The UM Reporter:
MEMPHIS, Tenn.—"Have you ever been pursued?"
It's a question that drew some laughter when posed by Bishop Bill McAlilly during a Feb. 16 worship service at Grace Place UMC in Memphis.
Grace Place UMC, realize, is located inside a female prison—the Mark H. Luttrell Correctional Center (MLCC), part of the Tennessee Department of Correction.
Only Bishop McAlilly wasn't referring to being pursued by law enforcement. He was talking about being pursued by God.
Bishop McAlilly was one of approximately 75 people—inmates and Memphis Conference laity and clergy—assembled in MLCC's chapel for "a service for organizing a new congregation" that included the bishop's message as well as music, liturgy, prayer, baptisms, communion and more.
Grace Place UMC is the first prison-based mission congregation in the denomination's Southeastern Jurisdiction and the second in the country, after Women at the Well UMC at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women in Mitchellville, Iowa.
"[Grace Place] means so much to these women," commented Mary Nelle Cook, a member of the Outside Council from Christ UMC in Memphis, who attended the service.
After the service, as inmates and visitors left the chapel, Bessie Dodd, president of the Inside Council, contemplated on the ministry of Grace Place UMC, saying, "I've been locked up 31 years. I never had a church, but now this is my church. . . . Before Pastor Diane came, I stayed locked in my room the whole time. There was nothing to come out for, but now there is."
The entire post can be read here.