Community Chaplaincy
Great Yarmouth

July 2021 - Meeting inside (first published in the EDP)

I will never forget the first time I visited a category B prison; not least because of the rigour of the checks and security.

Searches by prison staff, sniffer dogs and scanners: it felt as if even a grain of sand wouldn’t be able to sneak through unnoticed! Of course tight security is important for keeping prisoners in and illicit items out; but part of the impact is also that it prevents the outside world from having easy insight into the realities inside.

Sometimes we put up barriers in our lives too – thick defensive walls which we build up over time to protect ourselves but which also stop others really seeing inside or getting involved. We want to hide the pain away from the light and keep it locked up.
God is not distant from our pain or even our mistakes. The Bible reminds us that “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8) and “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” (Psalm34:18). God doesn’t stand outside the prison of our mess and darkness waiting for us to come out into the sunshine; He’s right in there with us, meeting us in the pain and brokenness which no-one else sees.

I recently learned more about the work of ‘Community Chaplaincy Norfolk’ and their assistance to prisoners as they transition from prison to life in the community. Their support starts while the person is still inside prison, and a mentor is then provided who walks with them to support them on the path of re-adjustment and rehabilitation. It reminded me of the way that God comes to each of us in our place of greatest shame and need, and offers us His hand to lead us into a fresh start and new life.
What’s the pain or darkness that you are hiding behind a thick wall? Whatever it is, God is there with you in it. He’s offering you His hand to walk with you through it, to give you a fresh start. Will you take it?

Anna Heydon, Imagine Norfolk Together, Great Yarmouth