Our post this week is a very serious one. Our rev gal has blogged about her situation, and the matriarchs had the opportunity to read her blog posts, as you will notice when you read some of the responses.
I have had significant security issues at church, where I am the rector. I have currently been dealing with a stalker, who is also a sex offender. I finally began writing about it in my blog, but wanted to formulate some question about church security. Before I had the stalker (this is his second time stalking me - he was in prison for a few years and just got out) I walked around church in a state of familiarity that I was unaware of any danger signs. I'm working on finding the balance between being awake (a good Advent discipline) and aware, without being hyper vigilant.
After writing a 5 part blog series on my situation, I decided the story is so dark and disturbing that I took the blog series down. I do have all the text though. My stalker is a violent rapist and he had created what is called a 'hot room' in a bathroom at a nearby cemetery. This sort of room is created to bring someone back to. On Sunday mornings there were squad cars in front of my church for my protection This has been quite a journey for me and as a result I'm thinking about doing a workshop on theology of self defense.
Have you ever had to deal with a stalker or someone who wanted to do you harm?
Have you found cause to increase security and/or surveillance around your facility? Who participated in the decision-making? What worked? What would you do differently?
What advice do you have for this rector?
From Terri, who blogs at Seeking Authentic Voice
Goodness. I am grateful you have taken the self defense training. And, I am thankful your Bishop is taking this seriously and insisting you take some time off.
From my experience and training this situation requires assistance from professionals who are trained in a comprehensive approach to violence against women. The threat of violence and stalking are a form of violence. Have you done any research into what help is available? Such as connecting with one of the various "Violence Against Women" organizations like "Not In Our Pews"? Even though this is not a domestic violence situation, they will have ideas of how to prepare and protect yourself. What I like about "Not In Our Pews" is that they partner with local social work agencies, churches, and law enforcement, to create a comprehensive approach to protect the victim. You can read more about them on my blog here.
Also, it seems that acquiring some training for you and your leadership team/vestry/staff will help. I don't know the thought process behind a stalker but it seems that secrecy may be one of their veils of abuse? Again, a comprehensive approach from organizations trained in domestic/partner abuse including churches, local law enforcement, and mental health agencies, can give you training and direction.
I hope you find the help you need and can live again with a greater sense of peace. You remain in my prayers!
From Muthah+, who blogs at Stone of Witness
I have never had a situation like this. I have never been an 'object' of anyone's fascination. It sounds like you are doing some important things for yourself. The self defense class is good to remind you of the power you do have. You have spiritual power that this stalker does not. You need only to call upon God to give you that inward power, the skill of not folding before fear and evil. That is what your Indian story is about.
I think we all come face to face with Evil in someway--it is essential to our growth in faith. Your encounter is quite manifest. And there comes a time when we all have to choose not to feed the Evil wolf. You have chosen to do that with this question to us. Now, like anytime we have to make a change in our selves to follow the Good, the practice is the hard part. Ask yourself first if you are afraid to die. And then deal with that question. Then ask yourself if you are afraid of being raped. And then deal with that. Once we begin to really think through scenarios, we fill begin to realize that we often have more fear of the fear than we have of the reality. Of course we don't want these things to happen! And of course fear (the right kind of fear) is necessary for self-preservation. But it is often the fear of the fear that saps our strength and makes us powerless and vulnerable.
Fear feeds a predator's desire to stalk. In AA we have a phrase "fake it 'till ya make it." It is one of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given. Sometimes we have to live into a state of being before we can call it our own. Start living as if you are NOT afraid. This does NOT mean be foolish--take the precautions that are appropriate. But live into your fearless love for God. Living fearlessly t'ain't easy but it does make a difference and it will become a part of you. It may turn him off.
Building into your life ways of resting and restoring your strength will keep your spiritual 'immune system' in good health. When was your last retreat? Do you have prayer time morning and night worked into your daily schedule that are more important than "getting things done?" Do you have prayer partners that are lifting you and holding you in their daily prayers? Do you hold them?
I rejoice with you in having a bishop who is understanding and helpful. I had to leave a parish for almost 2 months due to stress and fatigue one time too . I hated that I would be viewed as 'fragile' afterward. But neither the parish nor the bishop saw it that way. People understand when their beloved pastor has been hassled just because you serve them.
Your buildings need to be secure--the parish needs to see to that. Get a good security company come and do an evaluation of your offices and church and an estimate. If your budget cannot support the changes needed ask the bishop or look for funds through various women's organizations. Check out Take Back the Night and similar organizations that you can get more information so that you feel strengthen enough to enjoy life without 'constant hyper-vigilance'.
You are in my prayers. Rest now and come back fierce in your love for God and God's people. Let "If God be for us, who can be against" be your mantra. And let your friends in the parish know what you are fighting, if they don't already know. They will protect you. Believe me, the men in your parish will absolutely take care of you-- let their desire to care for you make you safer. It will give some of them a real sense of being needed in a "woman-led church." Use machismo to your benefit. If you need your home watched while you sleep, they will do that. This is what 'community' means. Work with local law enforcement (I am sure you have already done this). But spend this New Year living freely feeding the Good Wolf.
And I know that you can depend upon many of us holding you in our prayers until this man is caught or discouraged.
My friend, there are two levels to your question. Our church's governing body is phasing in increased levels of security (rekeying, sectioning off areas of the church, security cameras, more people presence). I can detail these efforts for those interested as I know from experience that churches tend to be all (mega church security guards) or nothing (why do we need to keep people from being in the building?).
However, after reading your blog post, clearly things for you are already at another level. I am sorry for the fear you have been living with. I am grateful your Bishop appears to get it, but have great concerns that this situation is not going to get better for you.
I think at the very least an honest conversation needs to be had with local authorities, your family, your denominational authorities and the leaders in your local congregation about what security measures must be put in place for your own peace of mind.
I have no personal experience with an on-site stalker, but trust that you have alerted your governing board, the local authorities and people close to you about this troubling situation. You should not, for any reason, be coping with this alone. From your blog, it sounds as though you have enrolled in self-defense classes, which is good.
Please allow others to assist you in coping with this. Thank you for asking for our help. I hope that you also find resources where you are to help you find the balance you seek and allow you to be an effective pastor and a wise and responsible person.
Please join in this very serious conversation, whether you have faced a similar danger or not. And please join in praying for our sister and for all who face such violence, as well as those who are snared by sin into perpetrating violence.
May we all live freely in God's amazing grace+