Liberty to the Captives

I suppose they wouldn’t have let me go into Perth Prison if that had been my declared agenda. You wouldn’t expect a place like Perth to have a prison. But stand in Tesco’s car park and there it is – and it is enormous. Twenty years ago, I was on the Board of Visitors at Crumlin Road Prison in Belfast. So I know a little about prisons. What I saw of the physical environment of Perth Prison was fairly forbidding – frankly, the planned rebuild of much of the prison accommodation can’t come soon enough.And then there was the prison chaplaincy …. It seems amazing to me that I hadn’t grasped this. I’ve spent time now with the Mission to Seafarers Chaplains, with the RAF Padres and now with the Prison Chaplains. What is common to all of them is that they have the opportunity of being in touch with people who would never come near a church. They work away on the boundaries and over the boundaries of the church – and they are relatively unsupported as they do that. Meanwhile parish clergy [like me] live mainly within the world of the church and have to work hard to be in contact with people outside that. I’m learning about the value and potential of ministry in the world of work rather than ministry which is based on where people live.

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