A life behind bars shows the power of grace
Chaplain Terry Baxter has spent the last 16 years behind bars at Norwich Prison. As he steps into retirement Terry says he believes that no-one is beyond the power of grace.
Spending the last 16 years in Norwich Prison has been an enormous privilege for me.
This month, I retire from my post of Chaplain at HMP Norwich where I have had the wonderful opportunity to draw alongside people from many different walks of life who have been committed to prison for whatever reason.
In Luke's gospel we read, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, He has sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are bruised."
In my work as a Chaplain, I have for many years been able to offer a listening ear to many prisoners who have experienced difficulties in their individual lives. There are numerous reasons why it is necessary for people to spend time in prison following some criminal or unlawful activity. It may be because of drug or alcohol abuse or an act of violence.
But in my opinion no-one is too bad to be saved or is beyond the power of God's grace.
The encounter between Jesus and that greedy tax collector, Zacchaeus, is a prime example. When Zacchaeus pays back with interest the money he has cheated people out of, Jesus said to him: "Today salvation has come to this house."
However, many of the problems and worries that accompany those who are sent to prison are often to do with the breakdown of relationships at an individual level.
Most problems that we have in life will indeed stem from a difficulty in relationships and Christian workers and chaplains do need to apply the ministry of compassion in their day-to-day dealings with people.
The important thing is that one day each of us will have to answer to a Higher Power.
The essence of the Christian faith is that those who repent of their wrongdoing and entrust themselves to Jesus Christ will receive God's compassion and forgiveness and not His judgment.