January 17, 2022

Eternal Child

Accomplished Education Technicians

Broome County jail ministry had to adjust during COVID

3 min read

The Rev. Cris Mogenson’s parishioners in the Town of Dickinson can’t leave the premises but are still in need of spiritual guidance, nurturing and support.

“I try to connect people to the Lord,” Mogenson said.

Mogenson serves as the coordinating chaplain for jail ministry at the Broome County Jail in Dickinson, which is run through the Broome County Council of Churches. He, along with deacons Dorothy Pierce and Adeolu Ademoyo, minister to inmates at the jail. They serve all faiths.

“It’s not our job to proselytize,” Mogenson said.

When the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic struck last year, the team had to make some changes to their ministry. All group activities and services were suspended due to the virus, including programs and classes for parenting, literacy and recovery. But they can still visit inmates face-to-face while wearing masks, and conduct discharge planning and re-entry programs to help inmates transition back to life outside the facility.

“We want them to experience healing and to get back to their lives,” said Pierce, an Episcopalian deacon. “It’s what we say in church: to get back to where God wants them to be.”

They’ve had to come up with some creative ways to minister to inmates while keeping them safe during the pandemic. During Ash Wednesday, they visited all the jail’s housing units and used Q-Tips to give them ashes, said Ademoyo, a deacon for the Roman Catholic Syracuse Diocese.

Another way the pandemic affected the ministry was the temporary suspension of the approximately 70 volunteers who help in the ministry, Mogenson said. While it wasn’t safe for volunteers to work in the jail, many found remote ways to help, such as writing devotionals and letters that were passed out to inmates, and collecting Bibles and other religious materials for inmates.