Tragedies and Christian Congregations : The Practical Theology of Trauma book cover
1st Edition

Tragedies and Christian Congregations
The Practical Theology of Trauma

ISBN 9781032088624
Published June 30, 2021 by Routledge
342 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

When tragedy strikes a community, it is often unexpected with long-lasting effects on the people left in its wake. Too often, there aren’t adequate systems in place to aid those affected in processing what has happened. This study uniquely combines practical theology, pastoral insight and scientific data to demonstrate how Christian congregations can be helped to be resilient in the face of sudden devastating events.

Beginning by identifying the characteristics of trauma in individuals and communities, this collection of essays from practitioners and academics locates sudden trauma-inducing tragedies as a problem in practical theology. A range of biblical and theological responses are presented, but contemporary scientific understanding is also included in order to challenge and stretch some of these traditional theological resources. The pastoral section of the book examines the ethics of response to tragedy, locating the role of the minister in relation to other helping agencies and exploring the all-too-topical issue of ministerial abuse.

Developing a nuanced rationale for good practical, pastoral, liturgical and theological responses to major traumas, this book will be of significant value to scholars of practical theology as well as practitioners counselling in and around church congregations.

Table of Contents

FOREWORD James Jones


INTRODUCTION Megan Warner, Christopher Southgate, Carla A. Grosch-Miller and Hilary Ison


Introduction to Part I

1 After the Fire, the Voice of God: Speaking of God after Tragedy and Trauma

Elaine Graham

2 Practical Theology and Trauma: The Urgency of Experience, The Power of Story

Carla A. Grosch-Miller


Introduction to Part II

3 Working with an Embodied and Systemic Approach to Trauma and Tragedy

Hilary Ison

4 Toward a Faith-based Approach to Healing after Collective Trauma

Kate Wiebe


Introduction to Part III

5 Trauma Through the Lens of Bible

Megan Warner

6 An Evangelical Practical Theology of Providence in the Light of Traumatic Incidents

Roger P. Abbott

7 ‘In spite of all this, we will yearn for You’: Reflections on God’s Involvement in Events Causing Great Suffering

Christopher Southgate

8 Trauma and the Narrative Life of Congregations

Christopher Southgate

9 Responding to Disaster in an Afro-Caribbean Congregation

Deanne Gardner


Introduction to Part IV

10 Enabling the Work of the People: Liturgy in the Aftermath of Trauma

Carla A. Grosch-Miller with Megan Warner and Hilary Ison

11 ‘Teach to your Daughters a Dirge’: Revisiting the Practice of Lament in the Light of Trauma Theory

Megan Warner

12 Eucharist and Trauma: Healing in the b/Body

Karen O’Donnell


Introduction to Part V

13 Pastoral Response to Congregational Tragedy

Ruth Layzell

14 The Ethics of Disaster Response

Mia Kyte Hilborn

15 Chaplaincy and Responses to Tragedy

Mia Kyte Hilborn

16 Sexual Scandals in Religious Settings

Carla A. Grosch-Miller


Introduction to Part VI

17 Annotated Interview with Sarah Horsman

Christopher Southgate


APPENDICES Liturgical Resources



Figure 2.1 Theological reflection after trauma

Figure 2.2 How theological reflection may remake tradition

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Megan Warner is Post-doctoral Researcher to the Tragedies and Congregations Project at the University of Exeter, and Visiting Fellow of King’s College London’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies. Her primary field of scholarship is Biblical Studies, specialising in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. Megan is a Licensed Lay Minister and a member of the General Synod of the Church England. She is the author of SPCK’s 2016 Lent Book, Abraham: A journey through Lent and Re-Imagining Abraham: A Re-Assessment of the Influence of Deuteronomism in Genesis (Brill, 2018).

Christopher Southgate is Professor of Christian Theodicy at the University of Exeter and Director of the Tragedy and Congregations Project. In the past he has been a biochemist, a bookseller, a house-husband, and a lay chaplain in university and mental health settings. He trained ordinands for the South West Ministry Training Course for sixteen years, serving as Principal from 2013- 17. His theological monographs include Theology in a Suffering World: Glory and Longing (CUP) and The Groaning of Creation (WJK). He is also the author of eight collections of poetry.

Carla A. Grosch-Miller has spent over 20 years in parish ministry in the US and the UK and 15 years as a staff or short-course theological educator in diverse ministerial training institutions including the South West Ministry Training Course, the Southern Theological Education and Training Scheme and the Cambridge Theological Federation. As Senior Minister of a Chicago area United Church of Christ between 1996 and 2003, she led the church through responses to the Columbine High School shooting, the 9/11 terrorist attack, and the disappearance of a teenaged member, as well as less extraordinary church family crises. She is the author of Psalms redux: psalms and prayers (Canterbury, 2015).

Hilary Ison has been a parish priest, hospice chaplain, adviser for women in ministry and member of a Bishop’s senior staff team, a theological educator, and, latterly, a member of the team of Selection Secretaries overseeing the national selection panels for those offering for ordained ministry in the Church of England. Her recent training is in Systems Constellations, a method of exploring traumatic events and difficult personal and organisational issues in individual or group settings. Her freelance work has included individual supervision, facilitation of reflective practice groups, and practical theology research projects as an associate member of the Oxford Centre for Ecclesiology and Practical Theology (Ripon College, Cuddesdon).


"This is an extremely important book,” writes Bishop James Jones in his foreword to Tragedies and Christian Congregations: the practical Theology of Trauma. And so it is." - Rosie Dawson, Associate Research Fellow at the William Temple Foundation

"Since the essays are accessible and not highyl technical in their use of theological concepts and language, the collection can be a good introducton to the still-emerging field of trauma theology. Moreover, the various practical-theological readings of traumatic events and other tragedies have been unpacked by the contributors from plural perspectives and methodologies. As such, it can be highly valuable and instructive to those who work and practice in congregational settings in other contexts, as well." - Ma. Karen Papellero, Louvain Studies