Historical highlights of Prison Ministry in the Ontario Conference
The information provided below was contributed by Carlton Roulston, Millicent Fairman, Moses Henry, and Edward Haynes.
Prison Ministry is one of the least visible ministries of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Because those who are incarcerated are often out of sight, out of mind, the importance of ministering behind prison walls has sometimes been overlooked. Yet the significance of prison ministries cannot be underestimated.
J.A.I.L. is a four-letter word for JESUS ACTS IN INMATES LIVES
The Early Years in the Greater Toronto Area
In 1976 four committed, dedicated volunteers, Brenda Hall, Copeland Hall, Moses Henry, and Lillian Montague left Toronto to visit their incarcerated brothers in The Kingston Penitentiary. There was a pause in the ministry for some time, this was reinstated in September 1991 when four individuals Curlin Christopher, Pastor Alan DeSilva (Agincourt SDA Church), Millie Fairman, and Lee Robertson answered the call to volunteer at the Toronto Don Jail. In those early days, volunteers ministered to inmates in the following Institutions:
The first Seventh-day Adventist Volunteer was Pastor Bill Kelly who provided Chaplaincy services for a period of time. Then in February 1992, six men and women were trained as volunteers at the Whitby Jail. These volunteers, both men and women came from Agape, Agincourt (later became Apple Creek), and Philadelphia SDA Churches, assisted Chaplain John Anderson in ministering to the inmates at Whitby Jail until it closed in 2003.
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Toronto Don Jail
In February, 1992, Copeland Hall, Brenda Hall, Moses Henry, and Carlton Roulston joined the group. With the approval of Chaplain Barbara Kulcher, and later Chaplain John Anderson and Volunteer Coordinator Holly Peters, our ministry to inmates at Don Jail expanded. Carlton Roulston and Moses Henry assisted both Chaplains Kulcher and Anderson as On-Call-Chaplain for many years until the jail closed in 2014. We did bi-weekly Friday evening programs with Special Needs inmates and one-on-one visits upon request. Ministering to the men were volunteers from Agincourt (later became Apple Creek), Faith, Philadelphia, and Shiloh SDA Churches.
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Toronto East Detention Centre
With the approval of Chaplain Michael Peaceful, we did a weekly Sabbath program with 2 to 3 volunteers and 7 to 9 inmates in attendance. Weekly Sunday program, 2:00-3:00 PM with 3 to 4 volunteers and 7 to 9 inmates in attendance ministering to the men were volunteers from Agape, Agincourt (later became Apple Creek), Latter Rain, Philadelphia, Scarborough, and Toronto East SDA Churches. Early volunteers included Millicent Fairman, Robert Levy, Beryl White, Bethel France, Flossie Lazarus, Zipporah Nelson, Robert Brathwaite, and Charles & Doreen Barclay. Pastor Carlton Roulston did one-on-one visits as requested.
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Metro West Detention Centre
We did a weekly Sunday program, 3:00 to 4:00 PM, weekday programs, and Bible Studies on Mondays and Wednesdays. Ministering to the men were volunteers from Kingsview Village, Perth Ave, and Mt. Olive SDA Churches. Early volunteers include Margaret Lindsay, Allan DeSilva, Brother & Sister King, Gershom Thompson, Clarence Isaacs, Barbara Cross, Neil Holder, and Daphne Dixon.
(image source: wikipedia.org)
Mimico Correctional Institution
We did a weekly Sabbath program 3:00 to 4:00 PM with an average of 5 volunteers with 15 inmates in attendance. A weekly Sunday program from 9:30 to 11:30 AM with two groups of 5 volunteers and 35 to 45 inmates in attendance. Ministering to the men are volunteers from Perth Ave and Mississauga SDA Churches. Early volunteers include Nessalee Wheatle and Carol Cater.
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During the years leading up to 1997 individual and small groups of prison ministry volunteers in the Greater Toronto Area functioned in association under the leadership of Moses Henry (President), Millicent Fairman (Vice-President), and Carlton Roulston (Secretary). With Pastor Bill Kelly, and the local church leaders such as Robert Levy, Nessalee Wheatle, Beryl Whyte, Charles & Doreen Barclay, Sheila Scott, Neil Holder, Eloise Murray, Lee Robertson, Earl Smith, Eva King, Lurline Brown, Maxine Smith, Augustus Henry, George King, Daniele Drabik, and Bethel France.
The ministry expanded and in 1997, we were happy to report that we had over 100 committed and dedicated volunteers.
SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST PRISON MINISTRY CAME OF AGE IN 1997
In 1997, the Ontario Conference under the leadership of Pastor Jason McCracken (Personal and Prison Ministry Director) and Pastor Vassel Kerr (Ministerial Secretary) expressed a desire to bring all individuals and groups doing prison ministry under one umbrella – The Ontario Conference. Moses Henry, Carlton Roulston, and Millicent Fairman diligently worked on and finalized Bylaws and Working Policy for what would become the Ontario Prison Ministry Association of Seventh-day Adventist. The Ontario Conference Board of Directors approved the Bylaws and Working Policy the same year.
ADOPTED & OFFICIALLY INAUGURATED ON AUGUST 10, 1997 by the ONTARIO CONFERENCE
At the August 10, 1997 general meeting, former president Moses Henry called the meeting to order, expressed thanks to all volunteers and handed the Chairmanship to Pastor Vassel Kerr, Personal Ministries Director of the Ontario Conference. He then officially launched Prison Ministry as an established department in the churches in the Ontario Conference.
Pastor Kerr oversaw the election of six officers of OPMASDA to lead Prison Ministry under the Conference banner. These officers were: Robert Levy (President), Carlton Roulston (Vice-President), Nessalee Wheatle (Secretary), Bethel France (Asst. Secretary), Floyd Barclay (Treasurer), and Earl Smith (Asst. Treasurer). Four additional board members were elected – Millicent Fairman, Sheila Scott, Neil Holder, and Elouise Murray.
Danny McManus from Adventist Prison Ministry Association (APMA) assisted OPMASDA in subsequent years to train volunteers and seven local trainers for the volunteers who would then minister to inmates in Jails, Detention Centres, and Correctioanl Institutions in Ontario. Many new prison ministry volunteers were trained at the annual Maranatha Conventions held by the Ontario Conference.
Syl Apps Youth Centre (Kinark)
Ministry to this youth facility was initiated by Moses Henry and Millicent Fairman. Other volunteers joined them over the years to minister to our incarcerated youth.
Every third Sunday of each month volunteers from Apple Creek, Mississauga, and Philadelphia SDA Churches provided chaplaincy programs for youths from 2:00-3:00PM. The youths who attended the programs would vary between 2 and 40 from time to time.
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Maplehurst Correctional Centre & Vanier Centre for Women in Milton
In 1999, Pastor Carlton Roulston began visiting with inmates with the approval of Chaplain Schwirsky. We had a group of trained volunteers and members meet with Chaplain Schwirsky at the Mississauga SDA Church with the goal of expanding our ministry to inmates at Maplehurst. Pastor Roulston visited inmates from 1999 to 2003 while pasturing Milton Church. Moses Henry and a few volunteers from Mississauga, Brampton, and Perth Ave churches also visited inmates.
(image source: thestar.com)
Ottawa Detention Centre
Coming from a church in western Canada that had an active Prison Ministry Program, Edward and Finola Haynes were impressed to meet the needs of inmates in the Ottawa area with their new church. There were many supporters at the Ottawa Seventh-day Adventist Church, interested in establishing a Prison Ministry Program. The group worked to establish its reliability and relevance. In February of 2004, after discussion with Brother Haynes, the Chaplain of this institution consented to the request, including a list of screened volunteers.
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Our ministry started with six people: Earl Edwards, Millicent Bowen, Jean Vaughan, Ray Frankhauser, Edward and Finola Haynes, who visited once a week. The work of encouragement, message of salvation, and love of Christ was well received by the inmates. This quickly led to the provision of 2 ministry sessions, back-to-back. The format of the program would change but included music, scripture reading, Bible-based presentations, prayer, and quizzes. The inmates particularly welcomed prayer requests and loved to sing familiar choruses. Many would take the time to testify of their faith and share their stories.
Opportunities to extend the reach of our ministry include a monthly network meeting of volunteer organizations at Jericho House, and an annual BBQ that included prison guards. Faith is shared, administrative information is received and vital connections are made.
Central East Correctional Centre (CECC) in Lindsay
Weekly Sabbath program from 1:45PM – 2:45PM with an average of 3 to 10 male or female inmates in attendance. Ministering to them are volunteers from Apple Creek, Mississauga, Philadelphia, and Scarborough SDA Churches.
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Moses Henry, Pastor Evaldo Vicente, Pastor Carlton Roulston, Glendon Robinson, Pastor Robert Putt, and Eustace Williams ministered at Warkworth over the years.
However, from 2018 onward to the COVID-19 lockdowns in March 2020, Pastor Carlton Roulston, Glendon Robinson, and Pastor Evaldo Vicente did volunteer services to the men at Warkworth.
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Toronto South Detention Centre & Intermittent Centre
With the closure of the Mimico Correctional Institution in 2011, the Ontario government began building a mega-jail at 160 Horner Avenue in Etobicoke. This new facility was completed in 2013 and volunteers and community partners with Toronto Don Jail and Toronto West Detention Centre were invited to tour the facility from October 4-6, 2013. With the closure of Toronto West Detention Centre and Toronto Don Jail in 2014, volunteers from both facilities were processed and transferred into Toronto South Detention Centre. Carlton Roulston and Moses Henry were the first two Seventh-day Adventist volunteers processed and accepted in September 2014. Since that time a few others have been processed and accepted. The threat of a strike at the facility plus the Covid-19 lockdown has limited ministry at TSDC but Carlton Roulston and Moses Henry were allowed professional visits throughout the pandemic.
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There are other institutions that some volunteers have visited e.g. Grand Valley Institutions for Women Kitchener, Keel Street Correctional Centre, Ontario Correctional Institute (OCI) Brampton, Central North Correctional Centre (CNCC) Penetanguishene, Beaver Creek, Medium and Minimum Brookside Youth Centre – Cobourg, Bath Institution, Mill Haven Institutions, and Collins Bay in Kingston.
- Partnership with Mennonite Central Committee – Circles of Support and Accountability
- Prison Fellowship
- A.B.L.E. Out of the Cold Programs organized by David Mitchell, Director of Probation and Parole
- Ernestines Women Shelter
- K.I.P. (Kids with Incarcerated Parents)
Glendower Community: OPMASDA along with Toronto East SDA Church, under the leadership of Jean Levy has sponsored 400 children by giving them hot meals, school supplies, and personal hygiene items.
- Training of new volunteers
- Help churches organize Prison Ministry events
- Sponsoring children to Camp Frenda
- Providing Christmas gifts to the youths at Syl Apps (Kinark) Youth Centre and children of inmates who are incarcerated
- Angel Tree Ministry to children of inmates
THESE HIGHLIGHTS WILL BE UPDATED AS MORE INFORMATION BECOMES AVAILABLE
Over the years, OPMASDA has lost several of our stalwart volunteers namely: Doreen Bradley, Floyd Barclay, John Skulek, Rachel Maxwell, Copeland Hall, Zipporah Nelson, Ina Sewell, Cecilia Sheila Scott, Eva King, George King, Cynthia Thompson, Petro Alleyne, Eloise Murray, Beryl White, Ron Davis, Vera Etto, Gloria Peak, and Robert Levy.