chapel opening at Barwon Prison

We blessed the new chapel at Barwon Prison yesterday. The chapel is gorgeous; designed by one of the inmates, and built by some of the men. They were rightly proud as punch.

the liturgy went as follows:

Welcome to the Land:
This chapel is on land of which the Wauthurong people have been the custodians since time immemorial. We honour the elders of the Wauthurong and commit ourselves to working for reconciliation with them.

We gather in this place,
people of vastly different beliefs
holding to the faith we have in common:
that there is a story
waiting to be told
of justice
and love.

We gather in this chapel
to set it apart with our prayers
as somewhere those stories can be given life.

Statement of purpose
This chapel is built of dirt, and we bring into it the elements of fire and water.

Together, these three symbols tell of the most fundamental realities of our world: that life is, at once, fragile and resilient.

They remind us of the things that are most fundamental about each of our lives:
We are human –
fragile and flawed,
needing a place to belong to and a people to be part of,
reliant on forgiveness and mercy,
dependent on the promise that life can begin again.

Because while earth, fire and water are the building blocks of the world,
they are only brought to life
by a breath of grace and hope and love

So we add our prayers for life to this building,
to set it apart,
so that it will be a place where we can bring the stories of our lives –
the dirt, the pain and the promise –
and pray that here they can be held and changed
by grace, hope and love.

Music and reflection


In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Praise be to God, Lord of the universe
Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Master of the Day of Judgment
You alone we worship; You alone we ask for help
Guide us in the right path
the path of those whom You blessed.
(Muslim Prayer)

Isaiah 58:1, 6-8 (from the Hebrew Scriptures)
Shout out, do not hold back!
Lift up your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their rebellion,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

Luke 4:16-19 (from the Christian scriptures)
When Jesus came up to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free.”

Comments by Jenny Hayes

Blessing of the chapel and chaplains:

Because we know that love, forgiveness, mercy and hope are not purely of human making, we ask a blessing on this chapel and the chaplains who will serve here:

Chaplains: We commit ourselves to being people of compassion
Congregation: May all who come here find welcome

Chaplains: We commit ourselves to embodying the truths of forgiveness and mercy
Congregation: May all who come here find grace and love

Chaplains: We commit ourselves to holding faith and hope for those who cannot
Congregation: May all who come here find courage and life

Chaplains: We commit ourselves to speaking truth and justice
Congregations: May all who come here find liberation and transformation, and may this will be a place of true reconciliation and restoration.

We hold before each other
and we hold before God,
those things for which we would give thanks:
for the hands of those who built this chapel
investing it with their time, their commitment, their abilities,
we give thanks for those who will tell stories of healing and hope in this place
and for those who will bring their stories of fragility and failing
in the faith that they can be restored.

We hold before each other
and we hold before God
those people for whom we would pray:
for those who feel the pain and insecurity and distress of this last week’s events,
for those who have no hope,
for those who are waiting for justice,
for those who are waiting for forgiveness,
for those who do not yet know they need it.

We hold before each other
and we hold God,
our prayer that justice will be done
that hope will come,
and that all that is broken will be restored to wholeness.

Sending out

May all be filled with joy and peace.
May all beings everywhere,
The strong and the weak,
The great and the small,
The meek and the powerful,
The short and the long,
The subtle and the gross:

May all beings everywhere,
Both seen and unseen,
Dwelling far off or nearby,
Being, or waiting to become:
May all be filled with lasting joy.
(Buddhist prayer)

And now, go from this place with hope
Take the promises found here into the places you return
Carry with you the strength of the Source of all Life
and may peace be yours until we meet again.


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