The Rev. Dr. William Lupfer, Rector of Trinity Church Wall Street, visited Sing Sing prison on February 23 to meet with inmates studying in a Master’s Degree program behind the walls.
New York Theological Seminary has offered the Masters of Professional Studies course inside Sing Sing since 1982. More than four hundred students have completed the intense, one-year, 36-credit degree program. Dr. Lupfer had visited the class at Sing Sing, the almost two century old maximum security prison on the banks of the Hudson River, on his first working day as the 18th rector of Trinity in February 2015.
Dr. Lupfer served several years as a prison chaplain while he attended Divinity School in Connecticut during the 1980s, which he described as a formative experience.
“You are near to me,” Dr. Lupfer said.
And the Trinity rector expressed hope to make his Sing Sing visit an annual custom, saying that he was “trying to stay real” with himself by remaining involved in prison ministry.
Dr. Lupfer then asked the inmates to share their stories. During the two-hour visit, the fourteen students spoke candidly about their experience in prison, the convictions that led to their imprisonment, and the value of education in changing their lives and bringing hope for the future beyond parole.
Dr. Lupfer with the Rev. Winnie Varghese; the Rev. Canon Petero Sabune, and Roz Hall.
Accompanying Dr. Lupfer at Sing Sing were the Rev. Winnie Varghese, a priest at Trinity; Roz Hall, a Trinity congregation member who leads the parish’s prison ministry; and the Rev. Canon Petero Sabune, a former Sing Sing chaplain who is now Director-Elect of the Masters of Professional Studies program.
As the class came to an end, Dr. Lupfer thanked the students for the invitation to join them. And he promised to “stay strong outside, to be a voice outside.”
“If I’m half as encouraging to you as you are to me, I’ll be doing something.”