Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Free in Christ


Welcome to Christ’s family

Photos by Holly McCray

Above, Pastor Adam Leathers, right, baptizes Dean Smith on April 12 at OKC-Penn Avenue Redemption Church. Smith was one of seven adults welcomed that evening into church membership.


Six of them greet the congregation at the culmination of the evening’s first worship service. From left, new members are Robin Wertz, Dean Smith, Jerome Paylor, Mary Martinez, Jacqueline Smith, and Donna Hall. Operating in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Lawton, Redemption Churches minister to prisoners, ex-prisoners, their families, and friends of faith. The churches are part of the Oklahoma Conference’s Criminal Justice & Mercy Ministries.

Donna Hall, center, embraces her sisters Debra Marlett Campbell, left, of Custer City and Rita Maddux of Mooreland in the parlor at OKC-Penn Avenue Redemption Church. The sisters traveled to Oklahoma City on April 12 to witness Hall’s confirmation as a new church member.

7 choose membership at Redemption Church

By Holly McCray

A baptism. Seven new church members confirmed. A family reunited after more than two decades. Holy moments filled the evening April 12 at OKC-Penn Avenue Redemption Church.

In the church parlor, three sisters posed for a family photo. This night brought them together for the first time in 21 years. More than the busyness of life had separated them; one was incarcerated.

This night, Donna Hall was welcomed into membership at the church. Her sisters, Rita Maddux of Mooreland and Debra Marlett Campbell of Custer City, and their husbands drove in to the capital to celebrate with Hall.

"The Lord has been moving in our lives as we got older," said Rev. Marlett Campbell. "And we all ended up Methodist!" She is pastor at the Custer City and Independence churches.

Hall pointed to Penn Avenue Church specifically for empowering her to change. She was first incarcerated in 1997.

Becoming a church member was "the right thing to do. God has been working in my life," she said.

"When I got to {Hillside Correctional Center}, one of the ladies said, ‘Come to my church,’ and she said Redemption. I knew about the church; I’d had three opportunities to attend and never came.

"This church has saved my life."

Today, Hall said, "I’m here five times a week: small groups with Steve (Byrd), Saturdays with Marcia (Manning), Sundays here, and Tuesday nights I go to Exodus House’s community meetings." Rev. Byrd is senior pastor at Penn Avenue Redemption, and Manning is on the staff.

Hall’s release from Hillside is imminent, and she has secured a place to stay at Exodus House. Her sisters chorused their plans to visit her often.

Both Redemption Church and Exodus House are part of the Conference’s Criminal Justice & Mercy Ministries (CJAMM), which relates to prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families.

Adam Leathers, associate pastor at Penn Avenue Redemption, taught the Adult Confirmation Class attended by Hall and others. Although he has led three such classes, April 12 brought his first opportunity to baptize and confirm new members of the church.

The ceremony "gives them a sense of belonging," said Rev. Leathers. "They are the church; they’re not just special-case outreach."

New member Dean Smith has a faith background in the Native American tradition. "It was moving to be part" of Smith’s discipleship, Leathers said. "We were careful to honor that indigenous tradition."




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