The following letter is to a local church in San Diego that acts to prevent child sexual abuse and promote healing.
Congratulations on sending the Resolution for Safe Churches and Healing Communities to the Annual Gathering and having it adopted (http://www.scncucc.org/Annual_Gathering/documents/SafeChurchandHealingCommunities.pdf)! I have a vision of how, together, we can bring the Resolution to fruition. In fact, it is a vision of a movement that is impossible for any one person, like myself, to realize and will become a reality because of your participation.
I remember the pain I went through when I broke my own silence about being sexually abused by a priest when I was an adolescent. Many of you can remember the pain and trauma five years ago when a registered sex offender showed up asking to be part of our faith community. I think that the pain many experienced then had to do with not having a language or competency to deal with that pain at the time. Individual and collective abuse trauma experiences were triggered and we thought we might never recover, and look where we are now! We are more conscious, competent, and committed to preventing abuse of children, youth and vulnerable adults. Many are more healed and whole as a result of working with this toxic material as a church.
That’s a good start, but have we lived up to social justice work? We know that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Abuse of children, youth and adults is completely preventable. I am angry that this harm continues and that the global plague of human trafficking is fed by this early abuse. Are you? I am saddened and sometimes ashamed that churches do not speak to this and act to prevent abuse and directly promote healing from abuse. What about you?
As Commissioned Minister for Healing and Healthy Environments (CMHHE), you called me to do the following things and more in our Conference and Denomination:
- Being available to provide Healing and Healthy Environments services to the programmatic efforts of the United Church of Christ, related to, responding to and preventing sexual abuse and its damaging impacts on the community life of local churches, associations, conferences, and related ministries.
- Making available educational program efforts related to strengthening the ministry of the laity and cultivating lay leadership development.
- Maintaining, developing, collecting and disseminating expertise as requested, to respond to the issue of sexual abuse in this and other local church settings. This expertise is resident within the CMHHE, and available to all who request assistance both within the UCC and throughout the Wider Church.
I have certainly been available and have made known my interest, passion and urgency to help congregations, our conference and the UCC be leaders in the healing ministry for all who have been victims of sexual abuse and other trauma. How will our Resolution be taken up and implemented by congregations throughout the Southern CA/ Nevada Conference? And what is needed for the Resolution to be adopted by the national body at the Synod next summer?
My vision is that our Southern CA/ Nevada UCC Conference becomes a vibrant example of healing and safe communities. With this living experience of not only extending an extravagant welcome to all, but to being healing communities, the rest of the Denomination will also adopt the Resolution on Safe and Healing Communities at the Synod in Long Beach next summer. And then we will be part of a larger movement to help end abuse and help ourselves and others heal from trauma. That is what I think you called me to help realize, and what you signed up for in sending the Resolution to the Conference for adoption.
We can all do some things to move our conference and denomination forward. This is a call to action.
Step 1: For those who have not attended a Protecting All God’s Children workshop, please confirm your attendance at the September 23 workshop (11:30 a.m.- 2:30 p.m.). Invite friends from other congregations to attend, so that they can bring the workshop to their congregation. Invite friends from other UCC congregations and other churches to our Forum on healing from Trauma after our worship service on October 14.
Step 2: Most congregations in our (or any) Conference do not have a Safe Church/ Healing Communities Policy, let alone a Response Team, meaningful education program or assessment process for being a safe church and healing community. To remedy this problem, I have created resources such as books, courses and seminars. See www.jaimeromo.com and www.healingthesexuallyabusedheart.com Refer others to these and engage others in conversations about our Resolution.
Step 3: The best way for other congregations to get up to speed is for a leadership team to participate in a Protecting All God’s Children Seminar. After much outreach, I have had little response. Together, we need to help every congregation to be conscious and committed to protecting children, youth and vulnerable adults from sexual and other abuse. Let me know if you will be part of a think tank/ working group to engage other congregations in this healing work.
Recently, the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA) has called on me to be a member of a new ‘Males for Trauma Recovery’ working group. SAMHSA sent me to Miami to be certified to offer Trauma Incident Reduction sessions for anyone who has experienced trauma. Here’s a good video about the Trauma Resolution Center and TIR. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvX6Zh2WHFk&feature=email
I would like to begin a TIR practice in San Diego County. This fantastic resource can benefit ministers, who are often under-supported as they care for so many who suffer, as well as many others. I need contacts for individuals and agencies that want to promote healing from trauma, utilizing TIR. Step 4: Let me know if you will be part of a think tank/ working group to engage community, congregational and Conference members in this healing work.
I see signs of great potential for Pilgrim being a leader in helping individuals and society prevent abuse and heal. There is an inter-faith coalition organizing to realize social justice in various areas together. This group will sign a covenant later in the fall, and I hope that one of the areas that this coalition commits to is what you have affirmed in my Commissioned Ministry and in the Resolution on Safe Churches and Healing Communities- to work to end sexual abuse and promote healing. Step 5: Support Pilgrim’s involvement in this coalition, which is being organized under the umbrella of Justice Overcoming Boundaries (JOB).
In upcoming weeks, I will distribute covenant sheets related to your participation in a Safe Church and Healing Communities movement. Thank you in advance for thinking and collaborating with me around how to move forward. Thank you for committing to participate in Pilgrim’s programs related to preventing abuse and promoting healing. Thank you for referring others to the Protecting All God’s Children seminar, and to inviting others to our educational programs. Thank you for calling on me to provide Trauma Incident Reduction sessions for yourself or others. Thank you for being an active part of this vision. Without you, it cannot become reality.
Jaime J. Romo
Commissioned Minister for Healing and Healthy Environments