DCC News


Weekly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Dublin Community Church


December 21, 2006



May Your Every Wish Come True...

It seemed like the right thing to do… and indeed, it was.

Joe Neidhardt suggested that a number of us go up to the Marion Correctional Institution to see their Christmas program. Joe is a volunteer chaplain there and knows the people; guards, chaplains, residents and support workers. When Joe talks, I listen.

Some members of our church went on Monday evening, but Tim Haynes and I went up to Marion on Tuesday night. You can get there by going route 23 north to Marion; though Tim took a bit faster route north out of Dublin and into Delaware.

Marion is easy to find; so is the Correctional Institution. And even though I have been up that route hundreds of times in the past years, we would have saved time if we knew that the facility was off the third exit north. (But as it is, we now know that the shopping center is the first exit and the High School the second exit.)

I was intrigued by the notion of just what inmates/residents at the Correctional Institution would present for a Christmas program. What would be its focus? Would it reflect the realities of correctional institution life or the hope embodied in the birth of the Christ Child?

It focused on the latter in some surprising ways. But first things first, we had to go through a screening process. It was thorough but dignified as the facility guards and staff processed all the visitors with respect. But it still meant that we had to fax our names to the facility the week before; show up 45 minutes ahead of time; be given a metal detector screening and all men had to have their photos taken.

The walk through the facility reminded all that this was a correctional institution. Metal bars. Limited numbers walking together to the auditorium. Locks. Cameras. But the most startling thing for me occurred when the lights went down and the opening songs for the Christmas play came over the speaker system.

Through the loud speakers comes the voice of Andy Williams singing “Happy Holidays!” My first and only thought was…”is this really a song that the prison population can relate too?”

The answer was “Yes, it is.”

I guess Christmas is Christmas no matter what sort of door that you live behind.

The program was actually a Christmas musical based on the popular TV show “American Idol.” The actors were all residents and it was performed with gusto and quite a bit of talent. The play itself and the musical numbers were all written by a resident… and the songs were quite good.

In a nutshell, the musical was about this…a young man gets a chance at singing on and winning the American Idol, but just as his good fortune is about to be realized, he faces a personal crises. He overcomes the crises and wins more than just the contest. His faith is tested and he rises to the challenge.

I suppose such a theme would be one that most inmates could relate to…a chance at something good that most only dream of. You should have heard the lead singer/actor; the guy had talent!

There were also a number of other actors who certainly had a flair for the dramatic and for singing. Tim mentioned that he had seen several of the people in lead parts in other musicals there at the institution. It’s clear that these are men who have made some wrong turns in their lives and yet they have the joy of music and acting.

It’s also clear that the prison ministry there does give hope; not only to the prisoners but to the entire state. It is the obligation of the state to insure the safety of citizens, but there is an equal obligation for the state to give dignity to the prisoners. The prison ministry program does that and so do such things as this Christmas musical.

For a two hour period it was a fairly simple equation: two dozen men were putting on a Christmas musical for a couple hundred people. No one was a prisoner. The only captives were the audience; captivated by an energetic Christmas show that had all the marks of a community theatre performance. When the lights went down and Andy Williams’s tenor voice soared over the speaker system, there were no prison walls for a couple hours.

But reality set in as the 9 o’clock hour neared. All the actors/singers/inmates had to return to their cell blocks. All the audience had to pass through another screening before leaving the institution.

Since Tim and I were in the last group to arrive, (thanks to our unplanned tour of all Marion, Ohio exits off the freeway,) we were seated at the back of the auditorium and so were the first to leave. We were probably back in Dublin before the entire auditorium was empty and the parking lot vacant.

We drove back to the church parking lot in Dublin while the actors stayed in Marion. But we had experienced their hope and their talent and we remembered that Jesus was quite clear about what we should do…visit the prisoners and minister to their needs. The irony of the evening was that … the prisoners ministered to us.

No doubt that was what Christ wanted us to realize that evening.

Peace, Rev. Bob Tussing