Dec 11, 2023 | John W. Coleman

Eight correctional facilities in our region have received 11,378 donated Christmas cards from church members and others through the Eastern PA Conference Prison Ministry & Restorative Justice (PMRJ) Team. The annual outreach effort surpassed previous totals in a near decade-long ministry that shares God’s love with persons in prison.

“It’s a way to let them know they are being thought of and cared for by people on the outside,” said the Rev. Marilyn Schneider, who delivered the last batch of cards to be distributed among Philadelphia’s six correctional facilities last Friday.

(From left)  The Rev. Marilyn Schneider, EPA Prison Ministries and Restorative Justice Team coordinator, with Carmelo Urena, Philadelphia Prisons Director of Chaplaincy/Religious Services.

About one-half, or 5688, of the cards contain brief, encouraging messages inscribed personally by church and community members. The other half, 5690, are blank cards donated to enable prisoners to write and send their own Christmas messages to loved ones—thus giving them the gift that keeps on giving.

Eight correctional facilities in Eastern PA received the signed cards. Two of them also requested and received the unsigned cards. The EPA team annually works with cooperative chaplains who welcome and disseminate the cards to prisoners in their facilities.

“It is important for us to assist in maintaining such supportive relationships,” said Schneider, who chairs the PMRJ team and coordinates its several ministries. 

“In addition to Eastern PA, we were very pleased to see participation by a number of individuals and churches in the Greater New Jersey Conference,” she said, citing one possible reason this year’s campaign surpassed previous totals. “Thank you to all who participated in this important, heart-to-heart outreach ministry to benefit those who are incarcerated.”

Healing Communities training in February

The PMRJ team’s next endeavor will be its annual, online Healing Communities training to offer churches information and perspectives on the criminal justice system and its impact on victims, survivors, offenders and their families. Church leaders can gain ideas and develop action plans to engage congregants in fostering ministries of hope, healing and reconciliation.

The next training will be added to the EPA&GNJ Leadership Academy and made available to participants in both conferences. It is scheduled for February 5, 8, 12 and 19, from 7 to 9 p.m., and includes two hours of homework.

The Prison Ministry & Restorative Justice is also looking for new team members and a new chairperson in 2024-28, seeking persons who are interested in this important, diverse area of justice and mercy ministry. To join, contact Marilyn Schneider, at