Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between Celebration Fellowship’s ministry and other ministries such as Prison Fellowship?
The model of establishing churches inside a prison was developed by Prison Congregations of America (PCA). It is unique in that the prison inmates are the members and leaders of the worshipping community. They are led by a pastor from the outside who is trained by and accountable to the sponsoring denomination, which in this case is the Christian Reformed Church (CRC). The prison church is supported financially by churches and ministry partners on the outside, and the volunteer members also become part of this worshipping community. This is truly ministry with, rather than ministry to, those who are incarcerated.
Both inside and outside volunteers are essential for the success of this ministry. Those roles and responsibilities are outlined under the “Ministry Opportunities” section of this website, where you will find specific information on how to become involved in these respective roles.
Yes, although currently the position is vacant. The model for Celebration Fellowship is one full-time pastor who serves two prison congregations in Ionia, Michigan. The pastor meets weekly with the inside leadership teams that serve as the church council to plan the weekly worship services, receive training in small group leadership and discipling skills, and review other issues that are relevant to their prison congregation. The pastor is also involved in weekly counseling sessions and helps congregation member’s transition back into society upon their release.
Sentences for men in our congregations range from two years to life in prison and include a wide variety of offenses. Since the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility is a release point for many men who were adjudicated in West Michigan, the turnover rate in the Bellamy Creek congregation is quite high. It is rare to have a member stay with the congregation for more than a few years.
Statistics show that reengaging in society is one of the most challenging tasks for returning citizens, and without a strong support system, it is very difficult to have a successful reentry into society. Each member of our congregation receives counseling and mentoring by both prison officials and representatives from Celebration Fellowship prior to release. Upon release, a partner organization, Celebration Fellowship Reentry, provides mentoring and support for integration into the community.
Levels are used by the Department of Corrections to specify the level of security in a given facility or unit, with Level I being the lowest level and Level V being the highest. Most prisoners are initially placed in Level IV units and then moved to Level II within six months to a year if there are no behavior problems or issues. The state’s Level V prisons house prisoners who pose maximum management problems, are a maximum security risk, or both.
Not at this time. In Michigan, there are 37 prisons for men but only one for women, Huron Valley in Ypsilanti, Michigan. We have been working with the Reformed Church in America to develop a ministry at Huron Valley.