South Mountain Friends Fellowship Spiritual State of the Meeting Reports
The text of recently received Spiritual State of the Meeting Reports are below, with the most recently received at the top and older reports below. To jump to a particular report, simply click the year listed below.
|2011 Report||2012 Report||2013 Report||2014 Report|
"The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love and something to hope for."
This past year was an uneventful 12 months that did not involve violence or serious medical issues. In fact, Ron's release to a drug program brought a smile to each of our hearts. Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding between staff members concerning medical, Dave Zeller was placed on administrative segregation and on an involuntary transfer list to another facility. Dave said, within his last correspondence, that his "...attitude is good and they can't take that away from me...My glass is still half full too." Dave was a faithful attendee during our Saturday morning worship service despite suffering constant physical and mental problems. Dave will be missed with his sudden departure and we will hold him in the light while he endures. We hope and pray he is successful at his up coming court hearing. Since we are a very small worship community, when one member is released or transferred, we grow closer together. Each year we have a few curious residents who will sign up to worship with us and we look forward to having any new members in the future.
Twenty, twenty-seven, twenty-one, twenty-six and thirty-five respectively - represents the number of years each member has been incarcerated and mostly are still serving their first and last incarceration. That's nearly 130 years of individual experiences within the penal system. Each member here at SMFF has his own unique experience, but all will agree that adaptation to imprisonment is extremely difficult. The psychological effects of incarceration vary from individual to individual. Living in prison is painful and incarcerated persons often suffer long-term consequences from having been subjected to pain, deprivation and extremely atypical patterns and norms of living and interacting with others. However, every Saturday morning, under the care of Patapsco Meeting, we few men get a rare opportunity to interact with a few good Friends. We are allowed to openly reveal our intimate fears, feelings, question our spiritual state and to search within our hearts, minds and souls to determine what is true.
"Prisons are big business and have become deeply entrenched in America's economic and political system."
Several years ago one Friend from Patapsco Meeting brought several copies of a book titled, "Chop Wood, Carry Water. A guide to finding spiritual fulfillment in everyday life." Here at SMFF and like many other inmates, we take that motto to heart within our prison jobs. We take pride in our labor because it represents us as incarcerated citizens of this great nation despite our convictions.
This past year Maryland Correctional Enterprise (MCE), an industry arm of the Maryland Division of Correction, was paid nearly $3 million to build 2400 large metal voting carts for every voting center in the state. However, the wages for the eighty inmates who worked day and night, seven days a week, only represented 3-4 percent of that total revenue. Despite knowing those facts, a couple of members of SMFF went to work faithfully and put their best effort in every task that they were assigned to. Unbeknownst to them, the Maryland Legislators would override the Governor's veto to allow ex-prisoners, who are still on parole or probation, the right to vote. In the end, Kent and Monroe felt a deep sense of community and pride to be part of that large strenuous project due tot he personal issue surrounding voting rights for all. Chop wood, carry water!
Gabe and Joe took that same expression "chop wood and carry water," further within their assigned prison jobs. Both men work in the MCE meat shop and they volunteered their time and skills to cut, package, cook and ship turkeys for the Bea Gaddy homeless program project in Baltimore City. Gabe was interviewed by Fox 45 news network and one local University of Maryland student. Their works demonstrated to the public that we might be incarcerated, but we still care for the less fortunate and displaced people of this great state. When the TV footage aired, fellow Friends of Patapsco Meeting were proud to say they personally know him and visit him regularly.
Across this nation, every inmate or ex-prisoner feels a sense of connection with each other in a negative and positive way. Majority of society believes all prisoners are the same and they all should be treated the same. Therefore, we were elated and filled with joy to hear Gabe was accepted into MCE eighteen month meat cutting apprenticeship program. Due to overcrowding in prisons many meaningful programs have been discontinued due to budget cuts. There's only one apprenticeship program for fifteen men within the Maryland Division of Correction. Therefore, it is indeed a honor and a privilege to be part of a rare campaign to give prisoners job skills and experience to improve their career opportunities upon their release. Gabe is studying religiously and feels blessed despite his residential address. We here at SMFF and our outside Friends are delighted and very joyful for his wonderful opportunity.
This past year we have seen remarkable strides towards addressing the issue of mass incarceration in the public eye. Our Spirits are glowing much brighter to know that the Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform is trying to address and understand the U.S. prison problems. We send our gratitude and our deepest appreciation for all their work and efforts tin this important matter that effects every citizen free or incarcerated.
"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."
This past year we enjoyed reading various articles from Friends Journal. We took pleasure in the December 2015 issue titled "Economic, Justice and Poverty" concerning the history of Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform, MAJR. WE here at SMFF endorse MAJR's work throughout the state concerning legislative change in corrections policies. We will support MAJR in any way we can involving these important issues.
In addition, we found insight and a deeper understanding of Quakerism by reading the book titled "A Quaker Book of Wisdom" by Robert Lawrence Smith. We here at SMFF agree with Mr. Smith that "...Quaker values of simplicity and silent contemplation, truth and conscience, seem more important now that ever before." Each person here at SMFF lives by example and allow our lives and actions to speak the truth.
Andre has a new job as a sanitation engineer. Despite many staff members and inmates who might hassle him with their antics he continues to be humble and take pride in his assigned duties. He is only paid $2.00 a day, but he is proud of his job because the majority of this institution's population is only paid $1.00 a day. We hope and pray that by this time next year he will be released - then he can demand minimum wage per hour for his excellent services. Chop wood, carry water!
After the completion of Mr. Smith's book, we will contemplate what insightful publication/article to read. Also, we will determine our next project here in MCI-H. After many hurdles and layers of red tape, we were very happy that Kent's bird feeder project made it all the way to the warden's desk, however, were disappointed that it was denied. We will also ponder which charity or charities that we will support with our meager funds, such as the SPCA, The House of Ruth, Maryland's Crime Victim Resource Center or a Veterans non-profit organization.
"To be spiritually minded is Life and Peace."
We look forward to our next annual celebration in April. With song and dance, the past year, we celebrated our tenth anniversary with outside Friends who have been with us since the creation of SMFF. Also, we were able to celebrate another Christmas observance with two new outside Friends. With music, singing and worship we enjoyed the company of Sandy of Patapsco Meeting and Ken Stockbridge, Clerk of Baltimore Yearly Meeting. We look forward to meeting any Friends who have the time and courage to visit us.
We would like to thank our Friends at Patapsco Meeting for being with us during our personal spiritual journal through life and our efforts with the bird project proposal this past year. We might be physically confined within the prison walls, but with their spiritual advice, guidance and counseling we have traveled to far places around the world. We especially enjoyed one special occasion when one outside Friends visited us unexpectedly, as a late fill in for another Friend, when she mention her recent trip to Costa Rica. She informed us of the history of the Costa Rican Quakers and described her trip and the sites she visited. Her vivid description of her trip made us feel as if we ourselves traveled to this beautiful Latin country.
As with happenstance, our first reading passage from Mr. Smith's book, he discussed the Quaker's history of opposition to war and a few Friends emigrating to Costa Rica. This was indeed a surprising coincidence and a remarkable moment for our small group. We are much thankful for our outside Friends for sharing their personal experiences and their spiritual journey as seekers.
Into this new year we here at SMFF will strive continue to live more truthfully, more simply and more charitably. Our actions and the way we personally carry ourselves within this facility will be examples to other inmates who might be curious about attending our worship service. We will continue to strive to discover the divine within and "live by the Light; Spread the Light and Be the Light" every waking moment as examples of our long held motto.
2005 - 2015
The first meeting for Quaker worship at what is now known as South Mountain Friends Fellowship was on January 1, 2005
Philippians 2:1-5 says, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his Love, if any Fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” [NIV]
Here at SMFF we are a small brotherly group of men who meet every Saturday morning in a small room. This year will be our 10th Anniversary since the very first meeting. Every week we strive to nurture each other and be nurtured in living a more fully in “that of God" or the 'Christ Within” or the “Inward Light” that is in all of us.
We began the year 2014 with our annual celebration. We welcomed and were delighted to see new Friends attending the festivities, in addition to the Friends from Patapsco Friends Meeting, who sponsors S5/IFF. It brought us pleasure to our hearts to be around friends who share a common interest. Despite believing each day is a Holy Day, we were happy to sing, participate in bonding activities and share each other’s own spiritual journey. We look forward to and anticipate the upcoming celebration for 2015.
This past year, we were deeply saddened to receive the news that a former member of the SMFF suddenly died due to a slip and fall accident. He was one of the first members and his death personally touched several long-standing members in the Fellowship and at PFM. He was imprisoned for twenty-five years before he was released on a medical parole and was only in the free world for seventeen months, which made his sudden death more devastating and overwhelming. However, we were content and appeased to personally hear this troubling news from Friends at Patapsco Friends Meeting first. We were happy and charmed to hear stories from Friends of their personal interaction (bike rides, eating fast foods and getting a girlfriend, etc.) with an ex-incarcerated citizen. Knowing outside visiting Friends from our Fellowship were by his side supporting him during his adjustment phase, and with him during his serious medical difficulties, also in attendance at his funeral, brought us comfort and peace.
With the Spiritual guidance of Patapsco Friends Meeting of Ellicott City, Maryland, we accepted the unacceptable. Our adopted motto is, "Live by the Light, Spread the Light, Be the Light." We held our departed friend Eddie in our hearts and minds where we were able to enter into a state of grace. We completely surrendered, which is an inner acceptance of what is without any reservations. We used this tragic event for enlightenment, therefore we can be at peace.
Each of us here at SMFF strives to let our lives speak the Truth and Love. Unfortunately, we live in a violent environment. We live among hundreds of men who might have a quick temper and be prone to violence. A simple loving gesture can have a shocking adverse reaction. One of our members was violently attacked recently with near fatal consequences. He has healed and will be transferred to another facility. We will miss Tony and his sparkling personality. He brought his unique testimonies and talents to the Fellowship. Knowing he was in good health and in good spirits, we will hold him in the light. As we center inwardly and collectively, we surrender that we cannot change, therefore we are free internally of the situation.
This past year presented setbacks for some members of SMFF who sought relief through the judicial system. Yes, a modification and commutation request were denied but those Friends are not stressed, discouraged, or depressed. Within the several readings we have read this past year, we learn collectively that one should not look at the future or the past because you will miss out on the present. Being present is the key to freedom. We might be incarcerated citizens but our minds and souls are free.
Even when one member receives a favorable outcome in the court system, disaster strikes. For our most jolly and friendliest member, this occurred to him. After receiving a long-awaited drug treatment program acceptance, he accidentally fell while working and seriously injured himself, delaying his substance treatment and release. When we heard this, we were startled to know how serious his condition is. As we meet for worship we listen carefully in silence to the movement of the Spirit, we can feel Ron's spirit among us. Until he is healed of his injury, and released, we will continue to hold him in the light.
One exciting moment this past year was our first Christmas celebration. We sang, laughed, read scriptures, and had worship sharing. We all spoke from experience and shared what the holidays meant to us. We surely hope this will be a continuing event for SMFF. The photos that were taken captured the merry spirit in that room.
These past few months we have read many articles within Friends Journal and Pendle Hill pamphlets, particularly by Kenneth Boulding. One pamphlet spoke to the author’s heart which is entitled, The Practice of the Love of God. Mr. Boulding stated on Pg.16, “Love, wherever it appears, is a living, growing thing, and follows the laws of life rather than of machines. It must therefore be nourished, or it will die."
Here at SMFF, we have taken this to practice. This year has been tumultuous for one member, disappointing for one, and bright for another member. Even when one member suffers from constant medical problems he still feels the urge, led by the Spirit, to attend faithfully every week since his first appearance at our meeting for worship. We are very happy to say two members have new jobs that bring them satisfaction and a sense of self worth in a place like this. However, during our personal trial and tribulations we are there for each other. Whenever we see another is in need of legal, financial, academic or food assistance, we feel compelled to help each other. Despite it may cost an entire day’s pay to purchase a greeting card to send to a member in the hospital, as Mr. Boulding stated, “Love feeds on the presence of the loved one."
We are all tied together by the bond of God / Spirit that is in each of us. This year we hope to spread what it means to be a Quaker to all residents who might have a different faiths and cultural backgrounds and interested in attending our small group. Also we are contemplating various environmentally friendly projects, such as purchasing a birdfeeder and seeds to be placed within the prison, pending the prison's Administrative approval for such.
Clerk Pro Tem
South Mountain Friends Fellowship
MD Correctional Institution of Hagerstown
18601 Roxbury Road
cc: Patapsco Friends Meeting
Ellicott City, MD
The South Mountain Friends Fellowship met for the first time at the Maryland Correctional Institution of Hagerstown on January 1, 2005. This first Meeting for Worship was made possible by the leadings experienced by the Care and Ministry Committee members of the Patapsco Friends Meting in Ellicott City, MD. In the year 2004, Patapsco Friends were presented with a request to visit Friends confined at the prison in Hagerstown in hopes of establishing a place of Quaker worship. Petitions to the prison's administration were eventually granted resulting in the approval to begin weekly Meetings every Saturday from 9:30 to 11:00 am.
During the course of this spiritual journey spanning the past nine years, the Spiritual State of the Meeting has continued to serve as a beacon for many travelers. Patapsco Friends Meeting continues to provide the guidance, diversity and support needed in order for South Mountain Friends Fellowship to remain as the viable place of Quaker Worship it has become.
At each Meeting for South Mountain Friends Fellowship, everyone has the opportunity to sit in silent worship, expectant listening or simple meditation. As is sometimes the case, distractions from outside the Meeting Room door can be present, while other times it may appear as if no one else is in this massive building of steel and stone other than those attending the fellowship.
As a group, South Mountain Friends Fellowship follws the readings and discussions from Patapsco Friends Meeting. The many publications reviewed over this pat year have lead to numerous leadings, reflections and group conversations. Personal milestones or personal struggles are also shared with those who attend on Saturday mornings. It doesn't take long before new members to SMFF recognize the feeling of belonging within the Quaker Worship gathering. To those who have been part of SMFF since the beginning, there's a strong sense of belonging within this familiar Quaker community.
On March 15, 2014, Patapsco Friends Meeting and South Mountain Friends Fellowship will joining together for an annual celebration. This will be the ninth such celebration at the prison. This year the guest list includes more Friends than the previous year's celebration, the songs are certain to carry farther with the accompaniment of several instruments, and the silent worship will continue to enlighten and unite all for this celebrated event.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its works so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2
One may describe prison as living on a desert island amongst savages. But God is there too!
Another person might describe prison as the closest thing to hell on earth. But God is there too! It is a paradox in every respect, and it is a small representation of a modern society. We have meaningful jobs. We attend school and attend self-help classes to better ourselves. Unfortunately, there is much hostility, anger, and fear amongst the population. But God is there too!
Under the guidance and watch of Patapsco Friends Meeting at Mt. Hebron House, SMFF is a refuge or a spiritual sanctuary for a small group of men. Within this medium-security facility that has over 2000 inmates, for ninety minutes every Saturday morning, we nurture one another in living more fully in the “Christ within” or the “Inward Light” in each of us.
Quaker worship is one of three other religious services held on this particular day. Within this small group, a couple members have been attending for years and others have been attending just a few months, but we continue to welcome any curious seekers. I can say on behalf of our group that without a shadow of a doubt, this year has been one tumultuous year for our close-knit family. Spiritually we have been challenged. Physically we have been challenged. Emotionally we have been challenged. But through it all, we continue to strive to center inwardly collectively with Christ in mind and to aid each other by giving an attentive ear during individual hardships.
I am sad to say that last year Richard, our co-founder and oldest elder of this Meeting, was transferred without notice. He has guided us since the start of this oasis here in Maryland Correctional Institution – Hagerstown (MCI-H). As a group we were sad to hear of his sudden departure because we could not say our proper good-byes. And his departure brought each Friend back to the reality that every inmate will be transferred at one time or another during his incarceration for reasons unknown to him.
Fortunately, Richard was in great spirits and looked forward to his new facility and environment where he can “Live the Light, Spread the Light, Be Light” as our motto states. We do wish the best for him and will hold him in the Light and pray he is released soon. He will be deeply missed.
Meanwhile, we were blessed to have Darren (Tony), a talented poet Friend return to our family-oriented group. He was also transferred to another institution some time ago. Today, he is happy to be attending our Meeting again. He said he missed our Meeting while he was away and was saddened that no Quaker Meeting was held in his former facility. However, he did stay in touch with his pen pal, whom he first contacted through SMFF. Presently, he is employed as a barber. He looks forward to continuing art classes and attending his music group again.
Let nothing disturb thee;
Let nothing dismay thee;
All things pass;
God never changes
He who has God
Finds he lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
– Saint Teresa of Avila
This past year we have read and reviewed several Pendle Hill publications that were also read at Patapsco Friends Meeting. Presently, we are reading and discussing the pamphlet titled “The Quaker Doctrine of Inward peace” by Howard H. Brinton. This past year, our favorite publication was titled “Some Thoughts on Becoming Eighty-Five” by William Z. Shetter. I believe his description touched each person here because every inmate contemplates the passage of time and aging. South Mountain Friends have been imprisoned between 5 and 31 years. Mr. Shetter's summation on page 28 says it all: “why would anyone want to stop time and stay young forever? The genuine beauty of life lies in the way it is so fragile and fleeting, giving the gift of continual growth...more fragile fleetingness means more intense growth and hence more beauty!”
Furthermore, throughout the past year we have received and read Friends Journal. As one might be led, we have discussed several articles focusing on a diversity of issues. Each Friend here enjoyed N. Jeanne Burns' suggestion in the January 2013 issue, titled “Blue-Collar Welcome.” She said in order to become more conscious in worship one might “ask hard questions about how welcoming your worship is for poor and working class people of all races and ethnicities.”
“For God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the God's glory displayed in the fact of Christ.” --2 Cor. 4:6 NIV
With the exception of one's freedom, family and companionship, this facility is a microcosm of a normal society. We have various occupations throughout this institution. An inmate must work in order to earn good days for their early release. Unfortunately, inmates are only paid from $.90 to a few dollars per day. Gabriel has changed jobs from a Laubach tutor to a suicide prevention aide, and today he is working as a meat cutter in MCE meat processing plant. In fact, three Friends are employed in the same plant.
“For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of Life.” --Psalm 56:13
The topic of health has been a great concern for SMFF this past year, too. Sickness and illness such as the flu and the awful stomach norovirus have struck several Friends here. We had to endure the side-effects and pain without seeing a doctor or having access to adequate medicine and treatments available in your local pharmacy and hospital. Friends had to depend on other kind inmates to ensure their health would not deteriorate into something more serious. One Friend was placed on medical quarantine for precautionary measures after a spider bite. We sent him words of encouragement and enlightenment through letters and hand-made greeting cards. He was only held for a couple of days. One Friend collapsed due to the stomach virus and had to be rushed to see the nurse. Luckily, he was only dehydrated.
While some are dealing with illnesses that will cure with rest and time, some will need surgery. We will continue to hold a couple of Friends in the light. David is in need of a serious and expensive back surgery. The (for-profit) correctional medical services are denying him this needed service due to cost. Through Love and Truth, we hope and pray that someone will see it is the right thing to do.
Also, Perry is walking on crutches and will have two arthroscopic knee surgeries in the near future. We will listen and nurture him throughout his ordeal and his personal struggle to become less dependent on his pain medication. The threat of a relapse to his past addiction is dispiriting. Notably, he has regained contact with his oldest son. His spirits were much brightened when sharing recent photos of his family.
As Quakers, each of us attempts to stay active in other endeavors that reflect our core testimonies such as equality, integrity, peace, simplicity and community. In addition to striving to gain justice that has long eluded each of us through the legal system, we continue to participate in other activities.
Throughout our struggle to live amongst this maze of lawlessness and chaos we volunteer our time to programs involving community support. One Friend, Joe, is an active member of MCI-H's Lifer's Conference. He is assisting with a fundraiser for the Maryland Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Also, he continues to support Prisoners Against Teen Tragedy (PATT).
“Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” --2 Cor 4:16-18
This past year a former attendee, Edward Clarke, was suddenly transferred. We were elated to hear of his parole release and it brought joy to our hearts and souls to hear of his attending PFM worship in Ellicott City. We enjoyed hearing a couple of Friends reminisce of their bike ride with Eddie.
Unfortunately, due to an unknown benign tumor in the brain or other serious illness, he had to be admitted into the hospital. To hear of his sudden serious medical problems after being released from a 26-year imprisonment was disheartening. We were more saddened to hear of his dear mother and uncle passing away. While attending SMFF, he spoke fondly of his mother and their loving relationship.
We were at peace to know a few Friends from Patapsco visited him and kept us informed of his condition before and after his surgery. We were also elated to know his condition improved and that he was released from hospital. It is truly uplifting and inspiring to us to know he is still looked after by concerned Friends. As it states in 1 John 3:11 NIV, “We should love one another.” And in 1 John 3:18, “...let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.”
Every inmate who has endured a significant amount of time incarcerated will have a complicated and complex time readjusting to normal society. We will continue to hold Eddie in the Light throughout his difficult trials and tribulations. Presently, he is living in transition housing. Also, he has reconnected with Buster, another former SMFF attendee.
Through state budget cutbacks, legal setbacks, funerals, transfers, sickness, depression, grief and pain, we have had weekly visitors. Through it all, outside Friends from Patapsco have been there for our small group by helping us to center ourselves inwardly and collectively to survive this turmoil we live in daily. Each visitor is deeply appreciated. Presently, we are planning our 8th Annual Gathering and Celebration. We look forward to everybody being together and maybe meeting a few more new Friends.
We would like to say “thank you” to each outside visitor for just being you and sharing your unique life experiences that speak truth and love. And a special “thanks” to one outside Friend who hand-crafted necklaces and earrings for our loved ones. A smile on our loved ones' faces is a smile on our hearts. They were truly wonderful and thoughtful gifts.
South Mountain Friends Fellowship Attenders.
Gabriel A. Cannon #257-863
Clerk, Pro Tem
SOUTH MOUNTAIN FRIENDS FELLOWSHIP
SPIRITUAL STATE OF THE MEETING
The first meeting for Quaker Worship and fellowship held at the Maryland Correctional Institution of Hagerstown was held on January 1, 2005. Since that time the fellowship has remained under the spiritual guidance and commitment of many Friends from the Patapsco Friends Meeting (Care & Ministry Committee). In the ensuing years the meeting for Quaker worship would go on to be recognized as South Mountain Friends Fellowship here at the prison.
On March 3, 2012, in a joint celebration, members and attenders from South Mountain Friends Fellowship, and, Patapsco Friends Meeting, celebrated our Seventh Annual Gathering and Celebration at the prison. In attendance was 11 visitors from PFM, and, six prisoners held at the prison. Of the 11 visitors attending from PFM, seven were regularly attending Friends, accompanied by 4 Friends from Patapsco who were able to participate in this year’s gathering and celebration for the first time. The celebration included worship, singing with the accompaniment of a guitar, the introduction of Queries, small work discussion(s), Reflection and the sharing of light snacks and refreshments made possible by the prison administration. Also presented during the gathering was a correspondence from B.Y.M. recognizing SMFF and the light that shines behind these prison walls. And for the first time, pictures were taken during the gathering and celebration to serve as a lasting memory of this day amongst friends.
During the past year, South Mountain Friends Fellowship has undertaken a number of Quaker faith and worship activities intended to further advance the Quaker tradition of worship. One activity that has generated the most notable interest by the entire Fellowship is when the group follows the leading of Patapsco Friends Meeting by reading and reviewing the publications read at PFM. Quaker Strongholds, Patricia Dullman, Quaker Faith and Practice, and most recently, Creeds and Quakers (What's Belief Got to do With it?) by: Robert Griswold.
Members and Attenders of South Mountain Friends Fellowship are able to receive Friends Journal on a monthly basis, made possible by the generosity of Patapsco Friends. Our appreciation is multiplied as we are aware of the cost factor involved, as this practice extends back a number of years. Friends Journal, March 2012, focused on Crime and Punishment. Content included such examples as, Cain: Reflections on Restorative Justice II Prison Visitation: Lifeline to the Outside World II Demythologizing a Ministry. Other articles of importance included, A Quaker Stand Against Mass Incarceration II and II Advocating for Children of Prisoners. The March 2012 was a genuinely good read for everyone and anyone interested in such a strong social concern for prisons in America and the Quakers who make a difference, (both past and present).
In the April 2012 issue of the Friends Journal was an open letter to the Editor by a Friend who has made a life changing impact on this writer’s life, and others who attended Quaker Meeting in Jessup, MD. Mr. Jack Fogarty's letter covered a forty year span of prison ministry and advocacy from Sandy Spring Friends Meeting. However, as the only prison in the state of Maryland at the time that held meetings, attending Quaker meeting in that Jessup prison changed my life, and the lives of many others, some of whom remain imprisoned, most were eventually freed. Thank you Jack. And Thank you to the many others who traveled to the Jessup prison, twice a month, for forty years.
And Thank you to all of those Friends from Patapsco Meeting who travel hundreds of miles in order that prisoners attending South Mountain Friends Fellowship might see the light, know the light, and live in the light.
In conclusion, a story message as it appeared in the March 2012 issue of Friends Journal:
Going to see Gary
He says he's come to terms
with it, finally accepts the full
impact of "life sentence with no possibility of parole"
after fighting it for 30 years. He says he's okay with it
but I wonder.
It's raining today.
I drive home and hear
the wet hiss of the tires,
a sound I can make
but he cannot.
Nor a thousand other things.
Ken Gibble // Greencastle, PA. Friends Journal 3/12 P.13