by Joanna Moorhead ARCHBISHOP Derek Worlock this week highlighted the need for ecumenism in prison chaplaincies, saying it was often difficult for prisoners to accept the need for unity but that chaplains should persevere.
He told 200 Catholic, Anglican and Methodist ministers gathered for the conference of prison chaplains in Leeds that prisoners, especially those who had no experience of ecumenism outside, found it very hard to accept the importance of shared worship.
"With their freedom, almost everything of their possessions has been taken from them; and unless they have experienced the workings of ecumenism beforehand, that preservation of their faithful commitment to the church of their upbringing becomes something to be clung on to against all comers, or as they often sadly see it, against all marauders," he said.
"It seems to me that this is an improving situation, but one where our mutual relationships and support is probably of the greatest consequence."
Archbishop Worlock said chaplains shoudl ensure they remained "the apostle of the individual", no matter how large the flock they ministered to. They should also guard against becoming bogged down in ecclesiastical officialdom, and should be genuinely human in their dealings with others.
"The chaplain must also try to make clear that he shares what (Karl) Rahner calls 'the other person's burden of faith'," said the archbishop. But this did not mean he should approve or accept things as they were: the implication, he said, was that they ought to make a real effort to emphasis, to appreciate, without dismissiveness, the other person's situation and difficulties.
Earlier, the chaplain general of the prison service, AnglicanArchdeacon Keith Pound, said chaplains should put their weight behind penal reformers and work tirelessly for change.
Chaplains had an opportunity to exert an influence for change far greater than their numbers would suggest, he continued. They were uniquely placed to straddle the establishment/ community divide, "and must throw in (their.) lot with prison reform groups and all others inside prisons and outside who want to work for reform."