Chaplain Bernie Morris

Bernie Morris served as a Religious Programs (RP) Specialist and Chaplain’s Assistant in the U.S. Navy, and he thus feels equally comfortable in dealing with religious issues and with policies and procedures. Bernie currently serves in two positions: as Chaplain at Powhatan Reception and Classification Center and as the contracted Religious Advisor to the Virginia Department of Corrections.

804-598-4251     direct line:  804-372-4854      bernard.morris@vadoc.virginia.gov

 

Chaplain Bernie Morris is a man of many hats.  With GraceInside, he wears at least two.  First, he serves as the Chaplain to Powhatan Correctional Center, a level 3 security facility.  Second, he serves as GraceInside’s Religious Advisor.  Chaplain Morris has served as the chaplain to Powhatan since 2004 where he was assigned full time.  However, on January 1 of 2013, he added the duties of Religious Advisor to his plate as his hours at Powhatan were changed.  In 2015, Chaplain Morris was the first recipient of the Excellence in Religious Freedom award!

A graduate of Liberty University and Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, Chaplain Morris served as a religious programs specialist in the Navy working with Navy Chaplains for a number of years.  GraceInside’s previous president was a former Navy fellow himself and liked what he saw in Chaplain Morris.  A common understanding of confidentiality and officer hierarchy sealed the deal.

As a prison chaplain, Chaplain Morris says, “I have to make sure that we do things for all the religious groups meeting there.”  He schedules time to talk with the guys and, importantly, as they ask in passing.  When asked how, as a Christian, he can care for other traditions, Chaplain Morris says, “I don’t leave my faith at the gate.” Yet he recognizes the legal and important part he plays in helping all the men on the compound. His goal has been for everyone to feel respected.  Evidence that he accomplishes this goal came from a Muslim inmate during an exit interview.  Initially hostile with Chaplain Morris upon his arrival, at his exit, the exiting inmate said, “The advice you gave me was always beneficial to me and I have appreciated you and all you have done for me.”

Chaplain Morris also does his part to keep the chaplains abreast of the latest important information regarding laws and national correctional approvals connected to religious events.  As the Religious Advisor, he provides insight and understanding regarding numerous religious groups – not only to the chaplains but also to Virginia’s Department of Correction’s Faith Review Committee.  Chaplain Morris makes recommendations to the committee regarding inquiries from inmates, DOC staff and chaplains alike.

Chaplain Morris is also making his mark with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship educating others about prison ministry.  His work has recently been featured in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Spark and Form Curriculums educating pre-school and school age children.  In addition, he is featured in their year long guide to prayer.  He contributed a week of prayers regarding prison ministry – ever working to care for the least of these.

Powhatan staff recently shared in a meeting that Chaplain Morris goes above and beyond to do his job.  Chaplain Morris responds, “I really enjoy what I do…and I do what I do to the best of my ability. When someone mentions you and knows you do a great job – and shares that, it feels good.”

When not wearing his GraceInside hats, Chaplain Morris wears the hats of a father, grandfather, husband and a “fast walker.” His daughter, Heather, almost 27, lives with A-typical Rett Syndrome, a neuromuscular disorder.  United Athletics of Richmond, a group founded by Heather’s social worker, tries to keep families facing challenges engaging in general public activities so Chaplain Morris walks with Heather, in her chair, 5 or 10 K runs.  “I don’t run, but I can be a really fast walker when I am in shape!” What a devoted father!  If ever Chaplain Morris has a down moment, he will don his avid reader hat or his gardening hat spending time in his yard.

We at GraceInside get tired just knowing about all his many hats – much less the faithful way he wears them all!