We cannot guarantee a safe space – St. Luke's, Boone, NC
I got back from the annual clergy conference yesterday afternoon. For a lot of different reasons it was an intense, draining, and refreshing few days. It was also a good time to catch up with and deepen new friendships I'm beginning to develop here in Maryland.
The main reason for the intensity and draining nature of the conference was that we addressed difficult topics. One of those centered around the church's own #MeToo stories – which I'll get to shortly.
When we began, we were given a list entitled, “Practices for Talking About Things That Matter.” It was developed by our facilitator who is the Rector of St. Luke's in Boone, NC. And it was the last item on that list that got my attention: We cannot guarantee a safe space.
I have often said that St. John's should be a safe space for people. This should not be a space where people feel threatened, objectified, or abused. I still believe that. But this last item on the list pointed out that we are all still human. Given enough time, we can and will say or do hurtful things.
We cannot guarantee this will never happen; therefore, we cannot guarantee that this will always be a safe space. But what we can do is to recognize our imperfect nature and have the courage to say when we've been hurt, as well as have the courage to admit we have done the hurting, to apologize, forgive, and move forward. Otherwise we are just waiting and/or looking for an excuse to end relationships.
It was this topic of saying hurtful things that moved us into our version of #MeToo. The men spent time listening to our sisters in ministry tell stories, sometimes very hurtful stories, of times they have been threatened, objectified, and abused. Stories that happened in the church and some in this diocese.
We also took a few minutes and watched this video:
The most disturbing thing I heard after watching it was when a female colleague said, “And those aren't even the worst things I've heard.”
So . . . I'm in the midst of having my perspective change. As much as I want St. John's to be a safe space, I cannot guarantee that it will always be so; because people will say and do things that are hurtful at one time or another. But what I can do is help cultivate a space where we live fully into our baptismal covenant.
This means we speak up when we have been hurt. It means we acknowledge we have sinned. It means we ask for and offer forgiveness. It means we respect the dignity of every human being who enters our doors.
We may not always be safe; but we can always continue to work at building a community of love.