Arundhati Roy once said: Once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There’s no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable.
For Christians, seeing has implications.
In 2020 when women across Australia were marching against gendered violence, the Anglican Church of Australia did a survey to investigate the prevalence of Domestic and Family Violence in church communities.
Horrifyingly the results showed that the prevalence of DFV in Anglican communities is at least the same if not higher than the general population, and even more horrifying were indications that those experiencing DFV were unlikely to turn to the church for support or assistance because of the perception that church was unwilling to help – that the church would put the sanctity of marriage before integrity of relationships or the safeguarding and quality of a victim’s life.
That is a story we have to change.
If the kingdom of heaven has something to do with uncovering the preciousness of life, then the church is to be a sanctuary for that life… For it’s well-being, it’s growth, and for it’s flourishing.
In 2021 the General Synod of Australia committed to being part of change, in 2022 our diocese funded a project officer to research and resource better church responses, and in 2023 our parish council committed to join with Speak Up Now in helping to change the ending in our own communities.
For us that story begins with a Red Bench… a place to sit together, and a reminder that we cannot solve a problem until we can speak of it.
We’ve all known people in oppressive relationships. Let our red benches be a symbol to remind others and ourselves that our calling is to be sanctuary – a place of safety, support and new life for all who enter these doors.
Red Bench Dedication Prayer
May God bless us with
with insight to
recognise violence in all its forms,
and the courage to name it
and seek justice.
May God bless us
with compassion for the vulnerable,
the grace to stand with them,
and the strength to journey with them
We dedicate this Red Bench
to the glory of God
and to the dignity of the women,
children and men that God loves.
May it be a symbol for us
of the power to tell a better story
to transform this world
with peace and justice
and change the ending
for those who need it most. Amen.