CJAMM’s Redemption Church celebrates 25 years
Redemption Church, a congregation that intentionally seeks to minister to those who are currently and formerly incarcerated, recently held its 25th anniversary celebration at OKC-Penn Ave. The church is a ministry of Criminal Justice and Mercy Ministries.
“I’ve met many people that I thought had a genuine faith that was formed or nurtured in a correctional setting, and I was not finding those people in local churches,” Rev. Dr. Stan Basler said as he remembered how Redemption Church started. “I thought it was the church’s job to build the bridge over that chasm.”
The small church on a busy corner in Oklahoma City was packed with formally incarcerated members, currently incarcerated members, volunteers who have spent years working in criminal justice ministries, and other friends and family.
“During the past 25 years, we have had well over 150 men and women who have volunteered faithfully here at Redemption Church,” Pastor Brad Rogers said. “Well over a third of all of those are formerly incarcerated.”
That is the main story of the ministry of Redemption Church: offering a place for those often marginalized by society to find mentorship, encouragement and grace. Those who have gone before help others with shared experiences in order to help break the cycle of incarceration.
Formally incarcerated members are now lay leaders, worship leaders, teachers, greeters, and mentors for those still incarcerated or recently released.
“I was incarcerated; now every Sunday I stand up here and do the announcements and lead service all the way up to when Brad comes up to preach,” said Kadesh King, a formally incarcerated member who is now a leader in the church. He also leads classes every Thursday night, and encourages others to take advantage of those weekly classes.
A few of the classes they offer are 12 Step programs, Anger Resolution, Common Sense Parenting, Bible 101, Journey to Healing, Relapse Prevention, Computer Basics, How to Get a Job, Disciple Bible Studies, Healthy Relationships and many more.
“We also knew that accountability was a big part of what we did,” Basler said. “It was not enough to say things were all right, when people keep making destructive decisions, it was important to make that part of the ministry.”
Crystal King, who runs the Red River Roasters program, shared thanks for those who invested in her and in the ministry over the years.
“I want to thank you, Stan, and everybody that had a part of Redemption before me,” she said. “I’m here because it has changed my life, and I just want you all to know that it can happen to you. What God’s done for me, he’s waiting to do for each and every one of you right now.”
Since 2000, OKC-Penn Ave/Redemption Church has recorded 289 professions of faith.
During the service, Basler shared that communion plays a vital role in worship at Redemption Church.
“…The state of Oklahoma sent an unmistakable message of judgment and condemnation, and I think it’s a soul scarring experience,” Basler said. “In a sense, Holy Communion is a medicine for the soul, so to speak, and hearing the words, ‘this is my body broken for you,’ ‘this cup is my blood shed for you for your forgiveness,’ I thought that was an integral part of what we did here.”
Bishop James Nunn, who preached at the service, agrees that healing and forgiveness are a primary aspect of communion. He reminded all in attendance, “Out of the dead stump will come new life,” Nunn said. “Keep knocking because somebody is going to answer, and don’t be afraid because that harsh, critical unaccepting condemning voice is the one inside your head. It’s not the one from God. Jesus loves each one of us. Jesus loves you.”