HMP Onley is a category C adult male prison within the Diocese of Coventry. Opened some years ago, it has an original silver plated Cross of Nails in the Chapel. In April 2016 the prison joined the Community of the Cross of Nails as a partner. We have asked Managing Chaplain, The Reverend David Spademan, to share with us briefly about how the prison is responding to Covid-19.
Whilst none of us could have anticipated the Covid-19 pandemic, we have all felt the impact it has had on our daily lives. The things that we normally take for granted have all changed. Many of us are experiencing the frustration of not being able to spend time with friends and family.
As with the community outside prison, in prison we are no longer able to meet for corporate worship or faith based study groups. In order to minimise any spread of infection all movements in the prison are severely restricted. We are managing to facilitate daily exercise, use of phones and showers for all residents. They are also able to collect their meals from the servery as usual. We have received letters of thanks from residents who say that they do not know what more could be done to help them in the circumstances. There are many challenges that space does not allow me to expand on. I am privileged to work alongside the heroes who work with courage to keep our prisoners safe.
As Chaplains, we are preparing and distributing weekly written faith reflections for each faith group. We continue to support those who are experiencing bereavement and are providing pastoral care whilst maintaining appropriate social distancing. The Chaplaincy Team are ensuring that any residents who are symptomatic, and thus in isolation, have the opportunity to maintain regular phone contact with their families.
The current restrictions that we are all currently living with have caused me to reflect on how we can try to understand the lived experience of those who are serving prison sentences. How can we be a community when we cannot actually meet in the same place? Prison Chaplains in all prisons have been creative with weekly written faith reflections and some have been able to prepare video sermons in prisons that have the facilities to broadcast into cells.
These restrictions for all of us will be lifted when it is safe to do so. We can return to some degree of normality which may well look different for a while with ongoing social distancing. For those who will remain in our prisons, the separation from loved ones and community will continue. For most of these, they will eventually return to life ‘on the out’. That is outside of prison. Let us consider how we welcome them. It will have a significant effect on how they reintegrate as contributing citizens. How well do you welcome people back into the community and specifically into your faith community?
As you makes plans for when the crisis is over, please add to your agenda a question about how you can welcome returning citizens. Please have a look at The Welcome Directory www.welcomedirectory.org.uk and register to be part of a growing network of faith communities helping people to reconnect.
‘And this is my prayer that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.’ (Philippians 1:9-11)
Revd David Spademan, Managing Chaplain HMP Onley
David Spademan is an Assemblies of God Minister, Managing Chaplain at HMP Onley, Member of the Steering Group for Free Church Chaplaincy in HMPPS, Trustee of The Welcome Directory and Member of the CCN UK and Ireland Board.