A Message from Jim Taylor – Weaver
On October 20-21, 11 of our Illuman of Texas Men were graciously received by 50 inmates at the Luther Unit near Houston, Texas.
Illuman of Texas men hosted a Prison Retreat this past weekend of Oct. 20-21 at the Luther Unit near Houston, Texas. The retreat was filled to capacity with 50 inmates participating and 11 elders leading the retreat. Bruce Clay organized the event and covered all the logistical requirements to get the retreat approved and behind the prison walls. It’s harder than you might think to get into prison – smile!
We focused the retreat on bringing the two contemplative practices of Centering Prayer and Council to the men. There was ritual, teaching, and shared practice of Centering Prayer and Council throughout the weekend. Our cook team provided a simple breakfast with a hearty lunch that included smoked ribs, pork tenderloin, chicken and salmon! The food for both days left all of us happily stuffed!
In our debrief, the team all agreed that the prison retreat was a huge success! I agree because it was clear that our hearts were enlarged and we were all connected more deeply to the wisdom tradition of men transforming men. The most important piece to me is that the Houston region of Illuman of Texas is making plans to adopt the Luther Unit as a regular part of their generative work. Six elders on the retreat from the Houston area are already making plans to followup the retreat with monthly visits to practice Centering Prayer and Council with the inmates. I expect that the impact will grow as other inmates from the Luther Unit are invited into Council Circles and other initiated men from the Houston region start to participate.
I am deeply moved and inspired by our shared work and by the clear open-hearted responses of the inmates. Among the statements made by the men in the prison, we heard, “you men are different than others that come here;” “(in Council) I’ve never spoken like this;” “for the first time, I think I know what a man looks like;” “(after one of the meals) I haven’t had fruit in two years;” “(repeated multiple times to all of us) “will you come back?” “when I get out, would it be possible for me to be part of something like this?” “I know I’ve done wrong, but this gives me hope;” “(after one of our sits together) I feel at peace;” “(over and over again) Thank you for coming.” It was a beautiful container and we all participated in the sacred work of men transforming men.
The team agreed that we were taking away more than we brought into the prison. We were made to give away these deep deposits in our lives and that was made more clear by our generative work together, shoulder-to-shoulder, behind the razor wire and concrete walls.
I am dreaming that our respective regions in Texas might each adopt a prison and begin to regularly sit in Council and Centering Prayer with these inmates. I believe we have a great start in Dallas and Houston. Perhaps, it could extend to San Antonio and Austin next. I invite you all to pray with me about expanding our presence as initiated men. This is an opportunity that seems ripe and made for men like us.
Further, I hope to become more educated and learn how I/we can advocate for prison reform. Of course, this is where we would encounter the greatest pushback. No one really cares about us making “better prisoners” through personal transformation, but forcing prisons to become better at rehabilitation, improving conditions inside prisons, establishing a more effective penal system, or implementing alternatives to incarceration would most likely bring fierce opposition.
I am truly happy today. This weekend with the Luther Unit will remain with me for a long time, as has the weekend retreat last year with the Michael Unit near Dallas.
May we replicate this all over Texas and may we inspire other Illuman Chapters to do the same!
I have to add my appreciation and admiration for the Team that went into the Luther Unit:
Bruce Clay (Retreat Coordinator and Council Carrier and Followup)
Thomas Hall (teaching elder on Centering Prayer and Council Carrier)
Jim Taylor (teaching elder on Council and Council Carrier)
Karim Aziz (Ritual Elder and Council Carrier)
Terry Frisbie (Council Carrier)
Dwight Wolf (Council Carrier and Followup)
Blake Stovall (Council Carrier and Followup)
Joe Till (Council Carrier and Followup)
Bob Harbuck (Cooking Team and Followup)
Bruce Edwards (Cooking Team and Followup)
Paul Schuman (Cooking Team)
I love you, brothers! I am a better man because of you and work like this!
Jim Taylor is pastor of Mosaic Community Church in Seguin, Texas and a Weaver and Wisdom Elder with Illuman International – Men’s Rites of Passage.