Revd Philip Tyres, chaplain of HM Prison Liverpool, spoke to us about life as a prison chaplain
Each week around 15 – 20 prisoners attend Anglican/free church worship in Liverpool prison. With the growth in those of no faith, the number of Anglican prisoners is falling. I try to show how each Sunday’s readings applies to the life of an ordinary person, guiding one into hope and a new life. That God accepts everyone, knows where each individual comes from, and can lead them into a deeper fuller life. His yoke is easy, his burden light.
Each week, on one of the wings, I lead a study group where we use the Bible to invite us into a Christian lifestyle. The men really do bring their questions, and we tease them out together, encouraging a plurality of views to be expressed, inviting everyone into a living relationship with reality, with God.
Day by day, chaplains are visiting prisoners in segregation or in the hospital wings. Both places contain deeply disturbed people, who perhaps should be in mental hospital; but prisons are the place of last resort.
We support prisoners who self harm, take messages about dead or dying relatives, or about new born babies. Prisoners come to chapel to light a candle and say prayers for their families in crises. Spirituality is relevant to prisoners and touches them when nothing else can.
We welcome in every prisoner who arrives, and say farewell to each prisoner who leaves. Every one of these comes from or goes to a parish, if not a church. We suggest to each prisoner that they re-awaken their spiritual walk, including reviving their attendance at their local church. The question to the parishes is: What are you doing that is of relevance to a prisoner’s family, or to an ex-prisoner seeking a new life?
We work as a multi-faith, multi-cultural team; that Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Muslims, Free churchmen, Buddhists, Jews and Pagans, work together for the common good, supporting each other with wisdom, laughter and a shared common humanity.
It is important to mention that we also support staff in dealing with difficult people day in, day out. Staff who themselves have family crises. Staff who are paid out of the taxes of citizens who want maximum service from minimum cost, and vote for the cheapest government. Our desire is to reform society. Jesus taught about a Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Both prison and parish seek to live it.
The prison service has echoed the Government, let alone the previous Bishop of Liverpool, in saying that prisoners are not just to be seen as liabilities to be managed, but potential assets who will contribute positively to society. The question for the diocese is: What sort of welcome are you preparing for these assets?
Prisons Week 2016
During Prisons Week, 9th – 15th October 2016 we are encouraged to pray for the needs of all those affected by prisons: for staff, prisoners, their families and their victims; for those who draw up new policies in government.
HM Prison Liverpool will be receiving extra staff as it has been recognised as having the greatest safety challenges, seen in high levels of violence and self harm. Please keep them in your prayers.