In deference to a couple of friends and colleagues, I won’t go into detail about the events of last Sunday afternoon that took place at a football stadium in London SE25. But how often do we try to obliterate from our memories events that we would rather not recall such as bad days at the office, a holiday disaster or in some cases a whole football season? Or in the words of one headline this week, aim to adopt a ‘Move on; nothing to see here’ approach. However we may not be totally successful in expunging all those unpleasant recollections, and they can become part of our personal history whether we like it or not.
You can probably see where I am going with this week’s piece. However much we may try it’s not easy to ignore unwelcome events, pretend they didn’t happen or imagine they took place in a bleak dream sequence. Sometimes this can actually be more harmful as keeping the lid on or hoping everything will go away creates a pressure cooker effect.
At the same time though, we need a time and space when we can reflect, maybe at first privately, and then move on to share our story and feelings with someone we really trust, or a group of likeminded people who’ve experienced something similar. If we have been hurt by the actions of another, having those opportunities are really important as the start of a healing process. If the events happened in a church context, this provides the church with an opportunity to demonstrate high quality pastoral care, whilst equally carrying the threat of getting it wrong if it doesn’t listen and respond well. Again I commend the study guide published last year entitled ‘Reflect and Respond’ that has been written by a group of survivors of abuse for a church that aims to do better. Here is a link to the guide and associated notes to help study group leaders.
For football fans, there is always next season, even if your team is relegated. New leadership, new players and new tactics may make that little bit of difference that spells the difference between glory and further pain. How successfully the church achieves its goal of continual improvement in the way it engages and supports survivors will be key to enabling them not to suffer in silence.