The Power of Presence During a Pandemic


One of the most difficult aspects of incarceration is separation from family and loved ones. This separation has been magnified during the COVID-19 crisis which has caused the cancellation of all visitation and the majority of the programs in our facilities. No outside visitors or volunteers have been allowed into our jail or prison. Men and women are feeling more isolated than ever before. Thankfully, Forsyth Jail & Prison Ministries continues to provide the ministry of presence in the midst of this pandemic. We continue to have the distinct privilege and sacred responsibility of simply showing up.

The power of presence is most clearly seen during times of loss and pain. One of the toughest things we have to do as chaplains is to notify an inmate or offender that a family member has passed. Unfortunately, I had to give such a notice recently to a young man who lost his grandmother – the woman who had raised him.

He took the news extremely hard, and his feelings of pain were exacerbated by the fact that he knew he would not have an opportunity to say goodbye or even have a private viewing of his grandmother. We shared several moments filled with tears and prayers over this loss, and I was able to simply sit with him in his grief. I was grateful for the opportunity to be with him and to help walk with him through this painful journey.

Over the course of several weeks, I would check in on him periodically and eventually began to see the light return to his eyes. While he still mourned his loss, he was able to celebrate his grandmother’s life. And he was grateful that there was a chaplain there to check on him. Even during a pandemic, there is power in providing presence.


Tejado Hanchell, FJPM Chaplain