I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. -Philippians 1.3-5

I announced recently that the Rev. Gerry Rickel completed his ministry with our prison ministry, The Community of St. Dysmas, in order to begin his new work as interim pastor for Holy Spirit (Eldersburg). Even as we welcome Pastor Susan Beck to this new role with St. Dysmas, I am moved to share Pastor Rickel’s valedictory at this transition. +bg

So I have resigned as Pastor of The Community and taking on the ever-popular interim. I am pleased to be serving the good people of Holy Spirit in Eldersburg. The last seven years have been a blessed a time for me … amongst the most blessed of my ministry. Let me give you 10 reasons why The Community of St. Dysmas has blessed me…

  1. I have been privileged to walk beside Patrick and Kas, Krista and Jennifer, Michael and Inga, and many others in their journey to freedom. They are some of the most courageous people I have ever known. Living on the “inside” is a debilitating, depressive, and oppressive experience. It will beat you down and give you little hope of a future. I have been with folks who have not only survived but are better Children of God despite the system.
  2. I have discovered again and again that we are all in the same boat called humanity. Some of us have a thick coat of respectability, while others of us wear ragged clothing called survival. No matter the surface games we play, we are all working to get through life. Let’s drop our pretentions and partner with each other! Life would be so much easier.
  3. Going through the gates to the “inside” is not an act of courage, as much as it is walking with Jesus. Jesus says that when we are in prison we meet Him (Matthew 25).  Society and the System make it extremely difficult to meet Jesus. So to whom are who are we going to listen; Jesus or the man?!
  4. The people we meet on the “inside” are Children of God. God created them, Jesus died for them on the cross, and the Holy Spirit nurtures them along the way. They deserve our respect not because of what they have done but because of whom God says they are!
  5. The ministry of The Community of St. Dysmas is pure Jesus. There is no church politics, no tradition, no dogma, no committees, and no denominations. The Community of St. Dysmas is church at its best!
  6. The Good Samaritan story over the years has been interpreted many different ways (“thank God I am not one of them”). I have discovered in the last seven years that the message is all about being in the ditch with people who are downtrodden and beaten up by the world. The people of God are to be “in the ditch” with their fellow travelers!
  7. The Lord’s Meal is for everyone. Who are we to put strings on who receives and who does not? We are to stand aside and let God do Her work!
  8. We imprison way too many people in this country … the most of any country in the world. I weep over our injustice and racism. There are better ways to treat substance abuse (“War on Drugs” that started in the late 1960), mental illness and our racism (“The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid” from The New Jim Crow, pg. 6). Instead of more unjust laws, God calls on us to repent and reform.
  9. God does God’s best work in times like this and in places like prisons. Jesus is heard, hope is given and the Cross is lifted up! Look at the prophet’s message to God’s people in exile, look at who Jesus hung with during his ministry, look at who Jesus hung between on Good Friday! This is the church’s finest hour!
  10. Following Jesus is not easy, but it is the only Way. As Daniel Berrigan said, “If you are going to follow Jesus … You better look good on wood!”

So Shalom to you my fellow travelers.  Be of good cheer.  We have Jesus!

Pastor Gerry Rickel, Blessed

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. -Philippians 1:3-11