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The Church of the Second Chance

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I have read with interest the furor over the comments by 72-year old Nobel laureate and scientist Dr. Hunt with respect to women in science labs.  At a conference some weeks ago, Hunt commented that women scientists cry when criticized and that science labs might be better if they were segregated.  By his own account, Hunt was trying to be funny but failed miserably.  The Internet does not respond kindly to misfired humour.  Hunt was pilloried over Twitter, in the media and on blogs.  He was also removed from two scientific posts where he had been an esteemed member.  Days after the story blew, Hunt and his wife sat together and cried.  Their lives, as they had known them, were over.

I do not agree with Hunt’s comments.

But I also worry about our culture and its most visible courtroom, the Internet.  It appears that we have become quick to judge others, quick to fall into the trap of calling the other bad and the self, good.  There appears little space for grace, little time in the hurried pace of social media for an appreciation of the words “I’m sorry, I was wrong.”  But I know that I too have made errors along the journey of life.  I have fumbled with humour and have held misguided opinions.  If there is grace for me, must I not also extend the hand of grace to others, including Hunt?

Several years ago, I was extolling the virtues of a book I had enjoyed reading.  The book is entitled, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me).  The person with whom I was speaking stated:  “I don’t think I need to read that book, I don’t make mistakes.”

Yes, it was a shocking statement.  It is also indicative of a blind spot that I fear is growing in our culture.  If we cannot see our own errors, how can we extend the hand of grace to the other?  Our own mistakes after all open us to humility.  All of us desperately need the “Church of the Second Chance.”  I wonder, where is this Church?

I wonder, because we desperately need this church.  The Church of the Second Chance is a church that welcomes the broken and the feeble.  It welcomes both the Hunts of this world and the people who disagreed with him.  And, it does more than just offer welcome.  It offers a hand of grace to those who have failed while at the same time allowing those failings to become one’s teacher, transforming its people into those who can turn around and welcome others into this transforming space.

And so my question is this:  Is yours a Church of the Second Chance?  If not, what needs to happen for it to become such a place?  Because becoming the Church of the Second Chance is at the heart of the purpose to which the church has been called…

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Betty Pries has more than 20 years of experience coaching, mediating, training and consulting in the areas of conflict resolution and change.   Betty's work with churches and church organizations is guided by her desire to enhance their spiritual and organizational health, and strengthen the capacities of leadership to discern a way forward.

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