Posted by: Pastor Bruce | March 18, 2012

A Prison Sanctuary

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.
(Psalms 63:2 NRSV)

This past week I had an opportunity to hear a presentation from the prison chaplain at the Sioux Fall Penitentiary.  The talk was good and I have a new found appreciation for the work of the Lord that is done behind the stone and barbed wire walls.

It really didn’t really strike me about how important this prison ministry is until the question and answer period following the presentation came.  One of my colleagues asked if the Warden ever worshiped in the prison chapel.  Pastor Marlin answered within a split second, “No!”  At first I was rather surprised by this quick response.  The Prison Pastor went on to explain that the Warden was not considered a welcome guest in the prisoner’ sanctuary.  Don’t get wrong…it is the warden’s prison and he has the right to go anywhere he wants.  However, to have the warden show up during a worship service would create undue tension in this place of worship or what the prisoners call their sanctuary.

I have never really considered a church sanctuary in such a way before.  The chapel in the context of the prison truly is a sanctuary for those coming to seek refuge and to encounter God.  I am fairly certain that the prisoners who worship in the prison sanctuary are reminded of their past every minute of every day.  Such is prison life!  However, they have a sanctuary where they may go to encounter God in prayer and worship.  As the Psalmist writes, the sanctuary is a place to behold your power and glory.


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