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Testimonies for Epiphany: Prison Ministry – Caleb Kowalko

Growing up, I was afraid of prisons.  That seems like an obvious statement; of course I was scared of prisons.  That’s what a prison is supposed to be – scary.  They build those formidable walls, and fences lined with razor wire, and cells with cameras always watching, and guards with batons and guns to punish – all to instill fear.

But that’s not what really scared me about prisons.  Strangely enough, those parts of the prison are the securities that actually make people like me – on the outside – feel safer.  It’s the people inside of the prisons that I was really afraid of.

And when I imagined prison ministry it was just as scary.  What I had in mind was a lonely minister entering a prison to sit, one-on-one with a restrained criminal in an orange jumpsuit trying to convert them to Christianity.  That’s what I imagined.  And there was nothing about that that appealed to me.

Then, for some reason, (maybe it was divine) I decided to take a class by Project TURN at the divinity school that took place in a maximum security prison.  Every Friday, for a semester, 10 guys from the divinity school would drive to Raleigh central prison, and take a class with 10 men incarcerated there.  It was called “Spiritual Autobiographies,” and, academically, we were going to learn how to hear other peoples stories and how to write our own.  But this class had a deeper goal and it was not written in our syllabus.  It was a goal we just had to be there to discover.

Entering the prison that first day, I was excitedly afraid. At Central Prison, our classroom was three floors up in the very center of the prison. It sometimes took 10 minutes to get all the way to the classroom, with two check-ins, a metal detector, two elevators and three long and dark hallways.  We even pass by death row on the way to class, where all the men there are distinguished by their bright red jumpsuits.  But the question I couldn’t get out of my head while we walked towards our classroom was: What are these men going to be like?

When we finally arrived to the classroom, there, standing, were 10 other men with huge smiles excited and waiting for us with hands extended to introduce themselves.  They had been waiting a long time for this class and were pumped for the opportunity.  As I sat down, I realized that these guys weren’t as scary as I thought they would be and once introductions and the regularities of class started, the real goal became clearer.

Us from the divinity school were not there to help them at Central.  Us from the university were not there to teach them in the prison.  Us from our gothic chapel were not there to convert them behind the bars.

No, the class was set up so that We all had the same reading.  We all had the same assignments, and We were all graded the same.  We were classmates.  We were peers.  And after a few classes, we became friends.  We learned from each other and bonded with each other.  We all listened to each other’s story and gave input to each other to help us tell our stories effectively.

And that listening and storytelling and bonding…was healing.  It was life in the midst of a place of death.

On our last day of class, the government even gave us the okay to eat together.  For that lunch, the men living there requested biscuits, corn bread, banana pudding, McDonalds cheeseburgers and Bojangles fried chicken.  We all ate and drank together around the table.  And after we had stuffed ourselves with one too many chocolate chip cookies, Frank, a man living in the prison, reclined back, closed his eyes and breathed out in his loose southern accent, “I feel like a free man again.”  – healing…life.

After we said our goodbye, we all walked out of the classroom together – but then 10 of them went right, into their cell block and 10 of us went left towards the exit.

Walking out of the prison that last class, I realized that I was still deathly afraid of prisons.  But it was no longer the people inside that scared me.  Now it was those lifeless walls, and imposing fences and cameras and guns that scared me.  I am scared of those things now because those were the things that prevent bonding, storytelling, the breaking of bread, and healing.

In Matthew 25, Jesus famously says, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

I think differently about prison ministry now.  There are still those who march into prisons and believe they are bringing Jesus to a dark forgotten place.  Many of those folks do a lot of really great work.  But if I am hearing Matthew 25 correctly, I am not necessarily supposed to bring Jesus into a prison.  He’s there in that dark forgotten place whether I want to visit him there or not.  I don’t go to bring Jesus, I go because he’s already there.

I am excited as the prison ministry here at All Saints will finally be taking its first steps this month.  The prison we have wanted to enter is a minimum security prison in Hillsborough named Orange Correctional Center (OCC). But in July of this past summer there was some bad wiring that caused a fire in the kitchen.  No one was hurt but all of the men had to be moved to other prisons to fix everything up.  They all finally arrived back at OCC in November and regular scheduling started early December.

The ministry we will be taking part in at OCC is called Yokefellows.  It happens every Tuesday night and is an hour every week where volunteers come and just hang out with the men living there.  I have been attending Yokefellows since they restarted in December.  The awesome thing is that there is no real goal other than simply developing relationships.  Just being together, as peers.

Besides myself, there are six others from All Saints who attended the volunteer training (held only once a year) so that we can regularly attend these gatherings.  Since OCC is a minimum security prison, the training certifies us to sponsor some of the privileged men for a day, to take them outside of the prison – even to come to an All Saints church service.  In time, I’m sure you will hear some awesome stories from our volunteers.  And who knows? Maybe others of you will gain an interest to participate in this ministry as well.

This is just the first step in a prison ministry – there are many other things that can be done.  But for now, as we take that first step, I ask that you pray for us, and the men at OCC – that relationships will grow and we all meet Jesus.

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All Saints Stewardship Reminder

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2015 Ministry Commitment Pledge

Dear Members of All Saints Church,

As we enter this advent season, with joy and anticipation we look forward to celebrating together the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

In many ways this has been a pivotal year for All Saints Church. With the dramatic changes that occurred in 2013, there were those who wondered how our church could survive this difficult season. But survive we did! Average attendance is now 209, almost at the level it was at the start of 2013, and there is rich worship, deeper community, and exciting ministry at the heart of the church! Though we set a challenging budget of $459,842 for 2014 (including for the first time a specific budget item for saving for a future building), we have already received $362,843 –  that is 79% of our full year’s budget. Most excitingly, we rejoice in Thomas Kortus becoming our new permanent rector, backed by new leadership in ministry coordination, worship, and children’s programs!

For the vestry, this is also a time when we close out the finances for the year and begin the process of putting together the budget for the coming year. We want to encourage you to continue giving faithfully and fulfill your financial pledges to the church in the remainder of 2014. Many of us make special donations this time of the year, and we want to encourage you, as you do so, to consider including All Saints Church. It would be a tremendous encouragement to begin the new year having fully met this year’s budget.

For those of you who have not done so already, we ask you to please fill out and return your 2015 Financial Pledge Card and Ministry Commitment Brochure this coming Sunday. This is critical for us to know how to set the budget and programs for the coming year. Our goal is for everyone to participate in the stewardship process. Thus far we have received 39 financial pledge cards, still well short of the 63 cards we received last year. We have also only received 31 Ministry Commitment Brochures.

We realize that not every household is in a season of life when they can contribute 10% of their income to the local church, but we long for all members of the body to be committed and intentionally giving and serving the church with what the Lord has given them. The 2015 Financial Pledge Card and Ministry Commitment Brochure will be included in your worship guide this Sunday for your convenience. These forms are also included in electronic form at the top of this post. Please take the time to fill out these important forms and return them to the offering plate this coming Sunday.

May your upcoming celebration of the birth of our Lord be filled with love and joy.

In Christ,

Mark Harbaugh – Senior Warder

Niel Ransom – Treasurer

The Rev Thomas Kortus – Rector

 

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ESL Ministry to our Oak Creek Village Neighbors

The fall ESL (English as a Second Language) program hosted by The Church of the Good Shepherd is kicking off with a morning coffee open house this Saturday, September 13, from 10:00-10:45 a.m.! (The Church of the Good Shepherd, 3741 Garrett Road, Durham). Join us and other local churches who are passionate about interacting with and ministering to persons who would like to improve their English language skills – primarily refugees and immigrants from the Oak Creek Village community.

The open house will provide an overview of the history of the program, give a description of a typical teaching session, and identify specific needs for the fall session. Volunteer teachers, assistant teachers, conversation partners, and folks to offer hospitality and child care are needed. Volunteers must attend training on September 20 at 9:00 a.m., and be available for eight of the scheduled Saturday mornings 8:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m., September 27 to December 13, with a break for Thanksgiving. For more information, please contact Dick McKown at ramckown@earthlink.net by September 15.

Hope to see you there!

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Children’s Ministry Volunteers Needed!

“Jesus loves the little children…”

                                            and so do we at All Saints Church.  

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The Children’s Ministry is committed to nurturing all the children of our church in the Christian faith with the help of dedicated teachers and assistants. We can’t accomplish this important ministry without your help. Please prayerfully consider joining this team of volunteers by teaching or assisting the teachers and group leaders, or by volunteering in the nursery. 

Nursery volunteers and teacher assistants serve once a month and are absolutely necessary for our children’s Ministry! When we baptize children we declare as a church that we will support the parents and disciple the child in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need about forty nursery assistants and 25 teacher assistants in order to love and serve and disciple our children well. Whether you have children or not please sign up today by emailing Dana Irons (danairons@hotmail.com) or Vivi Watkins (viviani.watkins@gmail.com)! 

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If you can’t help on a regular basis, please consider acting as a back-up substitute in case one of the volunteers is unable to serve.  

It is truly a blessing to serve our youngest members and a great way to get to know others in the congregation.  Contact Dana Irons (danairons@hotmail.com) or Vivi Watkins (viviani.watkins@gmail.com) if you would like more information or are willing to volunteer.  Thank you!

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Children’s Ministry Director Opening at All Saints Church

Children’s Ministry Director

Employer: All Saints Church, Durham, NC 

JOB DESCRIPTION

The Children’s Ministry Director will work under the supervision of the Rector and in partnership with pastoral staff and parents to disciple the children of All Saints Church (birth through 5th grade) to know, love, and worship Almighty God.

RESPONSIBILITIES

Develop and implement a compelling and comprehensive vision and strategy for ministry to children (birth through fifth grade) at All Saints Church. This vision should enhance the overall vision of the church. This will include communicating the vision, curriculum development and planning, and organizing special events.

Lead the Children’s Ministry Team. Recruiting, training, and pastoring this team of leaders and volunteers who will be responsible: to disciple our children, organize special events, and partner together with parents and clergy to accomplish the vision and strategy of All Saints Church among our children. Organize appreciation events for Children’s Ministry volunteers and staff.

Plan and organize Sunday morning programming and services. Oversee and administrate the nursery, preschool, and elementary school Sunday offerings on Sunday Mornings. Currently these include: Nursery care and children’s church at both services and nursery and faith formation classes for children (birth to fifth grade) during the Sunday School hour. This will include regularly leading and teaching.

Hire, train, and supervise paid childcare workers for Sundays and other events.

Minister to parents and families. Creatively equip parents to disciple their children and connect parents and families in this essential responsibly.  It is expected that the director plan quarterly gatherings, teaching sessions, and/or events for parents and families to create community and equip and aid parents to disciple their children. The Director will lead the First Communion process for children in partnership with the rector and/or other clergy.

Pursue relationships with parents and their kids outside of Sunday mornings: play dates, coffee dates, etc.  The goal of these relationships is two-fold: to build trust and to discern needs.  This will come primarily through watching and listening.  Out of these relationships new insights and ventures for family ministry and children’s ministry will naturally arise.

Coordinate childcare and programs for special events and services: Weeknight Lenten Soup Suppers, New Comers Luncheons, Holy Week and Advent services.

Administer Children’s Ministry. This includes but is not limited to: seeing that rooms are set-up and in order in the appropriate manner and timeframe; seeing that the caregivers are scheduled and present in the appropriate venue at the appropriate time; coordinating background checks on caregivers and volunteers; maintaining accurate attendance and safety data; and ordering supplies, making copies, organizing children’s spaces as needed, and keeping records of financial spending.

REQUIREMENTS

  • Possess a vibrant faith in Jesus evidenced by a life of worship, obedience, and Spiritual growth.
  • Continue to learn and grow as a disciple and minister of the gospel.
  • Demonstrate a visible sense of calling to serve and disciple children and parents.
  • Pray for the children of All Saints Church and their families.
  • Have experience with and awareness of children and their development process (emotionally, spiritually, relationally).
  • Agree with and the vision of All Saints Church.
  • Maintain a personal and professional lifestyle of high Christian character.
  • Demonstrate skill and execution of administrative and organizational tasks.
  • Be effective at building teams, leading teams and serving on teams.
  • Be willing to train, lead, and enter into conflict lovingly and truthfully with others.
  • Regularly attend worship at All Saints and actively participate in the overall life of the church.
  • Attend and contribute to weekly staff meetings on Wednesdays from 9:00-11:00
  • Affirm the Jerusalem Declaration (http://gafcon.org/images/uploads/jerusalemdeclaration.pdf)
  • Pass criminal background check.
  • Possess the necessary computer skills to use email, create documents, and maintain spread sheets, ect.
  • Possess a High school and undergraduate degree.

DETAILS

  • Part-time: 25 hours a week
  • Reports to: Rector
  • Supported by: Children’s Ministry Team made up of a leadership team and dozens of volunteers
  • Scope of Ministry: Children birth through fifth grade and their parents
  • Start Date: As soon as possible
  • Closes: When position is filled
  • Compensation: Will be determined by education and experience ($13-$18 an hour)
  • To apply: Send resume and cover letter to Rev Thomas Kortus (thomas@allsaints-chd-org)

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REACH Work Camp 2014

14OTN2_0585If I have learned anything from my four years of youth ministry, it is that teenagers tend to be the most underestimated members of most communities. And at the end of June, our teenagers at All Saints Church proved that to me once again.

Ten youth, our brave adult volunteer, Amy Hopson, and I all drove to Oliver Springs, TN, just northwest of Knoxville, to join up with over two hundred other campers at a REACH Work Camp. These amazing youth spent six nights and five full days doing renovation and construction work on nearby homes in the community. They spent their evenings at a local High School, at their meals there, and worshiped there alongside other youth from all over the country, including Alabama, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

They were each placed on teams, split up among the other campers so that only a few people from each church would ever be on one team. They painted, swept, calked, demolished, rebuilt, framed, and roofed houses badly in need of 14OTN2_0415repair and attention.

Many of the people whom they served were disabled, elderly, or lacked the means to care for their home. Our youth turned dark and abandoned places into warm and light-filled places. These “Neighbors,” whom they served were blessed by this outpouring of care and hard work, but they also blessed in return either through gifts, or prayers, or feeding us some local TN BBQ at the end of our last day.

Our teenagers made connections with other students from all over the country, and the time they invested into this community is something they will never forget. Thank you to everyone who prayed for this camp, who prayed for our youth, who gave sacrificially to make this trip possible, to parents who both allowed and supported this chance for their children to do missional work, and to the youth themselves for giving away a week of their summer instead of spending it by the pool or in front of television screens.

14OTN2_0426Our church is blessed with amazing students. I pray God continues to walk with them and guide them for all their years to come. They have already been a profound blessing to me and my family.

I know they are and will continue to be an invaluable gift to this church.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ALL SAINTS CHURCH PHOTOS NEEDED!

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We are in need of some new pictures for our church website! Do you have a good camera? Could you take some high resolution pictures for us in the next few weeks? People pics are needed – posed and casual. People smiling, laughing, talking, posing, – would all be great! Particularly horizontal pics! Pics in our new worship space as well! Please email the high resolution pics to admin@ALLSAINTS-CHD.ORG and share them on our Facebook page!

The picture above is a particularly adorable example of what we need! Unfortunately for me and ASC the Taylor family and Glasses are moving to TX!

 

WEBSITE EXPERIENCE? Also do you have any experience working on websites? Mark Harbaugh is leading a revamp effort for  our website. Thank you!

BLOG? Are you interested in being a blog contributor? Email Thomas Kortus (thomas@allsaints-chd.org) if you are interested!

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