“And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.’ And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’ ”
Prison ministry does not usually come up when people talk about the works of the church for the socially outcast. Despite being understated, it is a ministry that can bring significant changes in the lives of prison inmates, lives that are often deemed to have no hope, no worth, and no meaning. Only God can transform their lives – just as Jesus Himself did for one of the thieves being crucified beside Him. In His final act of ministry, Jesus gave the dying man hope. That same hope is being echoed by prison chaplains in jails all around the world today.
At the Prison Fellowship Singapore (PFS) Commissioning and Dedication Service on 28 April 2017, seven men and women were commissioned as PFS Chaplains. In his sermon during the service at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Bishop Rennis Ponniah, President of the National Council of Churches Singapore (NCCS), said: “As Chaplains, you are to possess inspired listening, be a source of instructive teaching, and have the capacity to impart hope, hope that has the power to transform and the knowledge that such a power comes only from above.”
Prison chaplains are often the very first and last lines of support for the inmates during their times of pain and fear. The chaplains help to still hearts and strengthen resolves as the prisoners serve their sentences or for some, their final days on death row. As such, they have an important role in extending God’s love, grace, and care. Prison chaplains also have to ensure that theological standards are upheld within their ministry as well as provide pastoral leadership and care to both staff and volunteers.
The recently-commissioned PFS Chaplains hail from various denominations across Singapore. They will serve in PFS for four years. Two of the seven are Methodist pastors – the Rev Dr Lorna Khoo and the Rev Chng Siew Sin.
The Rev Dr Khoo will be involved chiefly in strategic planning. The Rev Chng will be working with the ThroughCare ministry, which ministers in prison and in aftercare support groups. Both have been actively involved with prison ministry for years – the Rev Dr Khoo since 2002 and the Rev Chng since 1984.
The Rev Chng shared about his PFS ministry with Methodist Message. He said: “I have been involved in Prison Ministry since 1984 when I was appointed by the Chinese Annual Conference (CAC) to be a full-time PFS prison chaplain for a year. The Rev Khoo Siaw Hwa had retired then and I was asked to help the Mandarin side as the Rev Henry Khoo, his son and successor, was not fluent in Mandarin.”
“During that time, I headed the Sunday chapel services. During the weekdays, I would visit and counsel prisoners, including those on death row, with the Rev Henry Khoo. Sometime around 2011, I returned to PFS as an honorary chaplain. And here I am now with the new chaplaincy team, ministering to long-term prisoners.”
Elaborating on her role, the Rev Dr Khoo explained: “I was asked to be the Lead Chaplain of the team and that entailed re-establishing the chaplaincy team, leading and chairing the various meetings that will come up. So instead of hands-on, frontline ministry within the prison, PFS has tasked me to be one of two ‘strategic planning’ chaplains out of our new group of seven.”
“For my role, I will be involved in drafting theological guidelines and good governance practices for the PFS volunteers who come from different denominations and hold varying Biblical orientations. Besides that, I help develop devotional messages and provide spiritual support for the PFS staff.”
Jason Woo –
is Methodist Message’s Editorial Executive. When not working on the latest articles, he enjoys long jogs and cuddling up with his three cats along with a good book.