The Church has taken over 2,000 years to realise and acknowledge that domestic violence is contrary to the Gospel. With honourable exceptions, it has ignored, enabled and on occasion encouraged appalling abuse within intimate human relationships, including Christian marriage. Mostly – but not exclusively – men on women. In some parts of the Church, manipulation of Scripture continues to be used to uphold an unholy model of marriage that justifies control, violence and sexual abuse. Across our church communities, the occurrence of domestic abuse is no less than in wider society. We have turned a blind eye to suffering, protected abusers – especially those in positions of authority, pleaded ignorance and kept our mouths shut. We should have been shouting that it is ‘an affront to the Christian Gospel … and a Christian way of living’ (CTiC’s Charter for Churches).
This is the context for Cumbria Christian Learning’s conference/training day ‘Hidden Wounds in Our Midst’ on 20th January. It was a sobering and inspiring programme. Theologically robust and challenging preaching from Kathy Galloway and Elaine Storkey was coupled with engaging workshops on how our churches can respond to domestic abuse – through prophetic witness and preaching, pastoral care, practical measures and worship – providing ‘safe spaces’, ministering to the needs of survivors and preventing abuse. The day was bound together with moving Spirit-fuelled worship and energised by plentiful refreshments from the folk at St Thomas’s Church, Kendal.
I – like many attendees, I suspect – came away with a bag-full of resources and a heart on fire. I am genuinely heartened and proud that Cumbria produced an event of such quality, that so many came on a cold January Saturday from across the county and denominations, and that there is such determination to tackle the issue. If only it could have lasted two days!
Author: Lucy Foster
Lay Reader at Kendal Parish Church