Nicole, an administrator at the Department of Homeland Security's Center for Faithbased and Neighborhood Partnerships, and I spoke just the other day. We were discussing the latest spree of shootings around the country. At one point, we both acknowledged how much times have changed in just a few short years.
As some citizens around the country may just be beginning to open their eyes, ears, and hearts to the chronic stress and violence that has gone on for decades, and centuries, too many incidents went ignored. Instead, in years past, the only violence to make the headlines – and stay in the headlines – were mass violence events like the Aurora shooting.
As a volunteer, I deployed to Aurora four years ago. I worked with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance coworkers, as well as colleagues from the Center for Faithbased and Neighborhood Partnerships, the Red Cross, and many more NVOAD groups.
For months, the shooting in Aurora was a primary focus in the country. Until December, when the shooting in Newtown, CT, happened. That year seemed incredible. Two mass shootings.
That year, though, culture began to shift. More and more people pointed out the numbers of children who were dying from gun violence – numbers that exceeded those who died in the shootings in Aurora and Newtown – but because they were occurring over the span of days and months, they were cast out of the spotlight.
Now, as a country we've become more aware of how important it is to acknowledge the full scope of violence that is occurring – and has been occurring – in our streets, our neighborhoods, our communities, across demographics. Now we see that more than 25 mass shootings have taken place around the country just in the last seven months.
Congregations have, and have always had, opportunity to serve as places of solace in our troubled world. They hold keys for rebuilding, restoration, and resiliency. When intentional about being safe sanctuaries, about dedicating themselves to building and sustaining caring relationships, about creating spaces where honest acknowledgment of what's happened can take place, and about building ministries that help people grow in faith, hope, and love, survivors find congregations to be truly transformational.
ICTG is a primary network where faith leaders learn more about how to be this kind of refuge for survivors of all kinds of trauma. You may start with informative articles, books, and films found throughout the website. This blog also is full of first hand experiences and guidance from field experts around the country. We have free downloadable useful guides. And our Affiliate program offers more in depth online training for faith leaders, including resource guides for clergy, youth directors, and spiritual directors; assessment guides for congregations, youth ministries, and spiritual formation ministries; crisis response checklists; and educational modules to review at your own pace.
Grab a cup of coffee or tea. Settle in. And find out more about how you can be making a difference in your community.
And, as a way to mark this anniversary, share this post with family, friends, and colleagues. Invite them to learn more about how trauma impacts congregations and communities, and how congregations can make a difference for survivors.