Behind Locked Doors

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine….. No, hang on a minute. Read this first, then close your eyes…

Imagine yourself on a cold & wet winters night standing in a very stark and slightly chilly sports hall. Around the hall are some party games, people in costume (chimney sweeps, a shepherd, Victorian nurses & a priest) with mulled wine, turkey & stuffing rolls and mince pies being served in one corner. Nativity SceneAt one end is a gazebo underneath which is a sound system, a small stage & a lectern. Just off to the side is a small and unassuming nativity scene, the only hint towards what was to follow. The hall contains approximately 60 people. Less than half are young people, the rest are adults (visitors and staff). You are told you’re present for a Victorian Christmas Carol Service, and that seems to fit with what you see around you.

But all the doors are locked and there’s no way out (not even fire exits!). Has it really come to this? That we’re enticing people in with delicious food then locking the doors and forcing them to endure our services? Fear not…

The sports hall is at Oakhill Secure Training Centre, a custodial facility for young men aged between 12 & 17. The doors are locked as a matter of security as all the young people present are young offenders serving time.

Before long the service begins with a brief introduction and a prayer. During the course of the service young men read the Christmas story through traditional readings of Scripture, together we sing carols (just one verse & chorus of each), and three young men act out scenes from Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ in their own style. The Chaplain preaches an excellent 2 minute sermon (short and perfectly to the point) and the service closes with a dramatised version of ‘The Night Before Christmas’ by Oakhill’s Operations Manager before a final prayer of blessing.

Ok, now you can close your eyes and imagine…

All this took place last night. The birth of Jesus was remembered & celebrated, the Gospel was proclaimed, God was worshipped and fellowship was shared; and all that in the austere environment of a sports hall in a Secure Training Centre among exactly the kind of people that Jesus would’ve spent His time with if He were present in person (oh, and a few invited guests).


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