Friday, June 26, 2009

Safest Sex Offender on the Planet

The two announcements below appear every week in our weekly announcement sheet:
• Since 2002 our worshipping community has included an individual who is a convicted, non-predatory sex offender. He has graduated from the treatment portion of the alternative sentencing program, continues treatment voluntarily, and remains under supervision by the Department of Corrections. We are a community working to provide a welcoming spiritual home for survivors of abuse as well as this offender. We are a safer place for both children and adults because of the awareness and education that this ministry has produced. He is within view of a chaperone at all times while on our grounds. He may be worshipping with us at 9:30 on 2nd and 4th Sundays and at 11:00 on 1st and 3rd Sundays. When he is here at other times, the office will be informed 24 hours in advance and signs will be posted on doors to the meeting house. If you have questions we encourage you to ask a member of either the Oversight or Worship & Ministry Committee. For more information see yellow informational flyer on information table outside office.

• Survivors of sexual abuse working to support each other spiritually may meet in the Quaker House living room on 2nd and 4th Sundays following the rise of 11:00 meeting. To confirm schedule, call ...

RantWoman has been discerning with her Meeting for the entire interval of this ministry. In fact, RantWoman sort of ducked and made a key introduction early in the story. At times, given this beginning, RantWoman feels a twinge of regret for not going out of her way to be on deeper terms with "our sex offender." At this point he and RantWoman sort of nod when we pass by each other; RantWoman keeps him in her prayers. RantWoman gets updates through the community chatter grapevine. RantWoman says prayers of forebearance and centering every time our Meeting must address some of the regular and intermittent requirements we ask of ourselves and each other in connection with this ministry. And RantWoman feels her plate is already full and therefore does not exactly rush to add more.

RantWoman supposes she could say "Thank you," thank you for being so forthright. Thank you for sharing the minutia of your previous evaluations and court requirements. Thank you for bearing with us as we wriggle and wrangle about every request to be active in a new way. Thank you for simply going forward. Thank you for forcing us to create space for many kinds of conversation that would not have come up without your request of our community. Thank you for being one of the catalysts for me to name and stash the background for some of my own psychic twitches.

RantWoman could say stuff like that. RantWoman certainly thinks of stuff like that. Then RantWoman thinks of other people's experiences, of realities they can no more escape than RantWoman, thanks to her meeting's ministry can escape thinking of this person's past.

Some of the time RantWoman has found herself thinking "Do we really need to know...?" Some of the time RantWoman thinks of the lists of process and requests and reports and thinks her Meeting is trying to play God. That is just because we know where one sex offender we know about is and when most assuredly does not mean anyone is protected from all possible danger.

Some of the time by now, RantWoman is heartily sick of everything to do with this ministry. RantWoman sometimes finds herself especially vexed that time devoted to this ministry tends to have the offender's name on it more than the names or challenges of Friends who have been victimized. RantWoman thinks there are also good reasons for this and still struggles with how to represent these people in the time needed. In fact, RantWoman feels acutely that being the public face of bad circumstances is its own burden, most assuredly not to be imposed unless people themselves willingly take it up for one reason or another.

Sometimes RantWoman is unbelievably proud. Some of the time RantWoman is incredibly grateful to members of her Meeting who are much closer to this ministry than is RantWoman. Some of the time RantWoman hovers in the shadows, thinking of moments where her own psyche feels what would sensibly be labelled collateral damage from others' circumstances. RantWoman actually does not feel a clear need to speak openly of these circumstances and certainly not all of them; RantWoman is thoroughly grateful to have confidential fora to touch the topics when she wants to.

RantWoman also sees her reticence through a veil of uncertainty, uncertainty about others who do not speak up, uncertainty around the edges of many stories, and the kind of uncertainty that bidden or not prefers to leave room in the conversation not only for the pronouncements of psychology but also for movements of the Divine. This is another way of saying RantWoman does not necessarily think every wrinkle of the soul needs to be dragged out in words for there to be community or transformation or some of those other blessings that are supposed to come with faith. Furthermore, RantWoman is grateful actually that this tangle of contradictory thinking helps keep the whole situation from getting wrapped up in and choked by vapid glibness.

Despite all of these paradoxes, all this ambiguity, RantWoman can also say with considerable confidence that her Meeting may have one of the safest sex offenders on the planet: we know who he is. Those of us who feel able walk alongside his challenges of health and work and living situation. No one is going to let him watch their children. Our meeting has taken many other measures to protect our children. Vexatious as some discussions still remain, RantWoman thinks the ongoing work is another reminder not to slack off on any of the aspects, attention to spiritual support for an offender, support, sharing and respectful boundaries for people who have been victimized, and sensible protection in new situations.

RantWoman knows there are many other sex offenders out there and for that matter many others who have in one way or another fallen short of the glory of God. RantWoman knows that walking alongside the suffereings of many of these people is tremendous work; yet RantWoman also thinks this is vital to community spiritual life and recommends the journey to other Meetings or congregations as well.

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