The History of Kairos Prison Ministry
Kairos sprang from the Cursillo movement, created in Spain in 1948. (Cursillo means “short course” in Spanish.) It is supported by volunteers from 4th Day movements such as Cursillo, National Episcopal Cursillo, Presbyterian Cursillo, Lutheran Via de Cristo, The Upper Room’s Walk To Emmaus, and independently ecumenical Tres Dias, as well as by volunteers from many different Christian churches. On each Kairos a diverse group of Christian volunteers work together to fulfill Christ’s call to action in Matthew 25:36 (“…I was in prison and you came to visit me.”).
The first three-day “Short Course in Christianity” in the U.S., called “Cursillo in Prison,” was held at Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, Florida in the fall of 1976. By 1978 six additional states were presenting “Cursillo in Prison” programs. The National Cursillo Center in Dallas surveyed these separate prison Cursillos and determined they should be ecumenical and supervised by a central authority to better serve inmates’ needs.
At the request of Cursillo, in 1979 our founders (today affectionately referred to as the “Nine Old Men”), developed a prison-appropriate version of the Cursillo program. They adopted the name “Kairos,” and the ministry became an independent, nonprofit, ecumenical Christian organization based in Florida. “Kairos” is a New Testament Greek term that means “God’s Special Time,” or “in the fullness of time.” The original Kairos program is now Kairos Inside. Following that first Kairos weekend in 1979, the Cursillo office directed other “Cursillo in Prison” programs to join Kairos and to stop using the Cursillo name.