From Inmate To Chaplain The Elevation of Bishop Frederick A. Gelsey 

By Marshaun L. Quinniey

On April 3rd Bishop Frederick A Gelsey announced to his congregation that he’d  been upgraded from a volunteer at the Erie County Correctional Facility to the role of Reserve Chaplain by the Department of Erie County Sheriff.

Typically, this accomplishment is great by itself.  However considering the depth from which Bishop Gelsey ascended, this achievement moves people to say it is an amazing act of God’s power. 

“It’s  good that his dedication and commitment to help his community is being rewarded,”  said community activist Betty Jean Grant.

A member of his congregation, Amerika Gray agreed.  “It is amazing, such a blessing, that a person who was in prison,  is now working in the prison to share the power that changed him.”

Bishop Gelsey says it is  a testament to the power of God changing lives and that  God will use it as an example to inspire inmates in the prison to decrease recidivism.

Many are familiar with  Bishop Gelsey’s  dedicated   volunteer  ministry in WNY prisons every week.  He invests his time to inspire constructive change in inmates and support individuals journeying through the obstacles they face to turn from a criminal life and walk a path that is healthier for everyone including themselves.  He  is working to combat recidivism and decreasing the need for prisons by using the role of God in his life to give the inmates hope.  However, the part of this equation that causes many to cheer and praise is Bishop Gelsey’s change  from being a criminal with felonies to a Bishop who serves his community as a chaplain to help others.  When news of his new role was posted on facebook    he received more than 100  positive responses of support, in a manner people cheer for an underdog who wins a championship.

 At one point in his life, the man everyone sees with an honest smile who works to help his family, church, and community, was amassing a record of crimes.  He now uses his days to lead people away from a sinful lifestyle.           

“I was not the man that I am today,” he shares. “ I was in a life of crime, and spent 17 years in and out of prisons. Now I work in the prison to change lives.”  

 Bishop Gelsey reached this point in his life, by   deciding to venture to Buffalo (the place he now calls home) instead of returning to the temptations of Harlem.

 “In 1986  I came home with $40 in my pocket, the clothes on my back and Jesus Christ.” 

He has dedicated himself to changing his life through educational advancement, serving his community by way of  his nonprofit and leading his ministry at One In Christ Temple.     And most importantly, God  also blessed him with a help mate  and supportive wife, Lydia Gelsey, PhD.

The journey was not easy  but   he eventually became the owner of five  clothing stores, which he managed until the tragic loss of his son.  Four of these stores were in Buffalo and one was in Charlotte, NC.  One of the local  establishments made him the first African American to have a store in the Galleria Mall.  With this investment he created opportunities for others to have jobs and inspired other Black people to build.                                                                                                                                              In addition, he began his ministry and his  church, known as One In Christ Temple at 940 Broadway St. where he currently serves as the senior pastor.

These days Bishop Gelsey continues his visits to prisons to encourage inmates. 

He uses his drive to to bring God the Glory by helping other inmates constructively change their lives.  He wants them  to know the same way his life was changed from an inmate to chaplain, God can change theirs   as well.  

“The same power of God that helps me can also work in the inmates to change their lives.”

Currently, he uses this energy to aid a program titled, No Return Attitude (NRA).  He feels it is his duty to help inmates in the manner he was helped, while  leading  his church with his wife, First Lady Lydia Gelsey.   

 He does all these things and more because he appreciates the upgrades that God made in his life to elevate him from an inmate to a chaplain!