I met Kelly Gissendaner in January 2010 in a nondescript classroom at Metro State Prison for Women in Atlanta. She arrived for class beaming with excitement about the journey she was about to begin — participation in a yearlong academic theology program sponsored jointly by four Atlanta seminaries.
Since she has been sentenced to the death penalty and lives in solitary confinement, Kelly was particularly eager to share community with others, if only one morning a week. And she was grateful for the opportunity to explore the Bible and theology in a rigorous manner that would nurture and deepen her devotional life. That image of her on the first day of class remains vivid to me because it captures the core of who Kelly is — who she has become: someone full of contagious joy and gratitude, open to others and to new experiences for growth and ministry.