PJ Kenber is a passionate man. For 40 years, he taught maths in schools, securing the education and formation of young pupils. In his retirement he has continued his academic pursuits, dedicating time to writing commentaries on the Bible, including the Gospel of John, and – through lockdown – Isaiah.
He has also dedicated much of his retirement to another passion first sparked over 35 years ago when he heard a talk by a prison visitor. Eight years ago, he was able to ignite this spark, by joining Prison Fellowship as a Sycamore Tree Group Facilitator, and more recently tutoring the victim awareness course himself.
PJ went from the formation of boys, to the formation of men behind bars at HMP Winchester, a ministry he found enormously rewarding. He saw the bleakest and the most radiant times, and the most hopeless and the most radiant people.
From PJ’s experience, he believes that prisoners are ‘no different to the everyday you and me,’ and that he himself, as with many of us, could easily committed a crime on impulse or rage but for the ‘grace of God’.
He asserts: “I do have a great feeling for prison offenders. In a sense I feel that I am no better. I feel none of us who are out of prison are any better than those of us who are in prison, and in some cases worse. I feel you need to know the full story to understand.”
PJ tells of a prisoner he got to know quite well, “who had committed an absolutely appalling crime, but he had become a lovely Christian. If I had to list the most radiant, lovely Christian people I have met, he would be one of them,” PJ says. “He was genuinely sorry for what he had done. He now has to spend the rest of his life in prison.”
He continues: “In the sight of God, it depends on faith, and not on works of the law. And there are a lot of people the world we might consider to be very good people, but none of us reaches up to the heights of God.”
More recently, PJ decided to express his passion for prisoners by leaving a legacy to Prison Fellowship in his Will. He is aware this may be something that he is very privileged to be able to do, but he wants to share the following encouragement with supporters who may be considering doing something similar:
PJ talks of how “the needs of the world are crying out – it’s all over the news. And, as a result of Covid-19, this need has grown exponentially. But the people no one thinks about are prisoners. They do something wrong, they get a prison sentence, they get put in there, and they get forgotten about. And they may say to themselves ‘no one remembers me’. But, if I leave some money to Prison Fellowship, I am helping some of the neediest people and some of the people who are most desperate for help.”
“During my time at HMP Winchester there were a number of saddening weeks,” PJ confides. “Weeks that cast a cloud over the prison because everyone in the prison was aware of it. There is a desperate cry for help that is not normally heard. By remembering Prison Fellowship in your Will, you can leave a drop in the ocean – even the tiniest drop can be an enormous help if it is done in Christ’s Name. Here are these people thirsty for help. For people to acknowledge their existence, and to show that they are interested in them. And, when I think of Prison Fellowship’s work in prison, it would mean a lot to prisoners to know that there are people thinking of them.”
If you would like remember prisoners in your Will, you find out more about how to include Prison Fellowship by visiting www.prisonfellowship.org.uk/legacy. Or, for more information, please contact our Legacy Officer, Maddie Greenlaw, on firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7799 2500.