Late one July afternoon, as another recently divorced woman left my office wiping tears from her eyes, it struck me that people like her really had no place of their own—particularly in church. They didn't fit in single's groups comprised mainly of young adults never married. They didn't feel fully accepted in the church's family activities. In the one place people come to seek support and solace, divorced people continued to feel lonely, rejected, and forgotten.
I made a resolution to see what St. Mark's could do to meet their special needs. First, I asked a divorcee named Norma Smith for ideas. We began to map out a ministry to separated and divorced people in our community.
As we talked about starting a support group, we knew what we did not want. We were not interested in a place for socializing, for date-hunters. We were also not interested in a place for "painalogues"—the tiresome routine of, "Let me tell how rotten my husband/wife was to me!" It must be, we determined, a group that provided education, emotional and psychological support, and spiritual affirmation and nurture. That called for definite structure.
The church and the group were clear from the beginning that we did not condone divorce. In fact, we hated it. Because we knew the hurt and pain it causes, we wanted to reach out in love and enable people who had experienced it to begin life anew. But which should come first—acceptance and caring or correction and the call to repentance for past wrongs?
I'm a firm believer that people have to take responsibility for their own behavior, and I knew from my counseling that hard questions would have to be faced somewhere along the way. What ...