CMC Worship in Place | Easter 3 | Keep CMC Safe From Abuse | April 26

Easter 3 | Keeping CMC Safe from Abuse

Special thanks to Elisa and Matthew Leahy for video production

Welcome | Jerry Nussbaum

As the Psalmist proclaims with these words :
24” This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24 English Standard Version (ESV)

Here we are, again, invited to worship in place, where you are right now. 

These are indeed new and changing days, learning new ways to be together without being together. Saying to friends and family “I’m not taking visitors right now…let’s connect by phone or Skype.”

Maybe you are fortunate and able to work from home.  

Some may wonder when will my business open again, when will I be called back to my job.  Will my loved one recover from this illness. There seems to be a perpetual state of grieving.  Grieving which takes a lot of energy and patience. You may feel tired. Everything takes a little more effort.

How long can this last? When can I visit with my family or friends. If your loved ones or friends are in the hospital or nursing home visits if permitted at all can be very limited.

Are you finding a place for hope? For renewal of a tired and uncertain spirit? When is the last time you stepped outside or looked out of the window? Have you noticed the flowers, the redbuds, the tulips, the birds singing or even those fading blooms, that remind us that life comes to us again and again just like the sun rises and sets again and again.  Our scientists have observed that the earth as a whole is quieter now; the air, cleaner and the skies clearer. 

I hope that today wherever you are there will be some space to just breathe again. The let the artist inside find new life, hope and resurrection to fill you from the inside out and the outside in. 

Take time to listen to what restores your soul.

Take time to discover what sights and sounds give you peace, and go after them. 

A special thanks to those who are working behind the scenes to make use of our technology and videos and give us new ways to worship as a community of faith. 

Today is KCMCS (Keeping Columbus Mennonite Church Safe) Sunday.  An annual focus, today we are reminded to commit ourselves to safe places in our homes, church building and community life events.  Special gratitude to those leaders who continue to remind, train, and ensure that CMC is a safe place for our children and youth to be nurtured and cared for in a healthy way. 

For those who have gone through our training process, participation in this service will fulfill the annual education requirement. And later in this service, there will be an invitation from our KCMCS coordinator, Mim Halterman, about the Keeping CMC Safe training.

We are glad to welcome Kathy Wiens who will speak to us this morning in a recorded video from her home in Newton, Kansas where she has served as an educator and counselor for many years. Kathy shares expertise in child protection and trainings related to survival of trauma and abuse or neglect. We will hear from Kathy later on in this service today. 

Call to Worship | HWB 680 | Jerry Nussbaum

Peace Candle | Jacob Reiser

As we meet today in spirit but not in person, we gather around these Sunday Meditations. Just as we light the Peace Candle to begin our worship, you are invited to light a candle. The flame joins us in spirit across distance, along with our sister church in Armenia, Colombia.

Hymn | Come Thou Almighty King | Paul Knapke

Children’s Time | Julie Hostetler

Mission Moment | YWCA Family Center Changes Related to Covid-19 | Nancy Franke

I wanted to share with you a bit about what the Family Center is experiencing during this time of social distancing related to the Corona virus.  Most of you are aware that we, in partnership with our neighbors, North Broadway Methodist Church, provide one meal a month for around 50 families at the YWCA Family Shelter since its opening in 2005. This facility provides not only temporary housing and meals, but also transportation assistance, assistance in locating and registering for benefits, job counseling and education in personal economic development, and childcare while parents are either working or searching for housing and work.  After school programs and busing for children to their neighborhood schools is also provided.

Among the changes the Center has had to make in the wake of Corona Virus, is a discontinuation of all volunteers at the Center.  They do their best to provide masks to all families and have instituted rigorous and frequent disinfection of all surfaces.  They have discontinued their outlying after school programs and are using that staff to help provide programing and assistance with distance learning at the Center.  WiFi has been enhanced to support distance learning.

Since a second family housing facility was opened in 2015, the Center has remained at capacity, only occasionally over capacity , which is still the case. This means that on average there are between 150 – 200 individuals needing meals each day.  With the restrictions imposed by the Corona Virus, they are no longer using any community volunteers for their meals or programs, but we are continuing to provide the food for one meal a month.  Our crew of 20 – 22 volunteers for preparing, serving, and cleaning up for dinner are now replaced by 2 – 4 staff for the same effort.  What we are all experiencing as more mouths to feed at home all day long and more time in the kitchen is also true at the Center.  To support physical distancing during a meal they have doubled the number of seatings to spread out families in the dining room.  There are 2 seatings each for breakfast and lunch and 3 seatings for dinner.  And with children and more unemployed parents at the Center all day long, their food needs have also greatly increased.  When I delivered our food last week on the Tuesday after Easter, Faun, the kitchen manager was looking pretty tired.  She said they had just come off an Easter weekend that had been marked by a special dinner, some Easter activities, and distribution of Easter baskets to all the children.  I began to appreciate that the staff at the Center are also among the frontline workers who are being stretched to provide service while a large portion of their usual work force is being asked to shelter in place.

We miss our monthly time at the Center.  With our friends at North Broadway, we have become a close-knit unit ourselves and feel we bring an added measure of warmth and hope to children and families who are already on the margins.  The staff at the Center have expressed great appreciation for the way in which the community has reached out to support them with additional donations to meet a significant increase in their needs.  Thank you all for continuing to support these families and the dedicated staff at the YWCA who are providing safe shelter and guidance for families working toward a more secure future.

Pastoral Prayer | Mark Rupp

Loving and liberating God, we give you thanks for all the ways that your Spirit continues to move in our lives, calling us toward deeper love and greater freedom for ourselves and the world around us.  In this time when so much seems uncertain, help us to know what new ways you are inviting us to bear good fruit.

This morning we want to remember those in our community and beyond who are especially vulnerable because of age, ability, circumstance, or any of the other ways that those with power may choose to exploit and harm those with less power.  Help us be the kind of community that commits to protecting the most vulnerable and that holds one another accountable to these commitments. 

Healing and protecting God, we also lift up to you those in our Columbus Mennonite community who have asked for prayer, as well as the prayers on each of our hearts that remain unspoken…


Give us the courage to face each new day with hearts open to your Spirit, and may all we do be done with a love that is rooted in justice and bears fruits of peace. 

Scripture | Matthew 7:15-20 (NIV) | Robin Walton

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Introduction | Mim Halterman

We welcome Kathy Wiens as our speaker today. Kathy holds graduate degrees in education and mental health counseling. She is a licensed professional counselor and a trauma recovery coach. Since 2012 she has worked with churches teaching child protection/sexual abuse prevention classes. She is a speaker and blogger for Dove’s Nest, board chair for Into Account and Support Specialist for GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in Christian Environments) Her childhood memoir, Bars, Dumps and Other Childhood Hangouts was published in 2013. Kathy has been married to Tim for 34 years and they have two adult daughters.

Sermon | Creating Safety for Children and the Vulnerable | Katherine B. Wiens – Dove’s Nest Speaker

Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak to your congregation on the topic of creating safety for children and the vulnerable.  Before I get into the sermon, let me give a trigger warning.

Trigger Warning: Sexual violence and safety is a difficult topic for most people. But if you have experienced abuse in your past, it is usually even more difficult. This talk may be triggering for some of you. If you feel uncomfortable by the things shared in this sermon, please take care of yourself. One easy way to do this is to just get up and move around. You can also ground yourself by feeling your feet on the floor and feel the chair you’re sitting in. Another grounding technique is to think about what you are hearing and seeing in the present moment; name colors in the room you’re in and recognize the sounds you are hearing. You could also put something cold on your face like an ice cube or washcloth. Another idea is to hold something hot, like a cup of coffee or tea, and feel the heat on your hands. A trigger is something that pulls us back into the abuse we experienced in the past. Often times this happens on an emotional level, and it might be difficult to recognize. So trust the feelings that come up. Grounding techniques are important because they help you connect with the present moment and get out of the past. 

What Is Church
First, let’s think about what we want a church to be.  Church is a place to find God.

Church is a place to connect with others.

Church is a place to feel loved and valued.

Church is a safe place.  Safety is the foundation for these things.  Without safety, children and adults will not fully be able to find God, connect with others, and feel loved and valued.

But what happens when the church is not a safe place?  What happens when there is an abuser in the church?

This is a quote from an interview Anna Salter did with a perpetrator.  (Anna Salter is a clinical psychologist who has an emphasis in sex crimes.  She has treated the victims of sex crimes, and also has studied offenders.  She has published several books and peer-reviewed articles on sex crimes, given many keynote speeches to professional and law enforcement groups, and consults with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.)
“I considered church people easy to fool. . . . They seem to want to believe in the good that exists in all people. . . . And because of that, you can easily convince, with or without convincing words.” 
This is a perpetrator who worked with youth in a church.  A video of this interview can be found on YouTube by searching Anna Salter.  If you do search for this, please be aware that some of the information on this video is disturbing.

Churches can also be unsafe when we believe we know who abusers are and who they are not.  It’s normal to believe that abusers are not like us.  That’s why the concept of “stranger danger” is compelling.  We want to believe those who harm children and the vulnerable are outside of our churches, they are not us.  We want to believe we can keep children safe by keeping them away from people who look a certain way or do certain things.

But . . . these individuals are/were part of Mennonite churches, and they are credibility accused of sexual abuse and listed on the MAP (Mennonite Abuse Prevention) list.

We don’t want to believe that the person sitting next to us on Sunday mornings in church could be sexually abusing children or other vulnerable adults.

But they are in our churches, because our churches are their churches.

The Department of Justice estimates that on average there is one child molester per square mile in the United States (Predators, pg x).

93% of children knew their attacker:
       34.2% of attackers were family members and
       58.7% were acquaintances. 
      Only 7% of the perpetrators were strangers to the child.

We don’t want to talk about it.  We don’t want to believe it.

But our disbelief is one of the reasons we have these statistics: 
1 in 6 boys will be sexually exploited by age 18.
1 in 3 girls will be sexually exploited by age 18.
(Source: and
And again, 93% of those abusers are family members and acquaintances: parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, and cousins.  They are teachers, coaches, family friends, fellow church members, pastors, youth leaders . . . and more.

This is what our scripture passage, Matthew 7:15–20, is talking about.  Let me read three lines from this scripture:
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them.

Our scripture talks about false prophets and wolves in sheep’s clothing.  These are individuals who use their power and authority to harm those who have less power.  This is talking about those who abuse children and vulnerable adults. 

The scripture also says we will know them by their fruit. And what is their fruit? How will we know them by their fruit?
It’s important to look at what our definition of fruit is. Perpetrators who have been in our churches for a long time usually will have produced fruit that we would call good. This fruit often looks like charitable, Christian acts. But sadly, that fruit is only part of the “sheep’s clothing” they wear to fool us.  It is grooming behavior, meant to put children and adults at ease with offenders’ increasingly questionable interactions. We must be vigilant and trust our gut feelings when individuals seem to be crossing boundaries.

How do we define the fruit that impacts victims and survivors and that makes our churches unsafe for children and the vulnerable?

I have experienced personally and learned from many survivors what the fruit of abuse looks like.  This fruit is the devasting and often lifelong effect the abuse has on the survivor.  And these devasting effects are not because the survivor is not strong enough or doesn’t have enough faith in God.  It is because crimes of sexual violence have been committed against them.  And they have to live with the disgusting, rotting fruit of those crimes.  So to keep our churches safe we must understand what survivors experience and how to care for them, but also who perpetrators are and how to keep them accountable and create boundaries for them.

Churches will become safe places for children and the vulnerable when we, as followers of Jesus, begin to see this type of fruit—and when we see the world through the lens of the victims, the vulnerable, and the marginalized.

Churches will become safe places when abuse issues are seen through a survivor’s lens. 

There are many things churches can do to be safer, but I’ll share two.

Special Services and Safe Sanctuary Policies Are Not Enough

Safety is not as much about having special services during child abuse prevention month or having safe sanctuaries policies—although these things are good and important to continue. I’m so glad that your church is doing this service and that you have a Safe Sanctuaries policy.  But creating safety is about who we become when we understand what abuse looks like and who survivors are.  Policies and special services are external, but I believe Jesus calls us to do internal work. We are called to change ourselves and our view of sexual violence. We are called to develop a moral compass when it comes to sexual violence in our churches. A safe sanctuaries policy and special services are more like road maps. They are external documents that take us from one point to another. But a moral compass is a shift in ourselves and our attitude. 

Safe Sanctuaries Policies Represent Suffering
Another way we can change our internal compass around abuse issues is to understand that the policies we use to guide us represent suffering. If there was no abuse in churches, then there would be no need for the policies. Our policies represent abuse that has occurred in the lives of many vulnerable people, including children. Because this is child abuse prevention month, you may be asked to review your Safe Sanctuaries policy. I encourage you when you hold that policy in our hand and read the words remember that the reason you have this policy is because many children and other vulnerable people have suffered the horrific crime of sexual violence.

Caring During Covid-19
This is a very heavy topic. And the times we are in now with the COVID-19 pandemic is causing high stress for most of us if not all of us. But if we want to be safe churches for children and the vulnerable, we must talk about these difficult topics, whether we are in a pandemic or not.
Children and youth need protection now more than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to school closures, economic stress, and unmet childcare needs, leaving many parents in a lurch. In addition, many vulnerable people are confined with their abusers, and they have less contact with mandatory reporters. It’s not surprising that child abuse, neglect, and domestic violence are predicted to increase. 

It is important that we get creative in finding ways to support families and keep kids safe while they’re homebound during this pandemic. Continuing regular “check-ins” with families and providing for concrete needs, such as grocery and care package drop offs, are a couple ways to support families.

It’s also important to remember that high stress times can be even more difficult for those who have experienced abuse in their past.  Everyone’s journey is different, but for many who have experienced abuse—and not just sexual abuse, but any kind of abuse—this is an even more intense time. 

Something positive you can do during this time is to reach out to individuals that you know have experienced abuse. For some survivors, relationships are not safe, so it’s easy to isolate. You can work at building safety for these individuals by sending them an email or a card in the mail or by making a phone call. It’s important to reach out and let them know that you care. This helps to build trust with survivors.  And when survivors feel safe in church, then the whole church is safer for children and the vulnerable. 

Look for the Helpers

One thing that Mr. Rogers said is to always look for the helpers. 

When it comes to understanding sexual violence, who are the helpers?  Who are the helpers in keeping children and vulnerable adults safe and understanding and caring for victims and survivor of abuse?  In churches we often look to pastors for answers and help in understanding difficult issues. After all, they are the leaders of the church.

But when it comes to sexual abuse, the pastors also need to find helpers. In our Mennonite world we have some excellent helpers. 

Dove’s Nest provides not only speakers like myself, but they also provide a lot of good resources like blogs, sample policies, etc. on keeping children safe.  Dove’s Nest mission is to empower and equip faith communities to keep children and youth safe in their homes, churches, and communities.  I would encourage you to check out their website at

Into Account/Our Stories Untold are two agencies that are combining into one.  Into Account strives to provide the most up-to-date, relevant resources for survivors seeking healing and/or accountability.  They specialize in strategies for holding institutions, perpetrators, and enablers accountable for violence, harm, and cover-ups—primarily abuse that has happened in a Christian institution.  This is a good resource for victim and survivors.

Our Stories Untold has stories and articles that inform and educate about the experiences of victims and survivors.  These personal accounts of abuse are another way to see what the fruit of sexual violence really is.

The MAP List stands for Mennonite Abuse Prevention List.  This is an agency that uses media articles, court documents, church files, and other credible documentation to build a database of church leaders in Anabaptist or other pacifist church traditions who have been sanctioned or credibly accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, stalking, and similar violations. If you want to find out more information about perpetrators in the Mennonite church, the MAP List is a good resource.

The things I have said here and the work of the agencies I’ve listed may not be subjects we want to discuss in our congregations.  Again, this is a difficult topic.  But if we want our churches to be safe for children and vulnerable adults, then these are things we must hear.  And so I thank you for listening and allowing me to share this information with you.

Let me leave you with this one last quote by Judith Herman, an expert in the field of trauma.

“All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. [They] appeal to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering.”

Be safe and take care.

Complete KCMCS training HEREMim Halterman

HWB 546 | Guide my feet | Paul Knapke

Benediction | HWB 746 | Jerry Nussbaum