Displayed in the entry hallway in Garden Chapel is a Biblical verse that reads “Iron sharpens iron.”
Since 2009, Pastor Derrick Holloway has been a catalyst who ensures the congregation at San Quentin’s Protestant Chapel participates in sharpening God’s word.
Holloway, a practicing Christian for 23 years, first embraced the ministry at Pelican Bay 18 years ago when he gave his first sermon at that prison’s church. His leadership at one of the most violent prisons in America is where he said he “cut my teeth,” gaining valuable insight.
His San Quentin ministry is winding down as he prepares for a hearing before the parole board.
The ordained pastor served the Lord for three years at Solano State Prison before coming to San Quentin.
“At Solano I learned you can’t have it your way, that it must all be through the Lord,” said Holloway. He gave up an athletic career at Miles College in Birmingham, Ala., before returning to his hometown of Hayward. He then turned to a life of crime.
Holloway said he learned that in prison seminary, each time you transfer prisons, you must take a step back to be accepted into another community.
His progression led him to San Quentin in 2009, where he says he was blessed to learn under the tutelage of Pastor Morris Curry.
“Pastor Curry stressed the educational aspect of my ministry,” Holloway said.
“If anyone would have told me 25 years ago I would be in Brother’s Keepers, a great program started by the district attorney of the county where I committed my life crime — and leading the most prestigious prison church in the United States — I would have thought they were crazy,” Holloway said, laughing.
Recently released Pastor Fannon Figures confesses, “I honestly mimicked Pastor Holloway’s path in prison and got out before him. Every program I took was a result of my desire to absorb what he gave to the community.”
Chapel member Kevin “Boston” Kelly added, “There is not a day, pre-COVID, that you would not find Pastor Holloway at the Chapel leading prayers even when service wasn’t available. I would not have grown in God or reconciled with my own family if it were not for Pastor Holloway’s guidance.”
Tears welled up in his eyes as Pastor Holloway conceded, “I would be nothing if it were not for Mother Jackson and her husband, Pastor Jackson. They taught me that true leadership is chosen through God and the importance of sanctification and holiness in a leader’s life.
“They also challenged my ministry — pushing our congregation and myself — allowing us to help thousands of brothers find the Lord. Daily, I am challenged, loved and held accountable by Him through the Jacksons’ ministry.”
“An 18-year walk with God and brothers still look at us at the alter and say, ‘How can inmates run a church?’ Man, I am blessed,” said Holloway. “In fact, I remember my brother in Christ (recently freed), Pastor Ferrari Moody who said, ‘ Man, we used to tear up the streets for ourselves. Now we tear them up for God!’
“It is that passion I am blessed to share with the chosen. God’s revelations of unconditional love and perfect forgiveness has made me a leader who prays daily for my victims’ forgiveness and allows me to give all thanks to God for his Grace, which exceeds my comprehension. Yearning for his word, I challenge myself and our parishioners to find Grace in prison every day. That is one miracle in and of itself.”
Returned citizen Pastor Trent Capell added, “Every day we pray for Pastor Holloway’s release. He is needed in our inner cities to teach the Word to our children and the fallen … 20 years as a pastor in prison, helping tens of thousands … he will be a beacon out here once Alameda County understands he is more deserving of his release than any brother in Christ,” said the recent alumnus of Garden Chapel.
Recently released Christian Brother Darryl Hill., said, “Whichever community is blessed with Pastor Holloway’s presence, they will reap the benefits of God’s word for many seasons.”