Big Doings on Campus

Imagine my surprise to come into work this morning and discover parking and driving restrictions near the building, tight security, police everywhere, and signs in English and Arabic.  Not your every day event, even at YLS.  The moot court room was transformed into a little hospitality area with trucked in comfortable chairs, little tables with gorgeous orchids, a display of little snack and beverage items, and a fancy metal floor stand holding fresh fruit.

It seems we were playing host to part of the Loving God and Neighbor in Word and Deed (aka “Common Word”) conference, the first of several international gatherings of Muslim-Christian leaders seeking to find common ground between their faiths and redefine Christian-Muslim relations in the 21st century.  What a novel idea, to find common ground instead of fighting wars.

I don’t know all that much about Islam but I do know that what we see on the news and read about in our media isn’t a complete and true picture of the faith as outlined in the Koran.  It cuts both ways:  there are millions of Christians in the world, sharing the common book of the Bible, but it’s hard to tell that we practice the same faith much of the time.  The extremists get the press and make enemies – and can take a society in a repressive direction.

Can we say, fundamental right-wing conservative Republicans?  I thought so.  See?  it’s not necessarily only Islamic extremists that are a problem.

Tomorrow I’m bringing my camera along with my ID card and see if I can capture something around YLS.  Probably not the Jordanian prince, but maybe the signs, at least.  The big things start with small steps.  Maybe the conference will be part of starting a dialogue between cultures.

Spiritual Life of a Clergy Abuse Survivor

Broken crossFor the last few days, I’ve been obsessively researching spiritual life issues of clergy sexual abuse (CSA) survivors. Why? Because I am one, and because I think my reluctance to go to church now is directly related to my experience. Actually, I know it is, although I didn’t really put the pieces together until the other day.

It happened over 20 years and several states ago, and lasted for almost 3 years. Not intercourse but inappropriate behavior and relationship with someone who was my spiritual advisor. It left me a mess but it wasn’t something I felt safe talking about for seven years, after a particularly horrible case of CSA by a Massachusetts Catholic priest. I read media coverage for months before it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, what they were describing applied to me.

Long story made short – I went to my bishop and worked through my church process to name my abuser, who admitted his actions. And then fought with the church for years to get therapy paid for, and to have the original congregation told. That never happened the way it needed to and he was not defrocked, although I was not the only victim.

Through it all I went to church, sang in the choir, served on the vestry and committees, and even thought I had a call to the ministry. That was squashed by my then-bishop, who later turned out to be an abuser himself. He said I had a problem with authority. I wonder why.

I stopped going to church regularly about 6 years ago. I wanted a break from the choir director I wanted to murder every time he opened his mouth in what felt like abuse. At first it was just weird but it was also almost a physical release to not sit in a pew, listen to the words of the service, sing the hymns. I missed the choral singing that the choir did but that was really about it.

I haven’t been able to make myself to go church for more than a few services here and there over this whole time, and those usually on family visits. So why did I think it would be different for me moving here? I guess it’s just that I’ve always joined a choir and church when I moved to a new place and this is the first time it hasn’t been something that I’ve done or wanted to do.

Church doesn’t feel safe. I don’t trust the clergy, mostly men. My understanding of God as Creator has gotten bigger or just morphed to something more feminine. I haven’t been doing extensive reading or researching to find a spiritual home. I just know that church isn’t it. And I haven’t really grieved the loss.

It was greatly reassuring to talk with a fellow survivor a few days ago, someone who worked through her own abuse case at the same time I did, and have her tell me that it was incredibly normal for me to feel this way, to be having problems with my spiritual life even while other things have gotten better.

All of this is related to eating and being somewhat disconnected from my body. I’m going to just be very gentle with myself right now and try to eat what I need, in moderation, while I spend some time on my inner self, while I’ve neglected.