The Feast begins!Professor Douglas Campbell speaks
The annual Diocesan festival of prayer and spirituality 'The Feast' got off to an inspiring start last night, as over 100 people packed into St Peter's Cathedral Centre, joined via video-link with Waihi, to listen to Hamilton-born and raised Professor Doug Campbell speak about his experience of prison ministry. Douglas is Professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School in the United States, where his research interests focus on the life and thought of the Apostle Paul. However, as an article in the Waikato Times reported last week, 'a phone call from a sobbing teenager jailed for killing his parents started Douglas Campbell's journey to prison ministry.'
Those present were challenged by the thought that we are an 'incarcerated church' - there are many Christians in prison, both as people who have been sent there having committed crimes, and those who work there too, as corrections officers and staff. We are challenged too by words of Jesus in Matthew where the righteous say: 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' Professor Campbell reflected that this is not a multi-choice list! As Christians, we are to answer the deep needs around us. But, as we were told, prison ministry has to be a calling, and some will be called to visit, others to write letters, others still simply to pray. The basis for our response is, as theologian Sam Wells writes, that we are deeply convinced that God is already at work in the person whom you are connecting with, and you desire to know that person because they are valued as a human being, a child of God. Visiting someone in prison is not about saving them, it is about restoring something of their identity that has been lost, and thus the language we use about people is so important; 'each of us is better than the biggest mistake we have made,' so Douglas reflected.
Professor Campbell inspired and challenged those present very profoundly. We were reminded that as Christians we need to do more than listen to the words of Scripture, we are to walk as disciples with our whole hearts and bodies.
The Feast continues next Tuesday (24th) with Bishop Helen-Ann; Archbishop Philip on May 31st, and the Rev'd Peter Osborne from Anglican Action on June 7th.
7pm refreshments in St Peter's Cathedral, Hamilton; 7.30pm start for the lecture.
Story Published: 18th of May - 2016