It Was a Sunday

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Sara Dingman is curating a series on the #metoo movement and the church. The series will feature recollections, sermons, and art. We honor the women who have shared their stories, and hope their courage might inspire others to seek the support they need to speak their truth too in ways that are best for them. The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline is always available to support survivors of sexual assault. We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

This blog was originally posted on A Church for Starving Artists and has been re-posted with permission.

by Jan Edmiston

Calls reporting sexual assault spiked 147% on Thursday, September 27 according to RAINN – the largest sexual assault hotline in the United States.  Counselors, therapists, and clergywomen like me received phone calls, texts, and direct messages from women all over the country.  As women were listening to Christine Blasey Ford, they not only relived their own assaults but they were emboldened to report their own.

I know this firsthand.  Yesterday I made a call to report mine.

My assailant was someone I had been in a relationship with which is why I never reported it.  Who would have believed me?  I wasn’t sure I believed it myself.  We had recently broken up and he’d wanted to continue being friends.  But one night he was angry and wanted to teach me a lesson.  Seriously, that’s what he said.

I’m honestly grateful to be able to type these words openly.  I feel okay about it. Strong even.  Secrets have enormous power to chip away at our spirits if left sitting there in the dark and I’ve been working on shedding some light  for a while now.

I’m inspired by one woman’s attempt to prevent her assailant from becoming a Supreme Court Justice.  Maybe he’ll indeed be confirmed but at least she has spoken her truth.

Those of us with such experiences know some things about men who assault women:

  • They can be charming and “such good guys.”
  • Being smart and drinking too much are not mutually exclusive.
  • Just because a long list of women can vouch for them, it doesn’t mean they never assaulted others.

It’s possible that Dr. Ford’s assault happened on July 1, 1982.  Mine was September 18, 1983.

#BraveryIsContagious


Jan Edmiston is General Presbyter of The Presbytery of Charlotte. She serve in two congregations in New York and Virginia as a solo and co-pastor, and was Associate Executive Presbyter in Chicago for seven years. Jan was also Co-Moderator of the 222nd General Assembly with Denise Anderson.

Bodies. Trauma. Resilience.

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Sara Dingman is curating a series on the #metoo movement and the church. The series will feature recollections, sermons, and art. We honor the women who have shared their stories, and hope their courage might inspire others to seek the support they need to speak their truth too in ways that are best for them. The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline is always available to support survivors of sexual assault. We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

by abby mohaupt

Listen:

most days I don’t think about the men who betrayed me

the men who saw the line and crossed it

the men who watched them do it

the men who told me to be quiet.

 

But some days,

the moments of betrayal are like coals—

if I blow on them, the pain burns into life

and all my old scars ache.

 

the days when the new pastor at my first church apologizes to my father but not to me

(even though I was the one who lost herself)

the days when the photo of my rapist at my fifth church appears on my social media

with the high praise from others accompanying him with singing

the days when the tune of his grooming rings in my ears:

“heart of my own heart whatever befall”

 

I’m not asking you to fix me

(thank you, Jesus)

I’m just asking you to sit with me awhile

and wait for hope.

 

The video below (the first part is intentionally dark) originally appeared at Ecclesio in an article entitled “Bodies of Hope and Harrasment.” It is, in part, my grappling with what it means to survive in a #metoo and #churchtoo world.


abby mohaupt is a long distance runner and multi-media artist. An ordained teaching elder, she regularly teaches on vocational discernment, eco-feminist theology, and creativity.

Anger That Saved Me

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Sara Dingman is curating a series on the #metoo movement and the church. The series will feature recollections, sermons, and art. We honor the women who have shared their stories, and hope their courage might inspire others to seek the support they need to speak their truth too in ways that are best for them. The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline is always available to support survivors of sexual assault. We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Sophomore year of college. It was not a good year. For a variety of reasons, depression was consuming me — me — not sure who I was or what I believed. The world seemed very unsteady under my feet. This was not my first dance with depression, but this was different, this was brought about (or arrived concurrently) with that very natural part of growing up, figuring out the difference between what you believe and what you were taught as a child. I’d grown up going to church. Ministry had appeared as a possible calling before, but I didn’t have the slightest idea what that meant, and didn’t enter college with that in my heart. Still, faith in God was my baseline.

Now, I wasn’t even questioning if God was real. I’d not dared to say those words aloud — I could hardly admit such doubt to myself. It seemed blasphemous. Weak. Scary.

And then, I found myself at a party where I was introduced to a man who was a student at a nearby seminary. It seemed providential. I immediately had a million questions. I know that it wasn’t fair to place that burden on him. He was in school. He wasn’t my pastor. But I certainly wasn’t going to take these questions to church, and he had appeared before me.

I waited to open up to him. We drank. We were really getting along. Finally, it became clear that I would probably be spending the night at the house (my friend who had brought me was staying. She was my ride. She was staying.). He invited me to stay with him. I did what most of my friends did in similar situations. I stated my intentions. I could stay over, but I wasn’t going to have sex with him. I didn’t do that. But we could kiss. We could cuddle. He agreed.

We went to his room, where we got in bed. I was clothed. And we talked, his voice soothing and comforting. I asked him question after question about what he was doing in seminary, what he believed about God. After a while I went in for the big question: “How do you know that there is a God? What if God doesn’t exist?”

My question came with tears, released with the desolate reality of what I had suggested.

As I cried, he made his move. I said no. I tried to move away. He wasn’t violent, but I couldn’t fight. He raped me. And he didn’t even answer my question first.

Morning, or something close to it, finally arrived. As soon as enough light came through the window I went to find my friend and told her we had to go. I made it to the car before I started to weep. I don’t know what I told her. I don’t know if I ever said what had happened. I do know that he had no idea anything less-than-delightful had happened.

The next few months were hard. Depression seemed to be winning. But somewhere, sometime, a few months later, anger began to rise from within me, and it was an anger that would save me. Anger at knowing that what happened wasn’t right. Wasn’t okay. Wasn’t of God.

I put myself in the presence of preachers, women preachers, whose words were the Holy Spirit to me, helping me rebuild my faith, block by block, moment by moment. I began to understand what a call to ministry meant, and that I was, in fact called, a call that had been within me for some time, I just hadn’t had words to name it.

This understanding of call, the one I still inhabit today, decades later, had a new companion that I hadn’t known the first time God tapped me on the shoulder: anger. Anger at what had happened. Anger that the man who had assaulted me was someone who would be entrusted with a congregation.

I never spoke to him again and never told anyone else until I told a therapist, years later. I still google him from time to time — on the surface, at least, he’s doing fine. He’s still a pastor. He has a family. I have no idea if this was an isolated incident or not. I hope that it was.

I’m still angry. Angry, because the church deserves better. Jesus deserves better. And over time I’ve come to embrace that this is part of my call — if I detest what he did, then I cannot leave. I must stay and do better, show better, live better. Love deserves no less. Jesus deserves no less. The church deserves better. I will do everything within my power to keep #churchtoo from happening on my watch.


This post was written by an anonymous author.

The Sermon I Tried Not To Preach

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Sara Dingman is curating a series on the #metoo movement and the church. The series will feature recollections, sermons, and art. We honor the women who have shared their stories, and hope their courage might inspire others to seek the support they need to speak their truth too in ways that are best for them. The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline is always available to support survivors of sexual assault. We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

by Shannon Kershner

This was a sermon I tried not to write or preach. Why? One reason is because I do grow tired of being told I am either too political in the pulpit or not political enough. I have received that kind of feedback ten times more in the last three years of my ministry than I ever did in the first 16 years of ministry. Another reason is because I do not want every sermon I preach to feel like it is a “response tweet” to the latest news cycle, which also usually changes between Friday and Sunday.

Photo from Fourth Presbyterian Church Facebook page.

But the more fundamental reason I did not want to write or preach this sermon is because I felt too close to it. My father survived sexual assault as a child and he did not remember it until he was in his 50s. Other very close loved ones have experienced similar violence to their bodies and their spirits. The whole Supreme Court nomination process exhausted me and I knew how much pain was resurfacing for so many people I love. So I tried to avoid it. But then the time came, as it does, when I knew that if I did not preach about what was going on in our larger culture, then I would be doing a disservice to the Gospel.

But you should know that my father (retired PCUSA pastor) was the one who finally lovingly pushed me forward. He wrote down a couple of paragraphs and advised me that a pastoral approach might be what was called for at that moment and from this pulpit. It was his wisdom that led me to wonder how many other 70 and 80 year olds might be sitting in the pews with their own secrets or memories. I realized again it was a privilege for me to get to remain silent when so many could not. Their souls were screaming out. I had to say something that I hoped was faithful and true.

As I mention in the beginning, this is not a very well-honed sermon. Many of you could craft one that sounds far more elegant and nuanced. I did not do much revision to it, so it is a bit more “stream of consciousness” than my normal preaching voice. But it was what came on a long Saturday afternoon with Sunday looming. Thus, it is simply an offering from me to God, in the hopes that it might be of use for those who need to remember they are loved, and for those who need to be reminded that hurting them has never been okay with God. The church had to say that out loud.


Shannon Johnson Kershner is the senior pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church (P.C.U.S.A.). She grew up in Waco, Texas as the daughter of a Presbyterian minister and an elementary school teacher. Shannon stayed in Texas for college and graduated in 1994 from Trinity University in San Antonio. In 1996, she began her theological training at Columbia Theological Seminary and received her Masters of Divinity degree in 1999. Her sermons and articles have been published in a number of journals, including The Journal for Preachers and Lectionary Homiletics. She is involved in leadership for NEXT Church and serving on its strategy team. Shannon is married to Greg, whom she met in high school at a Presbyterian summer conference at Mo-Ranch. They have been married for 21 years and are the parents of 15-year-old Hannah and 12-year-old Ryan.  

I’m Cursing Now

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Sara Dingman is curating a series on the #metoo movement and the church. The series will feature recollections, sermons, and art. We honor the women who have shared their stories, and hope their courage might inspire others to seek the support they need to speak their truth too in ways that are best for them. The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline is always available to support survivors of sexual assault. We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

by Anne Weirich

I haven’t thought of this in decades.

I was raised in a small town. Woods and fields laced with trails connected my friends and me. And I was lucky to have close relationships, always, with boys and girls. My life continued in this way. And while I often got crushes on boys as I grew up, the friendships were always more important. When I left for college, I’d never been on a date, never been kissed, never even held hands with a boy.

By the second semester of college, new friendships had formed and I had been on some dates, been kissed, held hands and speculated with girlfriends about how we could get our hands on birth control pills and then “lose” our virginity – which seemed to hang upon us like an old fashioned artifact.

A guy who took classes and also delivered newspapers to the dorms in his little VW bug with an open rag top asked me out. We’d flirted some from my dorm room “balcony” – the fire escape. So I said yes. We went out a few times – walking to a local place for burgers and beers. Then one night he said, dress up a little – let’s really go out. He came by in a little sports car I’d never seen – wearing some better jeans and a new shirt. I had on my favorite 501 jeans that I’d embroidered with peace signs and a few favorite phrases, flowers, and designs.

But other than that, I only remember the very end of our date. We drove to a part of town I’d never seen before. He pulled the car over and turned off the engine. We started kissing. And somehow, in the confines of that tiny sports car, he made a move that stunned me. My heart stopped pounding with sexual energy and started pounding in fear. He was on the floor between my knees with his pants down – and his hand grabbed my waistband. I said nothing, staring in complete disarray. He was so strong – he ripped the fastener and broke the zipper on my jeans.

As he struggled to remove my pants, something took over in my being, something buried. I took my hands and put them around his throat, and squeezed. I pushed him away, straightening my arms. And tightened my hands more and more. I’ll never forget how red his face got and how much disbelief there was in his eyes. Even knowing he was stronger than me – I just held on – and he choked and finally stopped.

Cursing me, he drove me home. Cursing me, he drove away. Cursing me, when I walked by to class the next day. Cursing me, until he didn’t.

I can’t tell his name. I can’t tell you the date.

But I can tell you this happened to me too.

And I can also tell you, I’m the one cursing now as high courts and church hierarchies and all the boys clubs protect their own.


Anne Weirich is pastor at College Drive Presbyterian Church in small village of New Concord, OH on the campus of Muskingum University. Her work there is coalition forming with focuses on addiction, civil discourse and the delights and strengths of small town connections and events. Anne serves on the General Assembly Committee for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations and the Board of Trustees for the Synod of the Covenant. She travels annually to the Holy Land, leading pilgrims and renewing her faith in the power of the Spirit.