Christians have long been associated with acts of charity on behalf of prisoners. And Easter has long been associated with their (often miraculous) release. In fact, many classical writers chronicle incidences of “chains and shackles of prisoners burst[ing] asunder and ly[ing] broken on the ground,” and “locks springing open, chains falling off and prisons opening themselves” on the anniversary of Christ’s resurrection. Neither was it uncommon for constitutions of that period to provide clemency to prisoners on Easter, “lay[ing] aside the chains and properly abolish[ing] the occasion for prison that is dark with filth.”
The symbolism of these extraordinary events animated early prison ministry as Christians prayed that inmates were protected from despair while awaiting their fate and collected alms as ransom for their freedom if they were locked up for an unpaid debt.
Since 1991, Chattanooag Endeavors’ Lenten Cross Project has been the ocassion for thousands of faithful Christians to continue an ancient tradition of prayer and almsgiving for the sake of those suffering in the shadow of prison.
This project is a wonderful way to remember our Savior’s journey to the cross and all that our redemption cost Him. It is also an excellent way to link us with others who like ourselves need God’s forgiveness and strength to make a fresh start.[quote]I think that this project humanizes the problem of crime by putting a face on the prisoner who often times is hard to see in the midst of the incredible figures associated with the mass of people behind bars in America (Rev. Bruce Spangler, St. Elmo United Methodist Church)[/quote]