Pastoral response to victims of sexual abuse/assault

Break the Silence Sunday resources here.

Hymn: O God, When Trust is Shattered
(a hymn related to sexual abuse by Catholic clergy)
PASSION CHORALE 7.6.7.6 D (“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”)
O God, when trust is shattered
by wolves among your sheep,
when youth and children suffer,
when those remembering weep,
when victims tell their stories,
when leaders hide abuse,
bring healing, love and mercy!
Bring justice, God of truth!

When leaders side with evil,
when people do their worst,
may we reach out to victims
and put their healing first.
If any member suffers,
we all will suffer, too.
Bring healing, love and mercy!
Bring justice, God of truth!

We pray that the abusers
will learn sin’s awful cost,
and — making no excuses —
will know that they are lost.
Then may they find redemption —
as we all need it, too.
Bring healing, love and mercy!
Bring justice, God of truth!

May all who serve in churches
be careful, watchful, wise.
May we prevent abuses
and hear your children’s cries.
We pray that institutions
will seek your way anew.
Bring healing, love and mercy!
Bring justice, God of truth!

Tune: Hans Leo Hassler, 1601; harmony by Johann Sebastian Bach, 1729 (“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”)
Text: Copyright © 2018 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Email: carolynshymns@gmail.com New Hymns: www.carolynshymns.com/

Permission is given for free use of this hymn.

This hymn is a response to the latest news of abuse by clergy; it was written with input from survivors and counsellors. The hymn also references Pope Francis’ August 20th letter, using in particular: “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Please share the hymn with priests, pastors, church musicians, counselors, friends and others who might find it helpful. Prayers, including sung ones, and actions are needed to “Bring healing, love and mercy; Bring justice, God of truth.”

A pastoral prayer
(Dr Christine Blasey Ford gave testimony about her experience of sexual assault. This week’s cover of TIME: Using words and phrases from her testimony, artist John Mavroudis (@zenpopart) “recreated her likeness by drawing each letter by hand.”)

Christine Blasey Ford is sworn in before testifying the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, DC, September 27, 2018. Win McNamee/Pool via REUTERS TPX

Rage and sorrow choke our throats.
The gladiator gloats
over his victim,
hand over her mouth again,
memory opened like a vein,
the sacred profaned,
her pain is yours,
(the crowd cries, horrified, for more),
this kind of blood
spilled like guts
and swept aside,
another crucifixion,
another woman’s word:
This is my body.

The tender wound is scorned,
is disbelieved, and not received, unheard,
consumed without grace.
The sleek deny their own humanity
and hers,
aggrieved, feign victimhood,
and wield their sword.

Who made this memory the bread of hope,
who poured such courage into this fragility?

This sacred blank,
this muted word,
each stifled cry, is heard,
is heard,
and earth resounds.
This is the Christ cry,
uttered and received by God,
every wordless sigh of broken hearts,
where cries the agony of God,
the wrath of God, the hope of God.

Bread is blessed and broken,
body of the vulnerable one
who suffered for our sins,
in whom the witness lives forever.

We are not silenced.
Unbroken lines of martyrs sing us on.
The bread nourishes.
Even as we mourn and rage
we rise,
we speak.

(Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

A U.S. initiative – Break the Silence Sunday would be worth considering for adoption in the Uniting Church. Worship resources and other materials available at the link.

About admin

Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon) in placement at Pilgrim Uniting Church, in Adelaide CBD (12 Flinders St). This blog is mainly to resource worship planners for our services, but of course may be useful for others. We have some great writers of music, words for hymns and liturgy at Pilgrim, so this blog also includes their words.
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