Church-based support during, after divorce

August 02, 2002|By Jean Leslie | Jean Leslie,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

With statistics showing the divorce rate hovering around 60 percent, many newly single Howard County residents are looking for spiritual solace, ways to begin life anew and answers to a larger question: Why did this happen to me?

Three county churches try to minister to these adults by gathering them in Bible study, and discussion and support groups.

"This is a real need," says Kim Moore, co-facilitator of Glen Mar United Methodist Church's ChristCare Group for the Separated and Divorced. "When you're separated, getting involved with other people is a must. Then you have others praying for you and your family, and it's nice to have Christian support. I can cry with them and talk with them."

The Glen Mar church group is new to the ministry - its separated and divorced group is a year old. The ChristCare group started as a spin-off of Steven's Ministries, a program that trains volunteer parishioners to listen and help them heal.

Church member Bryan Conley asked congregational leaders to start the group when he was going through a separation. "When you're in crisis, you tend to ask God to fix it," says Conley, who is now helping others deal with their problems. "You need to give back as much as you can.

"This ministry started with the mission statement of the church: `Praising God, growing disciples, serving the world,'" adds Conley, who founded the group with adult ministries coordinator Sandy Phillips. "The ChristCare group has drawn people from other churches and other areas of Maryland."

Conley and Moore molded the ChristCare curriculum to serve the needs of the separated and divorced. Using the Serendipity Bible, which lists themes found in the Bible, they created an eight-session curriculum tailored to the audience.

"The first session helps participants to refocus and strengthen themselves by the power of Christ," Conley says. "Other themes are reconciliation with God, anger, worry and forgiveness."

St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Community has been providing the Columbia Catholic Single Again Ministry for two years.

"We changed the format of SWORD - Single, Widowed or Divorced - which has been sponsored by the church for many years," says social ministries director Barbara Hope. "After a potluck dinner, Single Again has discussions on personal growth issues. Using materials from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, participants discuss topics such as learning to live single, healing hurtful memories and getting through the holidays."

"They also have social activities and share Thanksgiving dinners," staff member Shirley Rucker says.

Some wonder why congregations don't do more to attempt to help the separated and divorced. Some congregants suggests that churches might hesitate because they do not wish to appear supportive of marital breakdown in society. Or, if both members of a separating couple attend the same church, the congregation might wish to avoid doing anything that would give the appearance of taking sides in marital discord. And most small congregations do not have the resources.

"Most are sent over here to Chapelgate," says Rich Starsoneck, who with his wife, Kathy, developed New Horizons, a ministry for the separated and divorced. They have been working with the ministry for 16 years. Other Chapelgate Presbyterian activities for separated and divorced include a Single Parent Fellowship, DivorceCare, Bible studies and counseling.

"New Horizons saved me," says Moore, who has been volunteering with Glen Mar Methodist's group for a year. "It set me back on track spiritually. I felt like I'd been helped so much that I wanted to show people that [God] will be there for you. I have grown so much as a Christian."

A second article this month will discuss the comprehensive ministry for the separated and divorced offered by Chapelgate Presbyterian Church.

Support groups

These programs are open to all adults:

St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Community provides Columbia Catholic Single Again Ministry from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. the first and third Tuesdays. Meetings include a potluck supper and discussion. The next meeting will be held Tuesday. Leader: Maureen O'Shea, days, 410-964-1437.

Glen Mar United Methodist Church provides ChristCare Group for the Separated and Divorced from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. every other Thursday. The next meeting will be held Thursday. Participants will study selected Bible passages for healing. Leaders: Bryan Conley, evenings, 301-596-3309, or Kim Moore, evenings, 410- 772- 0772.

Chapelgate Presbyterian Church provides New Horizons at 7 p.m. the second and fourth Fridays for dinner, singing, a talk on a pertinent topic and discussion. A $2 donation for dinner is requested. Related activities are provided for children in New Horizons for Kids. The next meeting will be Friday, and the topic will be "Amid Tears of Pain and Loss." Leaders: Rich and Kathy Starsoneck, days, 410-442-7677, Ext. 150.

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