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I am one of the lucky ones. I grew up in a progressive, loving United Church of Christ congregation. The church was my extended family: the people who watched out for me when I was a child, the place my friends were, the social fabric of my family’s life. Growing up didn’t change that: as a teenager, the church provided me with adults to confide in when I didn’t feel comfortable talking to my own parents about my crushes, my changing body, my existential angst.
When my high school friends were being hurt by their churches for being gay or allies, my church was discussing whether to become Open and Affirming – overtly, explicitly welcoming of gays and lesbians. (This was before anyone talked about bi and trans.) When I came out, myself, I had no particular fear that my church would cut me off or shame me.
I am one of the lucky ones.
And so when I heard that Carol Howard Merritt was writing a book, Healing Spiritual Wounds, I knew that although I would want to read it – as a fan of Carol’s work and as a pastor to the wounded – I did not think of it as a book that I would need for myself – one of the lucky ones.
As I wiped my tears at the end of the first chapter, however, I began to suspect that I had been wrong.
There are many forms of spiritual wounding that the church, in its many forms, can inflict upon those who have sought to follow its teachings. In her book, Carol addresses directly many of the most egregious forms of harm: the sexism, the abuses of power, the homophobia that are so rampant in certain parts of Christianity. With great compassion and grace, Carol offers not only alternative perspectives, but prayerful exercises to begin the healing process.
It was in these exercises, indeed, that I realized the real power of this book. For it goes beyond telling the truth of these shattering experiences, but offers a framework for putting the pieces back together. And there, in that framework, I re-discovered that truth that undergirds our faith, but which is often too uncomfortable to remember: we are all broken. We are all wounded. Healing Spiritual Wounds is a work of truth-telling and grace not only for those who are most deeply scarred by the Church, but for the many whose brokenness comes in the form of a myriad of papercuts. The real power of this volume is in its ability to speak across experiences to a shared reality of woundedness, and the possibility for wholeness.
Healing Spiritual Wounds will certainly be a tremendous tool for every pastor, as we work with and minister to the many who have been deeply and directly wounded by the willingness of many churches to prioritize doctrine over compassion. Yet I think that those who see this book as a tool for helping others will be surprised at the healing that even we – the lucky ones – can find within its pages.