A Different Kind of Prison Ministry

David Karas

A men’s prison is probably the last place where many would expect to find a religious choir, but that is exactly what a Presbyterian Minister has formed in Bordentown.

Reverend Dawn Adamy serves at the Albert C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility, as well as on the campuses of nearby Rider University, Lawrenceville, and The College of New Jersey, Ewing. Once each week, she bridges the gap between her seemingly unrelated ministries by bringing students from Rider University’s Westminster Choir College to Wagner to provide vocal lessons to inmates seeking to become a part of the institution’s religious choir.

Rev. Adamy’s students help to train about a dozen inmates each week for their 60-90 minute allotment of time behind the bars of the institution. “It’s a wonderful training ground for them,” she said of her students, who are studying music.

However, the college students are not the only ones who are benefiting from the experience. The inmates, too, not only improve in their vocals, but also in their person spirituality.

“It’s really a way for them to build a community of support…,” she said. “They begin to build a relationship and trust with the students and inmates. They are in an environment where it is hard to find trust.”

She described the experience of singing in a group as one of the most vulnerable to exist, as one who may be nervous or anxious about their vocal abilities is forced to overcome inhibitions in a public setting.

“I think when you find yourself at this low point…this is the crossroads,” she said of the inmates at Wagner. “This is the time to figure out which path they will take. They want hope.”

Rev. Adamy reflected on her experiences at Wagner since beginning the program about two years ago. She finds great joy in brining faith to a place where many believe there is none, and helping to show the inmates what God has planned for them during the remainder of their stay behind bars, as well as after they are released.

“It’s inspiring to see the possibility,” she said. “It gives me life.”


~ by David on April 3, 2010.

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