Chaplaincy is a critical ministry for any church and our Diocese is doing some great work in this area.
Recently the State Chaplaincy Board, which covers prison ministry in Queensland, held its annual in-service training conference in Brisbane. Various service providers of prison ministry were well represented. In addition to many of our Anglican chaplains, Uniting Care, Prison Fellowship Australia –Queensland, The Catholic Church, Inside Out Prison Chaplaincy, and First Nations people were represented.
The theme of the conference was ‘Justice that Restores’, and some truly excellent speakers addressed the group to share about the many ways in which restorative justice principles and programs positively impact Queensland Corrective Services.
Of particular interest was a presentation by Graham Hembrow, State Manager of Prison Fellowship Australia (PFA), which introduced the delegates to a wonderful project overseen by PFA, the ‘Angel Tree’ project.
The Angel Tree project is an international program of prison fellowship through which people who are incarcerated can nominate relative children to receive Christmas gifts in their name, by providing the child’s name, age, gender, carer’s contact details and, if possible, the child’s interests. Prison Fellowship then calls on supporters and friends to donate gifts or money to buy gifts. The gifts are delivered to the homes of the children or given at Christmas parties onsite in prisons.
The Angel Tree project was founded by Mary Kay Beard in 1982, following her release from prison after serving six years for armed robbery. It was during her first year in prison that God moved and brought forth a change within Mary Kay, who had previously been on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, that redirected her life. Flicking through a Bible in prison one evening, she came across a passage in the book of Ezekiel, which changed her outlook from then:
Going where God calls
“A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.” (Ezekiel 36.26-27)
The ACQ Prison Chaplains were really inspired by this presentation and are keen to explore the possibility of becoming more involved in this very restorative project.
This, in essence, is the work of chaplaincy within the prison community, as we fulfil the Gospel call in Matthew to ‘visit Christ’ in prison. Prison chaplains help find ways to heal and restore our communities through acts of love, respect and sensitivity, and our Diocese’s dedicated Chaplaincy Ministry team is particularly passionate about this work.
Chaplaincy is a very important ministry of the Church, and open to anyone with a heart for people. It is about caring for God’s people, listening to them, being there for them and walking beside them on their life’s journey, both at milestones and in the quiet spaces in between. You can find chaplains everywhere: in schools, prisons, hospitals, aged care, the police and defence forces, and community spaces.
If you feel called towards this special ministry, you are encouraged to get in touch with an ACSQ chaplain or Chaplaincy Services Manager Andrea Colledge via 0437 761 304 or firstname.lastname@example.org.