This article describes an initial literature review relative to books and articles potentially relevant to preaching on Death Row and to providing pastoral care through such preaching.

Although the research, analysis, and writing for this article focused on persons incarcerated on Death Row, many of the sources are also relevant to prison ministry in general and pastoral care for other incarcerated persons, particularly those facing long-term incarceration. Also, thinking about providing pastoral care to Death Row inmates through preaching can yield lessons for providing pastoral care and preaching for non-incarcerated persons.

If you know of any other insightful book, article, or other source relevant to ministry to persons incarcerated facing long-term incarceration or a death sentence, I would appreciate hearing about it in the comment section below or at the contact page.

A.        Pastoral Care and Preaching Generally

Objectives of pastoral care, care offered within Christian communities, are context-dependent and take into account relevant social systems impacting persons the care engages, Carrie Doehring explains in The Practice of Pastoral Care:  A Postmodern Approach.[1]  Objectives generally include “creating meaning” for the person in a relational process, and compassion plays a vital role, with the pastor embodying the compassion and care of God.[2]    

Doehring describes the practice of pastoral care as listening, assessing, and cocreating.[3]  This includes (a) listening to the care seeker’s stories and for narrative themes from them, such as loss, grief, and trauma and how the person is coping, (b) assessing the care seeker’s stories, social location, and social systems (e.g., community and family) relative to religious or spiritual themes and impact, (c) assessing the care giver’s intersecting theology, social location, and social systems to consider how it might bias or impact care for the care seeker (reflexivity), (d) establishing a contract of care, including assessing immediate and longer term risks and needs, and (e) establishing and engaging in an ongoing plan of care, including relative to safety, trust, and accountability of the care seeker, as well as reconnecting with the goodness of life.[4]

The term pastoral care often brings to mind a private setting, a one-on-one discussion, rather than preaching or a sermon, like delivered on a Sunday morning.  Many view pastoral care and preaching as two distinct, co-supporting functions. 

John H. Neufeld, in “Preaching and Pastoral Care” in Vision, for example, asserts preaching “contributes to” pastoral care by strengthening people’s capacity to cope, such as by creating a worldview of faith, modeling and addressing helpful responses to difficult situations or specific issues, like grief, illness, and relationships, through reliance on scripture, as the preacher gives congregants insight, perspective, and hope and contributes to their living life to the full.[5]

Preaching, though, can serve a wide range of objectives.  Thomas Long’s The Witness Of Preaching, Barbara Brown Taylor’s The Preaching Life, and Henry Mitchell’s Celebration and Experience in Preaching offer advice on preaching.[6]  Long urges writing out the planned sermon’s “focus and function” to help focus it on that which the preacher wishes to do.[7]  A focus is the central theme of the sermon, sometimes referred to what the sermon as a whole will be “about,” while function is “what the preacher hopes the sermon will create or cause to happen for the hearers,” and names “the hoped-for change.”[8] 

Mitchell cautions that to preach is to be used by the Holy Spirit and should be an “experiential encounter” with the Word and Spirit, not just an intellectual process to make an argument and seek agreement, i.e., just “to show,” but instead a facilitation of experiencing a spiritual encounter.[9]  He defines preaching as being used that way so “the gospel is communicated, to the end that hearers are saved and then helped to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord [including] to move Christians to grow … in the direction of the life modeled by Jesus Christ.”[10]

B. Pastoral Care Through Preaching: Ritual

Indeed, preaching can embody pastoral care.  Elaine Ramshaw, in Ritual and Pastoral Care, describes pastoral care through Christian ritual, such as baptism and eucharist.[11]  A main theme of her book is her attempt to resolve a tension she perceives between how clergy and others view the value of the pastor’s role in ritual, leading the assembly in worship, and other public, liturgical roles, versus the value of the pastor’s role in providing one-on-one pastoral care and other private “counseling”-type roles.[12]  Her view is that ritual leadership is no less valuable than one-on-one counseling and that ritual leadership is “the paradigmatic act of pastoral care.”[13]   

She notes multiple human needs that can be met pastorally through ritual.  These include the need to reaffirm meaning, bond community, handle ambivalence, encounter mystery (including via the sacraments of baptism and the eucharist), and engage in life-cycle rites.[14] 

The “paradigmatic act of pastoral care is presiding at the worship of the assembly,” she explains.[15]  She sees the act of preaching itself as part of ritual, a part that can function as pastoral care.[16] 

In other words, simply the act of presiding, when preaching for example, regardless of what is said, can function as pastoral care simply due to the ritual of it, and the preaching content can also function as pastoral care.  When considering pastoral care one-on-one or in the assembly, “[a]t times when people need a sense of order or meaning, a handle on ambivalence or an approach to mystery, it may be the ritual authority of the pastor tor that draws them, even if they do not consciously define their need as having any ritual dimension.”[17] 

C. Pastoral Care Through Preaching: Sermon Content

Content reflective of preaching as pastoral care, specifically, is discussed in other works, including Preaching as Pastoral Caring[18] and Edward P. Wimberly’s Moving From Shame to Self-Worth: Preaching & Pastoral Care.[19]  The former gives example sermons in the pastoral-care mode, sermons (a) providing comfort, assurance, and hope in the face of difficulties, (b) raising community celebrations and praise on occasions of joy and thanksgiving, (c) encouraging faithful works and witness, (d) urging spiritual growth, and (e) providing theological perspective to life.[20]

There are many paradigms of what it means for a sermon to be pastoral.  Leonora Tubbs Tisdale, in Prophetic Preaching: A Pastoral Approach, notes “pastoral” concerns are sometimes raised as objections to “prophetic preaching,” such as preaching calling people to justice, peace, and equality.[21]  That is, a concept of pastoral care is used to dissuade such preaching.  She points out, though, that such preaching can and does embody pastoral care, such as the bringing of hope to people who need hope, for themselves and for their families and communities.[22]

Tisdale’s view of a “pastoral” sermon relative to “prophetic” is one of mixture, balancing or combining the two.  She cites J. Randall Nichols as arguing “pastoral” (or “priestly”) preaching and “prophetic” preaching should not be seen as two options, but as two ends of a dialectical spectrum—e.g., opposing or clashing approaches that each seek the truth—keeping a sermon balanced, a dynamic interaction to be kept up.  Tisdale also notes that “prophetic” preaching often motivates further conversation that can continue pastorally in the future.[23]

Most writers emphasize a sermon’s content in deciding whether it is pastoral.  William Arnold, in “Preaching on Reconciliation from a Pastoral Care Perspective,” for example, cites persons sitting in a congregation on a Sunday morning “grieving or fuming” over the state of one or more of their relationships with others.[24]  He explains reconciliation relative to relationships is a function of pastoral care and thus reconciliation becomes a necessary topic for preaching, as “[r]econciliation itself can be accomplished, or at least begun, in the preaching event itself.”[25]  That is, pastoral care itself can be accomplished, or at least begun, in the preaching.

D.        Death-Row Environment Generally

Pastoral care through preaching for persons incarcerated on Death Row presents a special challenge due to the unique environment of Death Row and the unique circumstances under which persons sentenced to death by their government operate.  Of course, there are many resources related to prison ministry generally.[26]  These provide insight into the conditions and concerns relative to prisons and incarcerated persons generally, and much of the information is applicable to persons on Death Row. 

Being incarcerated under a death sentence and living with a group of men also convicted of capital murder, often isolated from other inmates, creates a unique situation.  Living on Death Row: The Psychology of Waiting to Die is a 2018 book published by the American Psychological Association and comprising expert analysis and observations regarding the psychological aspects of incarceration on Death Row.[27]  One author says that incarceration on Death Row can be “uniquely dehumanizing” and “those incarcerated with a death sentence experience ‘death before dying.'”[28]  The Death Row prisoner is sometimes referred to as “dead man walking.”[29]  Some describe it as “a series of daily ‘little deaths’ that are engineered to deconstruct, destroy, dehumanize, and denigrate the human person.”[30]

Conditions on Death Rows in the United States can vary. They are not uniform, and not all observations and comments apply to all of them.

Living on Death Row also notes that the situation is also sometimes described by persons serving on Death Row as the human person dying and being replaced by a non-human, an animal, a beast, on Death Row.[31]  Some inmates describe their cells as very much like being in a tomb or the grave.[32]  Human interaction that non-incarcerated persons often take for granted can be rare on Death Row.  For example, in many instances, people incarcerated on Death Row go years or even a decade or more without another human touching them in a caring manner.[33] 

Mental health issues can abound among Death Row inmates, per the APA.[34]  A search for meaning can be key to their psychological survival.[35]  Trauma, including from pre-incarceration experience, the death sentence, and ongoing trauma of living on Death Row, is an important consideration impacting their mental health.[36] 

Many other books tell personal stories, giving insight into the unique conditions on Death Row.  Perhaps the best known such book currently is Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.[37]  Stevenson, a death-penalty lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, in an autobiographical work, describes the death penalty’s history and practice in Alabama, including the story of one of his first cases as a new lawyer, that of a man wrongfully sentenced to death.

Let the Lord Sort Them: The Rise and Fall of the Death Penalty by Maurice Chammah traces the history of the death penalty in the United States, including both historical data and insight from people impacted by the death penalty.[38]  There are a variety of other books describing Death Row conditions generally.

Some address Death Row ministry.  Dale S. Recinella, chaplain to Florida’s Death Row, describes the biggest concern in such ministry as living conditions.  He describes the conditions on Florida’s Death Row as follows: “They’re extremely primitive. … 412 … in six foot by ten foot cells with a toilet, a stainless steel shelf that serves as a bunk, and a small property locker for their legal materials and religious books. …  [T]hat’s it. … [N]o air conditioning … when the heat indexes here are astronomical. So the first concern of someone ministering … is the plight of people in the cells, which is extremely difficult emotionally, physically and mentally. We’ve all heard of inmates who say ‘just give up my appeals and kill me,’ … folks who don’t have the strength to endure these conditions.”[39]    

Recinella cites as his second biggest concern, “these are human beings being held in cages until we kill them. … [W]e have people, some younger than my kids and some my dad’s age, who are under the control of the state and cannot commit another crime. And yet we’re going to kill them. That reality hangs over every cell visit and is extremely debilitating for the prisoners, the ministers and the people working there. God didn’t make us to feel good about being part of the machinery of death. … The environment and the reality of this process is, for [those] with me in Catholic prison ministry, the greatest weight on our minds and spirits.”[40]

E.        Religious Components of Death

Death has received much treatment theologically.  For example, “The Living God and the Threat of Death,” chapter 7 of Paul S. Fiddes’ Participating in God: A Pastoral Doctrine of the Trinity[41] considers the threat of death in light of “the living God” relative to pastoral care for those facing death or grieving another’s death.[42]  Pastors should recognize people react in a variety of ways to the threat of death. [43] 

Fiddes says a mix within a person of acceptance and denial often arises, but the most common reaction is denial, which may be unhealthy in some situations and healthy in others, just as fighting against death to the end or accepting it gracefully might be.[44]

Fiddes seeks a helpful doctrine of God to guide the process of counseling those dealing with death, reasoning that death is an enemy to life and a natural boundary marker to life.[45]  He proposes death was not a punishment for sin and was natural and good from the beginning, but the Fall resulted in the corruption of death and in death becoming an enemy, God had intended death as a “provisional” (temporary) stage, one within God’s purpose and will for the maturing of mankind, one that was to eventually be abolished, as represented by the resurrection and the eschaton, when “Death has been swallowed up forever.”[46]  Death is non-being and an important distinction between death as an enemy post-Fall and death as a boundary pre-Fall is the former is an annihilating power that is aggressive towards being and the latter represents neutral non-being and “simply a bare nothing,” per Fiddes.[47]

Fiddes claims we never experience our own death, only our own dying, pointing out God never suffers God’s own death, but suffers the death of the Son; he affirms Jungle’s view that God experienced dying and death via God’s exposure to non-being in Christ’s death, but God was not overtaken by death, as we are, and instead made death God’s servant.[48]  Fiddes emphasizes God experiences death and dying in the sense of perishing and relationlesness.[49] The chapter closes asserting any hope beyond death must be found in God and not in ourselves.

F. Religious Components of Death Row

Many books discussing the general environment of Death Row include a prominent religious component.  Anthony Graves, wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death, describes his experience, including of God, in Infinite Hope: How Wrongful Conviction, Solitary Confinement, and 12 Years on Death Row Failed to Kill My Soul.[50]  After release, he explained that “I sustained myself through the longest nights with the simple assurance that God is good.”[51]

Religious components associated uniquely with Death Row are sometimes the subject of academic study.  “Race, Ethnicity, and the Functional Use of Religion When Faced with Imminent Death,” an article by Ryan A. Smith in Sociological Quarterly, employs religious-coping theory to analyze how and why people incarcerated on Death Row frame religious last statements at the moment of imminent death.[52]  He analyzed published last statements and demographic data of 429 executed by Texas between 1982 and 2016 and observed “uniformity in the dominance that black, white, and Hispanic inmates assign to relational forms of expressions that draw them closer to God and expressions that facilitate spiritual intimacy with others, over self-focused expressions that represent efforts to gain control over the imminent death experience or signal a transformed life.”[53]  He also observed a substantial increase in religious statements made when a victim’s family or friends might be present, particular among Hispanic inmates.[54] 

Smith identifies “expressions reflecting efforts to gain intimacy with others” as the most common statements among white and Hispanic inmates (e.g., asking forgiveness from a victims’ family and his own; expressing prayers for people).  The second most of what he calls “religious cooping expressions” among whites and Hispanics are “efforts to seek comfort from and closeness to God,” like referring to God or an afterlife (e.g., going to be with Jesus, thanking Jesus). 

The top two for black inmates were expressions drawing them closer to God” (e.g., praising God) and expressions seeking intimacy with others, as mentioned.[55]  The third most common were the same for white and black, that of personal transformation, often referring to a religious change in the inmate taking place during their incarceration (e.g., “Christ has changed me” or “I came here a sinner and leaving a saint.”), but such utterances are much less common among Hispanic inmates.  The fourth, more so for white inmates, is those seeking “to establish control,” normally as a “surrender” to the divine (e.g., “take me home,” “I am ready,” “receive my spirit.”).[56]

Religious services should not be taken for granted.  Nearly 2/3 of the 31 states with a Death Row do not offer religious services to those inmates, per the APA.[57] 

G.        Death-Row Ministry

Death Row Chaplain: Unbelievable True Stories from America’s Most Notorious Prison, is an autobiography of Rev. Earl Smith, who served as a chaplain in the San Quentin prison, including for multiple Death Row inmates.[58]  Chapter 8, titled “Death Row,” focuses in particular on men who were incarcerated there, including a brief biographical sketch of several.[59]  Smith explains that he “found some of them to be souls crying out in emotional pain.  …  [No one] know[s] the time or the hour when we are going to die, but each of us must take a final breath and walk a last step.  I continued to ask the men I ministered to the same question: ‘Where will you be when you get where you are going?  Where will you spend eternity?’  I think it’s a question everyone needs to ask him-or herself.”[60] 

Prison Fence, Razor Ribbon, Wire, Metal, Fence, Barbed

“Ministering To Death Row Inmates,” a brief chapter in Harvesttime International Network’s A Training Manual For Jail And Prison Ministry, discusses guidelines for ministering to Death Row inmates and ideas on how to help them prepare to die.[61]  It notes, “Feelings of isolation, depression, and hopelessness are very common because death row inmates are usually segregated, confined more often to their cells, and very limited in options as to what prison programs they can participate in.  You can help by being an uplifting friend and providing ways to fill their time ….” 

The chapter also encourages ministers to have a thorough understanding of regeneration in Christ, citing 2 Corinthians 5:17 (“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”), urging “God has forgiven him/her and they are a new creation.  They are not the same person who did the crime,” as well as of scripture, citing multiple passages, including Psalm 79:11 (“Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee; according to the greatness of thy power preserve thou those that are appointed to die.”); 2 Corinthians 5:17; Hebrews 11; 1 Corinthians 15:51-55; 2 Corinthians 5:1-4; Psalm 116:15; 2 Corinthians 5:8; and Revelation 21 and 22.  In concludes with an essay by Catherine Thompson, a woman on California’s Death Row, “There Are No Door Knobs Here,” explaining that she spends my “days upholding my dignity. My freedom was taken, my heart was broken, my smile destroyed–but no man can take my dignity.”

The reaction of those on Death Row to ministry varies.  Indeed, those on Death Row can be hostile to attempts to talk with the about Jesus or religion.[62] 

Those serving in prison ministry are often asked about “conversion” of inmates.  “Women’s Religious Conversions on Death Row: Theorizing Religion and State,” an article by Paula M. Cooey in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion,[63] argues that religious scholars considering Death Row conversions ignore “the legal and political implications” of the context in which the conversion occurs, and political and legal theorists considering Death Row religious conversions ignore the implications of what the converts and those who know them say about the conversions.[64]  Cooey analyzes the conversions of two women on Death Row, including scholarship written about them in various disciplines, and concludes that to theorize about religion or the state in this context adequately, it is necessary to theorize about them in relation to one another.[65] 

One important example of an observation by Cooey in considering religious matters in the context of the state in such a setting is that conversions of both women studied “resist the state’s authority to impose death.”[66]  Jesus Christ challenges the state’s authority to declare law as the ultimate judge of the inmate, for example.[67]  This implies that the inmate’s relationship to the state influences their religious views and, indeed, their conversion, Cooey maintains. 

There are, of course, other potential motivations for an inmate to convert.  Michael A. Simons, a law professor, explains in “Born Again on Death Row: Retribution, Remorse, and Religion,” an article published in The Catholic Lawyer, that “[t]he available empirical evidence suggests that a repentant religious conversion is relevant in capital sentencing because juries consider such a conversion to be an important mitigating factor.”[68]  Simons notes that “the conversion mitigates not because it necessarily involves religion but because it involves a repentant acceptance of responsibility and a sincere desire to atone” and “[r]eligion, of course, is the most likely vehicle through which such a conversion will be expressed.”[69]  He explores such issues in context of a particular defendant who argued he should not be executed in light of him becoming a committed Christian while incarcerated before his trial.[70] 

H. Prison and Death-Row Preaching

One mode of ministering is by preaching.  Karl Barth’s Deliverance to the Captives is a collection of sermons he delivered in a Swiss prison in the 1950s, including on God’s constant presence with those incarcerated, Jesus as savior, grace, and hope provided by Christ.[71] 

Sermons From “Death Row”: God’s Glory Shines in the Darkness by Jo Ann Josey is a collection of sermons by Joshua Drucker, former youth pastor then incarcerated on Death Row in Georgia.  His sentence was later reduced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.[72]    

Hands, Writing, Diary, Journal, Pen, Paper, Office

Child of Grace: Death Row Sermons by Dr. Chris Brown includes three sermons made over a period of about 20 years at “Life Row Church,” a Christian congregational meeting of Death Row inmates in Alabama at the time, by Gary Brown, a man incarcerated on Death Row.[73]  The last of the three sermons was made three days before he was executed.[74] 

Journal for Preachers published a letter by Death Row inmate Willian Moore to pastors who are going to preach to their congregations about prison ministry, providing  observations about Death Row, including (1) strain on relationships with family, including children; (2) possibility of being released brings worry, too, as inmates often have little preparation or hope for making it in life; (3) Christians simply showing they care about incarcerated persons can make a big difference in inmates’ lives; (4) Christians could do much good by communicating with victims’ families and defendants to bring about reconciliation; (5) the forces of death pursue those on Death Row every single day, not just sporadically, like a soldier; (6) hope can be easily lost on Death Row but hope can keep inmates alive; and (7) “churches need to know … we are people, too. We have the same faith in the same Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”[75]

I.        Thinking about Psychology in Pastoral Care and Preaching

It is relatively common to discuss psychology relative to pastoral care, traditionally considered, and it is also sometimes discussed relative to the worship assembly.  For example, Neil Pembroke, a Senior Lecturer in Pastoral Studies at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, provides a variety of suggestions relative to pastoral care in the worship assembly.[76]  His emphasis is on liturgy overall, rather than preaching specifically.  Many of his points are applicable to pastoral care through preaching for Death Row inmates, though, including bearing witness to hope, reconciliation, lament, and life together in Christ.[77] 

Trauma, mentioned briefly above, is another area of concern for pastoral care, and it, too, is often discussed in psychological terms.  Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger does so, for example, in Bearing the Unbearable: Trauma, Gospel, and Pastoral Care.[78]  Included in her discussion is approaches to dealing with trauma, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, anxiety and fear, on a communal level in light of various psychological theories, with the goal of healing.[79]  She cites compassionate witnessing, forgiveness, self-empathy, prayers of lament, Koinonia (life together), and a restorative church. 

In considering communal opportunities in this regard, she points to communal lament, synergies that can occur when acting in community with others, the communal nature of sin, and Koinonia.  As to the latter, she notes that a powerful sign of Christ’s resurrection is the unity and depth of fellowship of a Christian community.[80]        

J.         Analogous Situations for Pastoral Care and Preaching

There are situations with similarities to Death Row explored by others relative to pastoral care through preaching.  Cajetan N. Ihewulezi, in Hospital Preaching as Informed by Bedside Listening, discusses a systematic approach to learning from listening, conversing, and pastoral conversations at the hospital bedside to preach to the sick.[81]  Listening to sick persons yields questions, challenges, blame, despair, witness, acceptance, hope, and the linking of God’s story with the human story.[82] 

Ihewulezi also posits sick persons as community sacrament, observing their experience includes stories through which the Christian community (of sick persons or at large) can receive grace, better understand God’s place in the world, and God’s love for the ill.[83] 

Frederick J. Streets, in “The Pastoral Care of Preaching and the Trauma of HIV and AIDS,” discusses how a sermon can serve as a component of pastoral care for people infected by HIV and AIDS, including how advocating against stigmatizing such persons can be a form of pastoral care for them in the hearing.[84]  He first encourages listening. 

Streets advocates that persons telling their story “can be for them an act of self-empowerment,” as “there is more to who they are than the HIV they carry.”[85]  He notes that pastoral preaching cannot change their status per se, but can be effective in energizing people to address what they can and cope with what they must, enabling people to function as agent’s of God’s hope for the world, and to have their life affirmed.[86] 


This initial literature is intended to further the conversation about pastoral care via preaching for men and women incarcerated under a death sentence. Next steps in the literature review include tracing the bibliographies of the works noted above, consideration of further sub-topics beyond those mentioned above, expanding the scope and depth of research, and considering works regarding non-U.S. Death Rows.

I would welcome hearing of any other books, articles, or other works related to Death-Row ministry, prison preaching, or pastoral care for incarcerated persons through preaching via the contact page.

A follow-up to this article will provide a list of 50 potential themes for effective pastoral care via preaching for those incarcerated on Death Row derived from the sources noted above in the initial literature review. It will likely be published at Authentic Theology in the next two weeks.

May God bless this work and your work and help it to bring the love, justice, mercy, and peace of God to all.




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Sources & Notes

The contents of this article appeared as Part I of a paper I presented at the 2021 Stone-Campbell Journal Conference, “Death-Row Pastoral Care Through Preaching: Brief Literature Review and Consideration of Potential Elements of a Theological Ethic Towards an Ecclesiological Framework for Engagement,” 2021 Stone-Campbell Journal Conference, Ecclesiology & Social Ethics Study Group (April 16, 2021).

[1] Carrie Doehring, The Practice of Pastoral Care:  A Postmodern Approach, Revised and Expanded Ed. (Louisville:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), xix-xx, xxiii.  See also Ewan Kelly, Personhood and Presence: Self as a resource for spiritual and pastoral care (New York: T&T Clark, 2012); Robert C. Dykstra, Images of Pastoral Care:Classic Readings (St. Louis, Missouri: Chalice Press, 2005).

[2] Doehring, supra, xiv, xvi-xvii.

[3] Ibid., xxviii. 

[4] Ibid., xxviii, Diagram A.

[5] John H. Neufeld, “Preaching and Pastoral Care,” Vision, 10 no 1 (Spring 2009), p 67-73, at 70-73.

[6] Thomas G. Long, The Witness Of Preaching 3d ed. (Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 2010), Barbara Brown Taylor, The Preaching Life (Lanham, Maryland: Cowley Publications, 1993), Henry Mitchell, Celebration and Experience in Preaching, Rev. ed. (Nashville:  Abingdon Press, 2008); see also Gennifer Benjamin Brooks, Good News Preaching: Offering the Gospel in Every Sermon (Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press 2009); Timothy Keller, Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Viking, 2015); Lane Sebring, Preaching Killer Sermons: How to Create & Deliver Messages That Captivate & Inspire (Centreville, Virginia: Preaching Donkey, 2016); Alan Noble, Disruptive Witness: Speaking Truth in a Distracted Age (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2018); Teresa L. Fry Brown, Elements of Preaching: Delivering the Sermon (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2008); Frank A. Thomas, How to Preach a Dangerous Sermon (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2018).

[7] Long, supra, 127. 

[8] Ibid.

[9] Mitchell, supra, 13-15. 

[10] Ibid., 13. 

[11] Elaine Ramshaw, Ritual and Pastoral Care, Philadelphia: Fortress Press (1987).  Kindle Edition.

[12] Ibid., loc. 37-44. 

[13] Ibid., loc. 38.

[14] Ibid., loc. 190-243; Ibid., loc. 243-265; Ibid., loc. 265-305; Ibid., loc. 305-420; Ibid., loc. 431-605.

[15] Ibid., loc. 147 

[16] Ibid., loc. 1230-1239 (she sees this as true particularly when preaching for justice is carried out). 

[17] Ibid., loc. 609-612.

[18] Preaching as Pastoral Caring, Sermons That Work Series, XIII, ed. by Roger Alling and David J. Schlafer (New York: Morehouse Publishing, 2005).

[19] Edward P. Wimberly, Moving From Shame to Self-Worth: Preaching & Pastoral Care. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999) (addressing shame in our lives).

[20] Preaching as Pastoral Caring, supra, 1-95.

[21] Ibid., 3, 12-13.

[22] Ibid., 105-106.

[23] Ibid., 29-30

[24] William Arnold, “Preaching on Reconciliation from a Pastoral Care Perspective,” J. for Preachers, 26 no. 2 (2003), 15-21.

[25] Ibid., 16.

[26] See, e.g., James C. Vogelzang, Doing HIS Time: Meditations and Prayers for Men and Women in Prison, Rev. Ed. (Santa Barbara: Doing HIS Time Prison Ministry, 2014); Stephen E. Canup, Jail-House Religion: From Park Avenue … to Park Bench … to Prison, An Inmate’s True Experience, Ext. Ver. (Levelland, Texas: Freedom in Jesus Min., 2015); Chaplain Ray, God’s Prison Gang (Dallas: American Evangelistic Assoc., 1977); Peace Inside: A Prisoners Guide to Meditation, Sam Settle, ed. (Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2017) (example of prison ministry that is not necessarily Christian).

[27] Living on Death Row: The Psychology of Waiting to Die, ed. By Hans Toch et al. (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2018).

[28] Ibid., xviii, 193, 263.

[29] Ibid., xviii.

[30] Ibid., 263.

[31] Ibid., 267.

[32] See, e.g., ibid., 193.

[33] See, e.g., ibid., 49, 114.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid., 205-206.

[36] Ibid., 61.

[37] Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (New York, New York: Spiegel & Gral, 2014); see also Dominique DuBois Gilliard, Rethinking Incarceration (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Books, 2018); Scott Vollum et al., The Death Penalty: Constitutional Issues, Commentaries, and Case Briefs, 3rd ed.  (New York: Routledge, 2015); Scott Vollum, Last Words and the Death Penalty : Voices of the Condemned and Their Co-victims, Criminal Justice Recent Scholarship (New York: LFB Scholarly Publishing LLC, 2008); Eric Lose, Living on Death Row, Series: Criminal Justice: Recent Scholarship (El Paso, Texas: LFB Scholarly Publishing LLC, 2014) (ethnographic study of men awaiting their execution while confined on Ohio’s Death Row based on interviews); Stephen Breyer, Against the Death Penalty (Washington, DC: Brookings Institute Press, 2016).

[38]  Maurice Chammah, Let the Lord Sort Them: The Rise and Fall of the Death Penalty (New York: Crown, 2021).

[39] Sean Salai, “Finding God on Death Row: 10 Questions for Chaplain Dale Recinella,” America: The Jesuit Review (July 26, 2014), accessed April 1, 2021,

[40] Ibid.; see also Dale S. Recinella, Now I Walk on Death Row: A Wall Street Finance Lawyer Stumbles Into the Arms of a Loving God (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Chosen, 2011).

[41] Paul S. Fiddes, “The Living God and the Threat of Death,” in Participating in God: A Pastoral Doctrine of the Trinity, Chapter 7 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox 2000).

[42] Ibid., 224-225.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid., 230-233.

[46] Ibid., 233-234 (citing Isa 25:8; 1 Cor 15:54; Rev 21:4).

[47] Ibid., 235.

[48] Ibid., 237-238.

[49] Ibid., 244.

[50] Anthony Graves, Infinite Hope: How Wrongful Conviction, Solitary Confinement, and 12 Years on Death Row Failed to Kill My Soul (Boston, Massachusetts:  Beacon Press, 2018).

[51] Ibid., 192.

[52] Ryan A. Smith, ““Race, Ethnicity, and the Functional Use of Religion When Faced with Imminent Death,” Sociological Quarterly, Vol. 59 Issue 2 (Spring 2018), pp. 279-300.

[53] Ibid., Abstract, Section 4.

[54] Ibid., Section 5.2.

[55] Ibid., Section 5.3.

[56] Ibid.

[57] APA, supra, 29.  This is difficult for me to believe.

[58]  Earl Smith, Death Row Chaplain: Unbelievable True Stories from America’s Most Notorious Prison (New York, New York: Howard Books, 2015), xi.

[59] Ibid., 105, 108-131.

[60] Ibid., 131-132.

[61] Harvesttime International Network, “Ministering To Death Row Inmates,” in A Training Manual For Jail And Prison Ministry (undated), last accessed April 1, 2021,

[62] See, e.g., Jennifer Lee Preyss, “Former death row minister reflects on time there,” Victoria Advocate (Feb 2, 2018).

[63] Paula M. Cooey, “Women’s religious conversions on death row: theorizing religion and state,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 70 No. 4 (Dec 2002), 699-717.

[64] Ibid., 699-700, 714.

[65] Ibid., 700.

[66] Ibid., 710.

[67] Ibid.

[68] Michael A. Simons, “Born again on Death Row: retribution, remorse, and religion,” The Catholic Lawyer, 43 No. 2 (Fall 2004), 311-337.

[69] Ibid., 336-337.

[70] Ibid., 311-312, et seq.

[71] Karl Barth, Deliverance to the Captives (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 1978), 13-27, 35-42, 51-59.

[72] Jo Ann Josey, Sermons From “Death Row”: God’s Glory Shines in the Darkness, Vol. I and II (Warehouse Ministries Int’l, 2013); Andria Simmons, “Cobb jury gives Drucker death sentence in slayings,” Atlanta Journal & Constitution (Aug 10, 2012),, last accessed March 26, 2021; State of Georgia, Department of Corrections, “Changes to UDS Population During 2018” (January 1, 2019), 2.

[73] Chris Brown, Child of Grace: Death Row Sermons (Child of Grace Books, 2019), 5-6.

[74] Ibid., 73.

[75] William Neal Moore, “Prison and preaching: the view from death row,” Journal for Preachers, 13 no 2 (Lent 1990), 7-9.  His sentence was lessened to life in prison, and he was eventually released on parole. Shelia M. Poole, “Forgiven,” Atlanta Journal & Constitution (March 30, 2013), last accessed March 27, 2021,

[76] Neil Pembroke, Pastoral Care in Worship: Liturgy and Psychology in Dialogue (London : T&T Clark. 2010).

[77] Ibid., 7-132.

[78] Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger, Bearing the Unbearable: Trauma, Gospel, and Pastoral Care, eBook Version (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2015).

[79] Ibid., et seq.

[80] Ibid., Chapter 6.

[81] Cajetan N. Ihewulezi, Hospital Preaching as Informed by Bedside Listening (Lanham, Maryland:  University Press of America, 2011), 1-59 (including “prison” in the sub-title seems misdescriptive).

[82] Ibid., 42-50, 55-56.

[83] Ibid., 44.

[84] Frederick J. Streets, “The pastoral care of preaching and the trauma of HIV and AIDS,” Verbum et Ecclesia, 29 No. 3 (2008), 832-853.

[85] Ibid., 839.

[86] Ibid., 846-847.

Pictures from Pixabay. The top picture is one of Alcatraz prison.