Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Church of England, differences in Diocese

It is difficult to know where to start with this one, but I guess it is part of my safeguarding report.
The Diocese of Winchester and Other Church of England Diocese. This post is mainly about other Diocese in contrast to the Diocese of Winchester.

From age 19 to age 30 or 31, all I knew was the Diocese of Winchester, and I went from the damaging environment I grew up in almost directly into the damaging environment of the Diocese of Winchester's Churches, almost without a break, so the Church of England basically replaced the environment I grew up in.

The insular cult-type environment that I grew up in meant that I was dependent on other people and not knowing any boundaries, especially not my own, and because of the way I was brought into the Church of England and the people who brought me into the church of England, I did not start growing into a healthy adult, but instead became the bottom of the heap in the Church of England, with sexual and emotional abuse damaging me further and holding me back
But in the end, I am the one blamed, scapegoated, maligned and shunned for the stories of what has happened, while ordained and diocese-employed people who have done wrong and provoked reactions from me, have been absolved and exonorated, despite their positions of responsibility, the fact that they  are neurotypical, and the fact they have crossed and abuse boundaries while knowing what they were doing, while I was reacting to them and am not neurotypical and am damaged and have been abused.

I am scapegoated for shortcomings that in some circumstances I am not in control of, while at all times, people who have abused me and have behaved unprofessionally have been let off at my expense.

After being driven from the Diocese of Winchester by Jane Fisher in 2011, I travelled and visited other diocese, for almost the first time ever I visited other Church of England churches and saw that they were different from the Diocese of Winchester in some ways, and in a way I saw a better side of the church of England, one I didn't know existed, but on the other hand some things remained uniform of the Church of England.

One of the Diocese I visited is Chichester, and I would like to give them an honourable mention, because they have had such bad press and my experience of them was good.

As well as great care and genuine Christianity that I witnessed in the Diocese of Chichester, I also witnessed very stringent safeguarding.
I was amazed at how caring the four priests and one secretary I met in the Diocese of Chichester were, they looked at how to help me, and during the time I was with them, they helped me effectively and as a result, again I started to try and lay the foundations for a new life, which was again destroyed by Jane Fisher and Michael Scott-Joynt.
Several things stand out about Chichester, one was that one of the curates would come to the homeless daycentre and cook breakfast for the homeless, and even the toughest of them loved him, his was an example of practicing what he preached.
An example of safeguarding that strikes me was the curate telling me that the youth leader never let any of his charges out of his sight and that he would not even let them cross the church alone to go to the toilet if there was anyone in church.
Also the priests, having heard that it was the Church of England who had harmed me and left me homeless, were very open about what had happened in the Diocese of Chichester regarding abuse.
So, for all the negative publicity, Chichester deserves a cheer.

London, I was starving and I could hardly walk, I went into a church of England church and told them that my blood sugar was very low and could they help me by sparing me a cup of tea with sugar in it so that I could get the energy to get a bit further and maybe find food.
Their reaction was as far from the principles of Christianity as it is possible to get, they told me that they 'couldn't do that because they would have the homeless queing up round the block for tea if they did', which is both untrue and completely Unchristian, they seem to have forgotten what they are there for, apart from their salaries.
I think naming and shaming them would be fine, they were most rude and unhelpful, and it is not my way to ever ask for anything of anyone except in an emergency. They are that Holy Trinity Church close the junction of Oxford Street and Regent Street.
They have forgotten Christianity and think that they are a gallery instead, whilst still named as a church. Thankfully a few hundred yards up the road, the Salavtion Army, who were technically closed, rushed into action as I collapsed on their doorstep, and saved me.

It is noticable in London that every other denomination but the Church of England is out on Soup runs and soup kitchens and outreach, apart from one Church of England group who come from miles outside London to do outreach one night a week.

Church of England churches in London have such notices on the walls as the ones that warn the homeless that the walls will be washed down regularly and if they leave anything there then those things will be hosed down, basically the Church are threatening to hose homeless people's possessions down! and if Jesus was there, they would hose his possessions down. Legend has it that the people doing the hosing also hose the homeless down if they refuse to move. Where is Christianity in this?
My gratitude goes to the Catholic and Coptic Churches in London for their wonderful compassionate work with the homeless.

Moving on to other diocese, I will call the next one 'Diocese A', and tell you about the interesting paradoxes within that Diocese.
I arrived there and within days, was told about a blatant cover up by the Diocese of abuse in the Diocese, I was told of it by people who were not in the church nor related to the church in any way, when they heard that the church of England were responsible for leaving me homeless.
So that was my first experience, followed by the noticable 'dying' of the church in that diocese, ie, the churches were emptying and closing, very sad.

My first experience of a Church of England Church in this Diocese, however, was very different, and 
quite a surprise, I had mistaken an Anglo-Catholic Church for a Catholic one, and wandered in to take part in a group they ran.
I was surprised and pleased to receive a warm welcome, followed by a continued warm fellowship lasting some years until I stopped travelling back to that area.

The congregation accepted me as I was, one of the Only Church of England Churches that I have known to do that. And they said to me that they accepted me as I was, one of them, maybe a homeless one of them, but welcome and the same.
The Priest was a different matter, he tried to get rid of me, but when I spoke to my friends there about him as soon as he did, they put him in his place, and told me that priests are dispensible and the Church is the people, not the priest and that he would go eventually, as priests come and go, but that the congregation were the church and they welcomed me, and that was certainly the case. Credit to them.
Anyway, the priest, once put in his place, never troubled me again, he was not a happy man and was reputed to have an alcohol problem, and this rumour was backed up by witnesses to him staggering trhough town drunk, the witnesses included me, and he was known for hurting feelings, so it wasn't just me, I think he would have been happier if he had had a career change, but I think the free house and expenses draws and keeps many unsuitable priests.
But, credit to that church, they brought me great comfort and relief both with their fellowship and the discussions that helped me to see that not all is bad in the Church of England.
And although I was in a minority there with regards vulnerable and isolated people, I wasn't the only one, but as with all Anglican Churches, the congregation was mainly elderly, wealthy and middle class.

Another Church in this diocese used to make my blood boil, it was a 'show' church, full of finery and ornaments and gilding, and yet it was deeply in debt, but this didn't change the fact that the really pompous and aristocratic people made up the congregation, and they used to pick up their handbags and posessions if I or another homeless person came in to shelter. 
I do not understand why the Church of England think they are doing anything remotely honouring to God by keeping such places alive.

In the same Diocese was a church that used to kindly reach out and hand me cups of tea if I wandered past, credit to them, they were ok, if a little bit narrow, they did some basic outreach but they were also a dying church and they seemed so removed from society.
I remember how they were always trying to repair their church and I used to be so cross because, as is a church of England habit, when a Church is trying to fund-raise, they turn services and sermons into fundraising exercises, which seems very inappropriate, especially as Jesus went into the temple and turned the tables over in anger that His Father's House was being Used in this way, and as the Church of England itself is a very wealthy organization, which is also registered as a charity, but yet owns so much land and property, no church should be manipulating their congregation in order to raise extra money during a time when God and His Word should be what the teaching is about.

Further into this Diocese, another show church was really very rude indeed when I came in for shelter, unprovoked, and I made a complaint to the priest.

And then I met a safeguarding issue in another church, (bear in mind I am talking a whole diocese here, not one town), I went to a church where they were doing an evening service and I went in, it was such a lost church, like most in that diocese, it all seemed to belong in the past, not the now. Anyway, this man approached me alone, and he asked questions and asked if I was homeless and things, and invited me home, to which I said no.
He kept badgering me to go home with him and kept getting a no.
He said that he was quite honest and that I should stay with him.
I said no again, and he said he would show me he was honest and he said to one of the choir who was passing 'I am quite honest aren't I?' but didn't tell them he was inviting me home, they kind of vaguely answered, and I wondered how much attention was being paid to what this man was doing, as he continued to come after me alone in this big church, where the evening service seemed mainly to be a choir and no congregation or minister and this man was just wandering around on his own.

It makes me sad to remember how that diocese's churches seem kind of left behind and dying, and yet there was some good there that triumphed over the impression of the Church of England that the Diocese of Winchester had given me.

Diocese B.
Well this was an interesting one, the church of England had almost no presence in this diocese.
My first interaction with them was when I asked two anglican priests who were having coffee at a cafe, where the town's daycentre was, and they didn't have a clue, they were not even sure if there was one, in the end they sent me on a futile walk for miles to a place that didn't exist.

The only other place I encountered the church of England in that diocese was a cold and unwelcoming 'Christian Cafe' in the town, mainly frequented by people on the team that ran the cafe, elderly people, it was uninspiring and not the best value for money in town.

I was a Catholic by then, but that town and Diocese seemed to have a church of England minority, with other denominations better represented.

Diocese C. 

This was a Diocese that presented themselves well in inclusion, compassion and safeguarding. Credit to them.
They started and continued well.
I arrived in this town and the first person I met was someone from a Church of England Church, as I had heard that that church ran a homeless outreach, so I walked up to the church and a lady was coming out of Church, she said to me 'can I help you?', she said it in a genuine and not patronizing way, and I explained to her that I had heard they did outreach there. She didn't know about outreach but she invited me to have a coffee with her in the cafe across the road. So we had a coffee, and she said I should ask at the church office about outreach when the office was open.

She and I regularly met for a coffee after that, often after we attended 8am communion in Wednesday and Sunday, she became a 'friend', someone I knew and could chat with.
She and I came up with the theory that 'denomination doesn't matter, where compassion is practiced, that is where Christianity is', and her church certainly practiced compassion.

I did ask at the church office about the outreach and was enrolled for help from them, and they were great.
The church was open every day, and the staff were very kind to the homeless, providing hot srinks and a listening ear, and sometimes providing things that people needed, on a small scale. They were always kind to me, and when I left the town I made sure that they knew that their work was appreciated, I remember the response of one of them, he said about how they had a choice to just do their job or to do their job with love, and so they did it with love. Credit to them.

That town had a group of compassionate churches and I can't fault them, I don't remember any diocese of Winchester related fears or flashbacks while I visited the churches there, apart from one thing, a man who claimed to be a homeless worker, who attended one of the churches, started getting close to boundaries by involving himself in my life and trying to steer me and taking me away from church to a garden where we were alone and trying to do his version of therapy on me, this very swiftly started to cause me deep concern and disturbance, and I told someone about it and they reported him to safeguarding, who IMMEDIATELY put a stop to his actions and said that he would not be allowed to do something like that again.
After the mess in the Diocese of Winchester, I have never seen a safeguarding action so swift and so firm, it took them days, not years like the Diocese, and this time safeguarding did nothing at all to hurt me.

The only other note about that diocese is that they had a reader who was an alcoholic, who admitted he was an alcoholic and that it affected his attitude sometimes, but neither he nor anyone did anything about it.

So I left that diocese with a good impression of their churches. The basics of good churches are there.

Diocese D.

This one is fairly simple. The Anglican churches there are kind of inconspicuous, I wouldn't have known where Church of England church in that Diocese or town were, except the show church in town, which I never went in, they did no outreach, were not involved with the homeless or anything else, the town had a Catholic lean and I will always remember the Catholics there helping me and also seeing a Catholic priest with his robes and dog collar under his coat, serving soup to the homeless.
But I had no other contact with the Church of England there, because they were hardly there.

Diocese E.

This one was an interesting cross between Diocese of Winchester lean and some good as well.

They were somewhat involved with the homeless but in a clumsy way that didn't help me. They tried to tell me where to sleep, which is simply a no for a rough sleeper, and the places they suggested were not safe.
The congregations in this diocese were a mixture of kind and accepting, and people who had no idea about the homeless and gave the message loud and clear that they didn't welcome a homeless person or see them as a real human being.
There were some well-meaning clergy, and although the one I had the most contact with was obviously very worried about me being a liability when they found out it had been the church of England who had left me homeless. I liked them.
A real see-saw diocese, very much imitating the Diocese of Winchester in things like Safeguarding and accountability and inclusion, not good, but also with a good side, a kind side, a root in Christianity.

In conclusion, these were the other Diocese, I will look at the Diocese of Winchester again next. One common theme in every church and every diocese is that the majority of people are older, usually well off and generally lacking in understanding of the problems faced by the minorities who come to their churches, and I think this blindness to the bad side of church and the faith in the hierachy that these older people have, is part of what is preventing churches from being safe places for the vulnerable.
Diocese C, mentioned above, have quite a revolutionary attitude, and if the Church of England could start steering towards that, it might significantly help, but is it worth their while? And how do you get the old and the set in their ways to change?



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