Sep 01, 2018Of Sorrow, Of Joy

Of Sorrow, Of Joy

Gary Allman Two-minute read.   Resources
Quiet Reflection – Convention Chapel 2018 General Convention, Austin, Texas.Image: Gary Allman

Of Sorrow

I noticed some movement across the street from the corner of my eye and I turned to see what it was. It’s a distracting problem when your office is at the front of the building, facing the street.

What I saw was a woman runner jogging down the far side of the road, closely followed by a big dark Buick. She stopped and the vehicle pulled up opposite her. There was a brief exchange across the road, then the woman resumed running, and the car continued following, staying around ten paces behind. In the time it took me to watch the exchange and then get to the outside door, the woman was already a couple of hundred feet away. As I emerged onto the step, the Buick briskly accelerated and disappeared from view. The woman carried on until she, too, disappeared from view as she rounded the corner at the end of the street.

Why did I leave my office? I was going to ask the woman if she was being bothered by the driver of the vehicle, and if I could be of assistance.

It’s tempting to just dismiss this as an exaggerated reaction on my part. Except. Except that I have some very good reasons to believe the woman was being harassed. I could tell by her body language when she stopped and briefly spoke to the driver, by the way the vehicle followed behind her and not by her side. And finally, this is not the first time I’ve heard of this happening.

Both of my step-daughters have had similar experiences, attracting the unwanted, intimidating, attention of men. One has been stalked multiple times by vehicles while out running. This is a young woman who quite happily toured Asia and Ecuador on her own, and yet she feels more at risk here in Springfield. Her sister dislikes using her bike to get to classes because of the comments and cat-calls she receives and she runs in a cemetery near her apartment to avoid being followed.

Why is this happening? Or more to the point, why are we allowing this to happen? My personal opinion is that it comes down to two basic factors. Firstly, the men involved feel empowered to act in the way they do, and secondly, they have precious little respect for women.

I believe that we are all, to an extent, to blame. When we enable boys or men by encouraging or turning a blind eye to inappropriate behavior, we are empowering them. I will admit to the latter, by not speaking out against inappropriate remarks, something I suspect most of us, both male and female might be able to admit to. What we need is to do is to set examples, to our children and to other youth, of mutual respect for each other — everyone — and not condone inappropriate behavior by anyone, not even by omission. This is a basic tenet of our fifth baptismal promise:

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

In our homes and churches we have lots of opportunities to influence our children and youth. Trying to change the values and attitude of adults within our reach is harder, but not impossible. Mike McDonnell, member at St. George, Camdenton, and Vice President, Social Justice with the Brotherhood of St. Andrew is passionate about raising awareness of this basic issue of respect. He feels that it is the lack of respect for others, and women in particular, that is at the root of sex trafficking. In his article — The Sexual Immorality of Pornography — Mike talks about the role of men in the demand for pornography, and pornography’s impact on families and sex trafficking. Sex trafficking will be one of the topics discussed at this year’s diocesan convention, and on 30 March 2019 there will be workshop held at St. Andrew’s in Kansas City on the topic.

Footnote. Overtaken by recent news reports, the timing of the above text is purely coincidental (or fortuitous depending on your viewpoint). It was prompted by an event I witnessed in August and the past and present experiences of my stepdaughters. I should also mention that I was a minor contributor to Mike McDonnell’s article on pornography, and that I occasionally don the honorary hat of Communications Director, Social Justice, with the Brotherhood of St. Andrew.

Of Joy

WEMO Youth with the diocesan communications director, Gary Allman at the 2018 General Convention. It’s not often that you’ll see me on this side of the camera. Image: Liz Trader

I’ve written before of how I am blessed to be able to attend many of the celebrations that make up the church year: confirmations, ordinations, and installations. (Baptisms are typically a more private affair). This year I was able to add attending the General Convention of The Episcopal Church to that list. Much ink has been spent on the debates and conclusions of the convention, so I’m not going to add to that, but I have shared my experiences in a photo essay. Speaking of General Convention, Hayley Cobb
one of the WEMO Youth Summer Interns has written about the youth’s convention experience.

In closing, I’d like to offer congratulations to the Rev. Warren Swenson and the Rev. Kim Taube who were ordained to the priesthood at St Paul’s in Kansas City, in September. Sadly earlier in the month I missed the installation of Fr. Chas Marks as the new rector of St. Augustine’s, so I’ve stolen a few pictures from their Facebook page to show here, and in recompense, added a couple of pictures I took when I visited St. Augustine’s.

Gary Allman was the Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri from March 2014 through June 2023.

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