As a young schoolboy, I clearly remember waiting for the long winter term to end, for spring to hint at the coming sunshine and the joy of the long summer holidays to arrive.
The last few years have been incomparably more intolerable and seemingly endless for those who are in our prisons. Many must have asked themselves whether ‘summer’ would ever break through this endless winter of extended Covid-19 lockdowns, overcrowding, longer sentences, staff shortages, lack of meaningful activity and the resulting mental health issues. It would be easy for those of us whose ministry is to love those in prison in God’s Name to become negative and fall into despair.
Recently, I was challenged to remember that, while we must always be honest about the failings of our criminal justice system, if we do this without holding it in tension with the hope and expectation of the better, then we are no use to those we are there to serve.
I am deeply grateful to brothers and sisters in Christ who have held me in that tension in the past, when I struggled to find hope for myself.
As PF people, we can stand in the gap for those in prison who have lost faith that God is still there or that their cries of prayer are heard.
They need to know that we will always bend our knees in prayer for them, holding them up before the compassionate Christ, who has also travelled the dark road to prison and torment. We can remind them that we have a Saviour who like them has cried out, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ and yet, three days later stood again as the perfect symbol of hope, in His resurrection power.
In Song of Solomon 2 verses 11–12, Solomon writes, ‘See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.’ In this difficult ‘winter season’ in which we find ourselves, I would like to encourage you to look forward to the beauty of the summer to come as described in these verses and resolve with me, that we will always stand in hope for those in prison who are struggling to have hope for themselves.
Peter Holloway is the Chief Executive of Prison Fellowship England and Wales.
This article was first published in our quarterly magazine in:sight. You can sign up to receive our free magazine by post or via email by visiting prisonfellowship.org.uk/subscribe