Following 9/11, and many other types of disasters since, I've heard a lot of stories about new relationships. Stories about the marriages that occurred or the babies that were conceived. Stories about how, for the people telling the stories, tragedy helped them to clarify what they wanted in life, what mattered to them, what joy they had right in front of them, or how love helped them feel more grounded amid incredibly destabilizing loss.
Of course, I've also heard the stories of how, for others, tragedy wreaks more tragedy. How the overwhelming stress of disaster can lead others to act in abusive ways, ways they thought they had settled in the past, or ways they never before imagined enacting. I've listened to the shame and guilt, and, most of all in these cases, the difficulty in finding the words to acknowledge what unfolded. The way they may have sexually, physically, emotionally, or spiritually harmed people in thier circles of home and work.
People react differently to stress, to grief, and to loss.
People react differently to stress, to grief, and to loss. For some, proceeding through their emotions and reactions becomes a pilgrimage in discovering more about what is most meaningful to them. For others, experiences of loss, grief, or immense stress feel so alien, they struggle to recognize themselves and, rather than moving toward healing and restoration, their suffering becomes the preoccupation.
Faith leaders hold a quintessential role in shepherding, or hosting spaces for, the wide range of responses to tragedy that may unfold within their congregation.
Faith leaders, especially in the aftermath of great community loss, hold a quintessential role in shepherding, or hosting space(s) for, the wide range of responses to tragedy that may unfold within their congregation. They help the congregation to bear witness, together, to the scope of what has happened – not only the catalyst(s) of heartache, but the range of responses as well. They honor each person's perspective, while helping one another to participate in co-creating senses of belonging.
Here are some of the ways that happens:
Overall, faith leaders guide the congregation in discovering, living out, and recalling the story of who they are before, during, and after tremendous upheaval.
From 2012-2020, this blog space explored expanding understanding and best practices for leadership and congregational care.
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