i’ve said before that when i’ve been to the prisons, i’ve come away with this pervasive, inexplicable sense of hope.
i didn’t have that yesterday.
i spent the afternoon in the marlborough unit of port phillip prison – this is a maximum security unit for inmates with psych illnesses and intellectual disabilities.
i left despairing.
again, i do not want to deny or ignore the fact that these men have done something very serious to end up here. they’ve caused enormous pain and destruction.
and i should declare my bias: i don’t go into the prisons asking whether this is the most appropriate form of punishment. i go in purely to ask how the gospel of liberation and redemption makes sense in this place.
everything is hard in prison – hard to touch. all the chairs are hard. the floors are hard and the beds are hard. it’s all concrete and plastic. if you’re there for 15 years, as many of the men are, you will never be comfortable. i know they’re there for punishment, and we don’t want to make it like home, but the starkness of that left me despairing.
there is no way, in prison to distinguish between the days (apart from getting shepherd’s pie every wednesday night and frozen fish every thursday night). at port phillip, none of the trees lose their leaves. the landscape never changes from day to day, season to season. there’s no sense of time passing.
i think that might be where we’ll begin with the worship – finding the rhythm of life, the passing of time, the promise of faith that what is now is not permanent.
when we prayed in worship, yesterday, the men offered their prayers for the world – there were the normal prayers, for men about to be released, for families and loved ones. the recurring prayer was for the men who were rescued last week from the Beaconsfield mine. the inmates were praying for the miners’ recovery from being trapped, that they would be finding it ok again in the outside world…
the inmates asked me to ask you to pray for them… so for Harry and James and Billy, and the others who stood there more shyly, if you have a moment, say a prayer…