'Press on' this Prisons Week
Faith communities have been encouraged to ‘press on’ in prayer and to continue to speak up for all those affected by imprisonment, as part of the national Prisons Week of Prayer beginning on Sunday (8 October)
The Rt Revd James Langstaff, HM Anglican Bishop to Prisons introduced the inaugural Prisons Week lecture on Tuesday 26 September to an audience of church and charity leaders, senior civil servants, prison chaplains and volunteers, in the chapel at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster.
A specially commissioned and powerful film by spoken word artist Kenny Baraka announced this year’s theme and ‘pressing on’ was then further explored from both a criminological and a theological perspective by guest lecturers Dr Ruth Armstrong of the Institute of Criminology, Cambridge University and Rt Revd Dr Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington.
Bishop Graham said, 'Our prisons are in crisis, with drug use and suicides at record levels and violence never far from the surface.
'Yet the Gospel tells us that God is to be found there, that prisons can be places of spiritual transformation for prisoner and visitor alike. Prison can challenge how we see freedom, not as a ‘right’ to be able to do what we want, but as God’s gift to help us ‘press on’ to become who we were created to be, capable of loving God and our neighbour.'
'Faith communities have an important role to play in this process,' said Dr Armstrong, a specialist in how people move away from crime, 'however, if this work is not done well it can be harmful. People leaving prison need others around them who will involve and support them in community, as they ‘press on’ through the difficult times – they need people who will continue to have hope and belief in them through these difficulties.' As the Jesuit priest Fr Gregory Boyle puts it, this is 'the slow work of God that gets done if we are faithful.'
Prisons Week is run by a broad alliance of Christian denominations and leading faith-based charities working in the criminal justice system. It motivates prayer through its resources and encourages practical engagement through the faith and voluntary sector, using this one week of the year as a focus. Baptist minister the Revd Bob Wilson is the chair of the Prisons Week Board of Reference.
During the week, thousands of individuals of all ages will read each daily prayer from the leaflet, via email or social media. People will be gathering in small groups and large cathedrals to support all those affected by prison, through events, prayer and worship. So prisoners, their families, victims, communities and all those working in the justice system will be remembered as they ‘press on’ through the challenges they face.
Further information and resources can be found at www.prisonsweek.org