October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Is your church planning any activities or ministries to shine a light on this widespread, devastating problem that lurks in silent shadows of fear and denial as it inflicts pain and crises in so many lives? Please let us know by writing to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About 60 clergy and lay members from nine Eastern PA Conference churches attended the Safe and Healthy Churches 2015 Training in June at West Lawn UMC to learn a Faithful Response to Ending Family Violence. FaithTrust Institute which conducted that training will do it again in King of Prussia, PA, Oct. 23-24. Churches from Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey are invited to apply by Sept. 30 for the last remaining open slots. InFaith Community Foundation is covering all training expenses including lodging.
The two-day training is designed to help Christian leaders understand the dynamics of domestic and sexual violence and the impact on individuals, the church and the community. It also equips churches to develop protocols to protect victims, prevent future harm, and respond effectively and sensitively to victims/survivors, their families, and abusers.
“It is so amazing that FaithTrust Institute has chosen Eastern Pennsylvania as the site for this ecumenical church team training,” said Sharon Hachtman, a nurse and deaconess whose proposal to United Methodist Women earned Eastern PA Conference the June training by FaithTrust Institute at no cost. “Imagine the impact as we return to our communities strengthened by our partnerships with other churches and with the agencies who share our vision of ending family violence.
The event includes a reception on Oct. 23 to help church leaders meet network with community agencies serving abuse victims across the region.
“We hope that this will provide an opportunity for key resource and advocacy groups to make connections with churches in the region that are committed to addressing domestic and sexual violence,” said Clare Obradovich of FaithTrust Institute. “We know that forging these relationships will help us all better serve survivors and create safer communities.”
One such community service agency is A Woman’s Place (AWP), the only one in Bucks County providing a full range of DV prevention and response programs and services to individuals experiencing domestic violence. AWP will sponsor a Candlelight Vigil and reception Oct. 1, at 7 PM, at Woodside Church, 1667 Edgewood Road, Yardley. They invite all to come join the community for a meaningful ceremony to remember victims and honor survivors. RSVP by Monday, Sept. 28, to Heather Giampapa at 215-343-9241 x120 or email@example.com.
AWP will also co-sponsor the 6th annual Race to Empower 5K Run and 1-Mile Fun Walk on Saturday, October 17, offering a trail run (or stroll) through the beautiful hills and woods of the Buckingham Friends School campus in Lahaska. Funds raised support AWP’s Empowerment Project, which offers free programs to community adults and teens that encourage personal growth through fellowship, discussion, and building life skills. To learn more or register for the event, visit www.awomansplace.org or contact Heather Giampapa.
“During October churches can also take some concrete steps to build awareness about domestic violence and penetrate the silence surrounding it,” said Hachtman, whose own church, East Stroudsburg UMC, formed a Response Team after attending the June FaithTrust training.
“We are looking forward to this next training as a way to further equip our leaders to meet goals,” she explained. “One of our initiatives is to create an adolescent/teen program for our youth groups that addresses adolescent relationship abuse. We will be using the month of October to spearhead congregational awareness overall. We’ve done one training for our Stephen Ministers and have another one to follow on Oct. 6. And one of our Sunday School offerings is a course on God’s ideal for men and women.”
Hachtman and another church member each work at a local domestic violence agency, and they hope to build a partnership with the church, including having the agency’s interim outreach director come speak to the congregation.
Both church teams, and others who attended the “Faithful Response to Domestic Violence” training in June, are fulfilling the first two goals of that event: to visibly build awareness and informed responses to DV in their congregations and to build connections with the DV “experts” in their communities. The third goal is to become trainers themselves by sharing with other churches what they have learned through presentations and workshops, ideally employing community agency partners to assist them in those teaching events
“It’s important to consider the far greater impact that we can have together every time another church is trained to move forward with God’s help,” said Hachtman. She further suggested actions other churches can take during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and thereafter:
“Visible support for victims can be demonstrated through bulletin inserts, posters, and ‘palm cards’ placed strategically in restrooms. Suggest the pastor make it a sermon topic. Ask community domestic violence response agencies for a list of their needs and share it with the congregation. Invite an outreach educator to teach members how to respond to victims with high regard for their safety. Learn and share the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Hotline number: 1-800-799-SAFE.
By John W. Coleman
Eastern PA Conference Communications Director
Photo: FaithTrust Executive Director Jane Fredricksen teaches a group at the Safe and Healthy Churches training event in June how to develop protocols to protect and assist victims of domestic violence. –John Coleman photo