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INSPIRE Awards 2016: helping ex-offenders follow Jesus

Christ Church Anerley, southeast London, is home to the Freedom Forum: a radical Christian ministry dedicated to serving people who have come out of prison ...

Christ Church Anerley, southeast London, is home to the Freedom Forum: a radical Christian ministry dedicated to serving people who have come out of prison. GEORGE LUKE reports.

“Freedom Forum is predominantly run by someone who's an ex-offender,” explains Matthew Fitter, the minister of Christ Church Anerley.

"As the pastor I’m always there, but I'm more in the background, contributing, but letting them run it. We have weekly meetings which will have quite a strong Christian content to them; we’ll do Bible studies and pray and those sorts of things."

Recently, the Freedom Forum have been piloting a project called the King’s Car Wash.

“The car wash is an attempt to try and help the guys begin to reintegrate a bit more,” says Matthew. The spiritual side of our ministry is quite strong, and a lot of people have been really helped to keep on the straight and narrow, walking with God and all that. It’s run once a week from our church car park. Several ex-offenders help run it."
 
The Freedom Forum has been going for three years, but Matthew has known some of the people who come to it for much longer. “Quite a number of them were in prison for very serious offences,” he says.

“There are probably plenty of churches that would struggle with having some of the people we have around and about,” Matthew says, “but one of the things I love about Christ Church Anerley is that we’re a very varied church. We’re probably about 40% non-white with about 20 different nations; we’re got people with special needs and people with mental health issues.

"I’ve pastored a number of different churches, but I’ve never quite been in a church like this where there’s such a mixture of different types of people. Most of the time, we get on fine.

“I’ve been really impressed with how well the rest of the church – that is, the ones who aren’t ex-offenders – have welcomed these guys. I think they’ve seen the difference that God can make to someone’s life.”  

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