Chaplain offers inmates a message of hope

Anne Arundel man serves as a confidant, teacher and counselor in his jail ministry

March 05, 2006|By DAVID P. GREISMAN | DAVID P. GREISMAN,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

As chaplain at the Carroll County Detention Center, the Rev. Ray Newman fills a supportive role as confidante, not only to the inmates, but to the correctional staff and their families.

Newman works full time for the Good News Jail & Prison Ministry, a Richmond, Va.-based organization that provides chaplains to domestic and international institutions.

Newman drives five days a week from his Anne Arundel County home to Westminster, where he provides counseling, conducts Bible studies and coordinates religious programs throughout the institution.

"You're dealing with people who have basically lost hope in their lives, and you can offer them hope through faith in Christ," Newman said.

A majority of Newman's ministry is individual counseling, in which inmates request appointments in writing. Often, while he is visiting a unit to talk to one inmate, another will ask to see him. Newman fulfills their requests, sitting, listening and saying prayers. As the on-call facility pastor, he has made late-night trips when emergencies arise.

Newman's role as chaplain calms the inmates, said Deputy Judy Warner, the treatment services officer at the detention center.

"Their demeanor changes," she said. "There is a high respect for a man of the cloth. They seem to calm their language down, and they just open up to him."

The chaplain's effect also carries over to the detention center staff, Warner said.

"We can just go to him," she said. "A lot of us go to him to just get his opinion on certain things. He's very helpful to the staff."

Newman, 61, has been involved in the ministry since 1962, a few years after his father's conversion to Christianity caused a similar change in his life.

The choice to go into the ministry occurred shortly after he professed his faith, said Newman.

"I met an evangelist who, because of his commitment ... his family disowned him," he said. "I was impressed with that, that he was so dedicated to ministry and dedicated to people even after all of that taking place, that maybe I should be dedicated, too. I felt impressed that the Lord wanted me in the ministry."

Newman enrolled at Bob Jones University, a religious institution in Greenville, S.C., where he earned Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts and Master of Divinity degrees. He also holds a Master of Theology degree from Baptist Bible Theological Seminary in Clarks Summit, Pa.

From 1968 to 2001, he was pastor of churches in Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland. He was working at a church in Glen Burnie in 1998 when he became involved at the Ordnance Road detention center as a volunteer with the Good News Jail & Prison Ministry.

Shortly thereafter, Newman became a part-time chaplain.

"They had two chaplains in Anne Arundel County in the two different jails," Newman recalled. "But the older chaplain had a heart attack and passed away, and the younger chaplain had responsibilities to both facilities. I volunteered to help him out. ... I became a part-time chaplain while I was still pastoring my church."

Several years later, Newman became a full-time chaplain, he said, because "my heart was more drawn toward jail ministry and the needs that it presented." In September 2002, he began working in Carroll County.

Jeanette Grammer, a prison ministry volunteer at the detention center and a member of the council that assists Newman, said he uses a direct approach.

"He gets right in there with the men and the women," said Grammer. "He goes into their cells, sits beside them and tries to help them from the time they enter the jail."

When not working inside the detention center, Newman spends time in the Carroll community, attending ministerial meetings and church conferences, talking with pastors and speaking to members of organizations and churches.

The legwork is necessary for sponsoring his chaplaincy, Newman said.

"This past year, we've probably had more new church support than any other year prior," he said. "I am just overwhelmed at the generosity and the graciousness of the people of this county in supporting the ministry."

When he's not working, Newman enjoys golfing, although he acknowledged that he doesn't get to play as often as he would like; reading; and watching football, especially the Washington Redskins and Virginia Tech.

He enjoys playing with his five grandchildren from the three children he had with his wife of 26 1/2 years, who died of cancer in 1994. He married his current wife, Ginny, in 2001.

Since joining Good News Jail & Prison Ministry, Newman said he has been rewarded by "the change I see in young men and women as they commit themselves to their faith in Christ."

"I feel like I'm making a difference in lives that would not otherwise be affected," he said.

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