Jonathan Chambers

Senior Chaplain
Anglican Criminal Justice Ministry
Anglicare Victoria

"The prisoners see them as safe, as peoplewho take time to listen in a non judgemental way, who treat inmates asindividuals not as part of a ‘collective’."

As senior chaplain, Jonathan’s role is to support the 15 Anglican chaplains who work in prisons across Victoria. He is also a member of the Chaplains Advisory Committee, which represents Anglican, Roman Catholic, Salvation Army, Uniting and Greek Orthodox denominations and the Muslim, Buddhist and Jewish faiths, all of whom provide chaplaincy in prison. Jonathan says the different faith traditions work closelytogether to ensure they provide a chaplaincy program for prisoners.They advise Corrections Victoria on ways in which prisoners canpractise their religion whilst in prison, as this is their right underboth Victorian legislation and UN declarations.

"You learn there are no bad people. There are children of God who have done bad things.”

Jonathan says chaplains are not there to proselytise, although clearly they conduct worship services and assist prisoners whohave questions of faith. Pastoral care of prisoners is the mostimportant aspect of the ministry. Jonathan describes the prisonchaplain’s role as unique, as chaplains are employed by communities offaith not by the prison, so the prisoners see them as safe, as peoplewho take time to listen in a non judgemental way, who treat inmates asindividuals not as part of a ‘collective’.

Jonathan says an important aspect of his job as senior chaplain, is educating the church and community about the criminal justice system.

How does Jonathan find prison chaplaincy?

“I find it satisfying at times,” he says, “but it is difficult to be there.” 

“You lose ideas of what is black and white. You learn there are no bad people. There are children of God who have done bad things.”

 

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