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Mission Reflection, of Prison Chapliancy

19 Aug

A short reflection I wrote a while ago based upon my time experiencing prison chaplaincy:

Clinging onto God has included refining my skills in discernment. Discernment over the words to say, who to say them to and awareness of the situation(s) I find myself in. It is the realisation that this ministry cannot be done under one’s own strength or even in conjunction with God; rather it is a complete reliance upon God. I used the analogy of walking around with my eyes metaphorically closed; because within Horfield Prison, it is God who has to be my eyes. God is our guide.

I also have learnt about giving the message of the Gospel. Not in a long pre-planned course or the long-term relational style; rather it is giving the Good News in 30 seconds or so. It is taking the opportunities as they are placed before me by God. And if they are placed by God, then trusting in Him for the words to say.

On a practical level, I have worked through what parts of ecclesiology are important, and what can be discarded to further ‘mission’. With this is tied in the sense of urgency and real need I felt at the prison. Being a remand prison, you encounter men who could be moved or leaving the prison before you ever get tospeak to them again. This could be the type of community the prison is, but is still very different style. There is a sense of real urgency to the work, that it is a battle. Rather than being something we ‘do’ because we are Christians, the mission in the prison is done because it makes a real difference and that was really refreshing to experience.  It is a serious spiritual battle for the souls of the prisoners.

Nine questions church visitors aren’t asking (…but churches are still trying to answer)

14 Aug
  1. So how soon can I get involved with your committees?

  2. Can I get a longer bulletin—maybe something with more detail?

  3. Will you please single me out in front of all the people during worship this morning?

  4. Will you please send some “callers” by my house later and interrupt me while I fix dinner?

  5. Can you please seat us in those uncomfortable pews with our fidgety kids and aging parents?

  6. How quickly can I fill out a pledge card?

  7. Does this church have weekly meetings, rehearsals and other activities that will consume most of our family’s free time?

  8. I need more paperwork! Can you give me a folder filled with glossy pamphlets, old newsletters and denominational statements of belief?

  9. During the worship service, can someone with a monotone voice speak (at length) about all the insider church happenings and people’s private health matters? I find this so inspiring.

The questions above come from this blog post, and as I prepare to enter ‘professional’ full time church ministry in under a year as a Anglican Priest these questions grab me.

They grab me as they challenge the normal way of doing church from my tradition, They question what I would do in leading a church (generally, they are a little Americanized like the cold-callers or doctrinal statement),

Number 3 particularly stands out as an introvert who hates this forced (and it is forced!) public engagement that can takes many forms (like introduce yourself to the person next to you…).

So this post will provide no answers to these question but more a point of reference for me to continue to think upon and allow me to share my puzzlement. Do let me know if you have any thoughts or answers in the comments.