Speaking Truth—or Redemption—to Power?

Blockade Fencing, Irrepressible Tree, Somerville, MA; 2017

In March, at the request of X, a Massachusetts inmate I have been writing to for the past three years, I send the letter excerpted here to the Parole Board:

 . . . A member of my [Quaker] meeting’s Prison Fellowship Committee, I’d learned through people connected with our prison ministry that X would appreciate receiving letters. So I volunteered. From his letters I have learned that he is a thoughtful and caring person, a gifted artist, and, most importantly, a compassionate, steadfast care-giver to and for his fellow inmates.

X has asked me to explain to you what kind of support I can offer: For the past ten years, Friends Meeting at Cambridge has hosted a weekly meal and sharing circle for the formerly incarcerated. During the meal, useful information re re-entry issues such as housing, jobs, navigating public transformation, etc. is discussed; during the circle, members talk more freely and openly about personal issues. X will be welcomed and supported by our circle.

Tomorrow afternoon I will appear before the Parole Board; I’ll have three minutes to explain the sharing circle and to answer questions. Tonight, writing this, I wonder if I’ll be moved to say more. Pretty sure I will say something about the deep friendships, the care, the love among the circle members I have witnessed for ten years.  Pretty sure I’ll say something about how, over and over, circle participants talk about how sitting quietly around flickering candlelight and speaking about what is in their hearts lets them “be human!” But will I feel compelled to say something about redemption? Something about transformation? To say those precious and, for all of us who have attended the circle, real, embodied, in the-flesh words aloud?

I hope so.


Join the Conversation


  1. Dear Patricia,

    Well, hello, there, Patricia, and greetings and salutations to you and to you and for very especially for you For Always my absolutely awesome and precious, dearly special soul sisterfriend Christian Quaker woman who you’re For Always so, so very much!!!!! Wow, what a beautiful, absolutely beautiful, emboldening, encouraging, and inspirational blog post article this is by absolutely FANTASTIC YOU, sisterfriend. I just so love bearing witness to your great advocacy and ally work with your pen pal who is up before the parole board and how you very diligently and conscientiously think on with all of your very heart and spirit what to say in the letter and what to say when you went before the committee on Tuesday afternoon so longing for and yearning for discernment as you very carefully composed your words. Sister, I was praying so hard and so much for this awesome prisoner X and for you, too, on Tuesday afternoon, as I do as usual as always anyway, and that you were guided with utter discernment as to how to convey about the deep friendships, the very love and caring bearing sweet spiritual fruit with redemption and transformation. I’m just so, so very thrilled, overjoyed, and happy that your blessedly pure in heart and holy Friends Meeting at Cambridge has the wholesome weekly meal where freed prisoners and other folks can wholeheartedly get together in the communion of the spirit to break bread together as you all share heart to heart and spirit to spirit at your very sacred and holy gathering. WOW, how healing this is to break bread together each week and you each help one another in mutual love and reciprocity: you all give to the freed prisoners but also the freed prisoners bear their very love and spirit right back to each and every one of you as all of you meet together to share, learn, heal, and grow together. WOW, sister, WOW, I just love this, I just so, so very much love, like, enjoy, and appreciate all of this!!!!! Sisterfriend, I remember when I had freshman orientation for my first college in July 1980 when I was eighteen straight out of high school that I had to write a test composition to see where I would place for the required freshman composition class or if I’d place out of it. I ended up placing into the regular freshman composition class. For the topic of my composition I very eagerly wrote that I heartily felt that prisoners could very much indeed for certain be rehabilitated upon their release. I still very strongly believe this all of these decades later. Sister, what you and the others are celebrating with the freed prisoners at the weekly meal and sharing by candle light is following in the Very Light and Love of Jesus when Jesus gently instructed that we visit those in prison. Each and every one of you as such very delightful people are meeting those freed prisoners right where they are at and all of you are making good on Jesus’s guidance that we visit those in prison and meet the imprisoned and the freed prisoners right where they are at. WOW, Patricia, I just so love that you have prison pen pals What deep friendships you have formed with your prison pen pals and what a deep ministry you have in all of you mutually reaching out to each other as pen pals. WOW, Patricia, I think that this is just great and that all of this is just absolutely AWESOME!!!!!! WOW!!!!! YAY!!!!! YAY YAY YAY YAY!!!!! I am just very pleased, too, that you and the others help the freed prisoners to connect to being out and free in a very practical manner like in assisting them to gain skills not only job skills to make them have a better success in gaining employment but also in acclimating to society now that they are free and in getting the spiritual, emotional, mental, and psychological help they need and also encouraging them all with all of your vote of confidence in getting help for alcoholism and other addictions. WOW, sisterfriend, you all just do my very, very heart, and my very, very heart, mind, soul, and spirit such blessedly great good and I am heartened to bear witness to all of the great work all of you do in unison, both the imprisoned, the freed prisoners, and those of you who are joyfully involved in this mission and ministry at your Meeting and folks from elsewhere, too!!!! WOW, what a great blessing and joy this is and just lifts my spirits to read all about this and all about each and every one of you!!!!! Now, Patricia, this is God as a Verb and Spirit in Action for sure!!!!! I so love that each and every one of you also works with the newly “returning citizens” with finding affordable and appropriate housing and with transportation concerns because these are real meat and potato issues which must be addressed with and dealt with in order for the newly free to be safe, healthy, well, and successful, and also in avoiding recidivism. What greatly empowering work each and every one of you has done over a decade, my so, so very dearest and darling friend with the imprisoned, the newly free, and with each and every one of you together co-creating in the unity of the spirit all of your mutual learning, healing, and growth and each and every one of you with such openheartedness sharing on what’s on your very hearts and spirits like with personal issues. WOW, this is just very powerful here, Patricia!!!!! WOW!!!!!!

    Sister, I so love the very applicable title to this very uplifting blog post article finely accompanied here with this beautiful, absolutely beautiful, picture perfect picture which in such an engaging manner adds to and complements your very fine and excellent blog post article, Patricia. The title and the picture greatly enhance your very endearing words and just all make my very heart and spirit soar and leap for such blessed joy!!!!!!! 🙂 <3 Sisterfriend, I feel even better and brighter with even greatly increased blessed joy and cheer after reading this very insightful blog post article here. I'm very re-energized, renewed, reinvigorated, and rejuvenated by your very emboldening words being even more encouraged to do my very part in suiting up and showing up, in resisting, interrupting, and persisting. I am just energized in my very heart and spirit so very moved in my heart and spirit and with the blessed touch of spirit, heart, and frame of mind to never ever give up, never ever lose heart, never ever lose spirit, and in never ever losing Spirit in keeping my very faith and hope alive with such a sweetly enduring positive optimism. Sister, YOU are just so, so very good for me and such an eternal blessing as you help me so and blessedly in my very walk with Spirit!!!!! Patricia, I thank Spirit continually for YOU and for YOUR very presence in my life!!!!! YAY for YOU, Patricia!!!!! YAY for your very brilliantly enlightening blog post articles, other brilliant writings and books!!!!! YAY for all you do with such a sincere and open heart in such a diligently conscientious manner as you try so, so very hard in doing your absolutely very best in such a fine and excellent manner!!!!! YAY for our very sisterhood and friendship, Patricia!!!!! WOW!!!!! YAY!!!!!! YAY YAY YAY YAY!!!!!! Please have such a wondrously wonderful Wednesday, rest of your week, and weekend ahead, and may all of your very days be so, so very especially blessed!!!!! Spirit so, so very much loves and cherishes YOU and so do I A WHOLE BUNCH!!!!!! Patricia, you are For Always my eternal blessing!!!!!! I thank-YOU For Always, sister, straight from the very bottom of my very heart and spirit from the deepest depths of my very heart!!!!!!! 🙂 <3

    Very Warmly and Sincerely For Always, my so, so very For Always awesomely special and dearly precious soul sisterfriend Christian Quaker white woman who you're For Always so, so very much, Patricia, with My and God's Peace and Love For You For Always, my so, so very dearest and darling friend, and with Such Blessings and Such Very Even More Blessings For You For Always, my sister,

    Yours For Always soul sisterfriend Christian black woman and For Always in the very great spirit of unity and solidarity, Sherry Gordon in Iowa City, Iowa

  2. Thanks for all the wonderful meals you and David provided for me and other ex-convicts that visited the Sharing Circle.

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