Prison ministry supporting people inside for 50 years
It takes a special sort of person to enter a prison – by choice – to support convicted criminals.
Carinity’s prison ministry, Inside Out Prison Chaplaincy, has been supporting people in Queensland correctional centres for 50 years.
The ministry began thanks to the efforts of Reverend Ray Euston. After many years visiting prisons, he wrote to Reg Jarrott, Director of Evangelism for the Baptist Union of Queensland.
Rev. Euston wrote that he “did not relish the freelance flavour” of his independent prison visits. His vision was an integrated and fully coordinated state-wide prison chaplaincy system.
This came to fruition in 1973, when the Baptist Union of Queensland began a full-time chaplaincy program under Rev. Euston’s leadership. He formalised the ministry of voluntary workers in Brisbane jails and provincial prisons.
This arrangement continued until the end of 1978, when the Baptist Union was no longer able to support a full-time chaplain. A desire to continue prison chaplaincy fulltime saw the chaplains set up Prisons Mission Association Queensland, an independent and non-denominational organisation.
Founding member, David Urquhart, served as a volunteer chaplain visiting prisons in Woodford and Maryborough in the 1970s and 1980s.
David said prison chaplains “help a group of people that the rest of society has rejected”.
“I have spoken to people who told me that certain people in prison should be executed. For me, having a discussion with an inmate about spiritual things is enormously rewarding,” he said.
“When you sit down and talk to a guy who beat a person to death, but now talks about the love of Christ – and you can see the change in his life – you cannot do anything but be thankful to God.
“I found it to be hard work. You hear stories that you don’t hear outside prison. You don’t get a lot of thanks, but when you do, it is worthwhile.”
Prisons Mission Association Queensland was later rebranded as Correctional Centres Chaplaincy, and then Inside Out Chaplaincy.
In 2016, Inside Out returned to its Baptist roots by joining Carinity. It immediately brought the number of Carinity chaplains working multi-denominationally in Queensland hospitals, schools, aged care communities, and correctional centres to over 50.
“We currently have around 40 volunteer prison chaplains providing pastoral care to men and women in 14 correctional centres around Queensland and a further 26 chaplains across the other areas we support,” said Inside Out Prison Chaplaincy Coordinator, Graham Hembrow.
“The chaplaincy team have a notable history of providing long and faithful service. George Stubbs served as an IOPC chaplain for 21 years, and the late Arthur McDonald ministered at Palen Creek Correctional Centre for 35 years.
“Our current longest continuously serving prison chaplain is Wayne Nickson, with 21 years’ service.”
Inside Out Prison Chaplaincy recently held its 50th anniversary celebration in Brisbane, with the gathering attended by guests from as far away as Cairns.
The event included presentations from past and current chaplains and coordinators, as well as former prisoners whose lives have been transformed thanks to prison chaplains.
To help Carinity place more chaplains into Queensland prisons or to become a prison chaplain visit the Inside Out Prison Chaplaincy website or phone 3550 3789.