BackNews Article

Damaged by the church? This pastor has a congregation full of "recovering Christians."

March 13, 2017

BOSTON — For two years, Terrell Hunt was a Christian without a church.

At the church in the Washington area where he had grown up, Hunt worried that the leaders lectured about good behavior but didn’t act as they preached. He heard members talking badly about one another. One day, a member preaching about toxic habits addressed his sermon to one young woman, causing her to burst into tears in embarrassment. Hunt became convinced this church just wasn’t for him.

Every day, he prayed on his own. He read the Bible. It was a lonely faith.

“It was really, really hard. It made me feel like, if this place isn’t for me, is any place really for me? Am I ever going to feel comfortable again?” said Hunt, 27. “I just felt a really deep sense of hurt.”

That’s when he found Community of Love Christian Fellowship — a church where Hunt joined a community of other lost souls just like him.

[My church warned me to stay pure until marriage. I still have a stain on my heart.]

Pastor Emmett Price has a term for what a lot of people went through before they came to his congregation: “church hurt.” The term, which refers to the pain sometimes inflicted by religious institutions — a pain that distances sufferers from their communities and from God — is an increasingly prominent topic of discussion among Christian clergy.

Publishers Weekly featured four books on the topic published within a five-month span, with titles including “Wounded in the Church” and “Hurting in the Church.”

In these books and in conversations with fellow clergy, ministers offer suggestions for treating church hurt. Price goes about this work in subtle, tangible ways.

He tries to keep his services low on jargon and ritual, opting instead for simple songs and a sermon in the sunny, wood-floored multipurpose room of a larger church in Boston’s unpretentious Allston neighborhood. There’s no hierarchy of deacons at Community of Love, no questions about how long someone has been a Christian or who has or hasn’t been baptized. At the start of every service, Price says, “Welcome to Community of Love Christian Fellowship, where God loves you and we do, too.”

[‘Just a little touching': My own pastor excused my sexual assault]

At Community of Love, some members were previously put off by a stuffy or cliquey church. Or maybe they were upset by a pastor who demonized them for their behavior, their family situation or their sexuality. In at least two cases, they were sexually abused by clergy.

One way or another, many were traumatized by the church, the very institution that they had thought would guide and comfort them. 

Read the full article from The Washington Post here.