Trauma and compassion
A pastoral letter to the Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ
From: Jim Antal, Conference Minister & President
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Therefore, since it is by God's mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.
2 Corinthians 4:1
Many of us, throughout our lives, have taken much pleasure from the seasonal changes – as fall reveals winter; winter yields to spring; spring releases summer; and summer turns to fall.
But over the past several months, throughout the Commonwealth, hundreds of thousands of people – often those who are most vulnerable – have seen their lives upended by an unprecedented series of extreme weather events. An October snowstorm that left tens of thousands without power for over a week and dozens of our churches cancelling worship. An August hurricane that flooded homes and villages, creating detours that are all but permanent. A June tornado that visited unspeakable devastation to two dozen communities, permanently changing the lives of thousands.
Amidst this trauma, many of our churches have become beacons of hope, relief, respite, refueling. Those same churches, and hundreds of others, have shown prayerful compassion and enormous generosity. At annual meeting, we were all moved beyond words as we watched and heard testimonies from those most affected by the tornado. An outpouring of over $48,000 and thousands of volunteer hours of help – much of it from pastors and churches that were themselves affected – connected us to each other in new ways. (See our Tornado Response page for more detail or read a news story on the work of our churches.)
Trauma endures. Each of us knows this from our own experience. Holding in prayer all of those who are recovering from these events is what compassion looks like. Reaching out to those we know who are struggling is what compassion looks like. Sharing what God has given us with those who are rebuilding their lives is what compassion looks like. (Click here for suggestions on how to cope with the stress of repeated trauma.)
Don Remick and Jim Tilbe (our Conference's Disaster Resource Team) have just returned from the UCC National Disaster Network Ministries Annual Meeting. Along with Peter Wells and Jill Graham, we will soon convene another lunch to which any pastors affected by these events can come to check in, experience solidarity, and hear about resources. We will be drawing upon resources available through our Conference and National Setting to support our pastors and churches with their urgent and long term needs, as well as the accumulative impact of repeated traumas.
God is calling forth a new kind of solidarity – a new form of resilience born of sharing and connection – and I believe that it is emerging in our midst. Let all our churches join in this movement of the Holy Spirit. None of us stands alone. We are learning this through our response to these repeated un-natural weather traumas. And we are learning this through our response to Mission 1. God weaves us together in mutual interdependence, calling us to transform the pain of isolating scarcity into the joy of shared abundance.
Minister and President
Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ
"Rooted in the grace of God, the mission of the Massachusetts Conference United Church of Christ
is to nurture local church vitality and the covenant among our churches to make God’s love and justice real "
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