FOR THE CITY: Prison Ministry

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WHY PRISON MINISTRY?

 

In this blog post, Lauren Meredith explains why she is involved with prison ministry. Lauren is a mature student at the University of Portsmouth studying Criminology and heads up our work with prisons and ex-offendors. 

 

The prison ministry at Harbour Church started in February 2017, Lisa (another member of the congregation) and I wanted to play our part in helping Harbour Church be a place for everyone, no matter where they come from. We now work in HMP Ford, hosting church services every couple of months, and provide mentoring to those who would like it upon release from prison. We’re also building networks in the city of Portsmouth to make sure that anyone can come to church and be signposted in the direction of the help they need from the incredible organisations already doing great work. 

 

When people ask me why I want to go into prisons, some of the darkest places in society, and why I would want to look after those who have done some really awful things, my answer is; I love God, therefore I love his people.  

 

I didn’t think I’d end up doing this role. To be honest, when I moved to Portsmouth, I was set on finishing my Criminology degree, becoming a Crime Scene Investigator or a secret MI5 Agent, and catching the bad people and sending them to prison. But learning in my first term about the conditions of prisons and the limitations facing an ex-offender upon release my heart was broken. I linked up with Lisa who has the same passion as I do, to see the light of Jesus come into the prisons system and we started making tentative steps towards starting the prison ministry. It was immediately clear that God had called us to start this work.

 

We have no specific skills, just a heart to see people set free from the chains that hold them back from freedom. Like Liz said in her blog post about City Women, God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called. I certainly feel like in stepping into a ministry that cares for people, and seeks to bring a light into a dark place, I am seeing more and more of God’s faithfulness in my own life. 

 

Jesus didn’t walk with the people he was expected to walk with. He didn’t just walk with the rich, with those who were physically clean or in good health, with the well behaved and he certainly didn’t walk with the conformists. No, Jesus walked with the outcasts, he walked with the poor, the unclean, the unfaithful and the criminals. His ministry was for people, no matter who they were, what they looked like or what they had done. 

 

Walking alongside society’s outcasts seemed daunting until I started to do it, and then realised that it’s exactly what Jesus was doing and he’s given us his spirit so that we can continue his work today. Yes, prison is a dark place, but it takes just a few people to take the light of Jesus in to make a big difference. We are called to be salt and light. We are called to preach good news to the poor and we are called to visit the prisoners. 

 

Ultimately we are called to love God, and love our neighbour, and that’s what we’re trying to do with the prison ministry.

 

For more information, please email prisonministry@harbourchurchportsmouth.org

 

Jessica Elliott