Q: What kind of church is The Church of the Damascus Road?
A: It is an organized Christian congregation inside two prisons in Iowa. It is a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, but its members are ecumenical in nature, coming from a variety of denominational and religious backgrounds.
Q: Why does it have “Damascus Road” in its name?
A: In Acts 9, Saul of Tarsus, a persecutor of the followers of Jesus, has an encounter with the risen Jesus on his way to the city of Damascus to arrest and prosecute Christians. This encounter completely changed Saul, who later changed his name to Paul, and became the greatest evangelist, writing a large share of the content of the New Testament. Many inmates have an encounter of their own, much like the Apostle Paul, as they participate in this congregation.
Q: How is it organized?
A: Though it exists inside two prisons, it is one congregation. There is an Outside Church Council responsible for the oversight and support of the congregation, and there is an Inside Church Council in each prison responsible for the life, spiritual growth and ministry inside the prison. A full time ordained ELCA pastor serves the congregation.
Q: How is The Church of the Damascus Road supported?
A: Congregations, organizations and individuals in about a 100-mile radius area support the congregations with money and in-kind gifts. The inmate members, if they have a job inside the prison, make between 30¢ and 55¢ per hour. Many of them give 50¢ or more during the offering at each service, but every penny of their offerings are designated for missions and charitable organizations outside the prison. After the offerings have accumulated for a time, he members of the Inside Church Councils decide how the offerings will be distributed.
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