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The importance of faith

The importance of faith

The faith ethos of Community Chaplaincy provides a firm foundation for the work that we do, a motivation for doing it, and ultimately, a profound benefit for those we work with.

How faith informs the work of Community Chaplaincy

The bases of penal detention are traditionally retribution, deterrence and reform.

The late William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, explored these principles in The Ethics of Penal Action:

…it is true that though retribution is the most fundamental element in penal action and deterrence for practical reasons the most indispensable, yet the reformative element is not only the most valuable in the sympathy which it exhibits and the effects which it produces but is also that which alone confers on the other two the full quality of justice.

In other words, it is only when there is opportunity for change, transformation, renewal and restoration that justice is fully served in the detention of prisoners. It is faith that informs and motivates the work of Community Chaplaincy – faith in the story of human renewal, and faith in human beings, that whatever they have done, there is something that remains, a seed of a new day, a new life.

We believe that the opportunity to move on should be offered to all who offend. There is no future for our society in endless payback or vengeance. The Buddha captured this very succinctly two and half thousand years ago:

In this world, hate never yet dispelled hate. Only love dispels hate. This is the law, Ancient and inexhaustible (Dhammapada)

Faith encourages us to look beyond the outward appearance and social norms and consider the person, without judging. Furthermore, faith has the capacity to challenge preconceptions and attitudes within our communities:

God does not look upon your bodies and appearances, He looks upon your hearts and your deeds. (Prophet Muhammad)

We see the example of Jesus who never gave up on people. He took risks to be with them. He offered radical forgiveness in ways that disturbed the moral balance and norms of society. He challenged many kinds of status quo which themselves created injustice and exclusion.

From the underpinning faith principles of Community Chaplaincy emerges the need to respond compassionately to those who are in prison;

When a man has compassion for others, God has compassion for him - The Talmud

Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners and those who are ill treated as if you yourselves were suffering - Hebrews 13.3 The Bible

Faith communities have a crucial role to play in helping those who have been in prison to settle back into the local community.

They can provide long‐term stability and invaluable support to those in need through common principles and beliefs;

  • Hope for both victims and ex‐offenders. Most, if not all faiths carry a message of hope that things can be better in the future. Sometimes our role is holding onto hope for those who cannot yet hold it for themselves. For all it is about inspiring hope whilst providing the support needed to fulfil that which is hoped for.
  • Love, unconditional love, compassion and kindness that goes the extra mile but does not count the cost. Belief in the intrinsic uniqueness of someone who (often) does not believe in themselves.
  • Forgiveness ‐ Holding on to the fact that there is the possibility of restoration and a new start for anyone, regardless of what they have done.
  • Restoration of Relationships ‐ Demonstrating and modelling caring, consistent and stable relationships. Mending family ties. Showing people that they matter and are valuable through unconditional relationships.
  • Walking alongside as a companion on a journey, when one stumbles there is another to help them up, and on with the journey.