Our Stories Untold :: A Call to Prayer for Sexual Healing in the Mennonite Church

by Barbra Graber, originally posted here on the Our Stories Untold blog

A Call to Prayer for Sexual Healing in the Mennonite Church Thursdays at Three (even if you stopped praying long ago)

As Mennonites, we work hard to live conscientious, peace-loving and perfect lives. Yet persons associated with the Mennonite Church have sexually harmed countless numbers of us. There have been teachers, therapists, theologians, professors, elders, bishops, and pastors. There have been youth leaders, camp counselors, choir directors, and coaches. There have been fathers, mothers, aunts and uncles, brothers & sisters, cousins, neighbors and more. And finally, although a statistical minority, there have been strangers, and those among us their victims. The list of known perpetrators is long and represents many more still unknown.

When someone more powerful–through position, profession, age, personality, or physique–forces, manipulates, or coerces us into sexualized activity, we can be deeply wounded and our life never the same. The act may be punishable by law if exposed; but it doesn’t have to be. It may be a one-time brief encounter or it may happen periodically over long periods of time. It may happen with one person or with many. It may be in the fog of memory, completely buried, or so clear in our minds it could have happened yesterday. We may deny the harm it caused us and try to convince ourselves it was nothing. But as time passes we notice our lives seem to be driven by some malevolent unknown force. Things keep falling apart and something gnaws inside. Sometimes we find healing, sometimes we don’t.

Many of us, survivors and non-survivors alike, believe this problem to be widespread and ongoing through generations of our families. We believe it is bigger than any of us, but not more devastating than our determination to bring wholeness, and not more powerful than the God of our Fathers and Mothers.

This is a Call to Prayer for renewed sexual healing in the Mennonite Church:

If you are called to join us, set your calendars as a reminder to stop and pray on Thursdays @ three o’clock each week. We suggest you sit down and close your eyes and breathe fully and deeply for ten minutes. With every breath, repeat the words silently or aloud: “I am willing and ready to allow sexual healing to happen.” Then do whatever else seems like prayer to you –but stay there with your eyes closed, focused on your breath for at least 10 minutes, repeating the words above. Pay attention to whatever comes to mind, whatever is felt in your body. You may want to write about it or just get on with your day. Once a month you might invite others, such as your staff or colleagues in a Mennonite institution, to join you in this practice.

”Why make this about the Mennonites?” you might ask. “Surely this problem isn’t limited to us!” None of us have the right or the responsibility, the strength or the stamina to hold the whole world accountable for its wrongs. But each of us in this community has a responsibility to our tribe, our family and our faith community, as marginal or engaged as we find ourselves. If each of us took seriously the charge to clean up our own sandbox and do the hard work of healing, the world would indeed change.

In many languages the word for Breath is the same as the word for Spirit. So whenever we pause and breathe, we invoke that part of us that is connected to the Cosmos, to the Holy, to the dynamic and healing Spirit of Jesus Christ.

We hope you will join us Thursdays at 3:00 or any other time that suits you. To make a commitment, please sign your name and email (if you’re comfortable) in the comments below. We will send reminders for prayer, and news of progress on this issue.

Pray however you care to pray for our Church and its people.

Sign this Call to Prayer.

Contact information below for the author of this call, Barbra Graber, as well as the original signers.

Barbra Graber
Harrisonburg, VA

Rachel Halder
Parnell, IA

Hilary Scarsella
Elkhart, IN

Linda Gehman Peachey
Lancaster, PA

Letter Signers:

Colleen McFarland

Jon Stanton

Marlene Bogard

Anna Mary Yoder

Anna Groff

Pat Lehman

Joy Liechty Yoder

Eldon Epp

Todd Wynward

Donna Heatwole

Barbara Hochstetler

Claire DeBerg

Shirley Hershey Showalter

Dale Metzler

Ruth Anne Graber Eccles

Angela Michael

Carolyn H. Heggen

Paul A. Yoder

Patricia Frisch

Pamela Frey

Cassandra Shenk

Gayle Gerber Koontz

Kathryn Ney

Lucinda Hoskins

Ross Erb

Viola Miller

Shirley B. Yoder

Ruth Lapp Guengerich

Rhonda Wray

Tim Nafziger

Rhoda Blough

Charlotte E. T. Lehman

Carol Knieriem

Sara Wenger Shenk

Charletta Erb

Deborah Rus

Jan Rheinheimer

Leann Augsburger

Mariel Quenzer

Roxanne Claassen

Janet Lynn Kroerer

Verdene Thompson

Karen Thompson

Marge Weaver

Kara Hjelmstad

Jane Bishop Halteman

Min Wenger

Tim Wagler

Charles R. Yoder

Kristine Regehr Bottorff

Pat Hershberger

Audrey Roth Kraybill

Carla Jacobs

Dot Jantzi

Arienne Johnson

Beth Glick

Hannah K. Miller

Barb Kinsinger Miller

Aaron Boshart

Sarah Davies

Brooke Natalie Blough

Mitch Kinsinger

Deb Malloy

Mary Forney

Marian Histand Schwabbauer

Katie Ali Gencay

Chris Whitehead

Catherine Henderson

Janice Kennel Ropp

John G Kaufman

Jennifer Delanty

Marty Troyer

Phil Kniss

Joy McIlvaine

Rhoda Keener

Cheryl Paulovich

Joanna Shenk

Todd Grotenhuis

Mark Van Steenwyk

Laura Brenneman

Ann Yoder

Sharri Kurtz

Nancy Halder

Rose LeBoeuf

John H. Denlinger

Maggie Gilman

Kelsey Eldridge

Ginger Lefever

Ben Wideman

Wayne A Nitzsche

Kendra Good Rittenhouse

Sharri Kurtz

Dana Neff

Journey Morgan

Wayne A Nitzsche

Marr Pflederer

2 thoughts on “Our Stories Untold :: A Call to Prayer for Sexual Healing in the Mennonite Church

  1. Loretta Hilty Baumgartner on said:

    My prayers at 3 o’clock today, plus 3 a.m. every morning for the victims. My guilt for ever permitting any kind of abuse, sexual or otherwise, to happen. John Howard Yoder is dead and my husband and I too shall die.

    JESUS ROSE FROM THE DEAD! Forgive me, but please help me to understand, if Christians can celebrate the resurrection of Jesus or if the sinners must kill themselves as Judas did. Or if there is a certain amount of restorative justice that can restore some tastes of heaven on earth?

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