Jesus tells us that sometimes the greatest gift we can give to another person is simply to be present. As a visitor to Women at the Well, your presence is your gift. It reminds every woman incarcerated at ICIW that someone cares, that those outside the razor wire have not forgotten them. It reminds all of us that, through us, Christ is a very real presence in our world.
If you’re thinking about organizing a group from your church to join us for worship, stop by our Visitor Resources page for information on how to get started!
Worship at Women at the Well takes place on Thursday evenings, from 7:00 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. Our worship visitors are asked to arrive at ICIW no later than 6:30 p.m. When you arrive, please park your vehicle in the Visitor Parking lot. Because this is a secure facility, visitors are not allowed to sit in their vehicles for extended periods, so please do not linger inside your car(s).
Visitors are limited as to what can be worn and brought into the facility. When you have parked your vehicle, please be sure to remove from your pockets and securely store in your vehicle all items not allowed inside with you (i.e. cell phones, click pens, loose change, etc.) Please be sure to retain your photo ID (and your car keys!). Please close all the windows on your vehicle, and check that it is securely locked when you leave it.
Once you have stowed all your personal items, and secured your vehicle, please proceed directly to the Reception Area, located directly beneath the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women sign, to the left of the flag poles. Inform the Reception Clerk on duty that you are here to visit Women at the Well.
Upon entering the building, you should go directly to the reception desk, which will be located to your left. You will be required to sign into the facility, and asked to wait while the clerk calls for a Circulating Officer to come to the Reception Area to process your group through Security. This is a great time to use the restrooms, which you will find located to the right of the entry. When the Circulating Officer arrives, you will be processed through Security. You will need to provide your Photo ID as proof of your identity, and will then be asked to remove any metallic items and place them in a bin (which is provided),and send the bin through the scanner. When directed, you will walk through the metal detector and collect your belongings. If you have questions, please feel free to ask the Officer. Please be aware that your Photo ID will be retained by the Officer, and taken to the Control Center until you leave the facility. A Visitor badge will be provided to identify you as a guest, and as a reminder to claim your ID when you exit the facility.
By the time your group has passed through Security, the Pastor or a Volunteer should have arrived. If not, please wait patiently. When the Pastor does arrive, she will welcome you, will once again remind you of the rules of the facility, and will offer a short prayer. She will then escort you into the facility. Please stay with the Pastor at all times. If you have questions about what you see, please ask! You will be taken directly to the Sacred Place, where you will gather for worship.
When you arrive in the Sacred Place, you will be greeted by a number of women dressed in blue and grey. Don’t worry, you’re in the right place. These women are members of Women at the Well’s Inside Council, the leadership core of the congregation. They will welcome you, and provide any needed hospitality. If there is time before the start of the service, the pastor will take a few moments to introduce you to the Council members, the Inside Administrative Assistant, and to the volunteers. If not, you will be provided with a bulletin, asked to sign into the Sacred Place, and led into the sanctuary.
Worship at Women at the Well is exactly like the worship you will find in any other Christian church!
As worship time nears, please find a seat among the gathering congregation. Feel free to say “hi,” and to introduce yourself, as you pass! Upon entering the worship space, you will be offered a hymnal (the words to songs are projected, but feel free to take a hymnal if you want the music!)
You are invited to sit anywhere! We do ask that visitors try not to “clump” together in one place. Spread out among the residents of the facility, individually or in groups of two, so that your group has a chance to interact with as many residents as possible. Again, introduce yourself, and feel free to ask questions! Then, worship and praise God as a part of this unique congregation.
At the end of the worship service, residents will make their way back to their dormitories. Visitors and volunteers will be invited to retire to the Religious Library for refreshment and discussion.
Please feel free to pour yourself a glass of water, or help yourself to instant coffee or tea. You may see members of the Inside Council moving quickly about, cleaning up after worship. Please be aware that they have only a limited amount of time following worship, as they must report back to their dormitories promptly. If you have final questions for them, please ask, but know that their answers might be brusque.
As you enjoy your refreshment, think about your worship experience. How did it differ from your own church? What things were the same? What questions do you have about the experience, the women, or the experience of living inside the razor wire? When the Pastor rejoins your group, she will lead you in a time of sharing and inquiry. This is your time to get your questions answered, and her time to share the important ministry that happens here!
Your worship experience at Women at the Well will end no later than 9:00 p.m. At this time, visitors will be escorted out of the facility by one or more volunteers. You will return by the same path that you arrived at ICIW (please walk around the side of the metal detector). You will return your Visitor badge and reclaim your Photo ID as you pass through the Sally Port on your way out of the facility. You must return to the Reception desk to sign out of the facility, and then are invited to visit the restrooms before you leave. At that point, you may return to your vehicle and make your way home!
Thanks for worshiping at The Well!