I’m glad I attended these beautifully simple services, but at the same time I left the last service feeling sad and equally emotional, and thinking that we should pray that our society find a better solution for these people than the clanging of locked doors.

(Someone who attended a service in the old women’s prison of Neudeck)

• What does it mean for these people to be in prison? What does it mean for me to be free?

• Are there ways in which I am in prison? Or in which prisoners are free? I have many lingering thoughts about the meaning of freedom and imprisonment.

• Who really did the ministering? Have I perhaps received far more from the prisoners than I could possibly have given them?

• A strange sense of God’s hope in a mostly hopeless situation.

(Lingering Questions and Random Feelings after a prison service in Stadelheim)

I had an interesting and refreshing conversation with two prisoners about their work sticking labels on cosmetic products for which they got the princely sum of €1,87  (it might have been €1,78) an hour.  Minimum wages haven’t penetrated here yet. One of them remarked. “Das ist OK, wir sind letzten Endes im Gefängnis.” I admired the way they were both making the best of a difficult situation – not a trace of self-pity.  Asked why they thought that there were so few attendees at the service they said many prisoners prefer to moan rather than get off their back sides and take advantage of the scant opportunities offered them.

I had a brief conversation with an Australian guy. He had brought a guitar to the service, but rather disappointingly lent it against the back wall when he saw me standing there with mine, though I did tell him I could use all the help I could get. At Kaffee and Kuchen  afterwards I asked him why he hadn't wanted to play, and he said he was feeling a bit down: that some other prisoners had tried to spit on him earlier in the day.  Though obviously saddened he expressed the view that love would someday change the world, and we must each do our little bit wherever we are.
He  told me he played music by Metalica, and wrote songs himself. I offered to print out a tutorial on abc-notation aka "beermat" notation (a popular way of writing music without manuscript paper, using the letters and numbers of a normal typewriter keyboard).  That way I said I could type his songs into some free software I have, which would turn them into musical score. He said he'd heard of it.  If someone can pursue a creative talent, I think that's a great way to stave off boredom and depression. Didn't Trachtenberg invent a system of speed arithmetic while in prison camp?

I think the service in Landsberg was a success.  I like the format of the service much better than for example in Stadelheim. And it was a great experience to talk with the prisoners afterwards. The guy I talked to was very nice, he was interested in what I had studied and when I told him that I was a physicist, he had a couple of questions for me (Does a superconductor really have zero resistance? ) So that was fun. He told me he didn’t even finish high school, but this is something he wants to do when he gets out and then maybe study something afterwards. It seemed to give him some motivation when he talked to me, so that was nice.

(Three memories after a visit to Landsberg)