Author: deacongill


Related image

If you’re scratching your head for resources, try these:  (Churches Together in Britain and Ireland)  (Messy Church)

C of E:  includes ideas for non-biblical readings and the Coventry Cross of Nails confession:

These Bible Society resources offer a church pack which includes a service plan and a short sermon, suggested hymns and readings and ways to visually represent the scale of loss:

The diocese of Oxford has a range of resources for children’s leaders and teachers:

All-Age Worship resources offer a full template with lots of options:

There is a shedload of other stuff on the web, including resources from the Baptist Peace Fellowship, the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland and others.





His gospel is itself a living creature

A ground and glory round the throne of God,

Where earth and heaven breathe through human nature

And One upon the throne sees it is good.

Luke is the living pillar of our healing,

A lowly ox, the servant of the four,

We turn his page to find his face revealing

The wonder, and the welcome of the poor.

He breathes good news to all who bear a burden

Good news to all who turn and try again,

The meek rejoice and prodigals find pardon,

A lost thief reaches paradise through pain,

The voiceless find their voice in every word

And, with Our Lady, magnify Our Lord.


A Congregation Behind Bars

Sarah Gillard-Faulkner explains the importance of prison chaplaincy

sarah g-f

The community where I minister is really quite self-contained. It has residents, a health centre, a café, a gym, a mechanical garage, classrooms, a hairdresser, several residential spaces with many offices, a mosque, a gurdwara, a meditation centre, and a church. And it is all contained behind a 20-foot fence with barbed wire along its top. Day to day I see out my ministry in one of the country’s hidden places, for I work in one of England and Wales’s 121 prisons.

The Prison Act of 1952 states: ‘Every prison shall have a governor, a chaplain and prison officers, a medical officer and any other such officers as be necessary.’ Mine is a role enshrined in the law of the land and, frankly, a great privilege to undertake in a very hidden part of our society. Prisons draw their operating principles from a quasi-military font and particularly the naval tradition, so it’s hardly surprising that key personnel have clear resonances with the officer cadre of a ship’s company.

A prison is a ‘total institution,’ a concept similar to the notion of self-sufficiency needed on board a ship at sea. Total institutions are typified by isolation from the outside world, internal discipline systems, and ability to deliver all core services needed to operate and survive. We can see the immediate parallels to the world behind the walls. So, what role does the modern day chaplain play within the twenty-first century prison?

Image result for HMP Onley

HMP Onley

As a role written into the law of the land, there goes with it certain duties undertaken in that role. Those of us called to the ministry ‘behind the wall’ are charged to fulfil the requirements of the enclosed community on two levels: first of faith-specific need and secondly of pastoral care. Within that there are certain statutory duties that a chaplain has to complete by law every day. Those duties include seeing all those who are segregated from the main population and seeing each prisoner within 24 hours of their arrival in a new prison.

It is right and decent that, even though a person may be placed in a custodial setting, they are treated with human decency and respect. It is with this in mind that provision is made for any individual within that environment to practise their own faith in an appropriate way. Any prison chaplain in that regard makes possible the facility of faith-specific provision. There is the opportunity for corporate worship each week. Sunday mornings in my establishment focus around the provision of Christian worship ofmany traditions. In my own setting, this is shared on alternate weeks with my Free Church colleague. Our men are given a variety of different styles of worship to experience and can access the styles suitable for their own growth and nurture. During the week there are provisions made for other faith groups. This goes alongside providing as much access as we can for their spiritual growth in study and their individual spiritual need through access to Bible study, the praying ofthe rosary, and Alpha courses on a regular basis. Further, such disciplines as the sacrament of confession are provided, as and when it is requested, and insofar as the regime of the establishment is able to support it. Like in any parish setting, we also are on hand to provide the community with the rites of the church at the time of death.

As an Anglo-Catholic (sadly an all too rare breed in prison service chaplaincy these days) I believe I offer a spirituality which is much needed by the prisoners. Not just the ability to teach prisoners how to actually use the rosaries they all love to wear, but an insight into a spirituality of real depth. This isn’t just for the happy emotionally charged moments, but for the darkness and solitude too. Contemplative prayer and the use of icons are useful in a place where so many have poor literacy, and in an environment in which so many suffer broken family relationships, it can be powerful to enlighten them to devotion for Our Lady, in whom can be found the love of a mother.

It is right and decent that, even though a person may be placed in a custodial setting, they are treated with human decency and respect.

It may not surprise you, however, that in reality this is the smaller part of the role in which, as a prison chaplain, I spend my time. For just like any incumbent of a parish, each Church of England chaplain is charged by their bishop to take on the cure  of souls for that community. And so, as a pastoral carer in this setting, our calling is not just to those of our own tradition or faith group but to the whole community.

Now within that framework a whole manner of other things get thrown into the mix in terms of the needs of prisoners for pastoral care, such as the need to contact home and the goings-on of family life that continues while a prisoner is inside. It is so often chaplaincy staff who inform prisoners of the hatches and despatches of a family. I think it would be fair to say that I inform prisoners on average once a week that a loved one in their family unit has died. Occasionally, I bridge the gap between home and prison when a family member is seriously ill and petition the senior management of the establishment to ensure that the prisoner has the opportunity to visit and see their loved one before their death. My experience has suggested that uniformed staff and operational managers can struggle to find perspective between the prisoner and the person who is also a family member with a gravely ill relative. Chaplains therefore routinely navigate a path between prison, hospital, family and prisoner, a hugely complicated task that most prison managers would baulk at, yet invariably families are united with their loved one at their time of need, final farewells are facilitated, space for grief and reflection is provided.

As an Anglo-Catholic (sadly an all too rare breed in prison service chaplaincy these days) I believe  offer a spirituality which is much needed by the prisoners.

In reality that visit, that funeral attendance, cannot always be facilitated due to the pressures that are placed upon the custodial setting. It is at those key moments in life that chaplains in the prison are called to provide alternative provision which those in the wider society setting may take for granted. For example, attendance at the funerals of grandparents is rarely granted. In these situations, chaplains of the appropriate faith tradition are called upon to make some marking of the occasion within the custodial setting. Often the lighting of a candle in the chapel with simple accompanying prayers are exercised, and more often than not hugely appreciated by those to whom we minister.

However, not only does it work that way, it also works the other. In the last year I’ve become involved with three families following the death of their loved one whilst in custody. The latest has proved a challenging experience. When such an incident occurs, key members of the establishment visit the family of the deceased and such was my privilege on all those occasions. This experience is one that would be unlikely to be experienced from a parish perspective. However, the safety and care of prisoners is paramount to the governor of any establishment, and so when these happenings take place the governor, with a family liaison worker and a chaplain, often attend. And here comes the nub of why the alongsiding work of a chaplain is so important, not only for families but for staff too. The governor with whom I have attended such visits in the past reflected thus:

‘Chaplains are also a massive resource to Governors in the event of certain operational events that affect prisons. While it’s somewhat of a cliché to turn to death and end of life, my own experience is that my Chaplaincy Colleagues have an approach, attitude and experience that us operational folk simply cannot hope to match. The way in which we inform, support and care for those affected by death or illness in the custodial setting is a bellwether for the prison. I know that I have achieved better outcomes for families and men in custody because of the skills that my chaplains possess.’

In recent days I have accompanied a family member to view the body of their son in a mortuary, an experience that is harrowing and disturbing in many ways. His mother has, in recent years, had very little contact with her son, a man who has been in the prison system for 17 years. She never expected the next time she saw him would be in such a setting. In this particular incident, like others I have been involved with in the past, I will have the immense privilege of conducting his funeral and memorial service in my community. This for me reveals an immense opportunity for ensuring that the family, and the community in which he lived, receives the best pastoral care I can offer.

I’m a carer, a teacher, preacher, advisor, leader, advocate and intercessor not only for those who reside within the walls, but for those for whom it is their place of work

All this goes alongside the day-to-day running of any prison establishment. Chaplains play a pivotal role within the prison, fulfilling a range of roles and functions, acting as counter-point and counsel in equal measure. I’m a carer, a teacher, preacher, adviser, leader, advocate and intercessor not only for those who reside within the walls, but for those for whom it is their place of work. Just in the last few days I was privileged to lead our staffing community in a memorial for those who have lost their lives whilst in service, and to dedicate a new plaque in memory of one who died nearly a year ago. Prisons are no different in their highs and lows from any other community and we keep the memories and anniversaries of our story too.

I do this as a permanent deacon in the Church of England within a rich catholic tradition. It is an ordained ministry that so often gets dismissed as being that thing that happens before priesting, but the ministry I seek to exercise constantly is about bridge-building: the inside with the outside; the church with the unchurched; the sacred with the secular. That is what the diaconate has from its biblical foundations set out to do: to serve those who most need serving. St Stephen may have been called to serve widows at table, and in our modern day context I am called to serve those who—through choices they have made, rationally or not—find themselves in a custodial setting. It is a ministry hidden out of view and underestimated in its impact.

Revd Sarah Gillard-Faulkner is a deacon and the chaplain at HMP Onley

Article from New Directions, the magazine of Forward in Faith


A special day today, 11 October, for the College of St Philip the Deacon in Exeter diocese, as this St Philip (not Philip the Apostle)  has newly become our patron saint, as suggested by our Bishop.  Today Exeter Cathedral will hold an inaugural Sung Evensong to celebrate, with Bishop Martin Shaw.  If you’re in the vicinity you’re welcome – cake and deaconversation in the cathedral cafe from 4pm, Evensong at 5.30!

You may like to use our little liturgy, approved by +Robert Atwell, as part of your private devotions today.  And don’t be surprised if ‘circumstances’ (or, as St Philip would say, the Holy Spirit) put you in a situation where you find you’re just the right person in the right place at the right time to help someone draw closer to God in Christ.

approved liturgy of St Philip the Deacon



Deacon Liz Carrington talks about her boundary-crossing ministry at York racecourse.

I have been involved with chaplaincy at York racecourse for seven years. The team was initially drawn from volunteers with York Street Angels as we already had training which would be useful in another setting. We have maintained an ecumenical team of about six including and we now link with Sports Chaplaincy UK. 

Over time we have welcomed three interested volunteers whose sense of call has been strengthened by shadowing us. One was ordained priest and two have since been ordained deacon. Not a bad score!

Some people are skeptical about racing chaplaincy as they see it as an industry that promotes gambling. I usually say that I don’t know of anywhere that Jesus wouldn’t go and in any case he is always ahead of us. Chaplains everywhere are there to lend a listening ear and to share in the joys and sorrows of the workforce and the racegoers.

At the end of racing we hand out flip flops to racegoers who are finding their shoes are a bit of a challenge and stay with people who are distressed to make sure people get home safely.  The CEO of the security company employing up to 180 people on any one of York’s big race days, said of the Chaplaincy, “The work you do goes beyond God and religion”. 

Regular riding holidays were a feature of my past so I was delighted to try out this alternative exercise bike. Its the closest I’ll ever get to being a jockey.  It belongs to a Charity  – New Beginnings – that provides a supportive environment for former racehorses to adapt and learn new skills after they have finished their first career in racing. I think St Francis would approve.

Aug 2018 York Races

Please send me your deacon’s boundary-crossing story to!


Francis has a special place in the heart of deacons, as he was a deacon himself.

Related image

Francis, Rebuild My Church’; a sonnet for the Saint and for the Pope

‘Francis rebuild my church which, as you see
Is falling into ruin.’ From the cross
Your saviour spoke to you and speaks to us
Again through you. Undoing set you free,
Loosened the traps of trappings, cast away
The trammelling of all that costly cloth
We wind our saviour in. At break of day
He set aside his grave-clothes. Your new birth
Came like a daybreak too, naked and true
To poverty and to the gospel call,
You woke to Christ and Christ awoke in you
And set to work through all your love and skill
To make our ruin good, to bless and heal
To wake the Christ in us and make us whole.
Malcolm Guite
Malcolm Guite’s blog:


Deacon Alison Handcock is the first to respond to my invitation for deacon stories about how your diaconal ministry crosses boundaries.  Here is her story:

Image result for deacon alison handcock

Boundary crossing seems key to me.
As a woman in a predominantly male deanery (with Conservative Evangelical/REFORM Area Dean) there are times when crossing the boundaries of tradition, gender and theology can be painful and challenging.  But I believe it is foundational to the gospel of reconciliation and helps towards greater understanding.  I sit on the ‘Magnificat Parish’ strategy group in the diocese (Bath and Wells name for UPA estates ministry) and the Mission Enabler Group, often giving voice to those who are not around the table,  particularly the marginalised.
I was involved today in Pioneer supervision training and found myself straddling and speaking up for both the pioneer and inherited leaders perspectives.  On placement recently I spent some time with a Buddhist chatting about social action in the village and spirituality, and found we had such a lot in common.
In the church I find myself crossing boundaries of tradition and innovation in order to try to facilitate/create worship that relates to the community, and challenges the church congregations to look outward and to serve in those beyond our walls:  for example, taking part in our around the campfire christmas celebration with the local community association, or supporting our community pet service.
I have found myself in conversations with LGBT people and  trying to bridge the gap and apologising for the hurt that has often been caused by ‘the church’.
Recently I was invited by a social worker who wants to work with the church to visit a family who couldn’t afford a school uniform.  We supplied the uniform and a Lay Pastoral Assistant to visit regularly.
Working WITH is key to diaconal ministry; always in partnership WITH.
When I worked for the chaplaincy at RNAS Yeovilton, having had no military background, it felt like cross-cultural mission in terms of learning a ‘new language’ and negotiating the dynamics of power in the structures.
Other boundaries that I try to cross regularly are ecumenical, involving townwide churches working together, as well as linking the diocese with parish/deanery.
‘Pioneers’ speak of cross cultural mission and crossing boundaries too.
It seems that scarcely a day goes by without Alison crossing boundaries of one kind or another.  Many thanks to her for sharing this with us.
What’s your story?  Do send it to me at

DEACONS AS BOUNDARY-CROSSERS: what are your stories?

Image result for crossing boundaries

Hello fellow deacons. Here’s a question for you. Last week I deaconed at the consecration of a woman bishop, and yesterday I deaconed for a friend being priested under alternative oversight. It seems to me that we deacons are real boundary-crossers in so many ways – this is just one of them (I was the only female in a chancel and sanctuary full of men, and was very warmly received!) Do you have a story about how your own diaconate has crossed/is crossing boundaries and helping towards greater mutual understanding? Please let me know – I’d love to do a blog post on boundary-crossing, arising out of the lived experience of deacons. It all helps to get the meaning of our ministry ‘out there’.

Send your story to me by email or on our deacons’ Facebook page

or on the GoDeacons whatsapp

or even just in the comments section on this page.

It would be really helpful if you can tease out which boundaries your diaconate is crossing, and how.

Thanks!  Looking forward to hearing from you.