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Jail Ministry

Founded and supported by Grace Cathedral, the San Francisco Jail Ministry now draws volunteers from several Episcopal churches and beyond. This increasingly well-known and popular program provides social ministry and outreach at the San Francisco County Jails. The Evening Prayer program is led by lay ministers in a conversational style of Bible study and reflection. The Stories From Mom/Dad programs record inmates reading to their children, and provides an opportunity for incarcerated parents to connect or sometimes reconnect with their children.

Our Purpose

The Episcopal Jail Ministry is a lay ministry of presence, hospitality and respectfulness. We seek to reflect the Holy Spirit at work in our lives as a manifestation of God's love. We explore Christ's Word through the use of worship, stories, scripture and personal experience. We help the women and men to connect with God and themselves, their families and loved ones, and with each other. We strive to model spiritual health by demonstrating centeredness, balance, spontaneity and joy. We try, above all, to be authentic and to allow the Divine to manifest through us.

For more information, please call the Rev. Andy Lobban at 415-749-6364 or e-mail him by clicking here.

Stories from Mom/Dad

Known in this country and abroad, the very popular Stories from Mom/Dad Program serves the inmates of the San Francisco County Jails who are parents. Volunteers bring children’s books and tape recorders to incarcerated parents. The parent chooses a book and the volunteers record her or his voice as they read to their child. The book and tape are then sent to the children.

Evening Prayer

The Jail Ministry's Evening Prayer Service is held in both men and women’s facilities at the San Francisco County Jail in downtown San Francisco. Ours is a ministry of presence. We provide a simple Evening Prayer service and an opportunity for fellowship and support.

Many of the people who are drawn to attend evening prayer are dealing with substance abuse issues. While in jail, they take time to prayerfully review their lives, confront some of the things that drive their substance abuse and engage the assistance of God in turning their lives around. It is into the middle of these struggles and introspections that we quietly step. As a ministry of presence, we do not preach, proselytize or judge. We just pray and sometimes sing.

The women and men are often surprised that we share the same vulnerabilities, and we are continually amazed at the intimate and penetrating conversations that unfold. These are sacred moments of spiritual freedom.

Reflections of Volunteers

This piece was written by one of our volunteers describing her thoughts and feelings about the EVENING PRAYER program.

One night, a woman who was about to be released expressed the fear that she would be snared by those who would drag her back into old behaviors. We all gathered around her, laid our hands on her and prayed with her. The women prayed so passionately from such a place of brokenness and hope that I, with my paltry experience, found difficult to fathom. As we left they thanked us for being -- really being with them, and we left marveling at their gifts to us.

Our Evening Prayer service has come to represent far more to me than a simple religious service. The opportunity for exchange among the women, other volunteers, and me demonstrates to me how connected we all are regardless of our circumstances or backgrounds. No matter how weary or disheartened I may feel at the beginning of the evening, I come away feeling refreshed with a sense of grace and humility and gratitude.

As important as our "Moms on Tape" program is to the ministry, it doesn't often provide an opportunity for the personal, in-depth exchanges we encounter during Evening Prayer. Sometimes these encounters are intense and disturbing and we must rely on our spiritual resources to help us process these moments. More often the spirit of fellowship and the desire to encourage and support one another prevails.

Occasionally, we are able to encourage a mom, long disassociated from her child, to gather her courage and join us for the "Moms on Tape" program the following evening. How wonderful to see these moms return to us on Tuesday evenings, hesitantly enter the recording room, and emerge later radiant with joy! Another connection...

During a recent Evening Prayer service, we were informally discussing the subject of humility. After some minutes of contemplation, a woman smiled broadly and announced her gratitude for helping her understand the meaning of humility. She explained that for years, when attending 12-step meetings for her addiction, she would hear of humility, but thought humility meant the same as humiliation. Imagine her sense of relief and release when she realized that she did not have to endure humiliation to gain the benefits of humility! Another connection...

-- Marlynn Murphy

For more information, please call the Rev. Andy Lobban at 415-749-6364 or e-mail him by clicking here.

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