Local profiles by Carol Taber
Church is not usually one of the first places hurting people think of while in the middle of a separation or a divorce.
Yet among the churches in Wake Forest, there are two programs that offer hope, community and encouragement to people reeling from a separation or an impending divorce.
Mike Dishman, the co-facilitator for the DivorceCare group meeting at Wake Forest Baptist Church, and Perry Safron, the singles ministry director and the facilitator of the Divorce Recovery Workshop at Richland Creek Community Church, are men with a passion to serve folks going through or recovering from divorce.
And they can both empathize.
Dishman’s marriage ended five years ago. He said he was lost, feeling so badly that he couldn’t see a way forward.
A friend encouraged him to attend a DivorceCare meeting at Christ Baptist Church in Raleigh. He found meetings so helpful he went back for two more sessions and then attended a fourth time as a facilitator-in-training.
Dishman said he will be forever grateful for the love and acceptance he experienced through the ministry of Christ Baptist Church.
In 2014, he and Carol Day started the DivorceCare program at Wake Forest Baptist Church, with the intention of sharing that same hope he discovered.
Safron had a similar experience except he struggled for three years after his divorce, mostly because he had no one to help him process what he was dealing with.
The two ministries have similarities and some differences. DivorceCare is a 13-week program using videos developed by Church Initiative for its teaching time. Divorce Recovery is a six-week program that uses live teachers.
Both groups have small group discussion time after the teaching presentations. The groups are designed to be safe places for participants to talk, if they choose.
DivorceCare covers a variety of topics among them facing the anger, depression or loneliness that often comes with a divorce.
Other topics covered are financial survival, child care and single sexuality.
The topics participants are especially drawn to, and at the same time find challenging, are those of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Dishman commented on the power of forgiving to protect the heart of a hurting individual from the effects of long term anger and bitterness.
In addition to the standard 13-weeks, the DivorceCare ministry at Wake Forest Baptist Church offers an extra week in the spring with a video called Successful Singlehood.
The fall session offers both the Successful Singlehood video and one more session, Facing the Holidays.
DivorceCare participants also receive a workbook with personal study exercises on each week’s topics and space for journaling.
The 14/15 week sessions are free. There is a $25 fee for the workbook, however.
The members of Wake Forest Baptist Church provide scholarships for anyone who needs them. The ministry facilitator understands that going through a separation or a divorce can be a financially challenging time. Child care is also provided free of charge and refreshments are served each week.
The Divorce Recovery Workshop at Richland Creek Community Church offers two, six-week sessions and one Friday night/Saturday session a year.
Safron says that the focus is to encourage people to accept their new life circumstances, let go of past injustices, and ultimately to forgive.
“With the help of others who have ‘been there before’ and who are ‘going through it now,’ you can develop safe, meaningful friendships that last long after the workshop,” Safron said.
Some of the topics covered are Peace Through a Storm of Feelings; Single-parenting, But Not Alone; and Relationships that Last.
There is one topic entitled Biblical Boundaries, for which the description on the website starts with, “Reject the notion that the Bible condemns divorced people to misery and loneliness.”
There is a $40 registration fee (the early registration fee is $25, see the website for details) for Divorce Recovery Workshop that includes The Single-Again Handbook by Thomas Jones, printed notes and weekly refreshments.
A unique feature of Divorce Recovery is participants will have access to online lectures and notes.
Childcare is $10 per child for all six meetings, per each session.
Both Safron and Dishman see their respective ministries as an opportunities to “love on” hurting individuals.
Participants don’t have to be a member of either church, or any church, for that matter. Both men stress that there is no pressure to join a particular church.
The hardest step
One of the challenges both ministries share is the fear folks have about being judged or condemned by people involved in a church-based program.
Some people are afraid to even enter the church building, Safron said. But usually, their pain is so great it eventually overcomes the fear.
What attendees then find is a safe place to ask questions, express emotion, to be with others who understand what they are going through because they have been there themselves.
The spring session of Divorce-Care at Wake Forest Baptist Church, 107 E. South Ave., began Feb. 2. The group meets 6:30-8:30 p.m. with newcomers always welcome. Call the church office at 919-556-5141 or email email@example.com to register or for more information.
DivorceCare is available through many churches. To find another group, see www.divorcecare.org.
The spring session of Divorce Recovery Workshop Workshop at Richland Creek Community Church, 3229 Burlington Mills, begins tonight (Thursday) from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.
For more information, or to register, go to www.richlandcreek.com/divorcerecovery.