HELPING FAITH COMMUNITIES WELCOME PEOPLE LEAVING PRISON
124 COMMUNITIES REGISTERED
In order to create a national directory we need to make sure that faith communities across the country are aware of us. To do this we need a small army of volunteers willing to work with prisons and in their own communities. Specifically, we need;
Passionate people who will enthuse various local faith communities to consider registering. For those faith commuties who are not sure what it might mean for them to be open to accept people straight from prison, community volunteers try to arrange a taster day at the nearest prison and if appropriate run the Prisons Awareness course sessions with them.
Community Volunteers also help Faith Communities who have shown an interest in becoming part of The Welcome Directory to overcome any hurdles they might have before registration is complete.
If that sounds like something you could do then we would love to hear from you.
We also need volunteers who would be willing to work with prison chaplains at their local prison to establish The Welcome Directory as part of their internal community engagement and resettlement agendas. Prison volunteers liase with the Commuity Volunteers to make a taster day happen, and where faith communities are working through the Prison Awareness course arrange Session 2 (which is held inside the prison).
If that sounds like something you could do a couple of times a year then we would love to hear from you.
Stories happen everyday, outworking their narrative moment by moment. Not everyone notices the story being written. But some get captured; in a song, a painting, a photo a poem, a paragraph or two.
People love stories, they inspire us, move us, teach us.
Welcome Directory Prisons Awareness Sessions
A three session course to help your faith community prepare to help people leaving prison find the welcome that will help them grow.
A story from someone who left prison in faith
‘I think we probably ought to open some wine,’ sagely (and characteristically, I would come to learn) replied the unfortunate vicar whose afternoon plans I had almost certainly just scuppered merely by attending his church’s lunchtime mass. The mass wasn’t so much the problem, of course; but rather my mumbled disclosure to him that, at about the same time the previous day, I’d been nervously shuffling from one prison-issue-plimsole-shod foot to the other as the gate of HMP High Down slowly rolled open, ready to rebirth me into the world, my wrongdoing atoned-for, my debt to society repaid.
It was only very recently, when I heard a serving prisoner describe prison as a ‘kind of death; maybe you’re reborn one day,’ that the parallels – doubtless blindingly obvious to many a cleverer person than I – between prison and baptism struck me. It doesn’t do to stretch the comparison too far – the symbolic death of baptism isn’t a punishment meted out by a vengeful God – but there’s certainly something there. The problem, though, is that secular society doesn’t truly believe that I have repaid my debt; that I have atoned for that which I did to land me behind a cell door, and that the remorse I profess is genuine. But my church does. And that makes all the difference in the world. The task of rebuilding my life is a long one and a tough one – one that will continue for many years. At the heart of everything I’ve sought to do in the four years since my short prison sentence, though, has been Christ – Christ encountered each week in the holy sacrifice of the mass; over post-service coffee (or fizz on one of the (many) Sundays deemed to call for it) with my brothers and sisters in Him; at the pub with the serving team; by e-mail with the parish priest when things seem bleak. I know already, and will come to recognise more and more, that the supportive, compassionate, forgiving, tolerant faith community into which I was so warmly and immediately welcomed after my exile from society truly live out the Gospel, and that, without them, I would be nowhere. Matt served half of a nine-month sentence at HMP High Down in 2015. He is now studying for a postgraduate degree in Criminology and works with a number of criminal justice-related charities.
A note from hmp send ...
The Welcome Directory is a welcome addition to our resources! Chaplaincy is such a privilege, as we accompany women through the emotional ups and downs of prison life, and often have the humbling experience of hearing their comments – “if I hadn’t come to prison I’d probably be dead by now”, “I never thought I’d cope with prison but God is giving me the strength”, “I know I’m a different person than I was before”.
Often we can see those differences taking shape in their lives, and in some cases we have the joy of seeing people discover or grow in their faith too. And of course we’d like to hope that those changes mean a bright new future. But we know the statistics about reoffending, and know that if support continues beyond the gate the chances of reoffending are significantly reduced.
We have set up Making Connections to provide mentoring to every woman who would like help to prepare for release, and the Making Connections team of volunteer mentors seek community support for their mentees, wherever they are returning to. They work with partner organisations who offer mentoring, and with churches where people want to join a faith community, or where there are gaps in non-faith based provision for others.
The Welcome Directory, as it grows, will provide an important and time-saving route to ensure that more people leaving prison can be assured of community support. That’s why we are actively encouraging local churches to sign up, and we are hoping that other prisons will too, so that in the end we have a country with no “black holes” for people leaving prison to fall into, but rather a welcome everywhere!
Managing Chaplain, HMP Send
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