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Prison Chaplain, York Correctional Institution
The Messiah Experience
Charlotte took advantage of her free time in college and kept busy with extracurricular activities. She engaged her interest in music and the dramatic arts by participating in the Choral Society, Oratorio Society, College Trio, voice training, Theatre Messiah productions, and a gospel team. She supported her major by serving as the circulation manager for the school newspaper Ivy Rustles, being involved in production of the Messiah yearbook, the Clarion, and founding the Arts and Letters Club. In addition, Charlotte was active in service, participating in Campus Christian Fellowship and volunteering for a coffee house ministry in Harrisburg.
Charlotte also held a work-study position in the library, which she says “formed the basis for my interest in becoming a librarian, a career I pursued for a time.” Ultimately, Charlotte feels that her time at Messiah provided invaluable exposure to new ideas and backgrounds: “I came from a parochial background,” she says, “and my college experiences widened my world through study in a liberal arts curriculum, extracurricular experiences, and student teaching.”
Most students who major in the humanities are inevitably posed the same question when explaining their course of study: “Oh, so you want to be a teacher?” On the surface, it might seem that the career choices afforded to English majors are somewhat limited, but Charlotte begs to differ. “The writing skills have been universally helpful,” she asserts. “The ability to think critically and analytically has been useful; and further, the study of literature in a variety of forms and from many different cultures deepens one’s appreciation of and sensitivity to differences among people, and at the same time heightens awareness of our common humanity.”
Charlotte's vocational journey has been extensive and diverse. After graduating, she taught junior high English for three years, during whic time she received a master’s degree in library science. She then worked as a media specialist for four years before moving on to various positions in the prepaid health care (HMO) business. “Along the way I got an M.B.A.,” Charlotte says. “I left the business career in 1994 and entered Yale Divinity School, graduating in 1997. My divinity school studies were complemented by my field education. I served as a summer chaplain in a nursing home, as a student chaplain at York Correctional Institution, and as a student pastor in a United Church of Christ congregation. Upon graduation, I trained for a year as a chaplain resident in a major medical center.” Finally Charlotte found her way to her current position as a prison chaplain for York Correctional Institution in Niantic, Conn. She also works as Co-Director of A Sacred Place, Inc., a ministry reaching out to incarcerated women.
Answering the Call
Charlotte has been down many vocational roads. “I have had, for many years, an affinity for the marginalized in our society,” she observes, “and felt a call to service. These feelings were nurtured while I was at Messiah. I felt God calling me to serve 'the least of these who are members of my family' (Matt. 25:40). When I was a student at Messiah, however, I didn’t think in terms of ordained ministry because women weren’t ordained in the Brethren in Christ church at that time. Therefore, I taught in an inner-city school as a form of service and was active in my local church.
“In my business career, I was still trying to answer the call as I understood it. The health plans I initially worked for had a stated mission of providing quality medical care to the medically undeserved. As the HMO industry moved further and further away from this mission and became for-profit enterprises, I was less and less satisfied with my work. Finally I responded to a long-held desire to go to seminary, and it was while I was studying at Yale Divinity School that my call to ordained ministry became clear. By this time I had been active in the United Church of Christ as a layperson for over 20 years. I thought I would be a pastor since I love the church, but as [my call] developed my concern for people who are marginalized, I found a home in prison ministry.”
Profile by Angela Kriebel, 2005