February
18
2021
Author
Rev James Seager
The Welcome Directory

We all have moments from our lives that we deeply regret. Moments when weakness or poor judgement got the better of us.

For me, my faith is my saving grace in such moments. Corinthians 12:9 tells us that: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  This teaching reminds me that I am not defined by my worst moments and that redemption is available to me, enabling me to choose a better path next time.

Perhaps that is the reason that faith is such a lifeline for many individuals in prisons across England and Wales. Within prison, connection with a faith community can be invaluable for allowing prisoners with faith to seek deeper understanding and identify a source of hope and purpose. Many of us recognise first-hand the deep power of our faith communities in uplifting and supporting us throughout our lives. 

Each year, 12,000 people with a strong and active faith leave prison. Research shows that positive engagement with faith communities beyond the prison gates is incredibly beneficial for these individuals and helps to reduce reoffending. Unfortunately, only 20% of prison leavers with faith join faith communities upon release. I work for The Welcome Directory, and we exist to help to close that gap and help prison leavers with faith to access supportive faith communities.

Despite having benefitted from an enriching connection to a faith community within prison, it can be a real challenge for prison leavers to connect with new faith communities upon release. Sadly, prison leavers are not always guaranteed a fresh start beyond the gates, as stigma and negative stereotypes are widespread. Fear of rejection and judgement can hold prison leavers back from engaging with new communities, which can result in them forgoing the benefits that faith communities have to offer.

Here at The Welcome Directory, our mission is to help faith communities become places where people who leave prison find acceptance. We are a multifaith organisation, and work to maintain a directory of registered faith communities who are committed to welcoming prison leavers, and to supporting them throughout their journey beyond the prison gates. This directory is used by prison chaplains, probation workers and prison leavers themselves, to identify welcoming communities upon release from prison.

The Jubilee Church in Hull registered with The Welcome Directory in 2019. In their own words: “We have benefited greatly from being part of The Welcome Directory. It has equipped us to better serve ex-prisoners and to welcome and support them in our church community. We are able to offer welcome and support to someone who wants to rebuild their lives having served a sentence. If more churches across the country connected through The Welcome Directory there would be a great impact upon ex-prisoners’ lives and reduce reoffending.”

Faith communities across England and Wales have registered their commitment to welcoming prison leavers, but we want to continue to increase that number. If you believe that your church is ready to welcome prison leavers or would like to learn more, please visit our website or contact admin@welcomedirectory.org.uk today.


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James Seager is Regional Lead for the North East and East Midlands at The Welcome Directory.

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