Watson Allison, who spent more than 30 years on San Quentin’s Death Row, was one of many in awe of sunset ser- vices for Good Friday — the day Jesus Christ was crucified.
Allison stood inside the Protestant Chapel as light filtered through its blue-tinted windows, dusk approached and men-in-blue mingled. Listening to Raul Higgins slapped the congas, Albert Flagg’s fingers danced on the piano while Greg Dixon rang out his piping organ. Dixon switched to a Fender guitar, adding a new dynamic to the drumming of Sincere Carter over Leonard “Funky Len” Walker’s bass guitar.
Edward Dewayne Brooks stood stage left, clapping and rocking in conversation with fellow ushers, choir members and the Worship Team.
As he listened, Allison said that he felt like he’s on the right path.
“I have a lot of support from people checking-in with me,” he said. “People come over to me just to see how I’m doing. That’s enriching to the soul.”
Nine long, fresh palm branches sat on the chapel stage. They shared the stage with the cross at the center. The palms stretched, nearly touching the chapel ceiling. A lone branch lay sideways on the stage’s steps.
Chaplin Mardi Ralph Jackson stood at the rear of the chapel as 34-year-old Carrington Russelle took the stage to share his addition to the sermon.
“She spends more time with us than she does with her family,” Russelle said about Chaplin Jackson. He encouraged the men-in-blue to take advantage of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice.
“We made some poor choices to get into this blue attire,” Russelle said. “Now you can make the best decision of your life by accepting Jesus.”
He emphasized that Jesus Christ was not murdered–he sacrificed his life to save us.
Vadim Zakharchenko, 32, gave a tearful sermon that brought attending men-in-blue to their feet. Zakharchenko said that, in the past, he came to church only semi-committed to Jesus Christ. He became tired of living that way, and after a conversation with his mother, he became fully committed to Jesus Christ.
George E. Moss, 49, shared his experience in administrative segregation in isolation after catching the flu. The experience restored his faith, and helped him understand God’s wisdom.
Armando R. Gonzalez’s sermon grappled with where true power comes from and why Jesus Christ sacrificed himself.