Prison Chaplaincy

How Norway turns criminals into good neighbours!

The BBC has recently published an interesting article about how the prison service in Norway has been working with prisoners, communities and local groups to support people serving sentences and on their release from prison.

The article poses an interesting question. “What is the point of sending someone to prison - retribution or rehabilitation?” I wonder what you think…

Twenty years ago, Norway moved away from a punitive "lock-up" approach and sharply cut re-offending rates. The BBC's Emma Jane Kirby went to see the system in action, and to meet prison officers trained to serve as mentors and role models for prisoners. You can read the full article here. The prisons in Norway have been working hard to engage people in their system and focus on rehabilitation. Rates of re-offending (called recidivism) have dropped dramatically following this change of policy and practice in prisons.

  • Are you interested in making a better future for men and women leaving prisons?

  • What could you or your church do to make a difference and help us all become better neighbours to each other?

There are lots of organisations in the UK who support this kind of work, The Prison Fellowship is one such charity. Find out about their work and how you can get involved here. As a first and crucial step, perhaps you could share this month’s prayer from the Prison Fellowship in your churches and house groups.

You also may be interested in finding out more about The Welcome Directory. This organisation plays a key role in resettlement of men and women into Faith Communities. You can read more about their vital work and find out how your church can get involved HERE.

When I was training for prison chaplaincy twenty years ago, I had the privilege of working with the St Giles Trust to support prisoners in learning skills to become peer listeners and resettlement workers. I hope and pray that the men I worked with, in those times, went on the support many others in gaining in confidence and improving their self-esteem, so they went on to become good neighbours to others.

Sara Iles, Free Churches Group

“For God has not despised my cries of deep despair. He’s my first responder to my sufferings,

and he didn’t look the other way when I was in pain.

He was there all the time, listening to the song of the afflicted.”

Psalm 22:24, The Passion Translation

Photo courtesy of Mathyas Kurmann at Unsplash

Prisons Week 2019

We’ve got a date you need to save in your diary!

Each year, for a week in October, churches and groups are especially encouraged to pray for prisons. We want to encourage you to join this wave of prayer.

This year Prisons Week will be: 13th - 19th October.

Did you know… There are over 82,00 women and men in prison in England and Wales.

Did you know… There are over 93,000 children in England and Wales who have a parent in prison. Read that again…

93,000 children. That is more than the capacity of Wembley stadium.

As Christians, we know and feel the power of prayer. We are assured that God works in the world through His almighty grace & mercy, and hears our prayers.

The theme for Prisons Week this year is based on Psalm 111:9: what does freedom mean to you?

You can find out more and register your interest in praying during Prisons Week here:

This coming Sunday, why not chat to those in your church fellowship about this and see how you can get ready to support this wave of prayer and action in autumn.

The Free Churches Group are proud to be among the many sponsors and supporters of Prisons Week.

(photo courtesy of Nathan Dumlao at Unsplash)

Prison reform - then and now!

Did you know that The Howard League is the oldest penal reform charity in the UK?

Did you also know that it was set up in the name of John Howard, who was an active free church member?

The Howard League was founded in memory of one of England’s earliest prison reformers, John Howard (1726-1790). The League are still active in all sorts of work and play a vital role in prison reform.

For over 150 years the Howard League for Penal Reform is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison. They work with parliament and the media, with criminal justice professionals, students and members of the public, influencing debate and forcing through meaningful change to create safer communities.

They campaign on a wide range of issues. Recent programmes have focused on transforming prisons, reducing child arrests, promoting real work in custody, and ending the criminalisation of children in residential care. They use our legal work to transform and shape the law for children and young people.

Free Churches Group and Free Church chaplains continue to play a key role in the lives of prisoners and prison staff, to support and pastor men and women. You can read more about the work of FCG in prisons in England and Wales HERE.

Let us give thanks for the work of the Howard League over the last 150 years, giving thanks to God for the brave and active work they do in making the lives of prisoners healthier and rehabilitative.

Let us pray

Lord, you offer freedom to all people.
We pray for those in prison.
Break the bonds of fear and isolation that exist.
Support with your love prisoners and their families and friends,
prison staff and all who care.
Heal those who have been wounded by the activities
of others, especially the victims of crime.
Help us to forgive one another.
To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly together with Christ
in His strength and in His Spirit, now and every day. Amen.

Photo courtesy of Mitch Rosen at Unsplash

International Day of Prayer for Prison Ministry

Save the date! 25th August is the International Day of Prayer for Prison Ministry

You can check out links for resources and prayers from previous years HERE.

This is date is a gathering together and praying for the work of the International Prison Chaplain’s Association (IPCA) across the nations.

FCG’s very own Revd Bob Wilson serves on the IPCA Europe Steering Committee.

You can register for the IPCA newsletter and read more about their important work HERE.

Pray with us: Lord God, Blessed are you, creator of the universe. You have called us to serve you in bringing good news to the poor and liberty to those in prison. Look with kindness upon all who serve you in this ministry, grant us the wisdom, knowledge and understanding of your mission to all. Fill our hearts with zeal and perseverance as heralds of the Gospel. Amen

(Photo courtesy of Nathan Dumlao @ Unsplash)

Have you heard about the work of the International Prison Chaplain's Association?

The International Prison Chaplain’s Association (IPCA) has its roots in Scandinavia where Prison Chaplains from Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden have held biennial conferences since 1973. The FCG Secretary for prison chaplaincy and the Free Churches Faith Adviser, Revd Bob Wilson, serves as the Vice Chair for IPCA Europe UK.

You can read more about the important work which IPCA does HERE.

Revd Bob Wilson has written about a recent IPCA Steering Committee where they explored issues with UN in Vienna in the run-up to the Crime Commission.

You can read Revd Wilson’s full article HERE

Join us as we pray for the work of IPCA and all those who work in prisons and who are serving sentences:

Lord God, Blessed are you, creator of the universe. You have called us to serve you in bringing good news to the poor and liberty to those in prison. Look with kindness upon all who serve you in this ministry, grant us the wisdom, knowledge and understanding of your mission to all. Fill our hearts with zeal and perseverance as heralds of the Gospel. Amen

May the Lord bless you, and keep you; May the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

IPCA now has six regions, Africa, Asia, Oceania, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and North America and more information can be found on their website at IPCA-Europe has been the strongest regional organization and has developed a life of its own with many initiatives such as a link with the Council of Europe and the C.P.T. It has always elected its own Steering Committee as well as linking in with IPCA-Worldwide and the International Commission for Prison Pastoral Care.

(photo courtesy of Thomas Dils @ Unsplash)