Divorce is an epidemic that is affecting attitudes and behaviour across the world. In Britain alone 230,000 people divorce each year, causing turmoil not just to themselves but also among their family and friends. One in two children now see their parents separate, so it is easy to see that, inside and outside of the Church, the impact of divorce is substantial.
The Church is at the heart of supporting marriage, thereby reducing the number of divorces. However, in general we have left the care of the impact of divorce to others. The analogy here is of an infectious disease where we spend much effort on ensuring people don’t catch the disease but little on alleviating the consequences and effects of the disease. I think this is a tragic waste of the priceless gift that the Church has to both prevent and cure the disease.
The exciting thing is that the Church has the skills and the opportunity radically to improve the situation. Many Catholics have been actively involved in this work and the Pope’s recent encyclical Amoris Laetitia has inspired many more people to reach out to divorcees.
One group of Catholics has been running the Restored Lives divorce recovery course in Switzerland over the last 10 years and has experienced excellent results.
Restored Lives is a seven-week course which supports and equips people to move forward from divorce or the breakdown of a serious relationship to live a full life, free from past issues. Bishop Norbert Brunner of Sion in Switzerland says: “The testimonies of the male and female course leaders who have lived through this ordeal, the content of the teaching and the sharing times in small groups contribute greatly to strengthening people hurt by divorce.”
A number of Catholics are now looking at running Restored Lives in Britain, where 35 courses are already currently running through other Christian churches around the country. The feedback from participants is positive and highlights the transformation which is a testament of God’s Spirit at work. They say things like “I now have hope”; “I have forgiven my ex”; “I have been healed”; “I am not alone”; “I feel happier and closer to God”; and “I feel fully restored”.
These are life-changing comments in the midst of what is often a person’s biggest ever life crisis. Importantly, the course can help to stop the downward spiral of unhealthy relationships and also enhance children’s perspectives, as families gain the tools to build stronger relationships.
This ministry helps to both alleviate the substantial impact of divorce and create healthy relationships in the future, which is why it could be the heart of every church community.