Progressive Prison Ministries: The First Ministry in the United States Created to Provide Support for Individuals, Families and Organizations with White-Collar and Other Nonviolent Incarceration Issues. Greenwich CT & Nationwide

Monday, February 17, 2014

Forgiveness and The Innocent Spouse & Children Project. A Sermon. 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 By, Jeff Grant & Lynn Springer



Progressive Prison Project

Innocent Spouse & Children Project

Greenwich, Connecticut

Forgiveness & The Innocent Spouse 

& Children Project.  1 Corinthians 1:18-31

A Sermon.

Rev. Jeff Grant & Lynn Springer


Christ Church Greenwich 

Feb. 2, 2014 


People in attendance have told us that this was one of the most surprising moments in church they have ever witnessed - as Jeff called Lynn up to the pulpit and apologized to her, and through her to his extended family and to the families of all men who have gone to prison and left their families behind.

Click image for the audio recording of our sermon.

 
http://www.christchurchgreenwich.org/play_window.php?audioType=Episode&audioId=6709903

 

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”[a]

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”


JEFF:
          

Please be seated.  Also from 1 Corinthians  – "If I speak in the tongues of men or angels but I don’t have love, I’m only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal. "  

My name is Jeff Grant, and I’m the Director of the Progressive Prison Project.  If you look on page three of your program, you’ll see some things about our ministries that are there - and some things that are missing from there.  You’ll see that I’m a Baptist preacher, which means I’m not going to give you a sermon this morning.  I’m going testify because that’s what Baptists do.  So this is going to be testimony this morning, and I promise you, whether you like it or not, that’s what’s going happen.  

There are some things that are not there - and that’s what I’m going to talk about this morning.  I’m going to talk about the other side of our project - the Innocent Spouse and Prison Project - which is very dear to our heart.  These two projects are the first ministries in the United States that are created to support the families of people who are accused or convicted of white-collar and other nonviolent crimes.  Christ Church Greenwich has been kind enough to give us a home.  And, so that’s the reason why I’m here this morning and also why we’ll be also doing a lecture here at the 10:10 between the services.  We are so, so grateful to be here.  

I want to start my testimony this morning by telling you that I was preparing for this sermon about ten days ago when my wife Lynn came to me, and she said to me, “When are you going to stop being a liar?”   

And I said, “Who, me?”  

And she explained to me that…I’ve told…   

I’m so sick of my story.  I have to tell you, because everyone who knows my story here...some of my friends from Family ReEntry are here.  Some of my friends from the ministry, some of my friends from…they know that I’ve been to prison.  They know I’m a drug addict and alcoholic, recovered now 11 years.  They know I’ve… 

I’ve told my story so many times, and in all those times I’ve told my story…I call it My Fall and My Redemption Story.  My wife pointed out to me, she said, “In all those times you’ve told that story, you’ve never once talked about hurting your family,” and I said to her, “How is that possible?”  Is that actually possible?   

Before every time I speak, I pray for vulnerability.  I pray.   

So I went and checked my notes.  I checked everything I’ve written, and it’s true.  I've  never actually talked about hurting my family.  I've never apologized to them.  So I’m going to make that up right now, and, Lynn, can you do me a favor?  Can you come join me up here?   

 [Lynn leaves her seat in the front row and joins Jeff up in the pulpit]

This is really hard.  I’m sorry.  I’m doing the best I can.  She does not know I’m doing this.   

Lynn, I’m sorry.  I’m sorry.  I’m sorry I hurt you.  I’m sorry for the times I wasn’t there for you.  I’m sorry for taking your trust and misusing it.  I’m sorry for the times I was away from you.  I’m sorry that I misused your trust, and I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you when you needed me.  Will you please forgive me?  



LYNN:

Sure.


[Lynn & Jeff hug. Congregation applauds]


JEFF:



I think it’s important that they understand that we’re partners, and I didn’t always treat Lynn like a partner, and that’s the nature of this problem that happens when people go to prison.  And it’s mostly men that go to prison.  Some women go to prison, but statistically it’s mostly men in white-collar crimes that go to prison.  And so that’s what I want to talk about today. I’m going to do my best to relate it to the issue and try to hold it to the scripture at little bit if I can.   

Because the problem of the foolishness of the wise and the way I relate it to the scripture is really - the more I know, the less I know.  I became more and more imbedded in my story and my understandings of "the great me," the preacher, the helper, the minister.  And there’s no question that I was being helpful to people, and that was an understanding that I had, and that was guiding me through.  It guided me through seminary, and it guided me through becoming a director at Family ReEntry.  I see a couple of directors from Family ReEntry here.  And then into my seminary story. 

But that really wasn’t enough for me.  So, I just want you to hear the story a little bit and how…  And what happened here is how we started the Innocent Spouse and Child Project, and Lynn if you want to chime in at any point, that would be great.  Honestly…  Lynn did not know this was going to happen today.  This may be a first for Christ Church.  I’m not sure, but it’s certainly a first for us.  Because we do this, and we’re just doing the best we can here.   

I just wanted to let you know that what happened was is that we’ve kind of found that our search for our own authenticity is really the crux of our ministry, and that’s really, really hard because what happens is that we’re like open wounds.  We’re on the phone or we’re meeting with people who are really oppressed.  They’re on the margins, and they are people who there’s not a lot of empathy or sympathy for in the world, especially white-collar people.  People here in Greenwich or New Caanan or Darien or all over the Country where there are sensationalized headlines and people just…  

There's a kind of Schadenfreude - people want to see them kind of fail in this bizarre way - there are all these TV shows, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and The Bachelor or whatever they are, for people who are really doing well in the world, but there’s this kind of seed in the back that somehow people want to see them fail, and we’re keyed into that because we’re people who went through it.   

So what happens is that we get phone calls, or emails, or Tweets - or whatever the social media is - and we hear from people whose voices are barely perceptible.  They've just proffered guilty pleas, or in the case of the wives - and that’s really what we want to talk about today - where their husbands have left them penniless and almost homeless, they’re on food stamps, and they can only heat their houses through Operation Fuel.  And they’re on HUSKY in order to get health insurance, and they have sophisticated legal problems because they haven’t been independently represented. And that’s where we come in.  

Lynn winds up ministering to them and counseling them. We put together legal teams for them to try and get them their assets back if they’ve been seized or they’ve been taken by the government in kind of kind of a failure of due process when these women have…  They’re entitled to property that was theirs but somehow got swept up into these government things... 

Lynn, do you want to say anything about it?



LYNN:

           

Well, I just want to say that in the meantime while Jeff is helping them and getting a team together to help these women...they’re cold.  They don’t have sufficient means to heat their homes, which in the case of many white-collar families they’re generally living in fairly large homes.  Operation Fuel is not sufficient to help them heat those homes.  All of their assets have been seized by the SEC.  So, if their husband was in the financial industry, they don’t have enough.  They don’t have enough to feed their children.  As I said, to heat their homes.  

They’re not getting by.   

And, in my case, there was a lot of, a lot of shame.  

I had never known anyone who had ever gone to prison.  It was difficult for me to talk about it.  My own family didn’t really want to hear about it and wasn’t interested in supporting me, and the only people that I did talk to about it advised me to leave Jeff.  There was really no support for me.  My daughter and I were really, really on our own.  And that doesn’t help.  So I have a great deal of compassion for the women that Jeff and I are helping now, who are in the same situation that I was in.  So that’s all I really have to say about that right now.   

And all I do want to say…  Now that I…  Yes, I do have one last thing to say…

[Congregation laughs]



JEFF:



She’s just warming up :).

LYNN: 
          

The one thing that I would like to say to all of you that you might want to take away with you today is... I’ve come to believe that the only way in so many issues that we have in life and in this particular issue, but in almost every issue is…the two things that I would love for you to take away are: compassion and love.  I believe they’re really the only, only way in raising our children, in dealing with white-collar crimes and every crime.  The thing that I’ve learned about Jeff and every criminal I come in contact with, crimes are committed by people who are sick and suffering.  

And compassion and love are really the only way to deal with these things.  That’s just my feeling about this.  



JEFF:



I’m just going to leave you with a quote because I think we’ve probably used up our time.  I just want to tell you we were at Martin Owen's baptism two weeks ago, and it’s just a wonderful thing to be a member of this community and to see children being born.  Dane [and Debbie Boston's] child was born a couple days ago.  Is that right?  And what a gift, to be having a message of salvation and birth and renewal and redemption and to have this all tie together.  

So I just want to leave you with this quote from today's scripture reading:   

“The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those of us who are being saved, it’s the power of God.”   

Thank you all for listening to our message this morning, and may God bless you and keep you always.  



Lynn & I will next be preaching and speaking at: 

First Congregational Church of Danbury, Sun., Mar. 16th

First Congregational Church of Danbury, Sun., Mar. 16th
Please join us as Jeff and Lynn will be Guest Preaching and giving a seminar after the service relating to their work at the Innocent Spouse & Children Project. Danbury is the only city in Connecticut that hosts a Federal Prison. The Federal Correctional Institution, Danbury is a low-security United States federal prison for female inmates - a major controversy has arisen recently since a plan has been approved to move these female inmates to other locations far away from their families. First Congregational Church of Danbury, 164 Deer Hill Ave., Danbury, CT, Click image for details.
 _____________________

Some Comments from Linked In:

I love this...so very powerful! Having been the mother of two sons who went to prison, I learned that families of the incarcerated are the "other victims." You feel so very helpless, judged and often are treated like you are committing a crime. Thank you very doing this!
By Lucy Smith, MEd


I think this ministry is absolutely awesome that Pastor Jeff and his wife, Lynn, are doing to help those innocent wives and children whose spouses are incarcerated. It is very true that very few think about the family of those in prison, but I believe they are left hurting with hardly anyone to come to their rescue; unless, they are fortunate to have family members who care. I'm sure that most of them are full of shame and pain for what their loved ones did to go to prison. It's almost like losing a loved one in death, but the person is still very much alive. The family members of those incarcerated need to know that they are loved regardless to what happened. We who are Christians need to show that love by reaching out to them in any way we can to help out. I never really thought much about the family members before, because I've always done ministry to those on the inside of prison. I am so thankful for the type of ministry that Pastor Jeff and Lynn are talking about, and I pray for more to catch this vision and run with it.
By Gwen Campbell 


I will be having a Town Hall Meeting in March. The agenda is the "Destroying the New Jim Crow" and Transitioning ex-offenders back into our communities effectively. I have prepared a survey to make sure I am presenting what the community is most interested in discussing. Please take time to complete the survey. I would also ask that you would pass it on to others. This is the link: http://lnkd.in/dUzi8Ka I look forward to hearing your opinions.
Thanks. Kimberly
By Kimberly Brown


______________________________


A Prayer for Forgiveness and Reconciliation, From the Thomas More Center, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014:



Gracious and merciful God, the problems facing our human family are very grave and we are no longer isolated from one another.  We are confronted daily with our addiction to violence, our hatred and our greed.  We are heartbroken.  The media are relentless in their presentation and critique and we all long for some good news.  It is so easy to forget that your Son, Jesus, is always the good news and that he has given us the remedy for our brokenness.  “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” He spoke so clearly. We ask your Holy Spirit to remind us of this again and again.  We ask you for the gift of hope in our lives and know that we need to turn to one another for the confidence and assurance that we will emerge from situations, that, in the short term seem hopeless.  Banish fear and anxiety from our hearts. 

Tonight we gather to affirm one another and to remove the barriers that seem to sour our relationships and keep us at a distance.  Heal the short tempers, the crabbiness and the grudges we hold, against one another, against our political system, against our Church, against our financial institutions.  We could go on and on. Prompt us to be beacons in the present darkness, and especially beacons to one another.  We are all guilty of some selfishness, many of us have lived beyond our means and we become angry and irrational and embrace ideologies that protect our acquisitions.  We need your help to stop contributing to the larger greed that tears at our world.  We believe in the power of your grace to change our lives and we promise tonight to be once again open to that grace.  Bless us with a peaceful spirit and a desire to be reconciled with one another.
______________

Progressive Prison Project/
Innocent Spouse & Children Project

Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, Director
Christ Church Greenwich

254 East Putnam Avenue
Greenwich, Connecticut, USA 06830
(o) +1203.769.1096
(m) +1203.339.5887
jgrant@pppx.org
jg3074@columbia.edu


Lynn Springer, Advocate
lspringer@innocentspousechildrenproject.org
(m) +1203.536.5508

Affiliates:

First Baptist Church of Bridgeport

126 Washington Avenue, 1st Floor
Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA 06604

Jesus Saves Ministries
784 Connecticut Avenue
Bridgeport. CT, 06607




Cathedral of Praise C.O.G.I.C. Int'l
45 Gregory Street
Bridgeport, CT 06604




2 comments:

  1. Have you ever truly and honestly apologized to members of your blood family or have they been forgotten in your story? Perhaps it's time to call them up to the pulpit for deeds done unto them both before and after your incarceration.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comment and the important questions you've raised. In the 1 1/2 years since this sermon/blog, I've had a lot of time to reflect on these topics. There are several members of my family who have asked me not to talk about them publicly, so out of respect for them and their wishes I try to not. I acknowledge that it leaves me telling an incomplete story - I remain unsure of how to handle this. As to honest and complete apologies, I have made apologies but I know that I've fallen short there as well - this has only added to the wreckage. My sadness and remorse about all this has been unbearable at times, even as I try to empathize for my family and their feelings. I have taken counsel with professionals, my supervising minister, my recovery sponsor, etc. trying to figure out how I can fix things. It has taken me years to understand and accept that I can't fix anything, and that the only thing I can do is continue to work on my spiritual development and turn the rest over to God. It is definitely a work in progress. I think and pray about, and talk privately about, these things almost every day. Thank you again. Jeff

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