Lancashire Stepwise group connects prisoners with families over Christmas

Daleen group news bannerA Lancashire-based group is slowly but surely working their way through the United Reformed Church (URC’s) discipleship development programme.

The group, led by the Revds Daleen ten Cate, Mission Discipleship Mentor for the URC North Western Synod, and John Gordon, Minister for the Lancashire North Missional Partnership, completed Faith-filled Life, the opening stream of Stepwise earlier this year.

Faith-filled life focuses on identity, place and purpose, and provided the group the opportunity to explore how faith shapes daily life, walking with God, and building confidence for facing life challenges to name a few.

Lorraine Breeze, a member of the group of nine people, says that during the pandemic, the group thought about who would be finding lockdown most difficult and needed to know that they were being thought about and that people cared.

She says: “We decided that prisoners were even more isolated than usual.”

So as part of the Lancashire group of churches, they worked creatively to help keep prisoners in prisons across Lancashire in touch with their families in a creative way over Christmas 2020.

The Revd Calum Crombie, the Managing Chaplain of HMP Wymott, explains: “The idea of the project was to give family members of prisoners a physical reminder of their loved on inside. A small Christmas decoration, along with Christmas card and a ‘selfie’ style photograph was what we planned to send out. Most of the decorations arrived in small parcels and it was very exciting opening envelopes and small parcels with all these different decorations that had been hand made. The notes that came with them were also very lifting to the spirit – most saying that they had been made with love and expressing empathy for being locked in having experienced being locked down.

“We did wonder if we would reach the 500 mark, but in a fantastic turn of events we received nearly 2000 decorations from across the north of England – some from quite a distance from Leyland. Leyland Churches Together thought they had about 300 decorations, but once all unpacked and counted, there were 700.

“We were left with a conundrum over what to do with all the extra decorations. We decided to send matching pairs to the family and the prisoners who requested a decoration so they could both see a similar decoration. We then sent all of the remaining prisoners a decoration to wish them a Happy Christmas. The final few decorations were taken to a local foodbank for distribution.”

Daleen explains how much the Stepwise group got out of the project.

“It was such an amazing experience,” she said. “Members of the group grew in confidence, grew as disciples and feel their faith has been deepened.

“They learnt from each other as we had such a diverse socio-economic group, from retired people to working professionals. They each bought something different and shared their gifts.”

The Lancashire Stepwise group has now moved onto Faith-filled Worship which provides the opportunity to explore Christian worship in depth and lays some foundations for participating in the preparation and leading of worship in churches or communities.

As part of their participation, members of the group are writing a service and liturgical materials for yoURChurch and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Get involved, find out more about Stepwise here.

Published: 15 November 2021

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