So what’s it like at your place during the lockdown? Too quiet? Too noisy? Bored kids? Angry adults? Binged the whole series already? Missing friends? Missing income?
The goal is to keep safe at home, but home is not a safe place for everyone. Our tensions are stretched by fear. If your place is fine, spare a thought for those who are struggling. One in four Australian women has experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner. For men it’s about one third that rate. So, if your church has 200 adults, 33 of them will have experienced partner violence. Know who are they are? How are they doing?
We don’t have a simplistic answer for a complex problem (alcohol and drug use, mental and physical health, disadvantage and injustice, manipulation and fear, …), but the heart of violence is forced control of another. From small children to nation states, abuse of power is the essence of violent conflict, progressing from manipulative denigration to physical harm.
As the coronavirus lockdown forces us into confined spaces, we’re already seeing a surge in domestic violence. In time, we may also see an increase in divorce. Churches cannot meet, but we can support people who are struggling. Dare we open the can of worms and invite people to talk to us (via Zoom or Skype or whatever platform you use) about how they’re coping at home and what pressures they’re experiencing?
We need both short-term and long-term strategies:
- In the short term, let’s acknowledge this issue as one of the problems our people face, and invite them to talk with us. If you are not in a position to provide support at present, you could refer them to existing support services.
- In the longer term, let’s talk about how to build relationships founded on mutual respect and empathy, with caring and selfless strategies for recognizing and resolving our conflicts.
These two are intertwined. #1 alone provides immediate understanding and support, but people also need realistic hope. #2 alone is mere theory unless people feel free and safe to open up about their freedom and safety.
Can you find some strategies to invite your people to trust you with their struggles now? As you do, I’ll put together some thoughts on how the gospel shapes the way we do caring and supportive relationships for the longer term.