Little did the Presbyterian Women of Long Valley Presbyterian Church realize in 2000, when they committed themselves to four years of financial support for a young Kenyan girl’s secondary school education, that they would be rewarded beyond good feelings of having acted charitably. But in May, 2018, when the object of their financial support came to visit among them, they experienced rewards beyond their imagining 18 years prior.
The women of LVPC welcomed Rachel Nyambura into their midst as she was enabled to come to Newton Presbytery to be a participant in the celebration of 25+ years of Newton Presbytery’s partnership with Kenyan Presbyterians. With Rachel’s presence among them for three weeks, they deepened a true relationship between themselves that has buoyed their spirits and cemented a lifetime bond as mothers and daughter.
The LVPC PW’s experience is one more example of the rewarding nature that engagement in the Newton-Nairobi Partnership has brought to those who have interacted with Christians of another land and culture who are truly sisters and brothers in Christ, extended family members waiting to be discovered and enjoyed for the enrichment of your life and spirit.
You can read the personal and intimate reflections of Sally Strusz and Carol Procter, PW principals at LVPC, as well as Rachel’s by clicking here
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of every five American women has been raped. That’s 23 million women who have experienced such a horrific act against them.
- The CDC also tells us that 44 percent of American women have experienced some other form of sexual violence. This means 53 million American women have been subjected to sexual harassment, sexual assault, or some other act of gender-based violence not including rape.
How can people of faith respond to the to the national #MeToo and #ChurchToo conversations? Here’s a sampling of ideas, opinion pieces, blog posts and resources available online. This list is being updated periodically to include new material.
It Never Starts at Assault: the overlooked ways in which the Church enables abuse. Denise Anderson, co-moderator of the 2016 General Assembly, writes at Ecclesio.com about practices that often don’t get interrogated — including paying women less and comments made to women leaders about their appearance, parenting and singleness. Anderson asks: “If this is how we treat women outwardly when everyone is watching, what then is happening when no one is watching?” Added 2/22.
Bodies of hope and harassment. abby mohaupt writes at Ecclesio.com about the people in churches who commented on her clothing and weight, about being propositioned and people who don’t understand the meaning of the word “no.” She contends that “people in the church have to be willing to root out the causes of harassment and assault, and then they (we) have to work against those causes.” Added 2/20.
A joint statement on sexual injustice from Presbyterian Women and the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns. Added 1/26.
Amid #MeToo, evangelicals grapple with misconduct in their own churches. National Public Radio explores issues #MeToo raises in evangelical churches. Added 1/25.
I can’t even remember the names of all the men on my #ChurchToo list. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) pastor Cynthia A. Jarvis describes in The Christian Century her many #MeToo encounters in the church — with professors, supervisors, ministers, theologians and church leaders — and what that tells her about total depravity. Added 12/22.
A letter on #MeToo and #Churchtoo from General Assembly co-moderators Denise Anderson and Jan Edmiston. Added 12/6.
The pastoral is political: #churchtoo. PC(USA) pastor Emily Heitzman writes on the RevGalBlogPals website about the messages she received about sexual harassment as a teenager, when women from her church brought charges against a pastor and he was found not guilty. “What kinds of messages are we in the church sending to victims of sexual abuse – whether through our actions or through our silence?” Heitzman asks. Added 12/5.
Sexual Abuse Happens In #ChurchToo – We’re Living Proof. Hannah Paasch writes in the Huffington Post about purity culture. Added 12/5.
“I believe the women.” PC(USA) minister Stephanie Sorge Wing, writing for the Young Clergy Women International website, writes of how many women have internalized a victim-blaming culture, and how “Scripture speaks soundly against a dominant culture that does not believe women.” Added 12/5.
What churches must do right now to stop being part of the sexual harassment problem. Amy Butler, senior minister of the Riverside Church in New York, writing in the Washington Post.
PC(USA) minister and rape survivor Ruth Everhart, writing in Sojourners that #MeToo is an opportunity for the church.
Also from Everhart, writing in the Christian Century (added 12/5):
- A pastor’s #MeToo story. Her account of being sexually abused by her senior pastor and supervisor, a PC(USA) minister, and the case she brought against him in the church courts. As a result of complaints filed by victims, a criminal case also was brought against a youth leader from that congregation, who was convicted and incarcerated.
- 18 ways churches can fight sexual assault in 2018.
- Require all leaders to take boundary training, even non-ordained leaders.
- Intentionally use the words sexual violence in the liturgy—for example, in a prayer of confession.
- Use the hashtag #MeToo on the church’s outdoor sign.
- Plan education classes on these issues during April and October.
- Educate the congregation about the grooming behaviors of predators.
- Invite a victims’ advocate to lead an adult education class or series.
- Focus education about sexual violence on justice, rather than healing.
- Have various groups sponsor a #MeToo night.
- Preach a sermon or series on biblical texts of terror, such as Tamar’s story.
- Put women in high-level positions in leadership.
- Speak about sex from the pulpit in a frank and forthright manner without using code words or making inappropriate jokes.
- Have the leaders create a no-tolerance statement and post it beside the church’s mission statement: If any abuse occurs within the fellowship of this church, we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law no matter who the offender might be.
- Pull the skeletons out of the church closet and prosecute the offenders.
Can we talk about sexism? Asks Susan Rothenberg, a Presbyterian minister from Pennsylvania.
Why not me? From the Feminism and Religion website, by PC(USA) minister Marcia Mount Shoop, who has written and spoken publicly about her experience with sexual violence.
An Open Letter to my Brothers in light of #MeToo, by Mike Morrell
Four ways churches can respond faithfully to #MeToo, by MaryKate Morse on Mission Alliance
An online #MeToo worship resource from Rachel Guaraldi, a Quaker chaplain and spiritual director.
Dear Church: #MeToo. In this blog post, Lutheran pastor Jennifer Chrien presents accounts of sexual harassment experienced by women in ministry.
#MeToo and the Bible. Video from a panel discussion held Nov. 12 at Faith Lutheran Church in Chico, California, featuring a rabbi, Lutheran and AME ministers and a college comparative religion professor.
The church and the #MeToo movement, a Catholic perspective from Our Sunday Visitor.
How ‘Me Too’ Began—10 Years Ago
4 Ways Churches Can Respond to the #MeToo Movement
As a Father of Sons: Confronting the Culture of Toxic Masculinity
Men: Women Spoke Up. How Will We Respond?
#HerTruth from the UMC
with Discussion Guide and Church Assessment
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28 (NRSV)
- What are lay and clergywomen’s experiences in your local church? How well would they say you are doing at being fully inclusive of them and treating them equally?
- Has your [Personnel Committee] checked their practices to see if there are discrepancies in pay between men and women at your church (i.e. housing allowances, salaries, continuing education, childcare, etc.)?
- Where do women serve in leadership in your church? Where do women hold positions of chairing or leading a ministry team or committee? Where have women never chaired or led a ministry team or committee? Why?
- Who takes the minutes or makes the coffee for your meetings and gatherings?
- How do you encourage women’s opinions and experiences to be voiced regularly in meetings?
- Are women included and valued when decisions are made about the church?
- Have you had female clergy appointed to serve you? If you haven’t, why not? Have you had a female senior pastor? If so, how did the congregation welcome the pastor?
- Does your church use expansive language for God…Does your church use pronouns and examples of God that are more than masculine? Why or why not?
- What is your church’s plan in the case that harassment, discrimination or abuse occurs? Do you publicize the confidential hotline of the Commission on the Status and Role of Women for persons to have if they need to report abuse, harassment or discrimination?
- What is your church’s plan to grow towards full inclusion and equality of women in all areas of your church? What is one step the church can take right now to work towards that goal? What are other steps the church can put in a plan to work towards within the next 3 years?
The Synod of the Trinity is offering a retreat (a place and space for healing) for clergy women in the church who have suffered sexual harassment/assault/abuse. If you are interested in something similar, please contact Rev. Robin Miller Currás.
If there is one or two male clergy interested in organizing a retreat for men or for fathers and sons around “healthy sexual relationships,” please contact Rev. Robin Miller Currás.
New Jersey Addiction Services Hotline:
1.844.276.2777 for assistance and referral to treatment
REACH NJ: Gov. Chris Christie’s initiative
–A clearinghouse for support for those seeking treatment and support for their families
“In my experience, there are as many active addicts and alcoholics upstairs in churches as there are downstairs. But the ability to be honest about it and seek help unfortunately is a challenge for most people.”
Pastor Mike Clark
Preach, Pray, Partner
Candlelight Vigil or Remembrance Day Event for those who have lost loved ones to addiction
“Into the Light: Join the Conversation” (Written for 2017, easily adapted)
“Celebrate Recovery” from Saddleback Church, Rick Warren and John Baker
“Celebrate Recovery uses the language of hurts, habits and hang-ups,” said Mark McNeese, a pastoral assistant at First Church. “It’s a Christ-centered program based on the eight principles that are found within the Beatitudes. It also follows the regular 12-step program.”
Drug Policy Reform Resources (listed below)
Drug Policy Task Force Recommended Resources
Papers and Studies
- “War on Drugs: Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy,” June 2011
- American Civil Liberties Union—“The War on Marijuana in Black and White,” 2013
- Meso American Working Group, “Rethinking the Drug War in Central America and Mexico,” November 2013
Video and Film
- “The House I Live In,” feature-length documentary film on the drug war, 2012.
- “Bringing Down the New Jim Crow,” radio documentary series, five powerful audio segments.
- Gabrielle Glaser, “The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous,” The Atlantic, April 2015.
- Addiction and Grace, Gerald G. May, Harper One, 1988 (available in Resource Center)
- Chasing the Scream, Johann Hari, Bloomsbury Circus, 2015
- Dealing Death and Drugs, Beto O’Rourke and Susie Byrd, Cinco Puntos Press, 2011
- Drug Crazy: How We Got Into This Mess and How We Can Get Out, Mike Gray, Routledge, 2000
- Drug War Zone: Frontline Dispatches from the Streets of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, Howard Campbell, University of Texas, 2009
- The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander, The New Press, 2011
- Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow, Daniel Hunter, Veterans of Hope Project, 2015
- To Die in Mexico, John Gibler, City Lights, 2011
- Victims & Sinners, Linda Mercadante, Westminster John Knox Press, 1996
Presbyterian Mission Agency Resources (available on-line)
- Addiction, Grace and Healing
- Celebrating the Miracle
An Idea for Newton Presbytery:
Because there is shame associated with addiction, find a church (or churches) with whom to partner to host a support group for families dealing with substance abuse. If several of our churches host support groups, people can drive a distance from their own community and still feel anonymous but get the support they need. If you’re interested, contact your Resourcing Coordinator, Robin Miller Currás who will convene a planning meeting: [email protected].
If you knit or crochet and participate in a Prayer Shawl Ministry, you can spread the graces of this specialized ministry internationally. Your modest contribution can support the mission of Ruling Elder Darlene Tapie of the First Presbyterian Church of Blairstown who launched this ministry internationally. It has expanded in the past four years by her services offered within the Newton-Nairobi Partnership.
Visiting our Kenyan mission partners initially in 2015, Darlene introduced Women Guild groups of several congregations to the concept of Prayer Shawl Ministry, which has provided her and thousands of U.S. women a channel for contributing the skill of their hands to the healing of broken hearts and spirits. Hearing Kenyans’ expressed desire to learn more and develop greater skills in knitting and crocheting, Darlene returned self-funded in 2017, introducing more congregations in Nairobi, women in rural Kibwezi, and even some young boys to learning the skills and launching their own Prayer Shawl Ministries and she is returning in July-August, 2018, her travel being funded this trip by an “angel.”
Darlene presents a shawl to Mrs. Fridah Mugambi, recovering from illness, at a Women Guild meeting in Chogoria, Kenya, June 2017.
The ministry’s goal is to provide an encouraging support network of prayer for persons and households dealing with serious illness, grief or other prolonged challenges to the human spirit, with the suffering person(s) presented a knitted/crocheted shawl created by a group of women who assure the recipient(s) they will be remembering them daily in prayer. When a Prayer Shawl is given to someone it is an absolute GIFT without anything required from the recipient – no money, no requirement to come to church, no further contact unless the recipient initiates it.
It costs about KSh 1000 ($10) to purchase needles and yarn in Kenya for supplying each individual with the materials needed to begin learning and producing her/his first piece. Darlene would welcome your contribution to assist Kenyan women to make the purchase of materials more manageable for those with minimal income. On the home page of Newton Presbytery’s website, click the “Online Giving” button to make your contribution.
Get those needles clicking and clacking!
Every Thanksgiving, I go to a open house at the home of my preschool Sunday School teacher, Mrs. L. in Islip, New York. I get to see people that I grew up with, people who loved me into faith and for whom I care deeply. Darien, who was sooooo much older than me when I was a kid and is now a peer asked, “Are you on the Prayer Chain?” No, I wasn’t. She rectified that, and I have since received EVERY COMMUNICATION THAT MY HOME CHURCH PUTS OUT. Seriously?! They can’t have a “Prayer Chain List” and a “Newsletter List” and a “Who Can Help at the Food Pantry” list? I actually called the church to encourage the pastor/admin/whoever-would-listen to create different lists. “I really just want to be able to pray for the people I know and love.” The person on the other side of the line seemed overwhelmed. If that sounds like you: take a deep breath; let it out; it’s really not that hard.
I’ve done a little research to help you.
Your email provider has a way for you to create a contact list and put people into groups. For a recent mailing for my Resourcing Coordinator gig, I created three groups: one for Morris County Clergy, Morris County Churches, and one for each individual church in which I included pastor, admin and clerk of session. This is straightforward. You can do this in your church for the choir, Sunday School families, food pantry volunteers, etc…
If you want to be fancy and grab people’s attention, use an Email Marketing Company. These user-friendly apps can help you create a lovely banner (picture at the top of the email), and send out your short-but-sweet messages.
MailChimp is the only free provider that I found.
Constant Contact is very popular but costs you money.
Flocknote was developed for churches and enables you to text as well as email. It’s free for churches that have 40 contacts or less. People can actually RSVP with a click using this app. Very cool!
With all of these, you can track to see who is actually opening your emails, who unsubscribes, who clicks on links, etc… It’s called “Analytics.”
There are a ton of applications out there to use and try. I’m giving you three.
I’ll say more about this in a future blog post, but respect people’s time. Don’t clutter inboxes with emails that don’t pertain to them or that don’t interest them. Keep it short and sweet! Tell them how they can get involved! Make it easy!
If you have ideas you’d like to share, please comment below. Also, if you’d like to host a gathering of interested folks to learn more about using these tools, let me know!
Grace and peace,
PS–The greatest communication tool we have to share our faith is our very lives. That is my prayer for you and for me.
Phone Call? Yes.
So, when it snows and you decide to cancel worship on Sunday morning, you can send out a message to millennials, boomers, and the silent generation in one fell-swoop. (Gen-Xers weren’t coming anyway.)*
Mid-week meeting? No one wants to venture out on the slick roads? Yep. One message via phone, text, or email.
I found two companies that are geared for churches. If you know of another or use another service, PLEASE comment below!!!
One-Call-Now offers a yearly subscription for as low as $250 for small churches with a 50-person call list to $1000 for a 500-person call list. That includes unlimited alerts throughout the year. You can contact sub-groups, e.g. the choir, Sunday School, etc… They have a referral program that could benefit the presbytery so please contact your friendly Resource Coordinator, me, to officially refer you and then you can get a quote. A win-win. ([email protected])
With Call-Em-All, you buy credits which will cost you 9 cents per credit. A less-than 30 second message will cost you one credit multiplied by the numbers of contacts you make. So–
100 contacts x 9 cents = $9.00
50 contacts x 9 cents = $4.50
25 contact x 9 cents = $2.25
You get the idea.
Let me know if this was helpful to you!
Grace and peace,
PS–May the silence of snowfall, the exquisite construction of a bare tree, and the imposed Sabbath of a snow day draw you closer to your Creator.
*It’s a joke. I’m Gen-X.
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