Early this month Burl was in South Dakota to attend a prison chapel fundraiser, and then he traveled to North Dakota to meet with Department of Corrections Director Bertsch and Warden Braun of North Dakota State Penitentiary (NDSP). He spent the morning touring the facility and then discussed the seminary program with Director Bertsch and Warden Braun in the afternoon. Burl reported that the facility was run exceptionally well and that all those he spoke with were very interested in the seminary program.
Not only was the North Dakota meeting a success in terms of the possible establishment of a seminary, but it also led to new ideas for facilitating seminaries in smaller, or more remote prison systems. One obstacle that we are facing with North Dakota is that we have not been able to locate a nearby, accredited seminary to provide courses. Considering the size of NDSP, a typical seminary class would only include about 10 students at a time. This small class size could easily be conducted by polycam or Skype lectures streamed live from another prison seminary classroom, similar to how some prison clinical visits are conducted. An in-class facilitator would also be necessary to work one-on-one with the students, but this could be a volunteer from a local non-profit or church. This concept would make opportunities available for prisons where a seminary could not physically reach on a daily basis and also help keep costs down for smaller programs.
We look forward to any opportunities God provides in North Dakota and to further developing solutions for obstacles that may appear in our way.