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Thursday, November 28, 2013

It Takes A Town (or Two). By Jeff Grant

Progressive Prison Project

Innocent Spouse & Children Project

Greenwich, Connecticut

It Takes A Town 
(or tw0)
By Jeff Grant 

I admit it.  I prejudged things. 

My wife Lynn & I had a dream of building new forms of prison ministry to bring diverse and suffering communities together - and model them first in Bridgeport and Greenwich, Connecticut.  

After all, they are the most disparate socio-economic same-county communities in the country. 

In theory, it seemed simple: I was a white guy living in Greenwich, who had gone to prison for a white collar crime, who had gone on to Union Theological Seminary, who was now called to be a prison minister, in a black Baptist church in the 'hood in Bridgeport.  Simple?

Here's where I prejudged things:  I figured that the folks in Bridgeport would like the concept - but that the folks in Greenwich would never buy-in to this plan.  I was only half right.  The Bridgeport faith community did embrace this concept in new and unprecedented ways - but so did the faith community in Greenwich.  But, like all good things, it all came in God's time. 

A couple of years ago, I first met with Rev. Jim Lemler, the Rector at Christ Church Greenwich.  Despite being the largest church in Greenwich, Christ Church is also known for it's incredible hospitality - it hosts recovery meetings every day of the week, is the site of the nationally acclaimed "Courage & Faith" speaker program, and provides outreach funding and services all over the world.  

Jim was interested in our new ministry from the start, and saw that perhaps we might evolve into becoming a good fit for the church.  After a series of meetings over the next couple of years in which Jim did see our ministries grow and evolve, he assigned us to the exceptional Rev. Jenny Owen (Jenny runs the Youth Ministry at Christ Church Greenwich and does a whole lot more - a dynamo!).  Jenny worked with the church's new Outreach Commission and discussed with us how we might best be of service to congregation and community.  

A few days ago we posted a blog by my wife Lynn announcing that Christ Church Greenwich has made a second home for our new form of prison ministries (in addition to our first home at the First Baptist Church of Bridgeport with our mentor Rev. Hopeton Scott).  We are deeply grateful to all!

I want to take a moment to celebrate this moment in the history of the Greenwich faith community (if it's not immediately apparent) - this is not just another case of a church in a wealthy town sponsoring an outreach program by sending money or a busload of volunteers off to some other part of the world (efforts we applaud, by the way).  This is an "in-reach" ministry!  By this act of great compassion and empathy, Christ Church Greenwich has reached out its arms and wrapped them around its own suffering neighbors and invited them into its midst.  This is an act of true humility and kindness - the sheep and the goats.  It is we who are awestruck and humbled to be a part of this God-filled moment.  On behalf of all who now will be seen in a different way, and helped with more dignity - thank you.

To this end, Christ Church Greenwich has also invited me to preach during this winter/spring and to give a"10:10" talk that morning between the services - it should be a wonderful opportunity to get to know the congregation and community better and to discuss our ministries in a comfortable setting.
  
I do want to discuss yet other blessing from Greenwich:  

Earlier in the year, our ministries came to the attention of Rev. David Miller.  David is the Director of the Princeton University Faith & Business Initiative - and is the Host of the Greenwich Leadership Forum.  GLF is a monthly meeting of businesspersons dedicated to ethical business practices. David contacted us and asked if would I would be interviewed by him at an upcoming meeting of GLF.  

GLF meeting & interview details: Dec. 13th, 7 am (6:30 am for breakfast) at the Indian Harbor Yacht Club, Steamboat Road (right off Exit 3), Greenwich, Connecticut.  It is hard to express our deep gratitude for this opportunity to share our experience in the company of such good, dedicated people.  Please join us and experience what this important group is doing to help model appropriate and faithful business attitude & behavior. 

Greenwich and Bridgeport are not so far away from each other.  Now, just maybe, they are one small step closer.  Please feel free to comment or drop me a line - it's among my very favorite topics. 

P.S. Walt Pavlo wrote an article this week for Forbes about our ministries:  Starting a Discussion on White Collar Crime and Recovery.  I want to take this opportunity to say a few words about Walt.  He is a reporter on the national white-collar crime scene who consistently writes evenhanded human stories about the brokenness and suffering that goes on in people's lives, and about the redemption that can happen on the other side - that is, the truth.  He never opts for the easy way out or for sensationalism.  For these reasons I suggest you closely follow Walt's columns for Forbes.

Blessings, 

Jeff
 


Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div
Director, Progressive Prison Project/
Innocent Spouse & Children Project
Christ Church Greenwich
254 East Putnam Avenue
Greenwich, Connecticut, USA 06830

Assoc. Minister/
Director of Prison Ministries
First Baptist Church of Bridgeport
126 Washington Avenue, 1st Fl.
Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA  06604

 

(0) +1203.769.1096

(m) +1203.339.5887
jgrant@progressiveprisonproject.org
jg3074@columbia.edu

progressiveprisonproject.org

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