Daily Reflection 14th May

Doing ‘lockdown’ time

From time to time, some of our writers have given us helpful insights by relating previous experience to our current shared situation. Today, we get to know more of Andrea (Andy) Butler’s work as a prison chaplain – where ‘doing time’ is well understood!


Mae amser wedi ei bennu i bopeth,
amser penodol i bopeth sy’n digwydd yn y byd:
Amser i gael eich geni ac amser i farw,
Amser i blannu ac amser i godi beth blannwyd;
Amser i ladd ac amser i iacháu,
Amser i chwalu rhywbeth ac amser i adeiladu;
Amser i wylo ac amser i chwerthin,
Amser i alaru ac amser i ddawnsio;
Amser i daflu cerrig i ffwrdd ac amser i gasglu cerrig,

Amser i gofleidio ac amser i beidio cofleidio;
Amser i chwilio ac amser i dderbyn fod rhywbeth ar goll,
Amser i gadw rhywbeth ac amser i daflu i ffwrdd;
Amser i rwygo ac amser i bwytho,
Amser i gadw’n dawel ac amser i siarad;
Amser i garu ac amser i gasáu;
Amser i ryfel ac amser i heddwch.
Pregethwr  3: 1-8, 11

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8, 11

Andy Butler writes:

As I’m a fairly new member of St. Mary’s Conwy many of you won’t know that I spent 10 years of my life in prison. After a lifetime of working in the health service I took early retirement and settled to a life of leisure. I always had the feeling that God had something special lined up for me (not the ordained ministry but something unique to me). I didn’t know whether to be flattered or insulted when my Vicar said he’d had the Bishop on the phone and he’d asked if he knew of anyone who could work in the Chaplaincy Department of our local women’s prison and my Vicar thought of me. So began a very happy and rewarding time acting as ‘substitute’ Anglican Chaplain on the Anglican Chaplains days off and when he was on holiday. I’m telling you this because I’ve been thinking about ‘doing time.’ It was interesting to hear how some of us have been coping ‘doing time’ on our first Zoom Coffee morning. I had the general impression that apart from the lack of sport on the TV and missing contact with family most folk were generally content at present. For my ladies ‘doing time,’ particularly if they had a long sentence was almost unbearable to contemplate. Most of these women were from all over the country, quite a few from all over the world. “I don’t think I’ll cope being away from the family for such a length of time,” was a common statement when I met up with them on their reception visit.     
Time is strange. When we were young the summer holidays seemed endless and now time passes quickly. So why do we experience this speeding up of time? One popular answer is the proportional theory, which suggests that the important factor is that, as you get older, each time period constitutes a smaller fraction of your life as a whole. For a child of 10 a year is only a tenth of our lifetime, whereas for those of us in our 70s a year is 1/70. Something like that anyway!   

One of the ways that I tried to help the women deal with time was to get them to purposely break their day into small portions, get up, attend to toilet, make a cup of tea, attend roll call, walk to the dining hall, etc. I’ve found this helpful during this time of lockdown. I think about my day in minute detail and this helps the time to pass. Another way at looking at a long period of time is to use it purposefully. For my ladies catching up on education, dealing with addictions, holding down a job (the majority of women were employed within the prison) and most importantly to find faith in a living God. It’s so wonderful when you can share your faith with women who often didn’t think they were worth anything.

The writer of Ecclesiastes looking back on his life, his time, feels that his life is meaningless because he has not relied on God. In this famous passage we hear that to everything there is a season. This is our season, our time, of lockdown but this passage also has for me a most inspiring verse, God has ‘set eternity in the human heart’. In doing our lockdown time, let’s remember that and use some of our time to connect with the living God. Finally, in an attempt to install an attitude of positivity, one of things I would quote to my ladies was:

“Two folk looked out of the prison bars. One saw mud and one saw stars.”


I’n galluogi i ddirnad y wir ffordd,
ac i ddilyn i’r lle y cawn ein harwain,
gweddÏwn yn enw Crist.

That we may discern the true way
and follow as we are led,
we pray in the name of Christ.

Adapted from ‘Leading Intercessions – Arwain Ymbiliau’
© Raymond Chapman cyf. © Cynthia Davies

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One thought on “Daily Reflection 14th May

  1. I only spent one day in prison, during my training. The chaplain said he felt sorry for the people whose cells overlooked the main gate; seeing tantalising glimpses of the outside world but knowing it was a forbidden place for them.


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