This photo was taken by Helmut Munikel and shows the group of delegates attending the International Prison Chaplains Association conference in Stockholm. The place we are standing in the photo is the City Hall in Stockholm, which is where the Nobel prizes are awarded each year.
By the way, I'm the one in the white top in the middle of the group who is looking the wrong way. Sums me up actually - I've always been "easily distracted". Many people are familiar with the Myers Briggs personality theory. I'm quite a fan of it actually. The first two times I did it were ten years apart and both times I came out as ENFP, which if you don't know Myers Briggs will mean nothing to you. Anyway, some wag has written a different prayer for each of the different sixteen personality groups and the prayer for the ENFP category is: "Dear Lord, ...oh look there's a bird...". This resonates with me, I have to confess and so I think it's quite appropriate that I should be looking the wrong way in the photo!
The conference was such a blessing to attend. I'm so grateful for the privilege of being able to go and still processing the experience in my mind. Above all the fellowship of more than 300 fellow chaplains from 69 countries was such an encouragement to me. At the end we had to stand around the meeting hall - all of us - holding hands for the final benediction. We sang "You raise me up" together, literally raising our arms whilst still holding hands at each chorus. Normally such an occurrence would seem to this worldly, hardened, heavy-rock-loving cynic to be a total cheese-fest but on this occasion I was moved to tears. I was holding hands on my right with a Northern Irish prison chaplain and on my left with Patriarch Bartholomew in full regalia. Normally, I work either alone or in a team of two (my Roman Catholic colleague is part time) and so it was incredibly encouraging and uplifting to be reminded that I'm part of a worldwide body of prison chaplains, only a very few of whom were at the conference of course, who are my brothers and sisters in Christ with the same passion as I have to see prisoners meet God and share my testimony (and that of the writer of the hymn "And can it be"): "My chains fell off, my heart was free. I rose, went forth, and followed thee".