|Then the king will say to those on his right, "Come, you have my Father's blessing! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was ill and you comforted me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the just will ask him: Lord, when did we see you hungry and fed you or see you thirsty and give you drink, when did we visit you when you were ill or in prison? The king will answer them: "I assure you, as often as you did it for one of the least of my brothers, you did it for me." (Matthew 25: 34-40)
The Rev'd Sally Wells started the Prison Visiting Programme at Christ Church in 2000. The prisoners are mostly young English speaking adults aged between 16 and 25. Our team gives practical, spiritual and pastoral care, along with guidance and advice to these young people while they are imprisoned.
For many prisoners, the visitor provides the only social contact from outside the prison, giving them an opportunity to chat about ordinary things or share common interests. Through his presence and care, the visitor is valuing the prisoner and encouraging the development of his self-respect. Sometimes, just getting things off his chest will make it easier for the prisoner to cope with the frustrations of his situation. There is therefore an added benefit for the prison in the easing of tension and the improvement in relationships, which can help to reduce the risk to security and prisoner supervision. Of course there may be longer-term benefits to society and potential victims if the visitor's interest contributes to a change of behavior and reduces re-offending on the prisoner's release.
The prison visitor's role is to give the prisoner attention, to listen to his/her story without judging, to show empathy without pity, extend tolerance toward his/her misconduct, to help protect whatever self-esteem is left.
A prayer for people in the Prison Visiting Programme:
Lord make us instruments of your peace
Where there is hatred, let us sow love
Where there is injury, let us sow pardon
Where there is discord, let us sow union
Where there is doubt, let us sow faith
Where there is despair, let us sow hope
Where there is darkness, let us sow light
Where there is sadness, let us sow joy
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
If you are interested in serving at the Prison Visiting Ministry, please contact the Church Office.