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All Our Griefs to Bear: Responding with Resilience after Collective Trauma

All Our Griefs to Bear: Responding with Resilience after Collective Trauma

by Joni S. Sancken
All Our Griefs to Bear: Responding with Resilience after Collective Trauma

All Our Griefs to Bear: Responding with Resilience after Collective Trauma

by Joni S. Sancken


Available for Pre-Order. This item will be available on November 15, 2022


Where do our churches go from here?

Church and Christian community look a lot different than they did before the horrors of the coronavirus pandemic, racial trauma, and economic uncertainty revealed difficult truths about the wounds we carry. The damage caused by trauma is deep and affects every part of our lives together. At the same time, the pandemic has upended or called into question many of our traditional ministry models. For those tasked with leading congregations through this disorienting new territory, the challenges are great indeed.

Yet God’s people are amazingly resilient. In All Our Griefs to Bear, author Joni S. Sancken builds on her own trauma-aware background and engages leading sociologists and mental health professionals to name some of the largest issues that congregations now face and will face as we process the cascading trauma of our time. Chapters focus on practices such as lament, storytelling, and blessing to help leaders and church members to nurture resilience and compassion.
We cannot go back to who we were before. But the church can experience new life and renewal in the wake of trauma as God’s healing and hope move through us into our world.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781513809755
Publisher: Herald Press
Publication date: 11/15/2022
Pages: 200
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.00(d)

About the Author

Joni S. Sancken is associate professor of homiletics at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. She is interested in theological and contextual issues in preaching and is the author of Words that Heal: Preaching Hope to Wounded Souls (Abingdon Press, 2019). Joni is an ordained pastor in Mennonite Church USA and has served congregations in Indiana and Pennsylvania and completed level one STAR training (Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience) through the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University in 2017. She lives in Oakwood, Ohio, with her pastor husband Steve Schumm and children Maggie and Theodore.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: "A Wound We Share"
This chapter will engage with leading writers in the fields of sociology and trauma studies to explore the experience and aftermath of collective trauma and the potential impact on congregations. Three significant arenas of disorientation emerge for communities following mass trauma: changes in self-identity, changes in relationships, and changes in existential outlook or world view. Therapist Resma Menakem writes about the necessity of moving through "clean pain" in order to clear space to grow. Working through pain is very hard. However, this is the way modeled for us by Jesus who faced the powers that sought to kill him and end his healing ministry on the cross. Jesus' own path through this pain clears a space for us to also face our brokenness, sin, and finitude with courage and hope.

Subsequent chapters will be lighter on history and theory and focus mostly on practical resources and specific actions that can be practiced by church leaders and ordinary Christians. Each chapter will use the lens of a spiritually and theologically "thick" practice to address traumatic responses around identity, relationship and worldview.

The practices of lament, storytelling, and blessing are intentional as they model a kind of pathway towards processing trauma (although processing is rarely linear.) Each chapter will give an overview of the practice, anchor it biblically and theologically and offer ideas for sermons, worship, the arts and resources for congregational ministry.

Chapter 2: Practice focus: Lament
Lament allows us to be vulnerable, to name our brokenness, our need, our inability to move forward. There are very few spaces where this kind of radical honesty is possible. A massive self-help industry tells us to paint on a smile and model a can-do attitude, even in the midst of extreme loss. We long for a quick fix--an easy path to wellbeing and are extremely uncomfortable with admitting that we are anything other than happy, capable, and the picture of complete mental and physical health. Denying this essential aspect of our humanity can also serve as a shield that keeps us from experiencing God's love.

Recovering the practice of lament has the potential to restore a vital tool for deepening connection to God and others, may help congregations process together complex experiences connected to mass trauma and help empower justice on behalf of those who are suffering.

Chapter 3: Practice focus: Storytelling
Storytelling is vital to identity and vision. Being able to shape and share one's own story is empowering and can be healing. The deep narrative of the life of Christ offers an anchor for Christians, especially in seasons when their own identity has been shaken by trauma. Storytelling can unfold in many ways in the gathered life of a congregation.

Chapter 4: Practice focus: Blessing
The term "blessed" has become trite, often equated with material well-being, health, and happiness. The Bible complicates our modern notions of what it is to be blessed or to bless others. The act of blessing can provide a way for us to release others and ourselves into the care of God.

Healing ministry necessitates resilient and hope-filled leaders who are also committed to God's healing in themselves. The epilogue will discuss compassion fatigue and burn-out, offering suggestions and resources for clergy, chaplains, and caregivers to notice and attend to traumatic wounds they may be carrying so that they can lead from a position of health.

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