Paul’s Everyday Faith


 

Paul is a member of Hope Church in Hamilton and recently retired.

Having been inspired to live out his faith in the world, he is now a volunteer at Leicester Prison and regularly spends time in Bible study and worship with the prisoners.

Here he talks about his everyday faith and how working with those on the margins is deepening his own relationship with God.

 

“I used to volunteer as a street pastor in the Westcotes area of the city, but that team isn’t in action at the moment, so I was looking for somewhere else I could serve.

“When I retired, I went along to the Vocations Day at St Martin’s House, and met Helen (one of the Chaplains at HMP Leicester) who said there might be an opportunity to support work at the prison, and I was encouraged to consider the possibility.

“I didn’t really know what to expect. Until you go in, it’s something of an unknown. The way prisoners are sometimes portrayed in the media is not very close to the mark.

“There are prisoners with real faith. Sometimes they are in prison because their past has caught up with them, others have come to faith in prison, some are on a journey – and a few are there for the coffee and biscuits!

“A group of up to eight of us meet one afternoon a week for Bible study. We begin and end with a prayer. We have recently studied Matthew’s gospel and listened to the Sermon on the Mount, narrated and acted out in a video. We watched a section and then stopped to ask and answer questions. It is a wonderful privilege to be involved.

“I feel God at work there. You can see the impact of what Jesus has said – the impact on those not so far along their journey.

“Talking about your own testimony sometimes might help, but you have to be careful as it could be abused. I just encourage them to pray and to ask for prayer.

“It is really moving when the prisoners open up about their own experiences, the things that make a difference in their lives – like a family member who may have come to faith and seeing how that changed their life, and how that’s encouraged them to explore faith for themselves. They have a lot of time whilst in prison to think about how they want to live on the outside.

“On Sunday there are two services – one for the “vulnerable prisoners” and another for the main wing. I’ve been attending once a month. It’s a really good time to join in with worship and to meet them and talk after over a cup of coffee.

“I do feel this is a calling. I was very reluctant at first to give up any Sundays at my church, but I think it is important to work with the prisoners. There is also a need for people to go in and support the Chaplains in their work.

“I feel drawn to those on the margins – those most vulnerable. In my own life I have done things I am ashamed of and I have been forgiven. I love the fact I’ve been forgiven – that God’s grace is there for everybody. That’s part of it, but also theologically, Jesus was close to the poor and needy and He calls us to look in the same direction and follow Him.

“On reflection, it has been a strange journey. I would probably say I first came to faith when I was about 15. I’d been brought up in a Christian home and been going to church, then I began to think, what does it actually mean to believe in Jesus?

“I heard a man’s testimony, and for him, it meant taking God at His word; believing really meant listening to what He was saying and putting it into practice. It resonated with me and at that time I was baptised.

“Since then I’ve been through quite difficult times, both professionally and personally, in the sense of trying to do the right thing as a servant-leader and being treated badly in return. Rejection is something I’ve faced a lot of – in my career as an engineer and manager, in marriage, and at the end of my time as a lay worker in another church denomination.

“There were disappointments, and I failed many times. God knew what was happening – He was with me through it all – but I did question a lot of things. I strayed and did things I’m not proud of and although I had retained a semblance of faith, it really didn’t seem to be working.

“It was only really when I came to Hope Hamilton Church that things began to change and my faith began to feel so much more real.

“I love the style of worship – that sense of really praising God together and spending time in sung worship, as well as listening to scripture and dwelling in the word, and being part of a loving, forgiving family community. It has brought me to a deeper faith than I’ve ever experienced before.

“The Church also encouraged me to serve as a Foundation Governor at Hope Hamilton (C of E) School, which keeps me busy. One of the key things I seek to do is make sure our Christian ethos is maintained and developed in school and across The Vines Trust, of which the school is a founding member.

“I try to read the Bible regularly and use an app on my phone which pops up a “verse of the day”, and I use the PrayerMate app to help organise my thoughts in prayer. When possible, I attend morning prayer – there are only a few of us, but it’s a lovely way to start the work of the day.”




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