Three female pastors from local churches are joining forces for a multidenominational forum on sexual harassment on Nov. 15 at the Federated Church in Ayer. From left: Gail Miller, Joyce Scherer-Hoock and Susan Gaeta. NASHOBA VALLEY VOICE/SCOTT SHURTLEFF
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AYER – The Rev. Joyce
Scherer-Hoock can offer a
unique perspective on sexual
abuse and domestic
violence. She is the inhouse
clergy at St.
Andrew’s Episcopal
Church and is partnering
with two other local female
reverends to host a public
forum on sexual assault.

Scherer-Hoock, along
with the Rev. Gail Miller of
Union Congregational in
Groton and the Rev. Susan
Gatea of Shepherd of the
Valley, hope to get parishioners
and residents from
the area to attend an open
conversation on the topic.
it will be held on Nov. 15 at
7 p.m. at Federated
Church on Washington
Street.

“It’s not a group that is
completely private,” she
said. “But it will serve as a
support group for those
who have been the victim
of sexual assault, violence
or harassment.”

Although there is a spiritual
element to the forum

– “Jesus was healer after
als,” she said – it is a
loosely arranged discourse
facilitated by the clergies.

Scherer-Hoock
describes the “sacred listening
circle as an opportunity
for people to share
their experiences, there is
no agenda other than
that.” She decided to
launch the effort after several
of her parishioners
expressed some concerns
over the current sociopolitical
climate. She then
shared the greater concern
with her colleagues, Gatea
and Miller. Spearheaded
by Scherer-Houck, the pastors
opted for an ecumenical
approach, which would
allow for a greater reach.

She has experience in
the matter of organizing
support over stigmatization.
“Back in the ’80s, I
was part of a similar effort
to help with the AIDS crisis,”
she said.

Aside from the collective
experience of the pastors,
the only experts in
the room will be the victims.
They would at some
point like to make it a regular
support meeting, complete
with professionals
and lecturers but for now
have no expectations about
the meeting or the future.