Undiluted Christmas cheer does not last long for Christians, at least we are soon shaken out of our liturgical high spirits. Yesterday we had the feast of the first Christian Deacon Stephen; today the long-suffering, beloved disciple John, imprisoned on the Island of Patmos, ‘for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.’ (Revelation 1:9)
Let’s hear from Eddie Gilmore of the London Irish chaplaincy talking about supporting the families of prisoners today. Here is one paragraph, you’ll find the full blog post here. Thank you, Eddie.
I’m always incredibly touched to meet people who have a loved one in prison. We often say that the family members also serve a kind of sentence, and there are all kinds of difficult feelings that they live with like shame and guilt. This was acknowledged by our excellent morning speaker, Mary from Accord, the marriage care organisation. She spoke of the importance of self-care, looking after oneself, and we all need to be reminded of that sometimes. I could have listened to Mary all day. There was then time to chat with those on our table about any issues. I was sitting next to a lovely woman from Co. Clare whose son is in prison in Devon. “He did something stupid,” she explained. I reassured her that each and every one of us in the room had done something stupid in our life but by the grace of God we hadn’t ended up in prison because of it. She went on to say that he had been lucky to get enrolled in a workshop each day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. that repairs old bikes for sale on eBay, and for which he earns £12 a week. He is indeed one of the lucky ones, since many prisons in England and Wales are still enforcing ‘bang up’ of up to 23 ½ hours per day, partly due to a chronic shortage of prison officers. This young man is lucky as well in that his mother, in spite of the distance and the expense, will be making regular visits to him. It is this maintenance of family contact that has been shown to be the single most significant factor in eventual successful rehabilitation.