We are delighted that Prison Fellowship has been asked, alongside the bereavement support charity Cruse, to help prison chaplaincy teams in their pastoral support for people in prison.
The nature of being in prison leads many people to experience profound feelings of loss. This may arise from a bereavement or from simply being separated from family and friends. Whatever the cause, people in prison are often deeply impacted by the emotional impact of loss and chaplains play a key role in their pastoral care.
The pilot for this Pastoral Care programme is underway and the first group of experienced PF volunteers have already been trained by the team at His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service Chaplaincy Headquarters to support chaplains in this vital work in their local prison.
One of these volunteers is Catherine who shared a bit of her experience going through the training:
‘I have been going into prisons with Prison Fellowship for several years now. I have been doing informal pastoral work for a long time. So, when Stephen, PF’s Operations Manager, mentioned pastoral care opportunities in the form of bereavement listening/counselling at our prayer meeting in Liverpool, I felt it was a natural step for me. The training was a two-day online course. The insight into prison life was informative and again very helpful.
‘I am looking forward to getting started. At the end of a Sycamore Tree course in prison last week, a learner opened up to me, and I wish I could have spent more time with him as he obviously needed to talk. This confirmed the calling— I have to go a step further.
‘There seems to be a real need for more one-to-one conversations with people in prison as the chaplains understandably often do not have the time.’
Rosemary has also been part of the training delivered by Phil Chadder, who leads the training and development of prison chaplains. Rosemary felt led to be involved in bereavement support and this new initiative proved to be the perfect opportunity.
Rosemary tell us, ‘I had been interested in getting involved with bereavement support. Yet, up until now, I had not made any headway. It was then that I read in the Prison Fellowship volunteer newsletter about a pilot scheme to train volunteers for bereavement support training. So I signed up!
A week or so later, my Managing Chaplain said to me, “I see that you have signed up for bereavement support training,” and, to my astonishment, I had been accepted!
‘At the start of the first day, Phil opened with a rousing devotional. We went on to examine how we maintain our faith without denying others, and respecting other faiths. Phil gave a lovely visual aid of someone in a pit with a ladder.
‘We climb down into the pit to be with that person and then help them, rung by rung, to come out of the dark place they were in.
‘I would highly recommend this course to anyone interested in doing more to help those we meet in prison. The course provides skills to bring to many situations we encounter with grieving people in prison.’
With the help of Catherine, Rosemary and other volunteers, we are continuing to develop this exciting new work and hoping to roll out a nationwide Pastoral Care programme by the end of 2023.
Please will you pray about whether this is work that God is asking you to do? Or whether you know of someone in your church who might consider becoming a Prison Fellowship volunteer to help support this new programme?
Register your interest online by visting: prisonfellowship.org.uk/pastoralcare