Background...A Brief History

     The Community of St. Dysmas (CSD) was started in 1985 as a mission outreach ministry of the Eastern District of The American Lutheran Church, a predecessor body which later formed the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It was begun under the leadership of Pr. Ed Nesslehuf who 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.

      Initially, the congregation was begun in the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (MCIW) and was quickly followed by a second congregation at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup (MCIJ). The congregation 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 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

Learn more about the history of St. Dysmas.

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.

      Pr. Al Christenson became the second pastor for the congregation in 1986 and served until 1992 when health issues forced him to retire. The ministry remained unchanged under the leadership of Pr. Christenson. In the spring of 1992 Pr. Charles Frederick was called by the Delaware-Maryland Synod of the ELCA to serve as an interim pastor for the congregation, this appointment became a full time call in January 1993. Under Pr. Frederick’s leadership to congregation expanded to include the Baltimore Pre-release Unit for Women (BPRUW)in West Baltimore and later the Maryland Correctional Institution in Hagerstown (MCIH) and shortly after that the Roxbury Correctional Institution (RCI) in Hagerstown. Pr. Frederick retired in June of 2003 and was followed by Pr. Chad Kline who served until 2005. Under Pr. Kline a third congregation was begun at the Maryland Correctional and Training Center (MCTC) in Hagerstown.   Pr. William Lundgren followed Pr. Kline in 2005 and served as pastor until January 2010 when he accepted a call to another congregation outside the prisons. In the fall of 2008 the ministry at MCIH was suspended due to lack of participation on the part of the Lutheran inmates, the ministries at RCI and MCTC continued with greater involvement of the Lutheran pastors in the Hagerstown area.   In the fall of 2011 the De-Md Synod Council extended a call to Pastor Gerry Rickel to serve as pastor for the St. Dysmas community.

      At this time the congregation has worshipping Lutheran communities at MCIJ, MCIW, MCTC and RCI. Pr. 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. RCI has weekly worship services on Wednesday evenings with Bible studies on Monday evenings.