How the gospel is reaching inmates in isolation
For many of us, these months of emergency are marked by feelings of isolation, but for inmates in the United Kingdom prison system the consequences of social distancing are more severe, with prisoners confined to their cells for the vast majority of the day.
Alpha is run in 80 prisons in the UK – but at this time church volunteers are not able to enter the prison buildings, and inmates are unable to gather in groups. This has prompted prisons to get creative with how they provide access to Alpha.
HMP Berwyn – the largest prison in the UK – will stream the first episode of Alpha, ‘Is there more to life than this’ from their own internal Chaplain’s TV channel. It will be broadcast with a message saying, ‘if you enjoyed this film, the entire Alpha course is available for you to follow’.
Two other prisons are planning to follow suit, while HMP Pentonville hopes to show episodes in place of Sunday services while they are unable to meet together in the chapel. The Alpha team are also currently in talks with the producers of the live in-cell UK prisons’ TV channel – with a view to airing the Alpha Film Series over the course of 15 consecutive Sundays.
This initiative would have the potential to impact 50 prisons across the country, giving thousands of isolated inmates the chance to engage with life’s biggest questions in this time of uncertainty and loneliness.
“Giving thousands of isolated inmates the chance to engage with life’s biggest questions in this time of uncertainty and loneliness.”
Once inmates are able to gather together again, the usual social aspects of Alpha will be resumed, with guests given the chance to encounter hospitality and discuss in person the topics of each session. Measures will also be taken to ensure that there is follow-up by chaplaincy with those viewing the Alpha episodes from their cell over the coming weeks and months.
Our hope and prayer is that inmates will have the chance to encounter Jesus at this exceptionally difficult time – and that once normality is resumed, many will make the decision to attend a course in person, discovering community and building a life-changing relationship with God.