Statement on Online Safety and Conduct

A message from Messiah's director of youth ministries, Jessica Wallwin:

Last weekend, someone in our community shared images on Facebook of extremely hurtful and cruel messages I sent to her ten years ago, when I was twenty and she was a senior in high school. Around the same time I sent other very hurtful and cruel messages to another person, and posted some inappropriately angry and thoughtless poetry about them on another site. I am deeply ashamed of those words and actions, and there is no excuse for them. I have apologized to the people I harassed in this way, and I apologize to them again here. I apologize to everyone else who saw these messages over the last few days and has been understandably hurt, offended, and confused by them. No one should ever say those things, or have to be on the receiving end of them. I wish I had never said them.

In the ten years since that time I have gained a lot of perspective on my own actions. While it did not cause and does not excuse my actions, the severe depression I was experiencing at the time left me vulnerable to making choices I would never make today and do not condone. My hope is that by being honest and open about this period in my life, I may be able to help to people who are similarly vulnerable today, whether they are suffering from mistreatment by their peers or acting out of their own depression in hurtful and potentially dangerous ways. As a mother, and as a youth director, nothing is more important to me than the emotional and physical safety of the young people in this community. I would never condone the behaviors I engaged in during that time in my life. I would do anything I can to protect the young people in my care from such behavior, and to help them know that not even teenagers behaving terribly are beyond the reach of grace.

It is not for me to decide whether I can or should be forgiven by the people I hurt in that time of my life. However I do commit to earning and keeping the trust of this community that I care about so much. In the ten years since I said those inexcusable things, I have worked hard to be someone any young person can come to when they are dealing with problems with peers or their own feelings that are too big for them to handle alone. I am grateful for everyone who has allowed me to help them through hard times, and I am deeply sorry for giving anyone reason to doubt that I would.  

Statement from Messiah Lutheran Church

Messiah Lutheran Church holds its ministry leaders to the highest possible standards of safe and appropriate conduct with children and youth. This includes conduct on social media and online forums. The messages sent by our youth director, Jessica Wallwin in 2009, nine years before she joined the staff of the church, are clearly unacceptable. We have discussed this matter with Jessica, and she expresses complete responsibility and contrition for these actions. In light of the many years that have passed since this behavior took place, the self-knowledge she expresses about her hurtful words and the emotional problems that contributed to them, and the kindness and commitment she has shown to the youth of our community in her years as a volunteer and now as a staff member, we are confident that she would and will never engage in similar behavior again. Nevertheless, we will update our policies and training on the safe use of social media for staff and volunteer leaders, to ensure that Messiah will continue to be a safe and supportive place for young people who are hurting or vulnerable for any reason.

Rev. Ben Dueholm, Pastor

Rev. Dawn Mass, Pastor

Vinnie Jordan, President of the Congregational Council