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"A Scottish Wind in the Willows on high end skunk."

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Thursday, 21 November 2013

Just finished reading...Helen Percy's Scandalous, Immoral and Improper

I finished reading Helen Percy's Scandalous, Immoral and Improper the other night.  A brutal tale,  but what a cracking book.  Thoroughly absorbing, thought-provoking and as I said in my previous post, beautifully written.  There's very little I can say about it that will be new and of interest to anyone, given that it's been out for a couple of years.
However - just a couple of points.
I've never been drawn back to the Church of Scotland following a childhood during which I was forced to attend and 'worship', and now after reading this assuredly one-sided account, I am even less inclined.  All my worst childhood memories of Holy Willies and the 'unco' guid' have been confirmed. I hate those terms but they do fit and so there they are.  
Whatever Helen Percy did or did not do,  from this account she was pursued mercilessly and made into a scapegoat, in probably the most horrible case of institutional bullying one can imagine.  The only positive  I can take from this sad tale of hypocrisy and wagon-circling is that not everyone joined in. Some people did not take part in the witch-hunt.  And that is quite a lot.
I wonder if the male protagonist remains a church elder, today.  I would not wish any of those involved to minister to me, should I ever have reason to call on them for help.
That is the trouble with pastoral care in the context of the church.  It is wide open to abuse.  People who are spiritually in need are at their most vulnerable and there is an opportunity for someone in a position of trust to take full advantage.  At least when one receives counselling via the NHS or another professional,  accountable source, the boundaries SHOULD be crystal clear,  and abuses are less likely to occur.  Theoretically, anyway.
We all need help and support at times, and at those times we aren't often thinking clearly. Where do you go?  If you are a believer,  the church is where you go.  You turn to the Lord's representative.  And you expect your trust and vulnerability to be respected.
I'm not sure how church appointments work, but in my opinion, it sounds like the church was at fault for placing a young, unconventional female minister in that parish in the first place.  It sounds to me like an accident waiting to happen.  That said,  the church went on to behave brutally, denying any responsibility at all.
As Richard Holloway says in the blurb - read it and weep.  It is a very sad document and a classic tale of, I would say, human frailty.  There but for the Grace of God, etc..
Helen Percy is an excellent writer, and a survivor.  I'm sure that she will produce more books, and will thrive.

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