The Pagan Federation Prison Ministry (PFPM) is committed to serving the needs of prisoners by providing spiritual and pastoral care with regards to and in respect of their own personal journey of discovery. However, we appreciate not everyone has access to a Prison Pagan Chaplain, so we offer this additional service to all Pagan prisoners.
PFPM Writing Ministers can only discuss matters of religion and spirituality, so for anything other than faith matters, prisoners are advised to contact their Chaplaincy, personal officer or OMU Officer.
Being a Writing Minister is different from being a Pen-Pal, and we come under the same security restrictions as Prison Pagan Chaplains. Although we do not visit prisons or meet face-to-face with the correspondents, everything we write or send to a prisoner is vetted by prison staff and we can be liable for breaches of security.
I spent 11 years working as a Prison Pagan Chaplain and on retirement became the PFPM Writing Ministry Team Leader. Over the years I have learned to be careful how I write because prisoners are adept at reading between the lines. They have time on their hands, and each letter can give them bits of information about you. For example, in a long-term correspondence, it is easy to slip into a “pen-pal” mentality – talking about where you went on holiday, or a public ceremony you attended. Without realising it, you may have given sufficient information for them to be able to find out who you are and, perhaps, a rough idea of where you live. That is why we always write under a pseudonym, and use the Pagan Federation postal address – never our own.
It is very important that any information you send is correct because some prisoners will see you as a spiritual lifeline and take whatever you write as fact. It is also important to read their letters carefully and only respond to religious and spiritual matters. Our correspondence is confidential, subject to prison security requirements, however, we have a duty of care and, if a prisoner’s letter indicates potential self-harm, suicide, or a security issue in the prison, then we must alert the PFPM Manager who will contact the prison Chaplaincy. In such a situation, we always advise the prisoner that we were concerned for their well-being and had asked a Chaplain to visit them.
Is being a Writing Minister important?
I believe it is a valuable support tool for Pagan prisoners. Letter writing may seem like a lost art these days, but for someone who has been incarcerated for years, getting a letter is something personal to them. They can feel the paper and read it repeatedly in the ‘privacy’ of their bunk. It is also a physical link with someone on the outside with whom they can share their spiritual thoughts without fear of being belittled or laughed at by those not of their faith. Being a Pagan in prison is not easy, and they can face bullying or worse. Some prison libraries seem reluctant to stock books on paganism, so they find it difficult to access reading material relating to their faith. Whilst we cannot supply books etc., we can give them some answers to their questions.
We urgently need more Writing Ministers. As word of this service spreads, we are getting more prisoner requests.
Writing Ministers must have a basic knowledge of most Pagan paths, as well as being an experienced practitioner in their own faith. We do not know anything about the prisoners who write to us, or their crime, other than what they choose to tell us, so we must be open-minded and willing to write to all prisoners without bias.
Some prisoners may ask for information and never reply once you’ve sent it. Others become long-term correspondents sharing their spiritual journey with you. And when they write their thanks, and say they are being released and hope to continue with their Pagan path, then I get a little buzz of happiness for having helped. Our Writing Ministry Team uses Discord so we can support each other and share information. If you would be interested in finding out more, we’d love to hear from you.
Contact the team by completing the form below: