PENNSYLVANIA SOUTHEAST CONFERENCE
OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
Olivet-Schwenkfelder
United Church of Christ

619 Township Line Road, East Norriton, PA  19403
"An Open and Affirming Community of Faith"
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Pastor's Page


This time last year, over 5 million people shared in a worldwide dialogue via social media centered on two words: “me too.” Hundreds of thousands of survivors of sexual harassment and assault shared their stories or simply said, “me too” - as in, “Yes. Me, too. I have also been sexually harassed or assaulted.” Activist Tarana Burke began this movement over a decade ago after discovering firsthand how powerful it can be for survivors of sexual violence to know they are not alone. We also know that sexual violence is not something that only happens “out there,” in the world beyond our church doors. This past summer I shared a sermon on the Biblical story of Tamar, and named some of the many women in the Bible who were victimized. Right now many of our local communities are reeling after the recent publication of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on sex abuse within the Catholic Church. We know that survivors fill our pews each Sunday. We know their stories are heard and held by God. We must also remember that our communities of faith are not exempt from the perpetration of harassment and sexual violence. Churches are – sadly - not always a safe space for everyone.

The UCC’s Our Whole Lives curriculum affirms the beauty of human sexuality, but also notes that “sexuality in our society is damaged by violence, exploitation, alienation, dishonesty, abuse of power, and the treatment of persons as objects.” There are things we can all continue to do to help ensure our particular congregation is a place where people are respected and honored as full and complete human beings, created in God’s image. We can make ourselves particularly aware of power differentials. We can watch one another’s body language and listen to each other’s words when spending time together. We can be good listeners, providing a supportive ear when others might need to share that they have experienced harassment or abuse. We can also exercise special care with children and young people, making sure we do everything possible to help them learn that they are in charge of their bodies. I personally love it when I hear a child say, “I don’t want a hug right now,” because I know this means someone has helped that child learn that consent matters!

Here at Olivet-Schwenkfelder UCC, we have “Safe Church” policies for all volunteers and staff who work with our children and youth. All adults have completed state-required background checks, which are regularly renewed. And – as a mandated reporter – I have undergone the Pennsylvania training for recognizing and reporting abuse. The OSUCC family usually excels at treating one another with dignity and respect. However, if you ever have a concern or feel uneasy about something that you (or someone else) experiences in our congregation, you should come and speak to me or another trusted congregational leader. Let’s continue to work together to ensure that OSUCC is a place where all people feel safe in their own bodies, and know they are respected as those made in God’s image!

Blessing,
Pastor Leslie


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