Our story begins inside a local Cambridge pub in the spring of 2018. Our Founding Director, Sarah Coppin was catching up with an old friend, who was excitedly trying to convince her into going on a 5-day mission inside of a Category-A, maximum security, men’s prison. Sarah was reluctant, but after hearing that this prison’s chapel was the fastest growing church in their Diocese, she finally agreed. Later that Autumn, Sarah went inside for the first time, and witnessed 18 men be visibly changed by the power of the gospel. By this point, she was hooked.
Sarah stayed in touch with the prison chaplaincy team, and became gradually aware of the ongoing need for more resources to disciple Christians inside. Most of the people she encountered were serving life sentences with lengthy minimum terms, and did not have access to the level of in-depth Bible teaching they were hungry for.
After a time of prayer and discernment, Sarah began exploring ways of setting up an organisation that would provide in-depth theological courses that would take these prisoners deeper in their faith and equip them for ministry and mission while still serving time.
In 2021, Sarah was introduced to Dr Alison Gray, the Director of Studies at Westminster College, a Resource Centre for Learning for the United Reformed Church. Alison invited Sarah to give a talk at the Cambridge Theological Federation about her previous work in prisons and her vision for the future. Soon after, Alison presented Sarah’s vision to Westminster’s Board of Governors, and they voted unanimously to ‘incubate’ the vision and provide office space for the embryonic organisation.
At the beginning of 2022, Sarah and Alison started making plans to turn this vision into a reality, and the Cambridge Theological Institute for Prisons was born. In March 2022, Sarah moved into her new office at Westminster College, Cambridge, and started fundraising to get this project off the ground.
Sarah and Alison are now in the process of recruiting team, setting up this new organisation, and gaining charitable status from the Charity Commission. Please do make contact if you would like to get involved!
Chapter Four (Coming September 2023)
In collaboration with Westminster College, we hope to be offering courses from the University of Durham’s Common Awards program to teach inside a Category-A men’s prison in Cambridgeshire.
We also aim to supplement our teaching with pastoral support and liturgical practices for ongoing spiritual formation.
More details on course material coming soon!