The prison congregation in Fort Dodge is a great example for prison ministries across the country, according to Prison Congregations of America Executive Director Mary Mortenson.
That's one reason the Church of the Damascus Road will host PCA's annual Come and See conference this year on Wednesday and Thursday.
The conference "is held so that people thinking about starting a prison congregation can hear about the prison congregations that exist and can come worship with us at the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility," said the Rev. Paul Stone.
PCA plants congregations around the country, Stone said. There are three in Iowa and 18 nationwide. Stone's Church of the Damascus Road is one church, consisting of congregations in the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility and the North Central Correctional Facility in Rockwell City.
"The Church of the Damascus Road is one of the finest examples of our model of ministry that's working around the country," Mortenson said.
She said there are the three components of the PCA model: the congregation is made up of inmates in the prison, it has a pastor from the outside who is dedicated only to that church and it has support from outside churches whose members come in to worship with the inmates and raise money to support the pastor.
"Always as result of this inside/outside relationship, there becomes some sort of re-entry support, so when people get out of prison they have somebody to help them re-integrate into society," Mortenson said.
"The Church of the Damascus Road has created a re-integration program that is being modeled all over the country. When I want people to really understand our model of ministry, so they can do it at a prison in their state, how the CDR does ministry is a perfect example of what I want to happen in states around the country."
It's not a large conference; 13 people are registered to attend, she said. Some of them are representatives from Wisconsin and Colorado, and the pastor of the PCA's newest church is coming from Montana.
Stone said speakers at the conference would include the Rev. Carroll Lang, who founded the church and now serves as re-integration director, and Warden Jim McKinney.
"A couple of guys who are ex-members, I call them ex-mates, will speak also about their experiences with the prison ministry," he said.
Stone was the speaker at last year's conference in South Dakota. He said he learned by viewing that congregation.
"I saw the difference between a prison congregation in just one prison location versus in two. Those pastors have more time in the specific prison than I do," he said. "I saw some different ways of approaching some things that made me re-think way we do the prison congregation here."