Rev. Diane Harrison reflects on 12-year anniversary of Grace Place United Methodist Church in prison

7/17/2019



By Rev. Diane Harrison

This month Grace Place United Methodist Church celebrates 12 years inside prison.

Over these past 12 years we’ve had many challenges, the first being when we asked if we could plant a church in the prison, but being told told "no" because we would be restricting the membership. In 12 years I haven’t figured that one out. BUT WE PERSISTED.

We asked for assistance from "new church start funds." We were told "no." BUT WE PERSISTED.

Grace Place was chartered as a "missional congregation," which is defined as "a church that will never be self supporting." Yet we have had to be. BUT WE PERSISTED. 

A church inside a prison is a church where members are not even allowed to have a penny in their possession. They proceed on faith! BUT WE PERSISTED.

So here we are: 12 years old. No thanks to funding from the institutional church, but thanks to funding from people, congregations, Sunday School classes, United Methodist Women units and circles, United Methodist Men, churches from other conferences and denominations who all believed in what we are doing. SO WE PERSISTED.

The first United Methodist prison congregation in Iowa received wholehearted support from its conference. Thanks be to God! This very day there is a new prison congregation beginning in the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church. The pastor planting that church will spend four days with us in August, learning about what and how we do church in prison in West Tennessee.

The pastor tells me her congregation will receive four years of "new church start" funding, giving her time to develop a network of supporting congregations. How wonderful!

So on this 12th BIRTHDAY of Grace Place United Methodist Church in the Memphis Conference, I give thanks -- thanks beyond my ability to express to all the people far and wide, to all the churches large and small, to all the individuals who have so generously supported us. All have made real what my mother taught me: You can’t out-give God!

God has been our source and our provider. Working through generous and faithful people, God has provided for our needs. We’ve had to go out on faith many times, but God has never failed us. So great is God’s faithfulness.

And so, 12 years later we have:

  • a thriving congregation doing ministry inside and outside the Women’s Therapeutic Residential Center at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Fort Pillow, Tennessee
  • A congregation that is making disciples
  • a building for our offices in Bartlett, Tennessee that includes a gift shop -- all newly renovated and paid for with no debt
Thanks to our wonderful volunteers who drive so far each week to support the work of our congregation.

Every day I see God’s transforming power active in the lives of incarcerated women and in the lives of those who are now living in the “free” world. Thank you to those of you who have said "yes" to our church, who truly SEE ALL THE PEOPLE. #seeallthepeople

Thank you for yarn, journals, Bible Study books, cards, hygiene products, trail mix ingredients -- and so much more. Thank you for every purchase of a handmade item or a cookbook or box of cards which supports Grace Place's mission outreach. Thank you for being faithful to the mission.

I know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the future. To God be the glory! Great things He has done! ️ 

MORE INFORMATION:

Two Sisters Ministry in Bartlett, Tennessee, is the office home and gift shop for Grace Place United Methodist Church. CLICK HERE to read more.

In May 2018, Grace Place United Methodist Church sponsored a Christian music concert at the prison attended by approximately 500 women prisoners. CLICK HERE to read more.

In August 2017, Grace Place celebrated its tenth anniversary. CLICK HERE to read more.

For more information about Grace Place and Two Sisters, call 901-647-5185 or visit the Grace Place website at www.graceplacemethodist.com.