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Prison chaplains celebrated

ON 22 June, Uniting Church Prison Ministry celebrated 35 years of ministry by recognising the dedication of two long serving prison chaplains.

Mrs Pat Imhoff was honoured for her 25th anniversary of service and Rev George Tully for his 26th anniversary.

Speaking of the calling to prison chaplaincy, Prison Ministry Coordinator Beatriz Skippen said, “Whenever we serve the needs of prisoners, we minister to Christ Jesus.

Together, empowered by the spirit, we can assist spiritual release and transformation

for victims of crime, inmates, and families of prisoners.

"It’s a privilege to be Jesus’ hands and feet in the prison.”

Mr Tully said that he has always been very proud of the ministry, which is well accepted by the system and prisoners alike.

“The greatest reward,” he said, “is knowing that I am where God has called me.”

“I grew up among hard men and always felt at home among them.

I believe very often these types of people have been misunderstood in middleclass suburbia, which largely constitutes our church.

“My father said don’t just think that some people keep the law and some break it.

We all keep it and we all break it.”

Taking the occasion to acknowledge the dedication of Mr Charlie Greer, his colleague in prison ministry, Mr Tully said that one of the greatest changes he has seen in his 26 years is many more professional people going to prison.

“It is far easier to find yourself in prison than it used to be.

What once was business is now fraud.”

Mrs Imhoff says a prisoner told her recently, “You don’t realise how much the chaplains’ visits mean to us.

"You are a window to the outside world and when you leave there is a changed atmosphere in here.”

She was inspired to her work by 2 Cor 5:14 (Amp): “for the love of Christ controls and urges and impels us” to take the good news to the least, the last and the lost.

The greatest blessing, she said, was seeing God’s love at work in people’s lives: to see tears flow at the good news that God can love and forgive them.

Mr Tully concurred. “We must hear the call to forgive.

"Too often we hear only the call to punish.”