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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Mix of ministry and art

An ELCA pastor blends prison chaplaincy with art therapy

Lutherans have supported a jail ministry in the Madison, Wis., area since the 1970s. John Mix, an ELCA pastor, serves as chaplain of the Dane County Jail for the Madison Area Lutheran Council. In this interview, Mix talks about this ministry of presence for the 950 inmates and more than 100 staff of the sheriff's department.

ELCA chaplain Dale Mix says art projects,
ELCA chaplain Dale Mix says art projects, like this mural in the Decatur [Ill.] Correctional Center, can create a safe place for inmates to express what they feel.

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I couldn't do this without Julia Weaver, a United Church of Christ pastor and a weaver/fiber artist who ministers part-time to the women here. In addition to leading regular worship services, we coordinate the volunteer services provided by other clergy and laity in the community.

We respond to inmate requests for Bibles, devotional literature, counseling and reading glasses. Those who discover [jail] as a wake-up call to their dysfunctional lifestyle often seek deeper counsel about life's meaning and direction. Mental illness is a contributing factor for almost a third of inmates, so we coordinate with the mental health team in responding to their needs.


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