#198 ~ Worship in Wormwood Scrubs

I need redemption for my soul. 

It is not that when man has lost all else, he finds God. It is when his ‘world’ is stripped away and the fragility of Life is exposed in such brutality that he realises he needs God. Needs comfort, needs Love and in his weakness needs strength. He needs Hope and a Future. And not just for himself. The men in Wormwood Scrubs prison, incarcerated, shackled, confined to their cells and the mundanity of the bleak brick walls and razor barbed wire trimmings that top their concrete jungle, created by former convicts in 1875, didn’t just pray for themselves. It was for the hope for their families. Their wives and kids.

Within the bleakness of condemnation, the promise of redemption can be found not in looking outwards, but inwards. Into that secret place within their hearts, where God won’t relent until he has everything, has their lives and shows them how he can change, shape, remould them.

The quote that begins this post was the first thing an inmate asked my colleague when we went into the prison this sunday to help run a church service. Talk about a call to prayer. Reeling from the request, my friend set to work. Asking for redemption for the inmates soul, because the prisoner, speaking frankly, every possible facade that the outside world delivers as Christmas present having been ripped and gouged off his face, for forgiveness for his guilt.

I am guilty. If guilt were a perfume I’d reek of it. Not necessarily the guilt of outright murder. But the guilt of coveting other people’s looks/talents/lives/houses/husbands/boobs/smiles/grades – I’m sure you’ve desired your neighbours ass/hairline/job at some point. But I never asked, even in jest, for redemption for my soul because I’m living in guilt. I’m not aware of the pong that covers me in an odorous display of vain glory.  I don’t believe it’s there.

I live, incarcerated in my four by four brick walls, trimmed off by the Sky satellite dish and poor guttering. Cyber fetters devour my flesh, varieties of plastic compounds clothe my skin like translucent straight jackets giving me the appearance of movement.

These men were crying out for a taste of the outside. But not the outside world we inhabit. The Outside, that is outside of man-made creation, and inside the divine Creation, the pure form, where there is hope and a future of more. More than these chains and brick walls, whatever material they are made from.

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3 thoughts on “#198 ~ Worship in Wormwood Scrubs

  1. Boye says:

    Or perhaps they were “crying” for this simply because they were incarcerated and that was one thing they could get freely? How many of the inmates that have their Damascean conversions continue in that path of faith when freed from prison?

  2. Kéhindè says:

    I don’t know. But perhaps they loose faith when they leave because the Outside doesn’t see God as being real, and therefore ridicules and oppresses them into that mindset. Prisoners first desire is to assimilate and reintegrate, and faith is such an easy target to alienate. There is a freedom in isolation which is lost when one is thrust back into community – especially if that community is alien to them.

  3. Boye says:

    That would suggest they never really had it. The outside world is powerful indeed but not so powerful that it would wrench away that which truly belonged to a person in the first place. For them to lose their faith, they must have had doubt, fear and perhaps never really had it. To paraphrase someone close to us both, it is not fasting if you do not eat because you have no food.

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