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Pender Correctional Chapel

The Religious Services Department at Pender Correctional Institution plans and conducts from 30 to 45 religious programs each week.  In 2007 inmate attendance at the programs of the Religious Services Department totaled 15,660. These programs may be worship services, study programs, fellowship activities, concerts or programs aimed at helping the men be better fathers. 

Approximately 145 religious volunteers assist with the ministry contributing 6,000 hours per year.  At the present time many programs must meet in borrowed spaces when and where available.  Scheduling is very difficult and not conducive to the quality of ministry needed.  Religious programming provides each inmate with a positive influence better equipping him to have a change of heart, leading him to put away a life of crime and become a productive citizen upon release.  Unfortunately, inmates have had to be turned away on occasion from programming that they wished to attend due to lack of space.

The new chapel will allow for the expansion of the ministry options in the prison, providing adequate space for all the functions.

There is a real need for an adequate Religious Services Center at Pender Correctional Institution (PCI) in Burgaw, NC.  Pender CI is a 765 bed medium security state prison located in Burgaw, NC.  Currently, there is a 20’ X 24’ room designated as the chapel.  This room is large enough to hold a group of up to about 22 people, but must also serve as the chapel library and storage space for equipment used in the various religious services.  It is totally inadequate for the majority of the worship services and many of the other activities that the Religious Services Department promotes.  When a larger crowd is anticipated, other space must be arranged to accommodate the program.

The structure will have an auditorium that will accommodate 200+ inmates, two classrooms which would accommodate 20 people for small group worship or study programs, office space, equipment storage area and restrooms.  More importantly, perhaps, the building will be designed for religious services.  The other spaces in the prison are mostly utilitarian, concrete blocks painted gray.  The chapel will be bright, open with a large stained glass window in the worship area.  It will have a feel that is entirely different than any other space in the prison.  When an inmate enters that Religious Services Center, he will immediately know that this is a place where he can sense the presence of God.


In a typical week at PCI, the Religious Services Department will sponsor between 25 to 40 different worship services, study groups or fellowship meetings attracting anywhere from 5 to 200+ inmates.  At present, all of these meet in spaces that were not designed for religious use.  Inmates who are trying to get their lives straightened out deserve facilities that will promote that type of transformation.

The proposed RSC will allow three events to take place simultaneously under one roof, enormously easing the scheduling problems that currently exist.  It will allow the chaplains to spend more of their time in providing services to inmates and less on administration.

In Hebrews 13:3 the author admonishes the believers to “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners”.  The inmates at PCI do not have any choices about where to worship.  They can only use what is provided for them.  Chuck Colson has said “If you only educate a criminal, all you will have is a smarter criminal.  You have to change his heart.”  Much is made of ‘rehabilitation programs’ in prison, but the reality is that the only programs that attempt to change the hearts of inmates are the religious programs.  The Religious Services Center at PCI is a very great need that the faith communities of southeastern North Carolina can help to provide so that God can use it to change the hearts of inmates.

Won’t you seriously consider God’s will about your participation in this effort?

The right side of the building holds a mosaic stained glass window which faces east to catch the morning sun.  This window follows the shape of the cathedral ceiling in the worship area and will be the focal point of the building.

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