Normally, Rev. Charles Hinds of St. Francis of Assisi Christian Church would see his congregation weekly, just as many pastors across the U.S. and Canada. And, just like them, he has not been able to hold services in person for a while. The difference for Hinds and his flock is that most are incarcerated.
For the past 10 years, SFACC has met for worship every Saturday at the Utah State Prison’s Timpanogos facility for women. They celebrate the Lord’s Supper each week and do baptisms several times a year. The prisoners at Timpanogos make up most of the church’s membership. They even send missionaries on their behalf to those experiencing homelessness.
“Many of our sisters have struggled with addiction,” Hinds says. “We rejoice with them when they complete the prisons Ex-Cell recovery program. We rejoice when we see them reconciled to their families. We praise God when we see them succeed, after release from prison. We are sad when some return to prison but thank God when they feel comfortable enough to come back to SFACC. God has blessed us with this ministry of encouragement. The volunteers encourage the sisters, and the sisters encourage the volunteers to walk faithfully with Christ.”
Hinds said, “I think that our volunteers know something of what St. Paul felt when he wrote to the church at Philippi that he longed for them with the affection of Jesus Christ. Our volunteers from Disciples of Christ, Presbyterian, United Methodist, Church of Christ, Lutheran, and Assembly of God churches are eager to return to the prison.”
In addition to the curtailment of worship services, a partner ministry, Epiphany Fellowship, that mentors some of the women while they are in prison and after they are released, has had to suspend much of its ministry.
St. Francis of Assisi is a recognized congregation of the Central Rocky Mountain Region.