The centre is an independent counselling, education and pastoral care service that deals with misuse of power and any form of abuse, whether that be sexual, physical or emotional in character, within the Uniting Church.
Bethel coordinator and counsellor Julie McDonald said the Centre offered a safe space for people to seek help over a range of issues that they might feel they couldn’t raise or get resolved in the normal church structures.
“That can be bullying, intimidation, harassment, stalking,” Ms McDonald said.
“It can be on the micro level where it is between two people or it can be how abuse is playing out within a congregation and the impact it might be having over a short period of time or a long period of time.
“What we often see is that if things aren’t nipped-in-the-bud early, and therefore go unchecked and unnoticed, people aren’t quite sure how to respond to allegations of abuse. Things can often be minimised.”
On Thursday Bethel counsellor Ann-Marie Hughes will run a Congregational Dynamics workshop, which aims to help “nip problems in the bud” and also better equip congregations to deal with such highly charged issues.
“It’s based on what people have been presenting at Bethel, what I hear people asking for,” Ms Hughes said.
“It’s looking at how people interact with each other. It’s also about the inner conflicts that happen around the problem – so you’ve got the problem and you’ve got managing the problem and it’s how congregations seem to do that.
“It could be bullying, it could be sexual misconduct and then how the congregation supports the victims and how the congregation supports the perpetrator. People can have very different views on it.
“The issue often splits a congregation because they don’t agree how to manage it – whether that comes down to the age demographic or values.
“The workshop will be looking at that and trying to consider other people’s perspectives.”
Workshop attendees typically are a mix of ministers, congregation members and council members.
Ms McDonald said the workshops can reveal things that previously had been submerged or ignored.
“It’s often through our workshops that we get one-to-one clients who suddenly have something triggered or that they know someone that they want to put in touch with us,” she said.
There are still places for tomorrow’s one-day workshop at the centre, which is located at 59 Doncaster Road, North Balwyn.
Thursday’s workshop will have a mix of information, creative activities and reflection.
It runs from 9.30am until 4pm and cost for each participant is $10, which includes tea and coffee.
The next scheduled workshop after that is The Process of Forgiveness on the 26 October.
To attend either of these workshops please call 9859 8700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .