This article was originally published in Summer 2018 Timbrel, “Empowering Women: Claiming Healthy Personal Boundaries.”
Sister Care seminars have consistently recommended and often provided several resources to help deepen women’s capacity to set clear personal boundaries as part of self-care. Two of these resources are available free of charge from Mennonite Central Committee (MCC): Created Equal: Women and Men in the Image of God by Linda Gehman Peachey and “Home shouldn’t be a place that hurts” brochure. The third is Carolyn Holderread Heggen’s book: Sexual Abuse in Christian Homes and Churches.
These resources provide information about domestic violence and sexual abuse, and new ways to understand biblical teachings regarding women and men. It is significant that all three were written by Mennonite women, and the personal stories in Heggen’s book are all from Mennonites whose abuse happened in the context of Christian homes and churches. The book states that sexual abuse can involve verbal, visual, and psychological contact as well
as physical contact. The information in these resources enables women to realize the scope of abuse. This awareness contributes to healing and setting limits.
“Created Equal” addresses scriptures that have often been interpreted to give greater power to men than women. How women understand biblical teachings on equality, submission, and suffering makes a difference in their ability to resist abusive behaviors. As it says in the unit titled. “I am God’s beloved daughter” in the Sister Care manual, “Any religious teaching that isn’t Good News for women and children and those with the least power in our community is not teaching the truth that Jesus came to bring.”
At each Sister Care seminar, each participant receives the “Home shouldn’t be a place that hurts” brochure. Internationally, when language is a barrier, a few leaders receive the brochure so that they can adapt the information for their context. Participants are encouraged to place these brochures in a bathroom so women can pick them up privately.
Last summer I received an email from Linda Herr, MCC’s Training Development coordinator in Akron, Pennsylvania. She had received a call from a woman, who, while at a garage sale, went to a nearby church for a restroom and found a “Home shouldn’t be a place that hurts” brochure. She called MCC asking for help, and I was able to recommend local resources that Linda communicated to her. I have often wondered if those brochures were placed there following a Sister Care seminar.
Knowledge gives power. Let’s continue to share resources to strengthen our ability to set personal boundaries.