Independence Day marked a new beginning for San Quentin’s Garden Chapel, as Mother Mardi Ralph Jackson’s replacement was introduced to the Protestant congregation.
Prior to DVI, he was in ministry for 20 years at community hospitals which included studying at
Loma Linda Hospital in Ontario, Calif., and a hospital in Walla Walla, Mich.
He was introduced by newly appointed incarcerated pastor Sergio Alvarez. In the Spanish and English services, Alvarez invited the congregations to “Give God all praise and glory, by letting Chaplain Ang lead our church.”
Ang announced, “I’m here to serve, not for myself, but for you. At DVI, I baptized 319 men in 2019 and 80 in pre pandemic 2020, for a total of 399.”
The chaplain identified brother in Christ Robert Hunter, who was one of his baptismals at DVI. “I hope I will baptize many more here,” said Chaplain Ang.
Hunter is preparing to go home soon. He spoke of Chaplain Ang’s style at DVI. “He was there for us when I was at DVI. He baptized me and many other brothers and, more importantly, provided life-skills classes and cultural movies that helped us grow. For us, he was much more than baptisms. Believe me, Chaplain Ang is a true man of God and he is the right person for the job.”
The chaplain commented, “I hope for a strong start and want you to know that you will not see the kingdom of God unless you are born again.” He then promised a variety of programs that will attempt to bring back the capacity of the congregation to pre-pandemic numbers. Maximum occupancy before COVID was 370.
His introduction directed the 110 incarcerated Christians, “You should be born again daily.”
He also said, “I’m here to serve you and the Lord and if you need anything on the spiritual side, my door is open as I’m here to help you walk closer to the Lord.”
He also plans to supply music books for the congregation, so they will be able to sing with the choir.
Chaplain Ang reminded the crowd of the difficult times they had just gone through and said, “We want to be ready for Jesus Christ’s coming…we must be ready”
Minister Armando Gonzalez, who just received a date to go home, said, “We showed him today how we operate and he showed a humble acceptance. Chaplain Ang’s first thumbprint was having the entire church kneel during communion. Personally, I have had a short interaction with him, but feel how humble and blessed he is.
“The new chaplain’s family lives far away in the Central Valley and we pray he can move them here soon.”
Incarcerated persons Angel, Rosendo Perez, and Jaime Martinez attended the first Spanish-language event run by Chaplain Ang. Angel told the San Quentin News that, “I didn’t know (former chaplain) Mother Jackson. As for Chaplain Ang, it is too soon to know how he will quench my spiritual thirst — I’m just hoping he teaches us and lifts us up in the Word.”
Perez said “…his years of experience were apparent and I know he will be doing the best he can. Kneeling down during communion was good, too.”
Martinez complimented Chaplain Ang and said, “(The chaplain) speaks really well in his words and prayers. We want to see more of him.”
Other Christians reviewed the English chapel service on the yard.
Minister Trent Woodmore Jr. said, “I get on my knees every day in my cell to worship the Lord, so communion on the knees is natural. As for the service, Chaplain Ang brought a reverence to the Lord and that is always stressed in our chapel. It was great that he reminded us to have a heart for the Lord.” A senior member of the congregation, Woodmore continued, “Chaplain Ang is obviously a man of God who is full of humility.”
Another senior member, Minister Dwight Johnson, said, “Chaplain Ang has reverence and blessed hope in his approach, which is not a bad thing. (Since the quarantine) we have a lot of new people who need to learn how to be reverent. We are fortunate the new chaplain seems humble, ready, and willing to serve and I really like his open-door policy.”
The chaplain pledged to invite outside church leaders, bands, and musicians. He also said he would continue to develop Christian leaders from the San Quentin population and add three elders, and 12 deacons.
The expansion of leadership would allow elders to pray with individuals. He also said he would continue seasonal traditions like the annual Christmas banquet, the Thanksgiving celebration, the Easter banquet, and the well-loved Christmas caroling in the cellblocks.
He also plans to encourage assistance from the outside volunteers, of whom only four have been approved since the prison was reopened. “We need the volunteers to return,” said Chaplain Ang.
Ang noted San Quentin has more opportunities to heal and get spiritually stronger than any other state prison.
As for changes, incarcerated Pastor Sergio Alvarez said, “Please, give him time to unpack.”