This post was originally published April 9, 2019 on the ICTG blog.
What happens when a community's spirit breaks? Perhaps, even more poignant, how best does a community's spirit mend? And, who conducts that delicate work of remembering, constructing or re-constructing, building or re-building after severe loss(es) that overwhelm an entire community?
Often, the mending of a community's spirit occurs through the dedication and simultaneous efforts of mental health professionals, social workers, somatic therapists, artists, sports coaches, school teachers and counselors, and youth workers, along with chaplains, clergy and ministers, and spiritual directors. Each of these important threads, together, weave the tapestry of whole community care. In fact, those who study healing after collective trauma consistently find that the most "resilient" communities tend to bring about healing and restoration when local leaders listen carefully to survivors and create solutions with survivors – solutions that represent the local community and which often include acts of fellowship, nourishment, lament, shoring up senses of belonging, movement, and descriptions of what has happened, what is happening, and/or what will happen.
... the most "resilient" communities tend to bring about healing and restoration when local leaders listen carefully to survivors and create solutions with survivors ...
Those who lead these acts of healing often are referred to as "second responders" and "healers". Studies also have shown that second responders and healers are at risk of developing compassion fatigue, vicarious traumatization, and other forms of stress relevant to the work of long-term recovery.
So who heals the healers? And how best do they heal?
Healing the Healers, a film project by Odyssey Impact, partially funded by the Lilly Endowment, and in partnership with ICTG, focuses on answering these particular questions related to the broad long term recovery processes of communities that experience violence. This living conversation begins with members of the ministerial alliance of Newtown, CT, as one starting point in observing how healers heal. The conversation gradually expands to involve expressions of how neighboring faith leaders, chaplains, and health providers reached out to support members of the Newtown ministerial alliance as they supported survivors and family members of students, teachers, and administrators of Sandy Hook Elementary School. The conversation continues, as viewers of these first five films host conversations in their own communities, including using corresponding essays and questions, to consider the diverse and varying dynamics that interface when any community's spirit breaks because of acts of violence.
We look forward to continuing to participate in the expansion of this living conversation.
Who is represented here? Who is missing? How do the initial expressions represented here compare with your community's experience of violence or of conducting the sacred work of healing after severe losses? How do these conversations inform or expand your own understandings of impact, healing, and restoration?
As this living conversation starts with the Newtown, CT, ministerial alliance and gradually moves outward, viewers have opportunity to consider critical issues related to traumatic stress, post-traumatic stress, injustice, how different communities and community leaders experience and respond to trauma, how faith leaders support one another across common divides, and how communities grieve and practice healing together.
ICTG is grateful to Odyssey Impact for getting a broader public conversation going in this way, honored to partner with them, and proud that so many of our directors, advisors, and staff have contributed substantially to the educational components of this project. We look forward to continuing to participate in the expansion of this living conversation.
Learn more about how you and your community can get involved by following links below.
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This post, written by Rev. Doug Ranck, originally was published on September 3, 2019, on the ICTG blog.
Another day, another shooting. Ten people killed and twenty-seven injured in Dayton, Ohio. Another twenty-two killed and twenty-four injured in El Paso, Texas.
I found myself on the edge of not caring. How had it come to this?
To be inoculated is the process of introducing a microorganism into one’s body, just enough to fight the potential bigger threat. Over the course of our lives, we receive countless inoculations to be pro-active in a healthier life. Given the regular occurrence of shootings in our nation and world I had to consider I may have been “inoculated” to the point of accepting shootings as a more standard part of life and not feeling the horror and sadness as I once felt. This realization shook me. It was anything but pro-active in making my life healthier.
My understanding of the inoculation effect became magnified in mid-July of 2019. In my role as youth minister of a local church, I chose to take some select high school students to our denomination’s once-every-four year national/international leadership conference. For four days they experienced leadership at work on the national stage. We observed different processes of electing leadership, the debate of theological and social justice issues and ratification of new policies to be introduced in the polity of our denomination. In addition, we spent time interviewing various leaders from around the nation and the world to gain a better perspective on what it means to be a leader.
... I had to consider I may have been “inoculated” to the point of accepting shootings as a more standard part of life and not feeling the horror and sadness as I once felt. This realization shook me. It was anything but pro-active in making my life healthier.
Most of these interviews were planned in advance but one day I was led by a third party to a table in the middle of the exhibition hall where seated were Bishop Lubunga and his wife, Esther of The Democratic Republic of the Congo, who cares for over 500 churches there. Having known a little about the unrest and danger of this country I found myself frozen in where to begin the interview. Out of respect for him, we stuck to very general questions and let he and his wife talk about their leadership role. In their statements, we heard some of the challenges they faced.
Fast forward four weeks and I received an email from our denomination calling for special prayer focusing on our brothers and sisters in the Congo. The ongoing civil war was escalating with waves of tribal conflicts, armed groups causing havoc in villages, houses being burned, animals slaughtered and people being killed. The U.N. refugee agency reported that 4.5 million are displaced inside the Congo. Ebola and cholera are spreading since the U.N. and Doctors Without Borders are unable to operate at full strength.
I had not understood the depth of trauma our bishop and his wife were experiencing - personally, and vicariously as they care for their people. My heart was broken as our congregation came together in the morning worship services to lament and pray for peace and deliverance. As I led the prayer I found myself physically shaking and my heart was racing.
These leaders understood the value of being ready not for “if” but “when.” They were not comfortable settling for a world swirling with trauma.
I felt the weight and pain of this beautiful country and yet I was no longer feeling it for my own. How true might this be for many more people in the U.S. who have grown “accustomed” to shooting deaths and fear in our public places?
A few weeks ago, I was invited to Pendleton, Oregon for the purpose of training faith-leaders on how to shepherd trauma-informed ministries. Whenever I am in the presence of other leaders who desire to be pro-active in trauma work, I am inspired. There is often little to no motivation until an event occurs. These leaders understood the value of being ready not for “if” but “when.” They were not comfortable settling for a world swirling with trauma.
How do we move from inoculation and apathy to lament, compassion, and action?
In our ICTG Resource Guides, we propose calming, connecting and communicating as core ingredients for healthy trauma response. I would like to also propose those, with a few details, on how we make the much-needed move:
Do you have an ICTG Resource Guide?
Each is an in-depth training manual for trauma preparedness and response. They include restorative strategies to expand care, build resilient groups, and provide safety for traumatized people to heal and thrive.
From 2012-2020, this blog space explored expanding understanding and best practices for leadership and congregational care.