CFEO Prison Service
I don’t know what your experience of prison is. Maybe you’ve only seen prisons on TV and in films, maybe you’ve visited a family member who was serving time, maybe you have served time yourself…but I think for the majority, stepping into a prison is a foreign experience. On Sunday 26th November, a team of 14 (of which only 3 had ever been to prison before) descended on HMP Ford to host the first Harbour Church Portsmouth service. It was an absolutely incredible experience.
After meeting some of the chaplaincy team and some of the men in the prison, the Gandey’s started our service in a time of worship. Worshipping with 40 or so prisoners might sound like the most daunting thing, but really there was an incredible feeling of the spirit moving amongst all of us. I then gave a short talk on the unconditional, relentless and extravagant love of God. I’d previously given this talk to a group of students, and yet there was no difference in the response - everybody, whether in prison or at university, needs to hear they are loved by somebody. After more worship, our formal service ended and we were able to chat to the men and offer prayer.
It was such an amazing experience - and really it was no different to attending church on a Sunday anywhere else. For me, the best part was the fact that, just like any other church, there were men with different levels of faith, some who proudly professed no faith - yet who were keen to know more, and men whose faith has kept them going throughout their time in prison and was their lifeline.
HMP Ford holds around 500 men. It is an open prison meaning that the men are allowed temporary leave during the week to work, or for day visits at weekends to help with reintegration back into society. The chaplaincy team at HMP are heavily involved in helping the men with their resettlement plans. I head up the prison ministry at Harbour Church and was so encouraged when I met the Chaplain for the first time after he mentioned that one of their primary focuses is helping the men to resettle upon release, with the help of local churches. The prison ministry at Harbour Church is made up of three parts, equipping the local church to help care for those leaving prison, to provide mentoring to individuals who would like a little extra support, and helping to bring light into the darkness of prison, through hosting Sunday services. Harbour Church Portsmouth have been asked to lead a further 4 services over the course of the next year, and we are a church whose doors are open to receiving referrals for mentoring men on their release.
If you’d like to know more, or find out how you can help with the prison ministry at Harbour Church Portsmouth, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.