The story is not easy to tell. Velva Holt was a church pianist and music teacher, a writer who published numerous poems and articles through Pacific Press Publishing Association, and a pastor's wife. Her husband, Al, was a singing evangelist. Handsome and talented, he found favor with various church officials and was soon ordained to the pastorate. As the years passed Velva and their daughter, Virginia, had to face the reality that Al was having affairs with at least two women from separate congregations. Eventually, after Velva, heartsick and confused, demanded a divorce, he would marry the one from Red Bluff.
Velva's story took on book form after she finished the manuscript in 1999 at the age of 88 and a series of providential events led to its publication. Virginia, whose first husband was taken by cancer, married Bob Coombs, now a retired social worker and abuse counselor still active in their Willows congregation. The couple added their own perspectives to Velva's manuscript, along with excerpts from the work of Mable C. Dunbar, a counselor for the Upper Columbia Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
Though Al and Velva are no longer living, there is a legacy of painful memories. Perhaps the title says it all: "We Suffered in Silence: How a Pastor's Family Lived in Shame while Hiding Dark Spots on the Clerical Collar" (about $15.00 in paperback from Xulon Press; for more information visit http://www.preyerplanning.com/book/velva-holt.htm).
Virginia and Bob Coombs will be signing copies of their book at Barnes & Noble in Chico this Saturday from 1:00 - 4:00 p.m.
The pressure to pretend all was well nearly tore Velva apart. Her husband's sexual addiction raged unabated despite all her prayers and his apologies: "All my efforts had been as futile as pouring water on an erupting volcano. But I had tried the impossible."
Virginia Holt Coombs writes about her parents in an extraordinary series of chapters. Her father, she says, had a background of bars and "gigs" before he married Velva, and, immature in his faith, was ordained with no formal education or theological training. This is not to excuse the man but to better understand him.
The book offers many resources for the abused Christian spouse. The silence has been broken.