Preaching Joy in Prison

The Yale Center for Faith and Culture held a competition on preaching about joy, beginning with the first Sunday after Easter, as part of its Theology of Joy & the Good Life project.

Today the first-prize winner of the competition was announced. He is Rev. Dewey Williams, who serves in Durham and Raleigh North Carolina. Rev. Williams is a Missionary Baptist chaplain who ministers to prisoners on death row. The title of his preaching series was: “Joy On Death Row: A milieu for empowerment to a group marginalized in society.”

In an interview with Yale Divinity School, Rev. Williams explained the power of community to make a difference in the lives of his congregation: “These men are the most secluded group in prison. Many do not have visitors. They don’t get to meet with the prisoners in general population or go to common areas. Yet even though they’re not getting out, they are getting to share life and faith with one another and the correctional officers and chaplains. Their world is a smaller bubble, yes, but that community is significant enough and it can make a difference in their lives.”

Here is a clip from one of his sermons:

We’re still here. Really, this is what our joy is all about. We’re all here! That’s the lesson of the resurrection. They tried to force an end to the message of Christ. But the resurrection is Christ saying we’re still here. Really, that is the testimony of the Christian community. We gather every Sunday as a testimony and say, ‘by the grace of God, we’re all here.’ And now we live in anticipation of that final liturgy. When this life is over. When time is no more. There will be a liturgy of singing and shouting. There will be singing and shouting the joy that was given to us all who have been incarcerated.

You can read the whole story here. 

More about the Yale Center for Faith and Culture can be found at their website, here. Their video series on the theology of joy can be found here.

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