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Be The Church

Sep 28, 2016 — Categories: , ,

I recently preached at my home church on the issue of justice for survivors of sexual or domestic violence. During my sermon, a member of the congregation got up and left. Obviously I didn’t know why. I called and emailed the next day just to check in. Her first response was that the sermon triggered some very old memories and she just needed to leave. But the next day, she emailed and said that really what happened was that “you are the first person I have ever heard exhibit understanding and compassion for people who have had these experiences.”

Be The Church

Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune

I recently preached at my home church on the issue of justice for survivors of sexual or domestic violence. During my sermon, a member of the congregation got up and left.  Obviously I didn’t know why.  I called and emailed the next day just to check in.

Her first response was that the sermon triggered some very old memories and she just needed to leave.  But the next day, she emailed and said that really what happened was that “you are the first person I have ever heard exhibit understanding and compassion for people who have had these experiences.”

This person has sat through a lot of sermons, a lot of classes, a lot of meetings in church.  The fact that this is the first time she heard a message of acknowledgement and compassion for her experience as a survivor is unconscionable.

Last week we discussed the book Trauma and Recovery with the author, Judith Herman in our Meaningful Voices Book Club. Dr. Herman is very clear that the community that surrounds a survivor is vital in her/his healing. For those of us who live and work in faith communities, this means our churches, synagogues, mosques, etc. For too long the response to victims and survivors has been twofold: either deafening silence or blaming and shaming. This has to change.

As I see it, the challenge for our faith communities is how to grow a community that is capable of being:

  • A place for healing
  • Able to hear the truth-telling and not turn away
  • Able to call the perpetrator to account
  • Able to take sides in moral solidarity with victims and survivors
  • Able to walk with a perpetrator towards genuine repentance
  • A place where justice is lived out in our midst

In Christianity, the parable of the Good Samaritan calls us to this work. Someone sees, stops, responds without blame and shame.

My goal in my ministry has been to help insure that at least victims and survivors of abuse hear the good news that they are loved and accepted in their faith community— that there is no shame in being victimized, and that their courage and resilience is celebrated.

This is the church our people deserve. Can we be this church?

Rev. Dr. Marie M Fortune

www.FaithTrustInstitute.org
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You can view a recording of the Trauma and Recovery Book Club Discussion.

I'd also recommend viewing a free recording of our most recent webinar, "Creating a Trauma-Informed Faith Community."

 

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