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Greenfield vigil reflects on #MeToo and the power to share stories

  • Vigil lights at Second Congregational Church in Greenfield, held on international women's day. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon—



Recorder Staff
Friday, March 09, 2018

GREENFIELD — For the Rev. Heather Blais, most of the experiences she refers to when she says “Me too” happened in a church.

“The first one that I remember when I was a high school student,” Blais, rector of the Episcopal Church of Sts. James and Andrew said Thursday night during an International Women’s Day vigil.

“A man in church, much older than me, decided he want to pursue me romantically,” she said. “He kept making advances, Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. When I chose to speak to my priest about it, someone that I loved and respected, someone that was very grandfatherly in his way, he kind of looked me in the eye and said, ‘Heather, you’re an attractive young woman. You have to get used to this.’ ”

The vigil, held at the Second Congregational Church in Greenfield, brought a couple of dozen people together from area churches to reflect and pray.

“For me, that was a moment that this place I come to, to seek safety and comfort and strength, had some brokenness in it,” Blais continued. “I share that today because I suspect I’m not the only one who’s had that experience in the church.”

Blais noted the church has been, “waking up a lot in the last 20 years, but still has a ways to go.”

She and the Rev. Corey Sanderson shared stories of the movement and spoke of how they see their and the churches’ role in it all.

“This is a reminder that we are not alone in our journeys and struggles,” Sanderson said. “The Christian faith when it works at its best is about relationships and community. The work of our churches has to do with healing the broken parts of our world.”

Sanderson, the pastor at Second Congregational, offered his reactions to the #MeToo movement.

“It sort of sprang out from nowhere in my mind. Of course, that shows my ignorance and my privilege and my simple complicity in a system that allows for these kinds of things to happen,” Sanderson said. “While I would consider myself far from being naive, I was shocked and horrified as friend after friend after friend on Facebook posted ‘Me too’ and ‘Me too’ and ‘Me too.’ ”

Blais later said, “I take a lot of comfort from churches, like ours, and Greenfield as a community that acknowledges what’s happening in our world.”

Second Congregational member Julie Payne-Britton shared her own stories, speaking to the idea of being ashamed. “That is the hallmark of sexual harassment and violence,” she said. “The person with less power internalizes it and feels ashamed.” Women bury these feelings, Payne-Britton added.

“The gift of the #MeToo movement is now people are speaking out,” she said. “I think there is great potential for healing with this thing that is happening, that is sweeping through the country, that is sweeping through the world — in which people have the courage to come forward and say, here is my story.”

A rendition of “I’ll Stand By You” was performed by Susan Weeks, with Leea Snape on the piano.

Payne-Britton read the Maya Angelou poem, “Still I Rise,” reciting before those collected in the pews, “Leaving behind nights of terror and fear/ I rise/ into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear/ I rise.”

You can reach
Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264
On Twitter: @therealjsolo