Being a prison chaplain during the Coronavirus pandemic22 May 2020
Please pray for all our Prison Chaplains at this time.
Margie Schutte is the Managing Chaplain at HMP Hewell in Redditch. She tells us how their work has changed over the past few months of the Covid-19 crisis.
"Chaplaincy is one of the few services which is still operating in the prison. Education and the library service are no longer happening, the gym is shut, probation is working from home and all family visits have been stopped. However, although all our worship services have been suspended, our team of five paid chaplains have continued to attend the prison daily, offering pastoral care to both the prisoners and staff.
"Because of the virus, prisoners are currently locked up for a significant proportion of the day. They do have phones in their cells with and TV channels have been increased, but it is difficult for many. Chaplains are able to go into the house blocks and staff will unlock individual prisoners so we can talk to them face to face. We also see those prisoners in the segregation unit every day and all new prisoners within the first 24 hours. The courts are still open so prisoners continue to come in.
"We are dealing with a lot of death and bereavement in the community. Prisoners are currently not allowed to attend the funerals of even the closest family members and often we are the ones who will be asked to break bad news as well as supporting prisoners through their bereavement. No one else has that skill set. In the last few days we've had five funerals of prisoners' relatives. Sometimes there are webcams so they can be live streamed and the prisoners can access the chapel which remains an open space where they can light a candle and pray.
"We've also been given copies of a booklet on the Lord's Prayer. We've been handing them out as well as leaving them in places where they could be picked up. They seem to be disappearing so we're hopeful they are being read.
"The other side of our role is providing support for the prison staff. We'll often loiter in places where we know the staff will be or chat to them when we're out and about. They really value the fact that we're still coming into the prison and will stop for a short conversation or pop into our office. We're also checking up on those who are self-isolating or have tested positive, offering pastoral care via a telephone call.
"Please do pray for prison chaplains. It's a worrying time for all of us with concerns about our own safely and that we might pass the virus back to our families. Knowing that others are praying for us provides an almost tangible support and this makes all the difference."