As part of Traveller History Month in June, the Irish Chaplaincy organized an event at Wormwood Scrubs prison in London for Irish Travellers. After a competition (with cash prizes on offer for the lucky winners) I sang a few old Irish songs and was spontaneously and ably joined on guitar by one of the men who informed me that he’d worked as a session musician. There was a great atmosphere with lots of friendly banter, and this continued during the shared meal that followed. I was touched when one of the guys said to me “it’s things like this that help to keep my spirits up”. The event was very uplifting for me too. We promised to be back for another event near to Christmas, to which one character shouted out “well I won’t be here, please God, because I’m due for release in November”!
Inspired by the words of Jesus “I was a stranger and you took me into your home; I was sick, and you cared for me; I was in prison, and you visited me”, we will continue to walk alongside the people we meet at Wormwood Scrubs and elsewhere and with other Irish people most on the margins. And true to our word we will be back at the Scrubs for another event at the end of November. There will be more music, this time from Hackney Folk who did a great set of traditional Irish music at our July concert; there will be a performance from Irish Theatre of the specially-commissioned 2-person play, ‘Irish Chaplaincy- 60 Years on’; and we will once again finish with a meal. As Jesus showed time and again in the gospel stories, to eat with somebody is to share in an intimate and profound way something of our shared humanity. I’m sure this will be another uplifting event for everybody.