Finding faith at Farquhar

Published 11:55 pm Friday, February 11, 2011

The church of Christ at Canal Heights is one of a number of churches from around west Alabama that regularly takes time out to participate in a ministry effort at Greensboro’s Farquhar Cattle Ranch.

The initiative sees a variety of church rotate through its schedule as members take the opportunity to teach and worship with inmates at the minimum security facility.

“We have different churches that come down and provide services for the inmates, basically seven days a week,” Leon Bolling, warden of the facility, said.

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The cattle ranch provides a slightly different form of prison ministry than do many of its sister facilities.

At the cattle ranch, inmates provide a somewhat less captive audience as they face more options and opportunities, ranging from softball and basketball to leather working and the like.

Yet, even with a number of recreational opportunities available to them, a relatively high percentage of inmates at the cattle ranch choose regularly to attend church services and studies in the facility’s chapel.

“On average, there is 15 to 25 percent of the population that attends at least one service per week,” Clyde Gregory, an inmate who has spent six years at the Farquhar Cattle Ranch, said.

Bolling said the services have a profound impact on the population of the facility as those who participate in services typically show positive, tangible effects.

“It has a very good impact on the inmates,” Bolling said. “Their behavior turns out to be pretty good. It has a positive impact on the inmates that participate.”

According to Gregory, those impacts are often longer reaching for inmates who maintain consistent contact with churches during and after their sentence.

“I know that the men who have contact with church groups and maintain that when they get out have a much smaller chance of coming back than if they try to do it on their own,” Gregory said.

Gregory pointed out that the effectiveness of the message of the gospel is compounded by the sincerity displayed by those who travel to the cattle ranch to deliver the good news.

“They don’t just show their fiath,” he said. “They live their faith. They act their faith.”