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Chaplain Luke Callender acts as spiritual guide at Denton County Jail

Chaplain Luke Callender acts as spiritual guide at Denton County Jail

Chaplin Luke Callender discusses the importance of being a spirtual leader and helping inmates. Callender has been the chaplain at the Denton County Jail since 2007.

Chaplain Luke Callender acts as spiritual guide at Denton County Jail
April 19
00:00 2018

Barriers and security play a large role at the Denton County Jail.

When visitors enter, they walk up to a glass window and are given a visitors pass in exchange for their IDs. Phones are forbidden anywhere past the waiting area and are put away in a locker. To gain access to the general population area, you  pass through a sliding door to be let into another gated section by an officer.

In the midst of all of those barriers and the strict, procedural environment of the jail is chaplain Luke Callender’s office. Callender, who has been Denton County Jail chaplain since 2011, does his best to bring a sense of warmth to the inmates from his small office in the general population wing.

He spends his days answering correspondence requests from inmates asking questions about books of the Bible or other things related to religion.

“To be the person who tries to offer care at the lowest they ever get is not a fun task, but it is a meaningful one,” Callender said.

One of the biggest responsibilities Callender carries is delivering news of death to inmates, which is something he takes very seriously.

Before starting his position as chaplain, Callender worked nights as an officer starting in 2007. Through his years of working in the Denton County Jail, he has come to view inmates through a lens of understanding and compassion.

“You run into decent, good people who are in jail uniform,” Callender said.

Sergeant Robert Brazell has worked with Callender for close to 11 years, facilitating the process of communication between Callender and inmates.

“Anything that comes through to him as far as somebody’s religion or passing of a family [is when we interact],” Brazell said.

Calendar’s impact has not been lost on those he encounters. Brazell himself has witnessed the influence his presence has had on the Denton County Jail.

“He has tons of grace, and he has brought an element of softness in hard, hard situations for the inmates,” Brazell said.

Working in a county jail and having a personal life may seem to be two different worlds, but for Callender, it’s fairly easy to balance due to the common thread between the two: his faith. In fact, it’s his faith that allows him to give deep consideration when counseling inmates, which has made him realize that going through hardships, such as family deaths, can be even more difficult because of the type of environment that are in.

“[It’s hard] to [deliver news of death] and not hurt with them,” Callender said. “I try not to pick that up and put it down. I want to offer those people continuing care.”

Callender is a 2008 UNT alumnus with a bachelor’s in music. Although the two fields are not as obviously connected on the surface, he feels his time studying music at UNT has helped prepare him to be the chaplain he is today. 

“I learned in writing music that if you don’t have your audience in mind, what you’re trying to communicate is going to fall flat,” Callender said.

As he has received questions from people who are in different places in their journey with religion, Callender discovered that being genuine and honest while interacting with inmates is the best way to connect with them.

“I do find people rediscover their faith, many come to faith and some are reminded of the fact that God doesn’t leave them,” Callender said.

While the context of his work as a chaplain might seem dark on the surface, his main focus is to be a spiritual leader to inmates and offer them positivity as best he can.

“When I see people discover the Lord cares for them, seeing people reach a measure of freedom while [they are] here [is my favorite thing],” Callender said.

Featured Image: Chaplin Luke Callender discusses the importance of being a spirtual leader and helping inmates. Callender has been the chaplain at the Denton County Jail since 2007. Kelsey Shoemaker

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Nikki Johnson-Bolden

Nikki Johnson-Bolden

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2 Comments

  1. zetuskid
    zetuskid April 19, 22:58

    Saw this article online and being the genealogist that I am and see the name Callender spelled exactly as my name it peeks my interest that I may have discovered another family member. This is the only method I saw to try to contact Luke, I was wondering if you would provide him my email address and tell him I would like him to send me an email hoping we might pull together a family relation.
    Thank you,
    Claude Callender

    Reply to this comment
  2. Dan
    Dan November 02, 20:48

    My brother and friend this is Danny Monk , I cannot tell you how much you spiritually encourage me and help me through one of the most difficult times of my life , many thanks from the bottom of my heart,I was hoping you had my mother’s phone number so I could reach her? My phone number is 940-436-3390, I will be going to the church in the morning with land level to a men’s meeting ,hope to see you there early Saturday morning….10/2/18, with much love your friend and brother Danny Monk.

    Reply to this comment

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