November 2, 2019, was a joyous day for friends of Concilio Prison Ministry (formerly the Christian Council for Reconciliation) when they, together with the Charles J. Taylor Centre for Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care and Acadia Divinity College, celebrated ‘50 Years of Kairos Marathons: Celebrate. Rejoice. Grow.’
Kairos Marathons, established by the late Rev. Dr. Charles J. Taylor, have been held in Correctional Service of Canada’s (CSC) Springhill Institution since 1969. Recently, CSC staff acknowledged the Kairos Marathons as the longest-running volunteer program in Canada. As the Professor of Clinical Pastoral Education at Acadia Divinity College, Dr. Taylor had made it a requirement to attend Kairos Circles as part of his classes.
Kairos Marathons create an environment of trust and openness for all present. Inmates and volunteers discover God’s healing for their deep wounds and forgiveness for their wrongful actions. In the circle, where all are equal, many have encountered God’s spirit working within them in His Kairos time, the kind of time when something deeply significant happens. This work continues today through Clarence DeSchiffart, who was mentored by Dr. Taylor, and who has been active in Kairos Marathons since 1987. He facilitates these circles in the Springhill Chapel and in classroom 201 at Acadia Divinity College and is the current President of Concilio.
At the ‘50 Years of Kairos Marathons’ celebration, Concilio acknowledged key faithful supporters by presenting a commissioned artwork by Canadian textile artist, Lorraine Roy. Dr. Anna Robbins, President of ADC, received the original artwork on behalf of the College in recognition of their long-term partnership. Framed prints were also presented to Wolfville Baptist Church, First Baptist Church Amherst, and the Taylor Centre. During Dr. Robbins’ address, she said:
“It is almost impossible to overestimate the depth and breadth of the impact of Charles Taylor, and the Kairos Marathons he developed as a way of extending the love of Christ to prisons and communities. At Acadia Divinity College, his imprint has sunk deep into our curriculum and marked our institution not only for the duration of his long service, but far beyond. It became part of our DNA, shaping students for generations. This weekend was a marvellous celebration! We are grateful to Concilio for their ongoing commitment to Kairos Marathons, and for the beautiful work of art that will inspire us all through this very special ministry.”
The morning workshops focused on lessons learned in the Kairos Circles, as well as how to welcome marginalized people into church communities. During the afternoon ceremony, a former resident of Springhill Institution gave a moving account of how God, through people in the Kairos Marathons and chapel, saved his life. A Kairos Marathons style worship service ended the formal part of the celebration in the Sarah Daley Nickerson Chapel. The following morning Rev. Dr. Harry Gardner, former President of Acadia Divinity College and former student of Dr. Charles Taylor, delivered the sermon on “Divine Appointments” at Wolfville Baptist Church. He spoke on how Jesus ministered to those on the fringes of society or considered outcasts (Luke 4:14-21).
About the Artwork
The artwork is a quilt designed and created by textile artist, Lorraine Roy of Dundas Ontario, whose background in agriculture and ornamental horticulture inspired her to create textile art pieces inspired by the biology, mythology and symbolism of trees.
In this work, commissioned specifically to celebrate the Kairos Marathon, Lorraine has incorporated five rings in strong colours, representing the five decades of the Marathon’s life and the vibrancy of its nature; the tree of life, with a wounded heart at its own heart; the connected canopies and interlocking roots of trees of different shapes and colours evoking Kairos Marathon participants’ relationships and individual growth; a ring of silver offering a nod to the well of the unconscious mind, which participants touch and enter; and a delicately inscribed Celtic symbol of the Trinity at the very centre of the piece, honouring the Christian roots and source of the Kairos Marathon’s inspiration.
(Excerpt taken from From the Circle – Marking Fifty Years of Kairos Prison Marathons, Gaspereau Press, 2019, page 30.)
About Concilio Prison Ministry
Concilio Prison Ministry (Concilio) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing support to prisoners and families during incarceration and after release. Concilio was founded on the professional and spiritual legacy of the late Dr. Charles J. Taylor, a pioneer in Clinical Pastoral Education in Canada and an internationally recognized leader in prison ministry. As an Acadia Divinity College faculty member, he initiated spiritual-therapeutic circles within Correctional Service of Canada Springhill Institution in 1969.
Many inmates lacked adequate support and care in their youth to develop the skills to participate fully in society. They are vulnerable and often struggle with mental illness and addiction. Once incarcerated, inmates are further marginalized. Concilio was established on the understanding that human brokenness is the root and result of crime. This brokenness requires the active participation of the wider faith community if healing and reconciliation are to occur. Volunteers are vital to Concilio programs; they come from churches, religious orders, social groups, students, chaplains, mental health professionals, and ordinary citizens. As needed, Concilio seeks the wisdom of experts to respond to the needs of inmates and their families.