by John Armstrong

As I write this, the leaves are falling and we are three months away from our Christmas Eve Service (and Bob!).  What does that have to do with anything?  Not much, it just helps us to orient where we are in the year.  I never cease to be amazed with the rapidity that I again find myself having to write these pieces for the Tapestry.  For the faithful few of you who read these things, I hope you find them helpful.    Every third Monday and Tuesday of September, the Potomac Presbytery has its annual retreat.  At these retreats, we have a speaker who comes in and usually does three large group sessions.  The speakers are usually noteworthy Christian leaders, and this year was no exception. Dr. Diane Langberg is a clinical Psychologist in practice in the Philadelphia area.  She has been in the PCA for 41 years.  She is a successful author and international speaker and authority on the subject of trauma and abuse.  So, why would a bunch of pastors go on a retreat and invite a woman to come speak on trauma and abuse?   On the face of it, that sounds neither relaxing nor edifying.    The church needs to talk about trauma and abuse because it isn’t just the problem of those people over there.  It is a problem in every church, no Christians are immune to it.  I have seen its effects many times in the lives of people that God has brought me into contact with in the congregations I have served.  If you have been around me for very long, you’ve probably heard me say, “we are all sinners who have been sinned against.”  That is true.  Many of us have suffered abuse and trauma.  Just look at the statistics, they are staggering.  If you say hello to four people at church on any given Sunday morning, you can be almost certain that you have spoken to someone who has suffered abuse and trauma.  Sadly, those are conservative numbers.   If you are the person who has suffered abuse and trauma, I’m sorry, that grieves my heart for you, and I want you to know that you are welcome at Faith Church and we will not shy away from what has happened to you.  If you want to talk about it, or if you want to find help to deal with it, we are committed to making that happen.  I’m being careful not to be too specific about what constitutes abuse and trauma.  These things take on many forms.  We tend to think in terms of sexual or physical abuse and we need to be mindful of these because they are very common, but we need to think in terms of emotional and psychological abuse as well.  Sometimes, that abuse can be as simple as unguarded words that can and do inflict great harm.    I’m purposefully not going to pursue any further categorization so we don’t obfuscate the issue.  My point in bringing this up is that I want us to recognize that we are not immune in our nice, small church in the suburbs of Frederick.  The threat is real and we must guard against it at every level, whatever type of abuse it may be.  The Session is working to address these issues, so that we provide a safe environment for our children and all the people of our congregation.  This is an on-going effort that will take hard work and diligence.  It will also require vulnerability and wisdom.  Please pray for the Session and for our church that God will give us the wisdom and strength that we need to deal with the damage that comes from trauma and abuse.  Also, pray that God will protect us from these things as He grows us in grace.  We will be working to continue to address issues of abuse and trauma wherever they may arise in our sphere of influence.