AGM 2013

AGM held on Wednesday 18th September 2013 at the London Rd Methodist Church.

The meeting was opened by the moderator Revd. Corin Child and a prayer was said by Pastor Kevan Crane.

Corin then gave a short review of the year’s activities. Corin welcomed everyone and particularly Catherine Dixon who started as a probationary Methodist minister at Downham Market in early September.

One year ago we had listened to a talk about Africa from Henry Bellingham who had just completed a period as Minister for Africa. Late in the year we had a meeting on the subject of healing. In January we celebrated the week of prayer for Christian unity and in March we had a good turnout for the Good Friday walk of witness during which a cross was carried round the streets of King’s Lynn by a group who stopped for hymns and readings. In May Jackie Austin organised a Christian Aid event and the house to house collection. Throughout the year we continued to produce weekly ‘thoughts for the week’ which were published in the Citizen. The ‘Open the Book’ group went into schools to act out Biblical stories for the children. A series of meeting for local young people were organised and run at the Scout Hut and these were popular. There was increasing need and great value in the King’s Lynn Foodbank project which continued to be run by Kevan Crane. Corin is now producing an e-newsletter to keep people up to date about Churches Together activities. On November 20th Tony Kendall has arranged for Revd. Keith Ranger to give a talk about the extraordinary expansion of Christianity in China. The proposed day of retreat in October may have to be postponed because no speaker is available. All these projects are only possible because the churches locally are working together.

Finance: Mike Brown thanked Jackie Austin for organising the Christian Aid house to house collection which this year raised £5748. This figure was down on last year’s £6762. There are 23 churches in Churches Together and they each pay £20 per year. Currently the bank balance is £587.85 in the black. We had contributed £250 to the ‘Life’ exhibition project and this was returned to us when the project was cancelled. Mike circulated an annual statement of accounts. David Gifford expressed concern about the negative press which the high salary of the Christian Aid chief executive had attracted.

Election of officers: Corin was re-elected for his second year as moderator having been proposed by Rachel and seconded by David. Mike was re-elected as treasurer having been proposed by Heather and seconded by Kevan. Peter was re-elected as secretary having been proposed by Daphne and seconded by Christopher. The current members of the executive committee; (Mike Brown,

Chris Lindley, Tony Kendall, Dorothy Kings, Revd. Heather Berry, Revd. Dale Gingrich, Pastor Kevan Crane, Rachael Vyse) were re-elected having been proposed by Christopher and seconded by Don.

Taize: Heather said that there would be a Taize service in Advent and early February and details will be circulated later.

The meeting was closed.

Natalie Collins gave a talk about domestic abuse. Natalie is a recognised national expert on domestic abuse and since April 2013 is an independent consultant on violence against women. She previously worked in the same field for a Christian charity called ‘Restored’. She provides day education programs for young people, resources, quality assurance and contact information about domestic abuse. There is a national help line. 25% of women in the UK have suffered domestic abuse at some time in their lives.

Before starting her talk Natalie asked for comments from the audience and people’s thoughts on the causes of domestic violence.

The UK definition of domestic abuse is: Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse:

  • Psychological
  • Physical
  • Sexual
  • Financial
  • Emotional.

Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive behaviour is: an act or pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish or frighten their victim.

This definition, which is not a legal definition, includes so called ‘honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (which is a massive child protection issue in Africa) and forced marriage, and it is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.

In the UK per year 112 women and 22 men are murdered by their partners.

The cause of domestic abuse is the attitude of the dominant partner. The problem will not be solved by control of substance abuse or by relationship counselling, but only by a change of heart of the dominator who uses power to control his/her partner who he/she views as a possession who can be treated in any way they choose.

There are different types of dominator:

The sexual controller rapes you, won’t accept no for an answer, keeps you pregnant or rejects your advances.

The King of the Castle treats you as a servant or slave, says women are for sex, cooking or housework, expects sex on demand and controls the money.

The bad father says you are a bad mother, turns the children against you, uses access to harass you, threatens to take the children away, persuades you to have his baby and then refuses to help you care for it.

The liar denies any abuse, says it was only a slap, blames drink, drugs, stress, over work, you, or unemployment.

The persuader threatens to hurt or kill you or the children, cries, says he loves you, threatens to kill himself, threatens to report you to social services.

The head worker puts you down, tells you you’re too fat, too thin, ugly, stupid, useless.

The jailer stops you from working or seeing friends, tells you what to wear, keeps you in the house or seduces your friends or family.

In contrast a decent partner will be:

The lover, who shows physical affection without assuming it will lead to sex, accepts your right to say no to sex and shares responsibility for contraception.

The partner does his share of the housework, shares financial responsibility and trusts you as an equal.

The good father is a responsible parent, is an equal parent and supports your dealings with the children.

The truth teller accepts responsibility and admits being wrong.

The negotiator takes responsibility for his own well-being and happiness and behaves like a reasonable human being.

The confidence booster says you look good, values your opinions, supports your ambitions, says you are competent and values you.

The liberator welcomes your friends and family, encourages you to have outside interests, and encourages you to develop your skills at work or at college.

The friend talks to you, listens to you, is a companion, has a sense of humour and is cheerful.

In order to help a person who is being abused the church members should offer sustainable friendship and liberate the sufferer by helping them to understand the nature of abuse which is motivated by power and the need to control. Friends should try to do the opposite of the actions of the abuser, empowering and supporting the victim.

There are many theological references on the Restored website at http://www.restoredrelationships.org/ .

The National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247.

Men’s Advice Line: 0808 801 0327.

Respect Helpline for Perpetrators: 0808 802 4040.

Natalie’s our story: Natalie was never told when she was a teenager that if a boy wants to be with you all the time it’s really not normal, or that he should be nice to her friends or that, if he cheated on her it was because he didn’t respect her. Nobody told Natalie the meaning of informed consent and that she could be sexually abused by a boy.

So when Natalie met a boy who put her down and devalued her and slept with other girls Natalie did not realise that it was wrong. Natalie did not know that it was unacceptable that he told her not to use contraception because it wasn’t ‘real’ and when he insisted on going everywhere with her she didn’t realise that something was very wrong.

Natalie met her ex-husband when she was 17 and had her first child at 18. He treated her so horrifically that she became a walking dead person, hating herself and barely surviving. When Natalie was aged 21 she escaped from her abusive husband and her second child was born 3 months prematurely weighing 2lb 6oz.

We can imagine that domestic abuse happens to ‘those women’, but it doesn’t, when a person chooses to abuse another it’s because of their beliefs, nothing to do with who we are. Abuse happens to ordinary people who we might see at work or in our neighbourhood, families, churches or friendship groups.

Although Natalie has been through some horrific experiences she has come out the other side. Her children are happy and healthy and Natalie has committed her life to preventing other people going through the same experiences. Natalie hopes and prays that the church may become a prophetic space for change in which our relationships are modelled on the submission of power which Jesus shows us. Each of us should take responsibility to challenge abuse where ever we find it.

Peter Coates.

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