(Photo: First Congregational UCC)
A Wisconsin church has recently begun holding biweekly church "adults only" services, in part as a way to allow convicted sex offenders to worship.
First Congregational United Church of Christ of Madison began holding the services earlier this year on every other Thursday evening, a time in which no children would be at their facilities.
The Rev. Jerry Hancock, director of First Congregational's prison ministry, told The Christian Post that the idea for the service came through their efforts at witnessing to prisoners in general.
"First Congregational United Church of Christ in Madison Wisconsin operates an active prison ministry," said Hancock.
"Through our work with prisoners we realized that there might be a need for a service of this kind because many sex offenders cannot for legal reason or should not for therapeutic reasons attend worship service when children are present."
The service is also for the benefit of those who would prefer to worship without children present. Since being implemented, the service has only garnered those who desire a child-free worship experience rather than recovering sex offenders.
"We have had 10 to 12 church members attend the first two sessions which began on Feb. 23. No one in our target audience has attended," said Hancock.
"This may be because it just takes time for word to spread. It may also be that the people we would like to serve have had very bad personal experiences with organized religion. Coming to church is an act of courage for them."
Pat Nolan, vice president of Prison Fellowship Ministries, told CP that he approved of the "adults only" service concept from First Congregational, considering it "very creative."
"This church is reaching out and having services because that is a problem-solving approach which is very good," said Nolan.
"Many sex offenders I've talked to miss corporate worship and so if this were in their community and they heard about it they would be there."
Nolan also said that he approved the effort in part because convicted sex offenders are often treated the worst both in and out of prison, even though the term "sex offender" covers a broad range of offensives like streaking and urinating in public.
"In prison there is a pecking order in which sex offenders are the lowest and basically they're fair game for any violence or depredation," he noted.
"The suicide rate of sex offenders is very high inside prisons because of the way that they are preyed upon."
According to Hancock, the Thursday services will have the same scriptural text, order of worship, and sermon topic as the regular Sunday morning services.