Reflection Connection

Reflections

Healing Spiritual Wounds: Reconnecting with a Loving God After Experiencing a Hurtful Church

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Healing Spiritual Wounds: Reconnecting with a Loving God After Experiencing a Hurtful Church
by Carol Howard Merritt

An effective plan to help those suffering from wounds inflicted by the church find spiritual healing and a renewed sense of faith.

Raised as a conservative Christian, minister and author Carol Howard Merritt discovered that the traditional institutions she grew up in inflicted great pain and suffering on others. Though she loved the spirituality the church provided, she knew that, because of sexism, homophobia, and manipulative religious politics, established religious institutions weren’t always holy or safe. Instead of offering refuge, these institutions have betrayed people’s hearts and souls. “People have suffered religious abuse,” she writes, “which can be different from physical injury or psychological trauma.”

Though participation and affiliation in traditional religious institutions is waning, many people still believe in God. Merritt contends that many leave the church because they have lost trust in the institution, not in God. Healing Spiritual Wounds addresses the church’s dichotomous image—as a safe space and as a dangerous place—and provides a way to restore personal faith and connection to God for those who have been hurt or betrayed by established institutions of faith. Merritt lays out a multistage plan for moving from pain to spiritual rebirth, from recovering theological and emotional shards to recovering communal wholeness.

Merritt does not sugarcoat the wrongs institutions long seen as trustworthy have inflicted on many innocent victims. Sympathetic, understanding, and deeply positive, she offers hope and a way to help them heal and reclaim the spiritual joy that can make them whole again.

Carol Howard Merritt will be appearing Wednesday, June 21, 2018 at the IMN Annual Conference in St. Louis Missouri. 

Reviews:

“An amazing resource… emotionally intense, beautifully written, and courageously honest, and the exercises are just what you need. Healing Spiritual Wounds helped me.” (Brian D. McLaren, author of The Great Spiritual Migration)

Healing Spiritual Wounds provides validation and comfort for anyone feeling alone within or abandoned by the church. In this much-needed book, Merritt offers practical ways to explore the sources of our brokenness. A generous guide to reconnecting with a loving God.” (Meredith Gould, author of Desperately Seeking Spirituality: A Field Guide to Practice (Liturgical Press))

January 31

January 31

(with inclusive language)

God called forth a people
and we responded to God’s call,
‘Rebuild this ancient ruin,
restore My city walls.’

As we built, brick by brick
we discovered the cornerstone
and as we let God mould and fashion us,
God built us up in love.

Now we have seen,
and we have heard,
that our God is great
for a wilderness has been transformed
into God’s holy place.

-Celtic Daily Prayer 2002
Prayer and Readings from the Northumbria community

Inappropriate Behavior, No Long Acceptable – By Alan Mead

Inappropriate Behavior, No Long Acceptable

By Alan Mead

It would be almost impossible to read any news source over the past few days and not be aware of people, formerly silent, speaking up, revealing incidents of past abuse or misconduct. In many cases, at least those that are making the national news, it is not only individuals unloading a burden of hurt and anger that sometimes had been carried alone for years; but importantly it is a growing number of people gaining strength from each other, finding support and courage, and speaking truth to power.

Perhaps we are in the beginning of a societal change, although from my perspective there has been a growing awareness, at least within the church, for a number of years. We all know stories of moving a priest or minister to another location, of smoothing things over, calming things down, keeping things secret and hidden. In the Episcopal Church we began to see a shift in the early 1990’s with the introduction of extensive background checks being required of all clergy, and the continuance of those background checks before every new ministry and after a set number of years if one didn’t move.

As an interim that meant going through a new background check more than every two years on average. Along with background checks, attendance and participation in education about abuse and misconduct became mandatory, teaching people to recognize signs of abuse and misconduct, and learn ways to create safer spaces in churches and congregations. Importantly, this education has extended beyond the clergy and is being expected and increasingly required for all who desire to teach or serve on a committee or minister in any way within a congregation. This is making a difference! It is changing culture and at the very least, raising awareness.

Maybe the church has actually been leading the way with an insistence that hiding abuse and misconduct and bad behavior will no longer be tolerated. Maybe we are simply in a time when people who once remained silent and suffered alone are finding that they can speak their truth and others will speak and stand with them. It is not by accident that the powerful respond by denial and then attacking their accusers, for that is a tactic of power and privilege that has worked maybe forever. There are growing signals that it may finally be stopped.

But it is not only abuse and predatory behavior; it is also a cultural and societal issue that says, “boys will be boys,” where poor behavior is not only accepted but is thought to be humorous. This may be exemplified perhaps by the photo of a grinning Al Franken as he gropes a sleeping Leeann Tweeden while on a USO tour in 2006.

I remember at a clergy conference, witnessing an elderly minister laughingly patting a young clergywoman on her backside. I noticed that evening that he did this more than once, although never to a male clergy. I doubt if he even thought anything at all about it. As a white male growing up in the previous century we simply had a pass on something like that.

Are we in a time when society will put the brakes on abusive behavior by those who have more power? I can’t answer that; but I know that I have been changing, becoming more aware of boundaries and their importance, more aware of the power that I have by nature of my position. Those of us who minister during times of transition are in a unique position to help a congregation reflect on their strengths and joys; and also to observe and question patterns of behavior.

What do you think? What are some of the ways that you have helped a congregation to become a healthier church and community? Have you observed patterns of behavior by leadership that speak of power rather than respect?

Preparing for and Recovering from Un-natural Disasters
Preparing for and Recovering from Un-Natural Disasters
by The Rev. Martin Homan

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With the unnatural disasters occurring in New York City and now in a church in Texas do we as pastors and churches need to prepare for such occurrences even at our own doors? Westminster John Knox Press recently published RECOVERING FROM UN-NATURAL DISASTERS: A Guide for Pastors and Congregations after Violence and Trauma. The authors are Laurie Kraus, David Holyan and Bruce Wismer. Whatever we use in our church bodies what can we do to assist our faith communities with such disasters?

The Kindle version is FREE. To download and read: www.amazon.com/recovering

Learning New Skills

Our grandson is five. He is beginning to want to help, with things like baking pumpkin muffins, which I think he experienced in kindergarten over Halloween. Anyway, he came into the kitchen and saw all the ingredients being assembled on the counter. “Can I help?” he asked.

Have you ever seen a five year old help with baking? We brought a stool out of the pantry and positioned him in front of the counter and the mixing bowls. He helped level the flour in the measuring cup (at least much of it). Dipped the measuring spoon into baking soda, only spilling some of it on the counter, deposited the rest into the mixture. Then came the eggs! He took one and tapped it down on the counter, perhaps just a little too hard, and with guidance, deposited most of it into the separate bowl, using his finger to move the remaining egg white from the shell to the bowl. He helped measure the oil and stir it into the eggs, buttermilk and pumpkin mixture.

What a mess! And later, after they came out of the oven, what wonderful, tasty pumpkin muffins!

As we ate the still warm, just out of the oven muffins, I reflected on, what else, interim ministry! We had fun! We made a mess! And the muffins were delicious! And best of all, a five year old is learning to measure and sift and combine ingredients to make a finished product. He is learning to follow instructions and to persevere when it seems the egg shell hit the counter too hard. And he is learning that his efforts can produce something good. And if you get some eggshell in the bowl – you can get it out!

Our congregations are often unfamiliar with the joy of discovery that is a part of every transition. Often they begin by wanting the process to be finished and get on with their ministry.

It would have been much easier to simply have our grandson watch as we made muffins. It is perhaps easier to glide into a congregation as it begins a time of transition and take over the helm providing pastoral care, preparing liturgy, overseeing anything and everything. It is both harder and messier (not on the level of a five year old learning to measure and mix ingredients) as even adults learning new skills involve an expected level of error and miscalculation.

I wonder how many of us who do intentional interim ministry enter a new congregation with an invitation to ask questions, explore possibilities and try new things. It is, after all, the possibility of needing a new wineskin along with the wine!

What are some of the things that you have tried? What are your experiences that have been messy but have produced something special?

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