Chaplain Vera Rhyne
The Rev. Dr. Vera Rhyne has long served with GraceInside at James River Work Center where she established a Dress for Success program through which soon-to-be-released offenders receive a new suit upon their release to help with job interviews, etc. Effective March 1, 2016, Chaplain Rhyne became the chaplain at Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women and retired from that position in March of 2017. She has served as Interim Chaplain at Deep Meadow Correctional Center. As of November 1, 2017, Chaplain Rhyne was assigned to the Department of Correction’s medical wing at MCV. And, as of July 1, 2018, she returns as the chaplain to Deep Meadow! Phew! She is one busy chaplain – it’s a good thing she shares, “Being a chaplain has been one of the greatest joys of my life.”
Chaplain Vera Rhyne believes in serving. Retired from 20 years of military service, Chaplain Rhyne served four tours of duty in Kosovo, Kuwait and Iraq. Courageous and committed, her service has extended to those in prison since the 1970s. She began doing ministry in Raleigh, North Carolina with a maximum security men’s facility. Prisons in California and Alabama have also benefited from her care.
Chaplain Rhyne’s commitment to the men housed at James River began in 2004 at the, now closed, James River Correctional Center. For a time, she also served the men at Deep Meadow Correctional Center. Referred by the former chaplain at James River Correctional Center who knew her ethic of service and care, she offered the unconditional love of Christ to the men in James River Work Center.
One of the unique ministries that clearly moves Chaplain Rhyne is the clothes closet “Dress for Success” program. Leaders in ministry in Amelia, Chesterfield and Powhatan chose a service to provide men exiting the facility with suits. For severa; uears, Chaplain Rhyne was able to offer each man released into the community a new suit and pair of dress shoes. When a major worship service outside the facility was held, “Two ex-offenders who had received suits showed up at the service with the suits on. It just brought everybody to tears. They gave a testimony about what the suits meant to them. They had never had dress clothing – or had on dress clothing – and new shoes.”
Chaplain Rhyne remembers, “It was a very, very moving experience.” People couldn’t believe it. They were moved by empty suits laid out on the pew, but now they were able to witness the good works that they were doing in the flesh.” Stories from the men wearing the suits come back to her. “They have jobs and are going back to school, involved in church. It provides some self-esteem and dignity.”
“To me, making a difference, helping your fellow man…it is beyond rewards received. Planting a seed and then seeing the fruit of your labor. Often times you plant the seed but you don’t get to see the fruit of your labor. Here you get to see the fruit of your labor. You get to see how much it makes a difference. If you make a difference in someone else, it most certainly has an impact in your own life.”
Chaplain Rhyne philosophy of service extends outside the prison. Chaplain Rhyne is also Pastor Rhyne. Serving First Antioch Baptist in Powhatan, she is the first female to pastor a Baptist church in that area. Between the two ministries, she says it is fair to say she is pretty busy.
When there is time for a little rest and relaxation, you can find Chaplain Rhyne reading or perhaps taking time to work on the book she is writing. Chaplain Rhyne summarizes, “I want the work I do and the life I live to speak for me. I believe that only the work you do for Christ will last and count in the end.”