Kairos Prison Ministry

Find other Ministry Spotlights here: Her Song | Acolytes | St. Mary's Pantry | Children's Ministry | Crown Point Elementary | Altar Guild - Part 1 | Altar Guild - Part 2 | Sew Much Love | Flower Guild | Habijax | Shepherd Ministry

Norman Gilmore Small

 

Nolan Gilmore’s Inspirational Commitment to Sharing the Love of God with Prison Inmates  

By Kerry Baldwin

For those that don’t know Nolan Gilmore, you may recognize him as one of our lay readers on Sunday mornings. He is also a lay minister, chalice bearer and member of the Habijax and Cursillo ministries. 

Along with these ministries, Nolan is also a leader in the international prison ministry, Kairos. Kairos is currently in 38 States and 10 countries, headquartered out of Debary, Florida.  

Nolan began serving in the Kairos prison ministry in 1988 shortly after having gone through a Cursillo weekend. After the weekend’s short course in Christianity hearing talks that draw people closer to Jesus Christ, “I was flying high on a mountaintop after the experience and a person I know asked me if I would be interested in participating in Kairos. Because I was still on this mountaintop experience feeling great, I said ‘yes’ not knowing what I was getting into.”

Similar to Cursillo, Kairos is also a short course in Christianity but done in prisons with inmates. Members of Kairos serve on weekends, twice a year, at correctional institutions such as Union Correctional in Raiford, Putnam Correctional in East Palatka, Baker Correctional in Sanderson, or Columbia Correctional in Lake City.  

Maximum security Union Correctional happens to be where the Kairos ministry began and, coming up in March, will hold Kairos #89, nearly 80 years since its inception. 

“Once I began, I was serving at almost every Kairos that we had. It allowed me to serve at Union Correctional Institution which is the prison where people used to say “we’re going to send you to Raiford!” 

Inmates in the Kairos program are chosen by the chaplain of the institution. There are no special requirements and anyone who is interested and chosen by the chaplain can participate. 

The typical Kairos weekend includes 30 - 40 inmates. At Kairos #88 at Union Correctional in September, there were thirty-six. The weekend runs from Thursday to Sunday and includes a series of talks and meditations. Groups of six inmates and three Kairos members, consisting of two lay persons and one member of the clergy, are seated at family tables, each table named after a saint. 

“After we hear the talks we have discussions. The mission of the Kairos ministry is to transform the lives of those inmates who are hearing what Christ has done for them and how Christ can be a part of their lives.”

Members of Kairos are committing to being a part of the ministry throughout the year and not just on the two Kairos weekends. 

“As a rule we are not to communicate outside of the institution so we don’t write them, but we do go back in on a monthly basis for group reunions. We hold talks and sing songs and hear from the inmates what the weekend has meant to them.” 

Inmates are also permitted to form small prayer groups in teams of 3 - 5. They use prayer cards to keep them grounded and thinking about what Jesus is doing for them in their lives. 

And while some inmates identify with the particular Bible stories or people such as Paul, Nolan laughs “Oh man, you’ve got some of those inmates - they know the Bible because they have a lot of time and that's what they do - they read the Bible!”

“I would say the majority of the inmates already have some sense of God. Even as young people they might have gone to church but they strayed. And then you have others, maybe less than 10%, that go the Muslim route. But yet we include Muslims, we don’t turn anybody away. They go through a weekend and many of them accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.”  

“Once those guys go through the weekend it transforms their lives. They are able to serve their time knowing that they have someone (Jesus Christ) who is supporting them”.  

And how do the wardens of these institutions feel about the Kairos program? “They feel that it is helping to maintain order, to keep the inmates focused on something. They even have ‘faith dorms’ where a lot of the guys stay. They’re with people who think and feel the same way they feel in reference to Christ.”  

And the benefits of Kairos carry to the outside. “Those who have gone through a Kairos weekend, if they get out, they don’t go back in”. 

Kairos also supports women who have husbands, brothers, or significant others who are incarcerated. The inmates can choose to submit names of those they would like to go through an “outside Kairos” weekend and a group works with the women locally. 

There is also the Torch program specifically for teenagers through age 25 who are incarcerated in juvenile detention centers. Kairos members serve on a weekend with them and then mentor these people throughout the time they are incarcerated. 

Who is a good fit for Kairos? “A person who loves Jesus Christ. A person who does not look at the faults of people and carry that with them as they serve on a weekend. Someone who believes the things Jesus Christ is teaching us. They can make it.”  

“Many people will hear ‘prison’ and get turned off because they feel like ‘they’re in there so they must have done something wrong’. Well, maybe so, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get something from participating in something like Kairos.”  

Other ways people can aid the Kairos ministry is by writing letters. Even children (without including their names) can draw pictures or send letters. “Those really, really have an impact because many of the inmates don’t get mail at all, so it’s worthwhile for them to get these letters.

Kairos ministry members are provided with 36 hours of training and designated leaders receive additional training. Nolan is one of those trainers. 

And what has being a member of Kairos meant to Nolan over the past 35 years? “When you first go into the program, you think you’re going in to provide a blessing to those inmates but I find that every weekend that I’ve served I’m blessed more than they are in some instances because of what I get from just being there with them and seeing how God has transformed these lives over a three day period. It’s just amazing what God can do and how he does it with these hardened criminals.” 

I keep saying “I’m getting too old for this but when something asks you to keep doing it, you keep doing it. I want to make sure that those inmates see that there are black people out here supporting them because the majority of the people incarcerated are black. I keep doing it because I want to make sure that our presence is there so they can see that.”

You can learn more about Kairos Prison Ministry International at https://www.kairosprisonministry.org/ or by contacting ministries@oursaviourjax.org.

Contact Us

Episcopal Church of Our Saviour

12236 Mandarin Rd

Jacksonville, FL 32223

Give us a call

904.268.9457

Send us an email

info@oursaviourjax.org

The Diocese

diocesefl.org

© 2017 Episcopal Church of Our Saviour. All Rights Reserved. | Site Built by RedFin Group.