The Eastern PA Conference’s Christmas Cards to Inmates Project keeps growing in its annual greetings to prison inmates who might welcome some Christmas cheer. The Prison Ministries & Restorative Justice (PMRJ) Committee distributed 8,400 signed and collected cards to a record 15 county and state correctional facilities in December 2018. Most cards went to inmates, but some were shared with facility guards and staff also.
The committee is grateful to find more supporters of this four-year-old holiday outreach effort each year—more people willing to pen a few caring words and sign their names to simple, photocopied greeting cards. The carefully designed and vetted cards, bearing modest but meaningful messages of Christmas hope and joy, help many inmates experience two emotions they may rarely feel living in a penal institution: grace and gratitude.
As in 2017, cards went to correctional facilities in Montgomery, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh and Berks counties, plus the Berks County Residential Center (where immigrant families seeking asylum are detained) and the Norristown State Hospital Forensic Center. But cards were also delivered for the first time to facilities in Northhampton, thanks to UM chaplain, the Rev. Donald Moore, and other counties.
Included in the total were 2,100 cards that went to inmates in the new Phoenix State Correctional Institution (SCI), despite the difficulties with mail delivery. That facility just opened in late 2018 to replace the aged Graterford facility.
“We are pleased with everyone’s continued and growing support,” said the Rev. Marilyn Schneider, committee chair. “There’s value in reaching out to share God’s love with anyone impacted by the criminal justice system. We’re doing what Christ calls us to do.”
Read previous stories about this ministry on our website, including how other conferences have easily replicated it after learning about its impact and success. Also, view a short, 2016 video about the Christmas Cards to Inmates Project, produced by United Methodist Communications: Church Christmas Cards Show Care to Prisoners. And visit the Prison Ministry & Restorative Justice webpage.