Tales from the Cult is a website dedicated to preserving important artifacts from a church in Eau Claire where horrific spiritual abuse took place over several years. If you haven’t read the About This Site page, please do so before reading any article here.
If you’ve read the report that Converge wrote about Valleybrook, you’ll know that there is a huge pattern of manipulation by separation. At times, it seemed like the only goal of Valleybrook was to separate people from their biological families; to separate the chosen from the not chosen. There are a lot of examples of this, but most notably it came from a program called Wounded Heart.
When Wounded Heart started, it was so good. It was so good. I was in high school at the time, dating a freshman in college, and she went through the group, and it was so good for her. When they opened up the group for men too (although it should be noted: the groups have always been one gender, with the exception of a special session we did once where couples could do it together) I went through it. And it was so good.
But all of that was when Valleybrook was still using the approved Wounded Heart curriculum. There was an intense training week (in Michigan, I think) taught by licensed professionals to train leaders to do the program in their home churches. There was a book (written by Dan Alexander, if you’re interested here’s a link to Amazon) and there was a curriculum guidebook to go along with it. And it wasn’t just for sexual abuse. In my case, it was an emotional thing with my dad. For others, it was emotional stuff with their spouses. Or whoever.
But then it got steered off track. Valleybrook poured some of its Kool-Aid into the Wounded Heart pitcher, mixed it up, and titled it “Wounded.” This…this was totally different than Wounded Heart. This was basically, “you’ve been wounded, whether you know it or not, and we’re going to pull it out of you one way or another, even if you have to delude yourself into thinking something happened that actually didn’t.”
Icky stuff. “Wounded” was certainly not an evolution of “Wounded Heart”…it was a corruption. And I’m sorry to say I took a part in leading that.
So, what happens after you’ve been separated from your biological family? Well, now you’ve got this great new church family! You might even get yourself knit to someone else in the church! Congratulations!
One of us, one of us, one of us
Let me be clear here: certainly there are people who need to get away from abusive families. Certainly many people were absolutely wounded by something in their lives. And certainly it was a very positive thing for people to finally find a community that seemed to accept them for who they were.
But what happens when that community turns on you? What happens when you’ve placed your trust in something, or someone, and you get bit? What happens when you’ve cut your family off completely on the “advice and counsel” of an unqualified leader, who didn’t really have your best interests at heart at all?
That’s what you’re about to read in this letter from Kristy Paulson. Kristy led a Wounded Heart group on several occasions. We led at the same time for a few sessions1. We were both pretty deep into the pitcher of Kool-Aid, although she was self-admittedly more of a “maverick” than me…even when Wounded took that weird left hand turn, she did what she thought was right within her small groups. Which ought to be commended.
But Kristy found herself in that situation I just outlined above. What happens when the people you expect support from hang you out to dry? The answer is: you need a whole different kind of “Wounded Heart.”
Today’s article is a personal letter from Kristy Paulson to Mary Clark, the former Executive Pastor at Valleybrook Church. Someday, Mary will get her very own article here on Tales to discuss all of the abuse that she was a part of, but for today, here is a letter in which Kristy outlines her experiences with Mary Clark2.
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