by Pam Dewey
In a time when people are discussing so many different timings for Passover, different calendars for Passover and different methods of celebrating Passover, it is often good to regain the central focus: Christ, Passover Lamb.
We certainly celebrated our spiritual deliverance two years ago in a rather different way. The very unusual setting helped emphasize that we can be spiritually freeeven when physically in bondage. We celebrated with bread, the fruit of the vine, and footwashing in a real prison.
My husband, George, and I left Michigan in the morning and drove to Louisville, meeting Richard and Tarcila Fox at a motel and heading for the Kentucky Women's Prison after dinner. We were to visit with the Foxes friend Debra Rogers, a prison inmate who had been a longtime WCG member, to observe the Memorial of our Saviors last night. Arrangements for the evening were made through the prison chaplain and approved months ago, and we had strict instructions on what we could bring in:
That was it; nothing elsenot even a ball point pen.
When we arrived at the guard house about 7:30, there were several minutes of tension after the guard insisted no one had informed him of our permission. And the chaplain had gone home, so he could not verify it. I guess they finally decided to call the chaplain at home. Eventually, the guard verified our right to be there, and, after confiscating all of our IDs and trading them for visitor passes to clip on our clothing, he sent a signal to the imposing, barbwire-topped gate to open, and pointed us to the chapel.
A guard met us there to let us in, and then we heard them page Debra over the loudspeaker system throughout the complex. He also paged another person named Glenda whom we did not know! It turned out the chaplain had informed Debra some time ago that another woman lodged in a different part of the prison was of the same faith and asked if she wanted contact. Debra said, Sure! but the other woman had never expressed interest in getting together for even a weekly Sabbath.
But Glenda had been informed about our plans, and evidently had decided to take up the offer. What a poignant situation. She had not taken part in such a service since 1973 in the WCG! We never did ask her how long she had been in prison, but I doubt that it had been since 1973Im assuming she may have left the church way back then over personal problems.
She was obviously emotionally touched by the whole service, but at the end of the service, when we sang Amazing Grace she broke down and cried openly.
Were they really guilty?
That is the question that people so often ask about prison cases. Obviously, only God knows what each of us are guilty of, and what we have repented of. Most people in prison will tell you that they are not guilty. Some are, some are notóbut it is hard to know when you are hearing only one side of the story (Prv 18:17). The founders of our country tried to provide a way so important human decisionsólike who goes to prisonócould be made by a fair jury after they heard both sides of the story. If you or I want to determine if somebody is "really guilty", maybe we should consider jury duty. I have never done itóbut I am rethinking what I believe. How many people are in or out of prison who should not be because I failed to do my part in rendering just judgments? Or is jury duty just better left to the unconverted? óNSE
Debra was obviously thrilled to have us there. She has been in prison for six years, and hasnt had anyone come for Holy Days and such in all that time. We sat around in a circle informally, and took turns reading various applicable scriptures, interspersing the various symbolic acts with praise and worship songs accompanied by Richard on the guitar, starting with a lovely piece called White as Snow:
White as snow, white as snow
Though my sins were as scarlet
Lord I know, Lord I know
That Im clean and forgiven
Through the power of your blood
Through the wonder of your love
Through faith in you I know that I can be
White as snow
The only shortcoming was the short time. We had hoped to have an extended time to talk after the service, but just as we finished a guard came in and nagged us about the time. George somehow managed to gently persuade her for ten more minutesand she didnt come back again for almost a half hour. It was a tearful departure, but Im sure the experience was deeply meaningful for all involved.
It certainly taught me that the incredible privilege most of us have to decide to celebrate this special time of the year any way we choose should never be taken for granted!