A prison chaplain describes the sense of belonging in their team and how respecting diversity is not an optional interest.
The relationships within the Chaplaincy team are paramount and the Managing Chaplain ensures the team affords each member an opportunity to listen, talk and above all, learn from one another. This results in true enrichment of each chaplain’s faith and humanity. This willingness to learn from one another in a safe environment is a key characteristic running through the team. This knowledge and appreciation of one another is carried through to our relationships with staff and prisoners.
Our individual roles within the Chaplaincy team are shaped by specific faith traditions. The Chaplaincy team actively positions itself and inhabits an inclusive and non-judgemental approach.
This truly brings about a warmth of welcome and hospitality where all are accepted and the values of forgiveness, compassion and hope are paramount.
Prison Fellowship (PF) wholeheartedly dovetails into the ethos of Chaplaincy provision here. Such motives are key to our diaconal work within the Chaplaincy. From Sycamore Tree and Angel Tree initiatives to the Letter Link work, PF has helped etch love and hope into the DNA of Chaplaincy here.
Central to the work of the Chaplaincy at our prison is the commitment to model and interact so as to dignify and humanise the experience of all who work and reside in the prison. This commitment is reinforced by our Pagan Chaplain: ‘Respect, love, co-operation, effective, sensitive communication and a genuine sense of working together takes place in Chaplaincy for the best possible outcomes in love and faith.’
The tone and ethos of the Chaplaincy team has been carefully orchestrated through recruitment; being mindful of team dynamics. Distinctive yet complementary appointments have been made with a ‘keen eye’ on collaborative working. Individual faith traditions are celebrated within the Chaplaincy but with no place for proselytization; each member of the team, irrespective of faith tradition, is here to serve. Respecting diversity is not seen as an optional interest but as an inseparable element of all our team functions and individual actions. Over the years the team culture has developed to be one of ‘can do’, ‘solution focussed’ and sharing successes and failures openly without the fear of being judged.
Volunteers and chaplains work ‘hand in glove’ with each other; bringing their own unique life/ work experiences to the team. Mutual learning is experienced, both implicitly and explicitly, through living together as a community of fellow chaplains/travellers; each on our own individual pathways of faith but united in the common cause to promote and inhabit loving service to prisoners and staff alike.
The key to the success of the Chaplaincy team is effective communication, which is nurtured and visible as we work and share meals together.
All chaplains share faith values, individual successes, challenges of the working day and collaborative problem solving. Each member’s individual expertise is recognised and celebrated; whether it is the Sikh chaplain as a mentor and motivator, Muslim Imam as a planner, Catholic chaplain as a supporter, Anglican chaplain as a relationship builder, Pagan chaplain for her knowledge of herbs, or chaplaincy volunteer offering bereavement support. Everyone has a sense of belonging to the team and no one is possessive about their strengths.
The multi-faith chaplaincy provision at our prison was recently visited by Chaplaincy HQ due to us being identified as a ‘flagship team’ with ‘quality relationships’ across and between all faiths. The No 1 Governor here has said, ‘the chaplaincy is the heart and soul of the establishment.’
For information on Chaplaincy Support, please visit prisonfellowship.org.uk/our-work/chaplaincy-support