One of the reasons for writing a blog is to keep everyone informed of the things we are doing as a Church, especially things that not everyone may be aware of. One of those areas is our “GraceWorks”. We use the name GraceWorks as an umbrella heading for the various ministries we do to serve our community.
In the very early days of Grace Church, when I was laying out a vision for our Church’s future in a talk, I remember using ‘prison ministry’ as an example of something we would probably never do … simply because there is no prison in Chichester. Little did I know!
Fast forward a few years to now, to a time when our Church has a larger footprint than we ever imagined it would, and one of our key GraceWorks is serving the prisoners at Ford Prison.
HMP Ford – Our Prison Ministry
HMP Ford is an open prison with around 500 adult male prisoners. A team from Grace Church, which includes people from all three of our sites, is actively involved in various activities at HMP Ford including:
- Regular Sunday evening services in the Chapel at HMP Ford, with worship, preaching, prayer and fellowship
- A Monday evening Life Group covering all sorts of topics and led by both Grace Church members and prisoners. This provides an informal time for teaching and fellowship, and also some social times, for example we held a quiz night that had around 50 people taking part
- A prison Alpha course
- A follow up Beta course
Well done Grace Churchers!
A few Grace Church members are also now part of the chaplaincy department at HMP Ford helping provide pastoral and faith related support to those prisoners. The need for this should not be underestimated! I want to say a personal, “Well done!” to the Grace Church team, and feel free to add your well done to mine everyone else!
Outside of the prison environment we’ve been working to look after a few ex-offenders who have connected with us on the inside and have now been released from prison and are living locally. The support and help needed in each situation is very individual, and we now have ex-offenders regularly attending Sunday meetings with us. What a privilege! We are truly blessed and I hope we are a blessing to them too.
Why minister to prisoners & ex-offenders?
In the parable of the sheep and the goats (see Matthew 25) Jesus said that, in the final judgement, he would say to his followers,
“I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
They will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you in prison and go to visit you?”
Jesus’ answer: “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Our prisons ministry, led by Andy Nicholls, is a great chance to put that parable into practice, remembering that it is Jesus we are serving. If you want to get involved then do let us know, and in the mean time let’s all be on the lookout to welcome and bless anyone who visits our church week by week, remembering that each person is precious to God, whatever their background.
“All welcome! Come as you are!”
And let’s remember that in some cases the only difference between those in prison and those who are not is this: they got caught.
So let’s make sure that we, ‘let him who is without sin cast the first stone’.