When the Rev. Larry Rascoe preached a sermon on child molestationseveral weeks ago at Nazarene Baptist Church, he knew he'd struck achord with his congregation.
Afterward, a handful of members approached him in person or throughletters to say that they had suffered sexual abuse as children. Rascoewas moved by their stories and knew they probably represented untoldothers among his congregation.
"I don't think I've ever had a message that affected me the way that message did," Rascoe said.
"I was led to do something about it."
So the church is combining its fall revival with special programs on the topic of sexual abuse.
At 6 p.m. Sunday, the church will hold a prayer service for abuse victims and their families.
On Wednesday and Thursday, a minister and a mental-health professional from Ohio will lead special programs.
Tyffani Dent, a licensed psychologist from Cleveland, will holdseminars at 5:45 p.m. both days. Her brother, the Rev. LaMont Monfordof Lima, Ohio, will lead worship services at 7 both nights.
Wednesday's program will cover the impact of sexual abuse, alongwith prevention and intervention strategies. On Thursday, Dent willfocus on how churches should respond to the problem.
Dent is researching the topic of black churches and child sexualabuse - who the abusers are, whether victims tell clergy members, whatthe
clergy's response is and what members think their churches should do to help.
Dent said the issue is of particular importance in the black community for several reasons.
For one thing, she said, churches are an especially powerful force in black culture.
"Research shows that the first place - and sometimes the only place- that black folks go when they have a problem is the church," shesaid. "We need to recognize the power that the church has to helpaddress this issue."
At the same time, Dent said, churches don't always respond effectively.
For instance, she said, she's heard Christians describe sexual abuseas the devil's doing. Such messages can unintentionally make abusevictims feel guilty or as though they're not spiritual enough, Dentsaid.
"There's such a stigma attached to sex abuse," she said. "We're just not talking about it."
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