Prison Ministry Partnership continues to grow ecumenical work

Prison Ministry Partnership continues to grow ecumenical work


Submitted by Rev. Melanie Martin-Dent
Interim Pastor at Grace UMC Dillon

In June 2015, shortly after the Montana Synod of the ELCA celebrated their new partnership with Intermountain, caring for children and families at-risk, Bishop Jessica Crist of the ELCA invited Bishop Elaine Stanovsky of the Mountain Sky Area of The United Methodist Church to explore how the Lutherans and Methodists in Montana could work together in prison ministries.

The Rev. David Burt, Assistant to Bishop Stanovsky and the Rev. George Karres, Director of Evangelism and Missions for the ELCA, were asked to pull together a group from both churches to begin this task. Representatives of the UMC (Rev. David Andersen of Butte and Pastor Wendy Ochs of Billings) and the ELCA (Rev. Joel Skindlov of Big Sandy and Havre and Rev. Melanie Martin-Dent, an ELCA pastor serving in interim ministry at the UMC church in Dillon) began to meet via conference call, getting to know each other and the ministries they are engaged in. Yellowstone Conference Vital Missions Coordinator Sally McConnell and Freedom in Christ pastor Rev. Rob Nebalek will joining the next call.

In February, the group adopted the name “Prison Ministry Partnership” and the purpose of exploring our common ministries and sharing opportunities to work together in this area. We intend to communicate information to the people in our respective churches about ways they can engage in and support this work. Three ministries which have been identified as starting points include:

  • Freedom in Christ Prison Ministry in which Pastor Rob Nedbalek (ELCA) serves at the Men’s State Prison in Deer Lodge, Montana
  • Ministries at the Women’s State Prison in Billings including monthly worship services led by members of Billings Evangelical UMC and chaplaincy work by TEEM Candidate Charles Bott
  • Healing Communities Montana: a group of people from congregations from various denominations who have participated in training led by Rev. Doug Walker, UMC General Board of Church and Society.
This month we wanted to introduce this group and our work. Next month we will begin offering opportunities to get involved with each ministry. For now,we invite your prayers for our task force and for all engaged in ministry with people involved with the criminal justice system. You may learn more about all these ministries by going to the Freedom in Christ website:, the Healing Communities website: or contacting Wendy Ochs at or Charles Bott at

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