The Free Church of Scotland’s Mission Board is delighted to organise the gift of 25 Psalm books for the use of the prisoners in Shotts prison.
It means that Psalms – which often reflect life’s struggles but are also full of hope, strength, and joy – can be sung by prisoners in worship services at the prison.
Rev John Caldwell, Lead Chaplain at HMP Shotts, who is also an ETS graduate said: “I’m very grateful to Rev David Meredith, (Mission Director) and the Free Church of Scotland for fundraising and gifting the Chaplaincy team at HMP Shotts with these Psalm books for the men who attend the Reformed Worship Service.
“The service normally includes a mixture of traditional and contemporary worship songs. Over the last few months we have been adopting psalms from both the Scottish Psalter and Sing Psalms. Having Psalm books in the chapel will make it easier for us to adopt Psalm singing into the regular services.
“Whilst the men love and relate to many contemporary songs that express the hope and freedom that is found in Christ. I was keen for those who attend the Reformed service to have greater exposure to the Psalms because the Psalms are incredibly relevant for men in a prison context.
John said: “Prison is a place where people experience a range of pent-up emotions (anger, grief, despair, confusion, depression etc.) yet it’s also a place where it’s difficult for the men to express these feelings. The Psalms provide that outlet. Not only that, they provide a source of joy, strength and hope — not because God promises to change our circumstances, but because He promises to take us through the challenges we face.”
The responses from the men, and chaplaincy volunteers have confirmed the relevance of the Psalms for the Prison context.
One prisoner said: “The Psalms give you words of hope. They express true feelings. Very relatable.”
Another said: “The words are amazing. The Psalms teach us how to go about things when we are struggling throughout our life, no matter what has happened to us.”
The response from the Chaplaincy team and volunteers has also been encouraging.
Rev Murdo MacLean, Chaplain, said: “The joy of singing the Psalms in prison is that God’s word is not just sung but even memorised. I suspect this will be a blessing to the prisoners especially at difficult times. The Psalms also don’t mince their words. We all need challenged by the word of God.”
Andrew McMillan, volunteer, said: “Many prisoners find themselves up against it – lonely, scared, helpless and vulnerable, they need light, and they need hope! In my experience, to be amid the prisoners as they worship God in the singing of the Psalms is to witness something profoundly moving.”
Rev David Meredith has spoken about the gift of Psalm Books to Shotts, a prison for long term adult male prisoners with a capacity of 553.
He said: “I can fully understand the men in Shotts relating to the Psalms. There is a reality and honesty in the Psalter which resonates with people who have lost their liberty. All of the men have experienced trauma in life and have made bad decisions which led to their incarceration. We pray that in their imprisonment they will experience full spiritual release.”
The Chaplaincy Team would like to launch a Psalm singing group. Rev John Cardwell said they will be looking for people experience in teaching Psalm singing to join the Chaplaincy volunteer team to help them develop Psalm singing in the prison. They would also like to have Precentors join their Sunday afternoon worship service to help expand their set list. “Again, we are grateful to the Free Church of Scotland for helping us to introduce the Psalms more formally to our Sunday service,” he added.