Caring Well Sunday: Let the Healing Begin

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Many pastors throughout Maryland/Delaware preached a different type of sermon or added a different sort of proclamation or introduction on September 24.

Randall Blackmon, the pastor of Faith Fellowship Church, Cambridge, shared with his congregation, “Today on the SBC Calendar, for the very first time, churches are given an opportunity to acknowledge something and that is the emotional toll of sexual abuse, and that we are committing to ensuring our congregations are a safe place for people who have been abused, not just sexually, but in any way.”

Continuing, Blackmon said, “We’re putting a spotlight on this issue so we can help those who have gone through that trauma to come forward to seek healing from all forms of abuse. Together we can work to prevent abuse and care well for those who have experienced it.”

September 24 was the first SBC Caring Well Sunday, placed on the SBC Calendar as a result of a successful resolution presented by Keith Myer, the pastor of Harvest Baptist Church, Salisbury, and the chairman of the BCM/D Sexual Abuse Task Force,

A Difficult Subject 

Myer was excited about the Sunday and agreed with Blackmon’s thought of shining the spotlight on sexual abuse awareness and rallying churches to work to make their churches safe and for healing to take place. He acknowledged it’s not an easy thing to do. “It’s a difficult subject,” he said. Many pastors don’t know how to start and need time to let it sink in and time to learn. And it takes time to be informed.

Phil Graves, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Brunswick, addressing his congregation on Caring Well Sunday, said, “I’m not aware of any specific abuse that has happened in this church since I’ve been here, but while God has called me to be here, it is my desire that we do not allow abuse to happen.” Graves shared about repentance and rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem in Nehemiah, and from Acts 20:28, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”

“We are responsible to make sure those who are under our care are protected,” Graves said. He read from Psalm 82:3-4, “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

Graves said, “If you are being abused in any way. I will believe you. And I will help you. If you need a place to stay that is safe, we will help you. If you need financial resources, we will help you. We will listen, believe, and help you.”

Robert Anderson, the pastor of Colonial Baptist Church, Randallstown, said Colonial Church has been taking steps to ensure their church is a safe place for children and vulnerable adults, inspired by the SBC and BCM/D’s emphasis on abuse prevention. Anderson said, “We formed a task force for our own congregation over a year ago. They’ve been meeting, and we’ve had two seminars and training sessions for all of our staff and ministry, and we’ve had good participation with at least 50 or more people in each session. Caring Well Sunday was actually the second time Anderson preached about the issue. The first time, he used the story of Tamar (Genesis 38), and on Sept. 24, he chose the tragic story of Dinah (Genesis 34).

Anderson said the church’s task force will be active another year as they update their policy statements. He shared that several people did express appreciation for the service and what the church is doing for abuse prevention. Regarding disclosure, he said no one came forward to share that they were abused; however, the church has a very strong women’s ministry, and Anderson said he feels that would be the area where they would feel safe to share their past burdens and hurts.

Jay Beard, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Thurmont, also brought a sermon regarding abuse on Caring Well Sunday. He shared about various forms of abuse and also used Psalm 82. Beard shared about creating a culture of care and protecting the vulnerable and encouraged his church to support the efforts. “We can all commit to caring for everyone God entrusts to our church. We all have a part in that.” He also encouraged the church to commit to prayer – for vigilance in protection, “doing the right thing,” for leaders to be brave, for conviction of sin and divine protection for the church, for families and lives torn apart because of abuse and for healing; and for repentance for abusers and that they would find the help they need.

Grace Seaford Church also had a time of proclamation regarding abuse, and members were asked to stand if they or someone they knew had experienced abuse. The numbers were surprising to many.

Myer said, from his own experience and that of talking with many others who participated, that people throughout Maryland/Delaware responded. Many shared their appreciation that pastors would bring this sensitive subject out in the open. And many disclosed that they had been abused.

Let the Stories Come

Some churches, Myer said, may be intimidated, may be afraid to bring the subject up because it might bring up difficult, painful memories and may cause a problem in the church. He referred to a portion of a quote from Robert Cunningham, Director of Christ for Kentucky, “…and I say let the stories come. Let them all come out…May the broken find healing and the contrite find forgiveness. And may God yet have mercy on our perverse culture, of which we all stand guilty.”

Myer said, “In order for the church to heal in the future, for this to stop being a problem, you have to uncover old wounds. Let the truth come out. Let it happen.”

Are we brave enough?

Myer believes it will take time for Caring Well Sunday to be more widely acknowledged and for the emphasis to build.