As I write, initiatives are in hand all around the country to inspire the nation’s churches to pray for all involved in the Criminal Justice Service. We are being urged to engage more effectively with prisons and prisoners, chaplains and officials, law-makers and law-enforcers, victims and rehabilitators. It is one week in the year when our focus can shift to effect the fifty-one weeks that follow.
This Prisons Week it was my privilege to speak at the launch in Pentonville Prison. Taking this year’s theme of ‘Lord, have mercy’ I was able to speak on the significance of Pauls’ words in Ephesians 3:15 ‘He [Christ] has broken down the middle wall of separation’, underscoring the importance of showing mercy without condescension – even-handedly, sacrificially and securing equality of access.
Those of us present were aware that the walls of separation that can exist in our minds, ensuring that many never give Prisons and the Criminal Justice System a thought, can be greater than the 15ft walls of Pentonville prison that surrounded us. Paul’s words to the Ephesians are certainly still relevant!
Interestingly, there was ample evidence at the service of how other walls can be broken down. The co-operation between the institutions and the Churches was remarkable. Not only were many of our Free Church denominations and chaplains represented, with contributions from myself and a Baptist magistrate, but the Governor and offenders took part, along with Pentonville’s Anglican Chaplain, the RC HQ Advisor, the Bishop of Rochester and Pastor Agu Irukwu of the Redeemed Christian Church of God.
Rarely do we get the chance to see our sermons illustrated so visibly!
Revd Dr Hugh Osgood
Moderator of the Free Churches Group
For more information to get involved in Prisons Week, please visit here