A Brief History of the Community of St. Dysmas

The Community of St. Dysmas (CSD) began in 1985 as a mission outreach ministry of the Eastern District of The American Lutheran Church, which later became part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Pr. Ed Nesslehuf served as its developer and first pastor. From the beginning CSD was intended to be a regular congregation within the prisons of the Maryland Correctional System. To find out more about the early history of CSD, watch the video below which was produced in 1987.

Our Congregations


The first CSD congregation was begun in the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (MCIW) and a second congregation was formed shortly thereafter at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup (MCIJ). The congregations provided Word and Sacrament ministry as well as regular Bible studies for inmates in these facilities on a weekly basis. CSD worked with area congregations to bring in visitors to share worship and fellowship and to assist with the Bible studies. At the time, the Division of Corrections (DOC) allowed special recreational activities at MCIJ during which congregations came into the prisons for volleyball. Because CSD was in more than one prison the ministry interfaced with Ms. Nancy Williams who was the Coordinator for Religious Services for the DOC at the time.


In 2004, a congregation was begun at MCTC in Hagerstown. The newest congregation started in 2016 at CMCF in Sykesville. At various times, CSD has had congregations at the Baltimore Pre-Release Unit for Women in Baltimore, the Maryland Correctional Institution in Hagerstown, Patuxent Institution, and the Roxbury Correctional Institution (RCI) in Hagerstown. All of these congregations have fluid memberships due to the transfer and release of inmates. At times, a congregation may be discontinued if there is no longer a desire for Lutheran services.


Currently CSD has congregations at MCIJ, MCIW, MCTC and CMCF. Pr. Gerry Rickel coordinates the ministry, working with nearly sixty registered volunteers at the prisons. MCIJ holds worship service on Friday evenings and Bible studies on Tuesday evenings each week. MCIW holds worship services on Saturday evenings and Bible studies on Sunday evenings each week. MCTC has weekly worship services on Monday evenings with Bible studies on Wednesday evenings every other week. CMCF has weekly worship services on Wednesday evenings.

Pastor Gerry Rickel

Our Pastors


  • Ed Nesselhuf -- 1985-1986
  • Al Christenson -- 1986-1992
  • Charles Frederick -- 1992-2003
  • Chad Kline -- 2003-2005
  • William Lundgren -- 2005-2010
  • Gerry Rickel -- 2011-present