Glad to be in prison

Posted: 22 November 2017 in On the Pilgrim's Road, Prisons
Tags: , ,

PH-Prison-Service.jpgBarry* stood up in the Chapel service. “I’m glad to be in prison”. General muttering from the other men. “No, I am. I would be dead by Christmas if not.  I’m a long term drug addict and I’ve been told that my heart won’t last this way.  I’ve now got a chance to get sorted.”  The Chaplain had just asked if anyone had anything they’d like to thank God for during the week, at which Barry was up immediately.

After the service Barry came up to me, “these youngsters [in this prison], they don’t know [about drugs].  I’ve been doing all this for 20 years.  Someone’s got to tell’em.”  Well Barry – you’re just the man.

This was just an ordinary Sunday chapel service in HMP Millbank*.  Though while there is a standard pattern, no one Sunday is like another.  Really, and we’ve been coming in for several years now.  Some days the place is packed, and the men keen – other days there are empty chairs and guys are constantly chattering.  Sometimes the singing is loud and the formal service has a pentecostal swing to it.  Or things are slow, and seemingly unresponsive. The guys can be peaceful, joyful even – or tense with gang culture vibes drifting in.  Men can be queuing to be prayed for after the service by the team – or only a few come up.

Of course, the prison population is always changing, so the Chapel atmosphere changes accordingly.  But we always have to be alert (even if you think calling each session a Spiritual Battle melodramatic).  Jesus commands “watch and pray”, “stay awake”, “be alert”.  So we certainly need to pray beforehand: for the men, for the service, for the chaplain(s), for prison staff too.  Not just to help manage the difficulties. But also just to see the blessings.  The sad – being encouraged. The downtrodden – lifted up just a bit.  Decisions to turn around – being taken.

* Names, as usual, have been changed to protect identities.

  1. krcc says:

    Prison ministries are such a powerful Spirit-filled work. There’s something about being in solitude and much need, that will turn our eyes to Jesus so much the more. I had felt that way the most while going through Basic Training for the military. Oh, how those chapel services were like solid food for my mind and body during that time.

    This is a great post, friend. Keep writing and sharing these important stories.

    • Bill says:

      Thank you. Prison issues are often peculiar and extreme. But at a fundamental level, often are amplifications of issues in our lives too.

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