28 December 2023

A New View for a New Day – an introduction to Daylight’s new CEO

In Easter 2023, Affinity Agency Member, Daylight Christian Prison Trust appointed a new CEO. Over the last six months, Gaius Phillingham has been getting to know the ministry and planning a new vision for the New Year. Here Gaius shares how he came to be Daylight’s new CEO, what he’s learnt about this valuable ministry and his hopes for the future.

About 20 years ago I vaguely recall making one visit to a prison when my wife was involved in an Easter drama, the Chaplaincy Team needed some female voices to complement the men, and my wife, Tracey, volunteered. All I can remember is metal grate landings and doors, so many doors!  

Fast forward through pastoral ministry on the East Coast to the end of 2022 when we had no idea what God had in store. Tracey and I committed to staying put for a short time to give stability to our children as they finished their stages of education, and we trusted the Lord to provide. Early in 2023, I was asked to consider Daylight; Steven St John had guided Daylight skilfully for half of their 20 year history, through hard times and then Covid-19, and was stepping back from the Chief Executive role.

As I began the role, the charity’s trustees invited me to: ‘look with new eyes at as much of the Daylight operation as you can, visit the people, the prisons, and the churches, then come and tell us what you find and where we might go’. Seven prisons and ten weeks later I sat with the Board and described Daylight’s work in prison as Faberge Eggs – those amazingly crafted jewellery gifts from the Russian Tsars to their wives and mothers – precious but small, beautiful, unique, valuable works. But our connections, to one another across the country (both workers and churches) were strained, not least because of Covid-19. Since June we have agreed to refresh the vision and strategy: 

To Glorify God and enjoy him
By prayerfully proclaiming the gospel of his grace
In every UK prison and to ex-offenders and their families. 

We have added the words ‘enjoy him’; (from the Westminster Catechism) as Christ’s joy is wonderfully evident in the hearts and lives of those who serve both him and Daylight on the front line, and it is growing in those they minister to, and we are shifting our focus to increase the number of Daylight  Prison Chaplains. We have the most influence for the gospel, and we are the greatest assistance to  HMPPS (His Majesty’s Prison & Probation Service) Chaplaincy, where we have a ‘Volunteer Chaplain’  on the team in a prison. We will continue with the other opportunities God has given – connecting individuals with prisoners via Letter Writing, and our teams who go into prisons to lead Sunday services and Bible studies, often Christianity Explored courses.

In preparing the refreshed vision and strategy God led me to visit and pray at Hanham Mount, where to this day it is remembered that Charles Wesley joined the Field Preachers. The prayer God put on my heart, ‘Lord, use us in such a way that Daylight Prison Chaplains will be remembered as “the Prison  Preachers”’.

And that might just happen! As a result of the changes Covid-19 brought, Prison Chaplaincy is more highly appreciated – in some cases, prison officers are ‘jealous’ of the time and opportunity that Chaplains have to do the ‘nice’ parts of the job, the rehabilitation side. Together with the legal requirement for prisons to provide worship and religious study, there is a powerful opportunity for the gospel that exists right now across the Prison Estate; that is more than 80,000 souls, many of whom are willing to speak with a Chaplain.

By God’s grace, and by the hand of others, I am now on the way to being a Volunteer Chaplain and am already helping with services in HMP Chelmsford. Jesus’ words in John 4 remind us just how satisfying it is to be about the Father’s business, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.’ (John 4:34). And after each weekly team meeting I can say with the Apostle John, ‘I have no greater joy than to hear that my children [or coworkers] are walking in the truth’ (3 John 4).

Why not join us? Our new strapline is from Luke 1, “To give light to those who sit in darkness.” There is a great need in prisons at this time and a great opportunity for the gospel. Please visit our soon-to-be-released website to find out how you can get involved or contact our office by phone on 01245 252735 or email at office@daylightcpt.org.

Written by
Gaius Phillingham
Gaius if the CEO of Daylight Christian Prison Trust which exists to share the Gospel with prisoners, to support prisoners during their sentences and to provide practical post-release support to reduce the likelihood of reoffending.

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