The first time Holly McInnis attended a Divorce Care class, she was “floored at the heartache,” she said.
“Most people don’t know what’s going on with them, and they feel so ashamed,” she said.
Now, after going through their own divorces and through the course themselves, Mrs. McInnis and her husband, Robin, are teaching the Divorce Care class at First Baptist Church in Tyler.
It’s a different approach than churches once had, McInnis said.
“In the past, divorce was frowned upon so much that people left the church,” he said. “We try to help people understand that people are human and God is still there for you.”
According to the American Psychological Association, about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce.
Yet many come in not understanding that going through a divorce is a grief process, Mrs. McInnis said.
“They come in the door and are like ‘I didn’t know others felt this way too,’” she said.
The class begins Sept. 16. The McInnis, who have been in this second marriage for five years, have taught six of the classes, two each year.
“Divorce Care had made such a difference in our own lives that we were excited to share,” Mrs. McInnis said.
Their class is offered at First Baptist Downtown, while another is offered at Green Acres Baptist Church. The curriculum includes videos and a workbook, part of the national Divorce Care organization.
“Even in the church, some people will shun you over (being divorced),” McInnis said. “The pastor comes in at the beginning and says “You are accepted here.’”
While the method of ministering to people who are divorced has improved, the church’s stance on divorce hasn’t changed as much.
“It’s still sin, and the reason the divorce happens is because of sin,” Mrs. McInnis said. “But divorce is like any other sin; it doesn’t define you.”
The situations of people who attend the class widely varies, the teachers said.
“Some people have been divorced for 10 years but never healed,” Mrs. McInnis said. “There was a lady in the last group who was 80 years old. There was a 23-year-old whose husband left her with a 3-month-old baby. The tears just flowed. And you’re sitting there listening and thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, this is real life.’”
The marriages ranged from ones that lasted three months to ones that ended after 40 years, they said. Sometimes couples who are still married attend and change their minds about getting a divorce.
About 85 percent are not members of the church, they said, but are still welcomed in the class. But three weeks into each class, they close it to newcomers.
“It has to be a safe environment,” Mrs. McInnis said.
An environment, almost like a support group, where members can feel understood.
“One or both feel like a victim,” McInnis said. “There’s grief, there’s anger, there’s depression. Those things come up every time … The world is almost like ‘get over it.’ The world says you need to get out there. People don’t understand it if they haven’t been through it.”
Sometimes it takes people a long time to come to the class because of the shame they feel, the teachers said. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
“We’re trying to show them grace and that God’s forgiven them and that they can forgive themselves,” McInnis said. “It’s not the end of the world and it’s certainly not the end of their spirituality.”