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Feather's Miscellany: Prison Reality

John Waddington-Feather tells of his work as a prison visitor.

Reality inside a prison is very different from reality outside. You see life from a very different perspective when youíve been imprisoned for twenty years or more; and itís among men jailed for life that I minister in Shrewsbury Prison.

Iíve been going there for thirty eight years in the evenings, visiting men of all sorts; of different nationalities and faiths. Sometimes Iím the only Christian in a cell where we gather for prayer, praying for all the men inside and their families. We pray especially for children Ė prayers the men always respond to being separated from their own children.

Iíve matured in prison, from being the youngest prison visitor in Britain in 1969 to one of the oldest prison chaplains, and it was in prison I felt called to ordination as a non-stipendiary Anglican priest. I minister as much to prison officers overseeing the men as I do the prisoners themselves; and I hope Iíve helped them over the years in their very stressful job.

Iíve seen many changes during my years in prison, yet the commission remains the same: to be an ambassador for Christ and share his love with those I minister to. I never try to convert the men to my own faith, but I share it with them and in prayer we become one: Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and others who claim to have no faith yet seek a deeper understanding of God and life.

Along with the other chaplains and their team, I hope to create a new reality, a reality not of this world but Christís; a reality needed as much Ė if not more Ė outside prison as in it; a reality which releases all of us from our prison of sin into the freedom of a new life in Christ.


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