Residents Encounter Christ (REC) is a three-day retreat that emphasize God’s unending love and mercy. Retreats focus on encouraging incarcerated individuals to know – and to share with others – Christ’s love and peace by developing a personal relationship with Christ.

We currently support REC retreats at Attica, Auburn, Groveland and Wende, four Upstate New York facilities where men, ages 18 and older, are incarcerated. Retreats, typically held several times each year at each location, are led by teams composed of 10-20 volunteers. Teams vary from one retreat to the next.

“It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”

– St. Paul, Galatians 2:20

A Typical REC Retreat

The retreats are Scripture-based and are structured around presentations, breakout groups and reflections. Each day has a theme:

Day 1: Dying to Self, Day 2: Rising with Christ, Day 3: Going Forth – living the Pascal Mystery…transforming pain and suffering, righting wrongs, and living each day aware of the unending love, forgiveness and mercy of God. Check out some of our past themes.

If you are on a team for a retreat you usually draft a 15-to-20-minute talk for a specific day. Prior to the retreat, the entire volunteer team meets for two hours on three Saturdays (or other days convenient for the group) to present their talks to one another and provide feedback as a team. First-time REC volunteers are not assigned a talk.

Volunteer recognizes that the power of individual testimony is impactful.

Volunteer discusses safety protocols among inmates and volunteers.

“The incarcerated people we work within our program really choose to be there,” notes a longtime volunteer. Participants are diverse ages – ranging from age 18 to men in their 80s, even 90s and they sit at small tables, generally five inmates per table with two team members. Every time a volunteer gives a talk, we encourage the men at the table to engage in discussion about the talk and to support each other. First-time REC volunteers are invited to join a table, observe and participate in small group discussions.

During the REC retreat, inmates receive Palanca poems and prayers to hold onto afterwards. View some of the prayers and poems here.

Handwritten testimonials from real REC inmate participants.

Asked about their experiences at REC retreats, two volunteers who have served on numerous teams, commented:

“When I’m there it really is God working through us. It’s not us. We’re just facilitators there.”

“I didn’t expect these men had such deep faith. Their prayers and stories are just inspiring and humble.”

“I have never felt afraid or intimidated while in prison.”

“The men are so grateful.”

If you are interested in serving on a prison ministry team, fill out an application. In addition, there are other ways to support REC from outside prison walls, including writing letters or cards of support (palanca)sewing stoles, or praying for the inmates.

For REC Volunteers: Palanca ExamplesStoles Instructions

Palanca is a way to let the imprisoned men know they are not forgotten. Palanca allows outsiders to keep the incarcerated in prayer and thought. It is a tremendous gift for a lonely prisoner. Learn more about writing Palancas.

Do you have a similar Jail or Prison Ministry/Program? At PMUNY, We partner with local volunteer prison ministries serving the Upstate New York area. Request financial support.

Our Other Ministries

As a Donor Choice agency of the United Way, our spiritual programs foster love, mercy, healing, forgiveness and reconciliation. No proclamation of faith is needed, however individual faith journeys are often rejuvenated and enhanced. Attendance at every program session is voluntary.

Fully Alive
Women’s Spiritual Retreat

Christian group experience offering opportunity for personal growth, awareness and faith.

Houses of Healing
Adult Program

Eight-week program encouraging self-awareness and emotional healing, held in Monroe County Jail.

Power Source
Adolscent Program

Weekly, hour-long interactive sessions with high-risk adolescents focused on self-awareness, forgiveness and healing.