On Good Friday, we’re supposed to contemplate the suffering of Jesus on the cross. But what if Good Friday brings such a procession of miracles that sorrow is impossible? I have no authority to say this, but I’m saying it anyway: our emotions don’t have to match the church calendar. On Easter six years ago, I felt like dying, and wondered what was wrong with me. Today, on Good Friday, I feel more like Easter. And there’s nothing wrong with me at all.
Here’s how it happened. A friend from my current church invited me to join her at the Good Friday service at St Paul’s. After some hesitation, I accepted. I couldn’t be more grateful that I did. Here are a few of the blessings I received.
* At the entrance, an old friend greeted me warmly. She gave me a big hug. Standing next to her was a leader who had spurned me when I reported Scott six years ago. He had no interest in greeting me today either, but that didn’t matter. My friend’s greeting made me feel welcomed and loved.
* The music (Giovanni Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, beautifully performed by two vocal soloists and a small string ensemble) was exquisite! It filled my soul with joy despite the sorrowful theme. The three homilies were thoughtful and thought-provoking. Despite our rift, I felt comfortable listening to the bishop delivering the final message, and he seemed comfortable with my presence.
* As I was leaving, I recognized an old friend, a woman of deep faith and prayer. Though I’ve never spoken with her about what happened, she knows my story. She looked straight at me and said, “I’m really glad to see you here again. This is healing!” Did she mean my presence was a sign that the church is healing? Or that my presence helps the church heal? Either way, her words strengthened my sense of being welcomed and wanted.
Perhaps the greatest blessing was in the printed bulletin: a prominent announcement for the upcoming series on clergy misconduct. This is such good news that I’m going to share it in full.
SERIES — “A SACRED TRUST: Clergy Misconduct Education”
April 10: Ordination and Power: Theolog(ies) and Practicalit(ies) of Ordained Ministry. What power does (and doesn’t) ordination confer? What ethical standards guide priests besides the Bible? What about sin? What’s the process for discipline?
April 17: How Misconduct Happens: Understanding the Dynamics of Clergy Sexual Misconduct. What do studies reveal about common patterns in leaders, communities, and events involving misconduct? How is this different from “an affair” or “romance”? Why is it so often very traumatic?
April 24: Where Do We Go From Here? Building Safer Communities. How can we all participate in developing a culture where this is less likely to happen? What’s so great about boundaries? Why are we still talking about this?
A young husband & wife team of priests will teach the first session. I’ve known them both for many years; I trust and respect them immensely. A well-respected local psychologist will lead the second class. From the description, it’s clear she will be sharing the groundbreaking study by Baylor University. The third class will be led by the new dean of St Paul’s. I don’t envy her having to lead a congregation that has been so profoundly betrayed. Being an after-pastor is so difficult that when I asked expert Mark Laaser what advice he would give one, he said, “Don’t take the job.” But Dean Penny has the job, and she has my prayers.
I couldn’t have designed a better program if I’d had a year to work on it. I am incredibly grateful to the lay and clergy leaders whose courage and persistence made this day possible. I am hopeful for the congregation at St Paul’s, and for the priests who lead them. I’ll be praying for them; I hope you will too.
So on this Good Friday, I’m full of Easter feelings: gratitude, hope, triumph and joy. For survivors who have made it to this place of healing: I celebrate with you. For those who are still struggling: you have my prayers — but I hope you also have hope. The journey of healing is long and painful, but don’t ever give up. Keep on doing the next right thing for yourself and your healing. Keep putting one foot in front of another, and one day you’ll find yourself blessed in ways you can’t begin to imagine today.
Wishing all my readers a very good Good Friday.