Bishops to spend time in prison at Christmas – to boost inmates’ morale

Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, right, and Rt Rev Dr Mike Harrison, Bish

Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, right, and Rt Rev Dr Mike Harrison, Bishop of Dunwich, will be spending time in prison on Christmas Day leading services and meeting with inmates Picture: KEITH MINDHAM PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: Archant

Two Suffolk Bishops will be in prison on Christmas Day – meeting inmates who can feel desperately separated from families at such a joyful time.

Bishop Mike, right, gets his face painted by 11-year-old Anika Cox and Bishop Martin at the Suffolk

Bishop Mike, right, gets his face painted by 11-year-old Anika Cox and Bishop Martin at the Suffolk Show Picture: KEITH MINDHAM - Credit: Archant

The Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese, will be at Warren Hill, which provides education and skills training for prisoners' rehabilitation, and at Hollesley Bay, while the Rt Rev Dr Mike Harrison, Bishop of Dunwich, will be at HMP Highpoint, Stradishall, a category C unit including life sentences.

Bishop Martin said: "Visiting people in prison is one of the key marks of the Christian life, along with feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, and welcoming strangers.

"Men and women in prison can quickly feel isolated and cut off from the rest of society, and worse than that, feel treated as less than human beings.

"We visit because we are human beings too, children of God, and we all know that with a change of circumstances, or a momentary lapse, we could be there, too.

Bishop Mike and Bishop Martin will be visiting prisons on Christmas Day Picture: GREGG BROWN

Bishop Mike and Bishop Martin will be visiting prisons on Christmas Day Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown


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"We visit because, in my experience, spending time with prisoners is humbling, and helps us become more honest about ourselves.

"A community of prisoners have faced truths about themselves that many of us may not have done, and they are open to change and transformation in ways that we might well try to avoid.

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"Without idealising prisons, or prisoners, they can be painfully honest places, and so places of immense hope, courage and endurance."

Bishop Mike will take a service for about 70 prisoners at Highpoint and then have a cup of tea and mingle with them afterwards.

The Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, and the Rt Rev Dr Mike Harrison, Bis

The Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, and the Rt Rev Dr Mike Harrison, Bishop of Dunwich, will be helping to ease the isolation felt by prisoners during the festive season with prison visits on Christmas Day Picture: KEITH MINDHAM PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: Archant

He said: "Christmas is a time which can be especially hard, when the lack of contact with family and friends is felt especially sharply and there's a more intense sense of isolation.

"In most prisons there's no visiting on Christmas day and prisoners can't send or receive presents, so going in on Christmas Day as a Bishop feels particularly significant, showing inmates they have not been forgotten and that they are not as isolated as they might otherwise feel.

"Prison chaplains tell me that having a Bishop in the prison on Christmas day rather than just the chaplain, vital though this is, actually does make a difference to the morale of the prisoners and that at a time when they may most feel cut off and forgotten.

"The message of Christmas is that God is with us, even in the most surprising and unlikely of places. I hope that something of this message will come through to inmates."

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