Dear Fellow Saint Mark Parishioners :
I would like to share with you how I became involved in Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry. I am hoping that the next few paragraphs may inspire you to want to learn more about what for me has become a Christ driven blessing.
Several years ago as a new Saint Mark parishioner I was concerned with how I could still continue to be of service to our Greek Orthodox Church and community having done so in many ways over the last 25 years as an active parishioner in Saint Nicholas in Wyckoff, New Jersey. After much thought and reflection I came upon what I dare say was “a calling” to look into pursuing prison ministry in our Greek Orthodox Church.
I set out doing research to educate myself and discussed my desire to get involved in prison ministry with several Greek Orthodox priests including our beloved Father Mark whom I had the good fortune to know from Saint Nicholas in New Jersey. It wasn’t until I was introduced to Father Stephen Powley of the Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM) that I truly realized how prison ministry was what I wanted to do thus expanding my Orthodox Faith doing Christ’s work.
Father Stephen patiently explained the various options one has in prison ministry including corresponding with Orthodox Christian prisoners. There is a Training Manual that must be studied and an Agreement form that needs to be attested to by the parish priest which are prerequisites. The Manual contains detailed informed guidance as well as procedures for protecting the anonymity of those seeking to become a part of this Ministry. I was now on my way having been assigned a prisoner to work with by OCPM with whom I have been corresponding with regularly for a year and a half.
OCPM is affiliated with and supported by the Greek Orthodox Church. Its Mission includes “bringing the love of Christ to those who are in prison by providing encouragement, Christian education, spiritual guidance and the sacramental life.”
We are planning to have a continuing dialogue and discussion about prison ministry at Saint Mark to wit as I said earlier I would be very glad to share my more personal experiences and feelings with all of you about this truly “Apostolic” and humbling Ministry. For now I’d like to leave you with the captioned message of the icon of Christ in Prison in which according to Matthew 25:36-41 Christ says:
“I was in prison and you came to Me.”
Jim Giokas/Saint Mark Greek Orthodox Church/July,2020.