from St. Michael’s Brattleboro parishioner Craig Hammond, who tried out an exercise from Bishop Douglas’s Diocesan Convention workshop with inmates at Springfield Corrections Facility:
OK folks, in case you were part of Bishop Ian Douglas’s first workshop, late Friday morning, you’ll get this immediately. If you were not there, here’s how it started, with this exercise:
You’re walking down a path, and in your hand is a black (the black) book, as in the Bible. Someone comes your way towards you on the path, stops you, and asks, “What’s that black book about?” Ian asked us to write down and then share, in as few words as possible, what we then said to the stranger.
Yesterday I and a rabbi friend led worship at the Springfield (“Southern State”) Corrections Facility, southeast Vermont’s prison. Half of the twelve or so guys showed up with Bibles, some of them totally tattered from a thousand reads, and the other half beautifully gold edged, black leather covered, Bibles. I was struck by that, so I tried out Ian’s exercise with them. The inmate sitting next to me immediately spoke up. He held up his Bible and in his true Paul Robeson bass voice, said, “I’ll tell you what this book is all about, it’s the world’s G-R-E-A-T-E-S-T love story! And you see this word ….Bible…., it means Best Instruction Before Leaving Earth, B I B L E! And I mean it.” Then we proceeded to share stories of the saints in our lives, ending with our own needs for forgiveness, and how, the inmates said, forgiveness is what our faith is all about, and how much of a game changer it truly is.
It took on a whole new life in this prison with these men. And Jim, my rabbi friend, was simply blown away. I’m smiling now, because I’ve been struggling a lot with the “proclamation” component of the baptismal covenant, like how in the world to do this in these post-Christian times. So much for that!