Creating A Healing Movement: The Courage Conference 2017
Just days before The Courage Conference 2017, a bomb dropped on social media. Hollywood was erupting with survivors coming forward about sexual assault, sexual harassment, and the general culture of abuse and coverup. #MeToo was trending as people began to share their stories of abuse not just in Hollywood but in everyday life. It brought back to mind the well known Christian Seminary that just weeks earlier had been called out by a victim for their mishandling of abuse, followed by a flood of survivors coming forward.
We had no idea what would be happening when we chose the dates for The Courage Conference this year, but I cannot help but be thankful that we had something to offer those going through the emotions of remembering and speaking out about their abuse.
Because of our generous sponsors, we were able to not only provide a quality event at a low cost, but we were able to offer dozens of free scholarships. Nothing makes me happier than providing a resource for healing to those affected by emotional or physical abuse.
Through facts, figures, and spoken word, Monica Daye skillfully laid a foundation for us to understand abuse in her presentation on intimate partner violence. David Pittman, a male survivor, took us through his journey of abuse, addiction and healing as he taught us about the great deceptions of pediphiles. We addressed the fact that abuse is not just a women’s issue, it is everyone’s issue, as Eugene Hung inspired men to join the cause against abuse whether or not they are survivors. I connected the dots between patriarchy and abuse in my presentation, declaring equality as a foundational necessity to ending abuse. Mary DeMuth spoke in the way only she can about the hard work of healing and “re-storying” your life after abuse. Finally, Boz Tchividjian spoke against the dangerous power structures and insidious reputation management in hollywood, the church, and society, showing us a new and better way forward.
One of our biggest requests from last year was that we incorporate more interactive workshops, and that is just what we did. Linda Kay Klein lead a robust session on the modesty doctrine and its connections to victim blaming with much audience participation, ending with a moving opportunity to affirm the value and beauty of our own bodies. Boz Tchividjian led his workshop attendees to discuss strategies for church leaders to safeguard their ministries. Homeschooling was a positive experience for some, but homeschool alumni Samantha Field and Carmen Green discussed the pains many have faced in this community by bringing to light stories, legal loopholes, and vulnerabilities that must be addressed to make this community safer. Alexis James Waggoner took her wisdom as a professor, minister, and military chaplain and applied them to her powerful session by answering the question, “What Is Courageous Advocacy?” After several sessions of intense education and healing, Natalie Greenfield offered a peaceful, quiet space for attendees to find their calm and breath through a relaxing, guided meditation. Both Emily Neilson Jones and Atinuke Diver expanded the focus from addressing abuse on a local to a global level by going head-on with the abusive systems of male supremacy and white supremacy that are often claimed to be practiced in the name of God.
Healing Music Concert
Our newest addition to The Courage Conference was a Friday night healing music concert where survivor and songwriter, Natalie Greenfield, sang and played through eight of her original pieces. Her soulful voice sang through raw, emotional, and ultimately empowering scores, giving us a glimpse of her journey out of abuse and towards finding wholeness.
Question & Answer
One of my favorite things at The Courage Conference is the Q&A panel. Attendees have the opportunity to turn in question cards, and the speakers take turns answering. These candid, off-script interactions really allow the speakers to open up with their thoughts and bring out a well-rounded response to the queries on everyone’s mind.
We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the event. Some attended to find healing connection for their own wounds, others came on the behalf of loved ones, searching for resources and understanding to help them be of greater support. Advocates were able to make valuable connections, and we are always thankful for the church leaders who come to learn about how to better safeguard their communities.
Conversations and connections like these were not being had openly 50 years ago. In fact, I’m not sure that something like The Courage Conference could have existed even 25 years ago.
The reason we are having this public #MeToo conversation, and the reason we came together for The Courage Conference, is because of brave survivors (past and present) speaking up, using their voices, taking their power back, and relentlessly fighting for their healing and the healing of those around them.
When a small group of courageous survivors begins to speak loudly and consistently together, we activate an army of survivors and advocates, not only in this country but around the world.
We are at a tipping point. A new era of justice is about to rush in. There is an army rising up.
You are that army. You are the change agents. You are the Justice Generation!
I believe deeply in my soul that change is coming, and it is coming through survivors, through advocates, through counselors, through pastors and church leaders, and through regular people with a strong belief in justice, equality, and compassion.
I believe at The Courage Conference 2017 we saw and experienced a small taste of the Justice Generation coming together, about to be propelled forward to change the world and stamp out abuse.
Thank you to everyone who participated online, in person, as volunteers, speakers, workshop leaders, or attendees. We couldn’t do this without you!