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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ask the Matriarch - Dealing with a Stalker

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

Dear Sistah,

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.

From Kathryn:

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.

Jennifer writes:

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+


  1. Friends,

    I need to clarify that by the time I went to look at the blog, those posts had been taken down and I had no idea as to the severity of the situation.

    I stand by my recommendation to get everyone possible involved in keeping the rector and the other parishioners safe. I would also add that our society and medications are a long way from being able to 'cure' such behaviors and our hopes to minister to everyone no matter what are not reasonable or expected by anyone else than (sometimes) ourselves.

    I also will add that the opinions of the other matriarchs do not necessarily reflect my own.

  2. I am not on the Matriarchs panel, but as site administrator I receive their email questions, and I must point out that not all of the panel received the information about the "hot room," which might have influenced the tone of their initial responses.

    In dealing with the reality of a stalker, theology is at best secondary. Physical safety is the absolute priority in this case, for the rector and the congregation. I am thankful to hear that the bishop and the civil authorities have taken this seriously.

    There are situations in ministry that are beyond our powers and outside our principalities, and this is one of them. This would be as true if the rector were male. This belongs in the hands of the authorities.

    The questioner has my prayers, as does her congregation.

  3. I'm not a matriarch, but I am a former asst. district attorney. Since the stalker was just released from prison and is a violent offender, i hope is on parole with an electronic ankle device to track his whereabouts. I hope our RevGal is in touch with the parole board and his parole officer as well as the local police/ sheriff/ constable authorities.

  4. Quotidian Grace, yes! Good point! I did not get the email with the reference to the hot room and the degree of the violence and potential for. This is a very troubling situation, for which I hope the local law enforcement, parole officer/board, and other agencies are proactive, as well as the parish vestry.

  5. First: Thank you for publishing this important letter about a horrible situation. We need to know that this happens.



    Or, at least, utterly unacceptable: that our sister should be writing to us about this situation and that it has not already been decisively handled by the civil authorities. She absolutely needs the support of her parish as well, but it is secondary to what the law should do.

    Clearly there is much more to the story than is included in this post, but if the man is a violent rapist, previously incarcerated for it, and he is stalking this woman, then surely there is some way he can be arrested, removed, secured. Why has this not happened already? DO WE NEED TO COME UP THERE? (I'm not really kidding about that.)

    Once he is removed, then will be the time, and essential, for our sister to work on her healing, response to fear.

    And, "am I afraid of being raped?" Who would not answer yes to that?

    Praying for you, sister.

  6. When I read the story, my heart was broken open for this pastor. For in my first parish I had someone who was not violent or know to be violent but who called and visited me all the time. I did the appropriate notifications, but stuck being the only staff in a building by myself. So when I read the second response about don't be fearful and pray I wanted to know how that would keep me safe. Even today as I type this I have an office that is away from the rest of the church in a dark secluded corner. So there are safety issues that need to be addressed and when we bring in God we better know that God expects us to act in this the real world. My heart and prays go out to the pastor as she learns to live in a world that is no longer safe.

  7. I don't know this exact feeling, but I have experienced similar things. Shortly after I began working at my small, somewhat urban parish, I talked to the church council about keeping the doors locked at all times and installing a doorbell. I was trying to be proactive, based on events in my history. They were less crazy about the "church being locked up" until the day that a man hid in the bathroom and I had to call the cops to come and get him out of it. It was a horrible feeling to see a man cuffed in the Narthex of the church, but not as horrible as it would have been knowing that a preschooler, staff person or myself had been injured. (I know something in that sentence isn't correct grammatically.) I did have one man accost me in my office during a counseling session. Subsequently, I council men by sitting with them in the sanctuary, with two chairs facing each other- about five feet apart.

    Your circumstance sounds far more scary. Without all the details, I worry that I'm mentioning avenues you've already considered. If the police/legal protections are lacking, not what you expect or falling short due to vagaries of the law. Contact your local representatives at all levels and inform them of the situation and your concerns as a constituent. Ask specifically for their help in protecting their neighborhood/district/state, etc. Reach out to every social service branch you can think of and ask for their help, including in talking to your parishioners about their safety, the safety of the church and your safety (which IS paramount),

    In Lutheran baptismal promises, we renounce the forces of this world that oppose God (and God's plans for hope and a future). This man, who may well receive mercy from God, is behaving in a way that threatens your call, your mission and your ministry. We renounce him. You have no obligation to him for he has not called you to your vocation, given you the gifts of the Spirit or inspired your work. To bring him to justice, which shouldn't be your task, is a lamentable truth about the world as it is, not about you.

    In our church, the doors stay locked. I strongly discourage people from being in the building alone early in the morning or at night. Our secretary is permitted to speak through the door glass to anyone to whom she is uncomfortable welcoming inside. And it is fine.

    Plans are important. Make a plan for how to be in touch inside the building. What happens if there's a disturbance during worship. What happens if there's a disturbance in the middle of the week.

    Reading your message makes me remember as well that I used to keep a can of expired bear spray in my desk (good for one year for bears, two years for people). I would probably be better to have people- oriented Mace, but I usually have bear spray on hand. I've also heard about giving administrators and staff disposable cameras, already open and primed to keep in their desks. If someone comes in threatening, flashing or what have you- they can snap a picture as they move to safety. I'm never quite sure how that would work, but it's an idea.

    To your specific question, a class or classes on the theology of safety sounds good and endorsable to me. If the question of the gospel is how can they hear if no one preaches, the question for preachers is how can they hear if we cannot speak? God's call to you is the most important thing here.

    I know well the emotional and psychological toll it takes to deal with this kind of thing and I'm sorry that it is upon you. Please know that you are being lifted in prayers for consolation, strength, wisdom and peace.

    And like Mary Beth said, if you need someone to show up with the bear spray (or better), you know where to go.

  8. My heart, soul, spirit strength and love go out to the questioner. Ten years ago I was raped at gun point in my parsonage by a man who intended to kill me. I was somehow able to escape and he was caught and sentenced to 7 years in jail. For the past 10 years I've lived with the effects of trauma / PTSD which intensified when he was released from prison. I've struggled with fear ~ living with it, overcoming it, listening to it.

    Questioner, the most important thing right now is your safety. Do whatever you need to do and demand what you need from the authorities to secure your safety. In time you can deal with the trauma and the fear. Healing does come.

    As someone who has been raped, I need to address the second responders second paragraph. I know that God is with me. I know that God loves me, God was with me when I was raped, and in the end there is only God. Being raped was the worst thing I ever experienced. I am afraid of being raped again. To put it bluntly, I would take death over being raped again. I feel that asking any woman ~ especially a woman in the questioners situation ~ if she is afraid of being raped is too much. I understand that the matriarchs didn't have all the information, but you never know what people have been through. Please accept my comments from my own personal experience. Peace.

  9. Dear friends,

    Thank you for all your comments, prayers and support. I apologize for taking the blog posts down before you could read the story directly. It was just too dark to keep up there in such a public forum. I am including most of the story below in case you'd like to read it.

    I am still on a leave of absence and although I miss my church I am getting great rest. I'm continuing self defense training, and will hopefully never have to use it. When I go back to work I will feel more confident about being able to protect myself.

    with gratitude for this circle of friends,


    first part:
    The short story is that in 2007 I was being stalked by a man I will call Carl (which is his real name - I'll change other names in though to respect their privacy). Carl came to see me at the church under the pretense of needing to talk. He wasn't homeless, but clearly had some issues he was dealing with. Of course, I would listen to him. It seemed to me like being at the church provided a sense of comfort and sanctuary for him. That's why we clergy do what we do. We like to create places of safety and comfort, places where people can experience the hands and heart of God. Looking back I know now he was methodically 'grooming' me like predators do to prey, like sex offenders do to find new victims. So on one hand I was developing course content for abuse prevention, and there I was being 'groomed' by a sex offender and I didn't even see it. Scary.

    Carl would be at church when I arrived in the morning and I often saw him around the corner when I left at the end of the day. This went on for several months. A couple of times during that time my car wouldn't start. I'd have it towed to the nearby mechanic. The second time I brought it in the mechanic told me that someone was deliberately disabling the car. (It was an older Bronco that you could still open the hood from the outside- it was some kind a loosened wire). Carl was there each time waving to me as I left with the tow truck.

  10. They said Carl was dangerous and they needed to see me right away.

    When I met with them they gave me the name of Carl's parole officer, they said that I needed to get a restraining order and find a way to protect myself. They suggested I carry a gun from now on. Being the old dyed in the wool hippie mom that I was - I wouldn't even let my children use sticks to pretned they were guns - I declined on the gun, but did get pepper spray...and the restraining order. They couldn't locate him to serve him with the restraining order, but he was served in San Quentin prison when he had to go to there on a different criminal charge

    The next few years were quiet in that regard - no stalkers, church life as usual. He was released though and began stalking me again in September.

    I'll have to write more later - I just noticed the clock and will be late for a meeting. I just wanted to start writing this story down.

    Carl was released from San Quentin after having served two full sentences. I was sitting in my office and heard his voice ask my administrative assistant if he could use the rest room. The hair on the back of my neck stood up and all the events from years earlier were back in an instant. I told her to tell him that he could not use the rest room. I thought he had gone, but when I looked out my office window he was staring at me from the opened bathroom door across the courtyard from my office. I opened my door and told him to leave the property. Other people were around and told me that he had been coming around again, asking to use the rest room.

    When he was there years earlier he would spend hours in the restroom - and sitting on a bench across from my office. In my state of complete naivete it didn't raise any alarms for me. He seemed to be the kind of person who was in need of help, not a dangerous man. He had been coming by for months and I'd gotten used to him being there at the church, until he began calling me at home and describing things he was planning to do to me. I worked with his parole officer and the police quite a bit when I got the first restraining order in 2007/2008. I kept being told he was dangerous and I needed to call 911 immediately if I saw him. They could pick him up and put him back in prison as a parole violation. I didn't ask about his previous offenses at that time. He was put back in San Quentin on a different criminal charge.

    When he showed up again I called the police right away and told him he was back. They said they could pick him up on trespassing charges, but it wouldn't do much. Carl was no longer on parole. The agent said I should get another restraining order, they would increase their patrol and said it would not be a bad idea if I had a gun in case I needed it for self protection.

    I called Carl's parole officer. Agent David told me that he couldn't help me much because Carl was a free man. He had served two full sentences at San Quentin, and if a person serves their full term they are free. He said I should get a restraining order. I asked if thought it was necessary to get something like a gun - was Carl really that dangerous? He asked me what I thought Carl might be capable of. After my earlier phone calls from Carl I said I thought he was capable of rape. Agent David confirmed that and said he was capable of violent rape and I needed to know how to protect myself. He suggested I take a class on learning to use a gun in case my life was ever threatened.

  11. part 3
    I began the paperwork for the restraining order. I contacted a private investigator I know and then I began to pray for safety, direction, a sense of peace. It got harder to maintain my focus on ministry. I had begun getting interested in developing an after school program for the church, I love to write sermons, but I was always looking over my shoulder. I was tense all the time.

    Carl came back several times. I tried to avoid contact with him, but did order him off the property on two other occasions and then called the police. He was gone before they got there.

    The PI I had helping me found out more info. I took out the names of people and Carl's last name and social security number, but here is what I found out.

    Carl XXXX Jr., born July 03, 1963, SSN XXX-XX-XXXX, has juvenile
    records in San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties and adult records
    in Solano and Santa Cruz counties, all criminal with the exception of a
    filing in Solano County that subsequently resulted in a criminal proceeding.
    In that particular case, the Plaintiff was XXXXXX. I called XXXX to ascertain what the situation involved that caused him to be a Plaintiff. He knew immediately that I was referring to CARL.

    In short, I have no idea why this guy still isn't in prison as he obviously has mental issues that aren't being addressed. What XXXX shared with me is too detailed to go into in writing. You need to talk directly to him and/or meet with him.

    He has four additional cases in XXXX County
    (all criminal) from 2003, 2008, and 2009.

    I also found he is a 290 Registrant (Sexual Predator) and is
    required by law to register every time he moves.
    What XXX has to say about CARL matches this criteria as a Registrant
    too. He has video, statements, etc..

    We need to devise a plan, system, or something whereas you are protected.
    In the event that something were to happen to you, this guy has a built-in
    excuse, explanation, or reasonable defense due to his in-and-out prison
    stays that can be attributed to a mental disorder. I've seen it too many
    times, which doesn't do you or any other victim any good..

    I met with another person who had filed a case against Carl. His company had video surveillance installed so they could find out who was vandalizing property at one of the local cemeteries. Someone had disabled a fan and plastered porno pictures in one of the small restrooms there. He had also exposed himself to a woman who was visiting her husband's grave at 6:30 a.m. I don't know any more details than that - and I don't really want to know. I imagine she ran away from him before anything else happened. The surveillance video found out that it was Carl who routinely came to the cemetery very early in the morning and left when the cemetery landskeeper came to work at 7 a.m. The police said that Carl was creating a 'love nest' or ‘hot room’ in the restroom with the disabled fan and the porno pictures. There are hours and hours of video. I saw a short clip of him walking to a car. I didn't want to watch any more.

  12. part 4
    Later that week I had a meeting with my spiritual director. Her office is one of those places that feels instantly familiar and comfortable. I love going there. After we prayed together I started to tell her about Carl and said that I was advised to learn to use a gun for self protection in 2007 and again now. The whole idea of having a gun was just so foreign to me. There were no guns in my home growing up. I believed that guns are only good for killing and hurting and I could never see myself having a gun.

    I expected my spiritual director to agree with my aversion to a gun, but instead she told me about another directee she has who does self defense work - including martial arts and guns. She thought I should be open to considering all possibilities of self protection given the situation. As it turned out, the other directee happened to call her as we were talking. Normally her phone is turned off during our sessions. But that day it was on. She put us on the phone together and we set up a time to talk later and to meet in person.

    Catherine (not her real name) and I met. We talked about various things; pepper spray, taser guns, other guns, martial arts, knives, etc. She talked about them as useful tools to know how to use. Hopefully we would never have to use them, but in certain situations knowing how to use something like that can be the difference between life and death. She arranged a meeting between me and her self defense instructor so I could learn more about the different tools that were available and figure out the best one for me.

  13. part 5

    In the meantime Carl continued to show up at church, not every day, but enough to be scoping out the schedule of who was there on different days. One day I overheard my secretary tell him to leave. I went out 5 minutes later to check and found he was still there in a dark corner by the front gate. I told him it was private property and I was calling the police to have him removed. He left. I don't know a lot about the psychological make up of stalkers, but apparently the more contact they have with the person(s) they are stalking the more it reinforces the weird connection they have. The police said hey would increase patrol in the area, but they couldn't pick him up for anything if he wasn't on the property anymore. He was a free man. The restraining order was ready to be picked up later that week. Carl needed to be served with the restraining order before it could take effect.

    I arranged a meeting with Catherine and her self-defense instructor. He is an expert in all kinds of self-defense; pepper spray, martial arts, weapons and tactical defense. He has trained police, Navy Seals and Delta Force. He's retired but came to talk to me as a favor to Catherine. We talked about my situation. Apparently things like pepper spray are not the best choice of deterrent when someone is attack mode because of the adrenaline that is pumping through the attackers system. Martial arts has some great maneuvers for self defense but it would take too long for me to be good enough to be effective in this particular situation. We talked about taser guns and decided that the best way to protect myself in this situation would be to get a regular gun. Hopefully I would never have to use it, but if my life were being threatened, it looked like the best choice. The question remained whether or not I would be capable of using it.

    Tom (not the real name of the instructor) helped me try out various guns to see which one fit best in my hand. I chose one (guns are more expensive than I imagined), took the test that is required before someone can purchase a gun, set up a date to meet Tom at his shooting range and went home.

    We implemented safety strategies at church. We began to lock the front gate and put in a door bell that rings to the front office. It goes against my grain to lock up the church, but it's the wisest thing to do for now. I'm also not alone at the church anymore. It's an inconvenience, but I can go to the nearby Starbucks to do computer work if I'm waiting to go to a meeting. I can also do quite a bit by telecommuting and skype.

    The biggest thing for me at this point was a spiritual issue. Could I really hurt someone or take a life? If someone were hurting one of my children I would do anything I could to protect them, although I didn't really have the skill or knowledge of how to do that. I had never given this much thought. I spent the next couple of weeks thinking and praying and talking to others about this. Thou shalt not kill means thou shalt not kill. Right? It's pretty clear. I thought back to conversations in seminary about the principles of a 'just war.' I began to do some theological research and turned to Halakhic law.

    If I did not do whatever I could to protect myself it would only allow a man who has been in and out of prison since he was a juvenile to hurt one more person. I thought of that quote: “Sometimes the only way evil can continue is for good people to do nothing.”

    I became more and more hyper vigilant at work, always looking over my shoulder, on edge. We began locking the gate at the church, but Carl would sometimes be seen on his bike at the corner of the street just watching. I suppose he was watching to see if someone forgot to lock the gate behind them or watch for me walking to my car. His presence got under my skin and I became distracted and fearful.

  14. final part

    A couple of weeks later I picked up my gun and began taking an Attack Weapon and Tactical Defense class.

    The months of sustained hyper vigilance and constantly looking over my shoulder had an unexpected effect on my physical health. I went to see my doctor who did tests. The tests came back indicating my adrenal glands were barely functioning. He said I needed to re-set things - like shutting off a computer and turning it back on again. My fight or flight reaction had been going full bore for too long. I needed to take time off of work immediately to sleep and rest. I had planned on modifying that and working from home more but continuing to work. I had also been keeping the bishop up to date on all the things that were going on. He said that he wanted me to listen to the doctor and take time off. We could arrange a long term supply to take care of things for the church for now. I would have kept pushing myself and so grateful to have a bishop step in and help me do what was best. Sometimes we can’t step back enough from our own life to see the whole picture, but when we walk with others they really do help us stay on the path and help us keep going for the long haul. This is what being in community is about. My church is in good hands with a colleague who has taken the helm. I am getting the chance to sleep in, take naps and am beginning to feel the buzz of stress sluff off. I am beginning to feel safe again and deeply grateful. (Carl does not know where I live).

    I am reading, for the millioneth time, a book called Night Visions Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas by Jan Richardson. It’s a beautiful book with her art work and reflections. The reflection for today is titled Working On It.

    And so let me let you hold me
    when I have come to the place beyond the willingness to labor
    beyond anything but the longing for rest.
    Let my emptiness be emptiness till it reveals to me your face,
    and let my weariness be weariness till it prompts me to your rest.
    Then may I know the healing of slumber
    and the possibility of dreams;
    then may I greet the dawn and take up my work again.

  15. I want the poster to know that she is in my prayers and that I didn't respond because I was left speechless by the severity of this situation. The assistant District attorney, in my opinion, has it right.

    Safety is of the unmost importance.

  16. I commend you, RevDeb on all you have done to take care of yourself, with the help of your community. I want to particularly affirm your choice to arm yourself. Progressive feminism has struggled over whether women should use violence, even in self-defense. That is not my struggle, nor I believe is it God's. Many are uncomfortable with the violence in the scriptures. There are multiple theologies of violence and self-defense in the scriptures. As an Army chaplain I was regularly asked if Christians could be soldiers, because of the requirement to kill, particularly in the light of the commandment not to kill, or murder. When soldiers came to John because of the Gospel he preached he did not tell them that soldiering was incompatible with their new faith. And indeed, the same God who says, "thou shalt not..." also, repeatedly says, "kill!" Indeed the women who kill rapists in the bible are celebrated - Jael and Judith - as most blessed among women. It is no accident that the Virgin of Nazareth was blessed in those words by her cousin the pregnant prophet. And there is Deborah and there are women whose battles we will never know. And there is Jesus who said "turn the other cheek" one day and on another said "we need swords" - the same weapons as the Romans. If they have guns, we need guns. All of this to say that non-violence is not the only faithful response to violence in this broken world. Gob be with you, strengthen you, keep and if if comes to it, make your aim true, for our God who is love is also a God of war.

  17. Oh Pastor Deb, you have done so much to take appropriate action and precautions. I double my prayers for you. And, a thought...last night I saw a news report of a veteran in Florida who has PTSD. In response he got a dog and worked with an organization that helped him train the dog to keep him safe from the way his PTSD symptoms manifest. I wonder if you could get a dog, trained to be with you like any other service dog? One that would go every where you go, including church, when ever you return?

  18. I have a huge dog, a labradoodle, who I could start taking with me to work. I'll check into getting him trained. Thanks for that idea. he wouldn't hurt a flea, but he sounds ferocious! he'd be a good warning that someone was coming.

  19. Pastor Deb, I have three dogs who wouldn"t hurt anyone, but I suspect would protect me if necessary and their very presence and BARK! is a kind of protection. I hope there is some place that offers the kind of training that will aide you. (Oh, and I love labradoodles!)

  20. Pastor Deb: I commend you for everything that you have done, and I will pray for your continued healing and wisdom. I agree with those who have said that your personal safety is first priority, not only for yourself, but for your parish.

    I also share your discomfort with the thought of using a gun. Although I've never been in anything close to your situation I once served at an inner city parish as an interim. I don't know the details, but I do know that the previous (female) rector had left partly because of safety issues. When I was asked to take the position, my Bishop asked if I had a dog...a BIG dog. I didn't, but I did borrow my daughter's 9 month old Bull Mastiff puppy. He immediately became my constant companion and I never answered the door, walked around the grounds or had anyone in my office without having him there. He was incredible at picking up on my discomfort with anyone I felt was a bit "off" with and wouldn't let them within 2 feet of me. He never threatened, just planted himself between my and the person and watched. The stare of a 90 lb. bull mastiff by itself is more than slightly intimidating and often those people would automatically back up and away from me. Just his presence gave me a huge sense of safety.

    I think that training your labradoodle to serve as a personal guard dog is a wonderful idea. Although you think he wouldn't hurt a flea, I would suspect that if anyone tried to hurt you, he just might surprise you, and training would ensure that he would protect you. I wonder if, given the situation, he might even be able to be certified as a service dog, once trained and then you could always have him with you.

  21. RevDeb, thank you for sharing this horrifying story. Women in ministry and our churches need to know that this can happen and take measures to ensure that we're safe.

    I'm dismayed that charges can't yet be brought against your stalker. In Canada, where I live, it is a criminal offense to stalk someone. Keeping watch outside someone's home, workplace or other location is also a serious, related crime called "besetting." I know this because, over the past year, I was stalked by a man I had dated a few times and who refused to accept that the relationship was over. When I reported it to the police, they visited him at home and required him to sign a consent order, stating that he would stay away from me and would not endeavor to contact me or anyone known or related to me in any way. My home address and phone numbers have been flagged on the police and RCMP emergency lines in case he changes his mind and decides to return. If I call 911, unless I say otherwise, the emergency services will assume that my stalker has reappeared and will be prepared to deal with him. He would be arrested immediately because he would be in violation of a court order; he would be charged with criminal harassment.

    I hope there may be some way you can get a similar or better arrangement for yourself.

  22. This is quite horrifying. I will also keep you in my prayers.

    I appreciate you sharing this crisis with us - it's helpful to hear about it happening, to learn about warning signs to which I should pay attention, and to hear the advice others have to give. On the other hand, I am appalled that there is a story like this to be shared.

    I too would find it incredibly difficult to purchase a gun let alone actually imagine using it. In fact, I find that you being given that as reasonably across-the-board advice rather fascinating: it suggests a cultural gap to me. I can't imagine being told by police (friends, advisers, etc) to get a gun and learn to use it. Kudos to you for taking the advice seriously on every level and facing it head-on. You are an impressive woman.

    May your rest give you strength and clarity. Lots of prayers.

  23. Dear Pastor Deb: As others have said, this is appalling--and I share the impulse to take up arms, or even stale-dated bear-spray, and "get on down there".
    In the meantime, some very peripheral comments late in the day, here.
    This morning's Psalm (144) -- at least in the old translation -- sounds like a motto for all self-defense training; "Blessed is God, who traineth my hands to war and my fingers to fight." (Go, you!)
    Second -- yes, the range of "the possible" and "the legal" and "the advisable" over the two jurisdictions from which we've heard responses is very interesting.
    Third -- in this part of the world, labour legislation has provided that employees working alone in any enterprise shall NOT be required to open a door to anyone (or, I believe, even respond to anyone on the outside via intercom etc.) I think they brought that law in on behalf of teenagers in gas stations, but hey.
    Finally -- the stalking/obsession/erotomania thing happens to male clergy also. One of my (male) colleagues had a very difficult time with a (female) parishioner -- he told the story with some bitterness because he experienced NO support from fellow-clergy -- they tended to roll their eyes and guffaw -- finally he went to the local police, expecting nothing. To his amazement, they took him seriously, were knowledgeable and sympathetic and practical and prompt in their advice and support.

  24. I hadn't read that psalm- thanks for pointing it out!

    I will add the policy for all my employees and volunteers of not opening the door to anyone when alone at the church. That will help in most situations, but I did have an incident a year ago when two men actually crawled over the roof of the church and dropped themselves into the courtyard. I found myself locked courtyard of the church with them, but luckily I escaped and got a neighbor who called the police in time to get them.

    I have heard from some males who have had a similar problem. It's so important to take this seriously. One of my associates has told several parishioners (during my leave of absence) that the stalker / rapist wasn't really dangerous and that I had over exaggerated the situation.

    Thanks for your comments-


  25. Deb, et. al. Obviously this has been a hot topic and touches all of us. I want to amend or at least explain what I meant when I suggested that you deal with your fear.

    I was a 'victim of incest' as a child so rape is not foreign or just a figment in my mind. It was when I finally was no longer fearful of the man who was doing it that I was able to take back my life. It also ended the abuse.

    You are dealing with something different, but you still need to deal with the fear that WILL immobilize you if you allow it. Feeling strong and feeling supported will help you face this evil one down and allow you to make use of all the saftey available to you. I WAS NOT suggesting that you pray and 'think of England.' I was merely saying that if we set our mind we can live though anything in order to demand the liberty due us

    Now that I have heard the whole story above, I know that you are safer than I initally thought--at least safe within yourself. You have utilized many of the exterior safe makers that are available. I still think that you call the police the miniute that he shows up either at church or at home. And charge him with trespassing. You do it often enough they will be able to charge him with stalking. (not sure of CA law).

    There have been some awesome responses from sisters here. And utilize all that are helpful. But I agree with with Mary Beth: DO WE ALL HAVE TO COME OVER THERE? Even at my age, I don't think that my 5'9" 200+ dyke self would be small change in THAT fight!

  26. Thanks all,

    I can just picture a RevGal group marching to city hall wanting answers as to why this person is a free man (until he hurts someone again) when there are people who are no danger to society but are nevertheless locked away - i.e. for check forgery. I am blissfully unaware of his current whereabouts while I am on leave, but plan on addressing this particular situation and larger systemic questions in the judicial system when I get back in the saddle.

    with gratitude for this forum and friendships.

  27. I have nothing new to add to the discussion, but my own prayers, support, and willingness to "come on over there."

    I do want to point out that the link to Muthah's blog within this original post is somehow goofed up and takes one to a very NOT Muthah blog. Just thought I'd point that out.


  28. May all our prayers surround you like a warm, comforting blanket of love as you take this time to heal, to grow in strength, to explore your own heart and soul, and to plan. Thank you for sharing this with us, as it does serve as a vivid warning of what is possible even when we can hardly bring ourselves to believe it because as clergy we are so inclined to look for the best, not be on guard against the worst.

    I am appalled that any of your fellow clergy would downplay this and say as much to anyone. I hope that the leaders in your parish have been very clear with the congregation that this is a matter of utmost seriousness.

    Pastor Krista Beth, prayers for you, too, as you continue on the long journey of healing.

  29. Stephanie, thanks for noting the mis-link to Muthah's blog. One letter makes a BIG difference! Have fixed that. :)

  30. Rev Deb,

    First, I can not express just how much my prayers are with you in this situation.

    As far as your questions about building security:
    For my own safety, I have pepper spray that I keep at the office with me, just in case (I'm here alone a lot, and I'm not very strong). I alone was in the decision process on this one, as it was about personal safety.

    Building wise: We've also installed security cameras at our church due to break-ins. It's a move that we all hated, but for the safety and the security of the building (and the people here), it's a move that we felt was neccessary.
    The governing boards of my church where in on this process. Thankfully, after the number of times that we've been broken into and the mini vandalism that we had, it was a no-brainer.
    The toughest thing was talking to the church, and letting them know that this was about safety for our people but also about good stewardship of what we had. We spent a lot of time talking to people about how we won't be monitoring them unless something has happened, and they will not be used to "spy" on people.

    We're also considering installing a "panic button" in the office so that if something goes down, we can hit the button and it will auto-dial the police department. We are talking about this in the hopes that we will never have to use it.

    It is sad that we have to take such steps, but I believe that keeping the people who come here, for work or for help, safe is worth any steps we have to take.

  31. Deb -- I just came back and want to say that I am glad for all you are doing to protect yourself, and am absolutely appalled that there are people who are saying that you are exaggerating the situation. That part troubles me deeply.

    You are still in my prayers. Take care.

  32. Rev Deb, I too am horrified that you have had to deal with this. You are in my prayers.

    I was once stalked briefly, as Anne B, was, also by someone I dated a few times who refused to believe there was no relationship ("but you're a pastor, you have to love everyone..." direct quote). It was a horrifying time and I can identify with the sense of hyper vigilance, although violence was not part of the issue. Thankfully, I was taken seriously--by police, friends, the governing board of my church, etc.
    You are in my prayers for peace and safety.


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