For the past 25 years the Pagan Federation through the Prison Ministry has gained recognition with the Home Office and Justice Department in England and Wales as the governing body of the Ministry, within the prison system. The Pagan Federation are the only body that can endorse a Pagan Chaplain in the prison service, and membership of the Pagan Federation is mandatory. There are now quite a few PFPM Chaplains that visit different establishments, and quite a few more writing Ministers that correspond via letter. There are even PFPM Chaplains and writing ministers overseas, all working to do their bit to educate, enlighten, and provide a resource to all those that would like to know more about “Paganism”. It has been an uphill struggle, a relay marathon that has tested the endurance of every PF Ministry Manager, it has not been easy and now the baton has been passed to me, I hope that I can do my predecessors justice in the role of PFPM Manager.
Behind the scenes Pagan Prison Chaplains provide a forum whereby those who chose to, can practice their faith in a “safe” environment free from prejudice and misconception. They provide support and assistance to those who are exploring their spirituality or those who have found their path but would like to learn more. The British prison service, even now is dominated by Christianity and these days Islam is not far behind, but laws have been passed to make certain that every person has the right to corporate worship with a minister of their own faith. This includes Paganism which unofficially (at the moment) stands as one of the fastest growing religions in Great Britain, and the 7th officially recognised religion in this country, after Hindu and Sikh.
I became involved in the PFPM when I realised that although we have taken great strides in gaining recognition, there are still too few of us offering spiritual support to those who can be intimidated and vulnerable. We are still being asked basic questions that show that most people are still ignorant of what our faith is truly about. We can put out literature and books, but they do not replace the face to face contact and communication that a Pagan Chaplain provides. It can be challenging and frustrating, but the rewards are shown when statistically, there are stronger more informed, Pagan groups in the prisons that have Pagan Chaplains, than in the ones that do not.
Prisoners have already been punished, and it is not our place to further judge the crimes they are imprisoned for. We are there to support them and to make sure their right to practice their religion is protected, that exploration, development, and questions are met in a healthy informative way. Religious discrimination is still happening, so we still have a way to go to change attitudes. There are still prisons in areas of England that are not covered by a Pagan Chaplain so we are still looking to recruit, and further raise the profile of Pagan Chaplains in prison.
The application, screening, selection and clearance process is lengthy and arduous, so patience and stamina are a pre requisite, but you will also need a mature attitude, good communication skills and recognition of the need to keep confidentiality. A knowledge of, and experience in your own Pagan Tradition is essential, however an eclectic approach is ideal, as you need to be confident to teach inmates that may only be at the beginning of their personal journey of discovery. This job will test the strength of your convictions and is not for the faint hearted, however, the rewards are immense and successful applicants can/will be remunerated.
If you are not put off by this article and would like to know more then please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pagan Federation Prison Ministry Manager
The Janus project is a further development on the work of our Pagan Federation Prison Ministry service. Janus seeks to help Pagans coming out of prison, to integrate into their society with greater ease and support. This includes their local Pagan community and, where possible, larger society.
Janus is a valuable service and run confidentially. If you wish to know more about our Janus initiative or believe that you can help, please contact email@example.com