Posts tagged " faith community assets "

Soul Care Conversation (The Faith Community Response, Overview)

July 2nd, 2016 Posted by Blog 2 comments

(The purpose of Soul Care Conversation is to create a place to generate dialogue, initiate thoughtful consideration for the challenges our veterans face each day, share ideas of veteran and family well-being and healing, and spark within all of us a call to be engaged with the veteran and caregiver community. Click here to visit the forum and join the conversation!)

About a month ago we began a conversation with a new focus, the faith community’s strengths and capacities for veteran care. The first topic we discussed was hospitality. We then looked at the importance of ritual as a means of support for the veteran to transition from the battlefield to civilian society. Several weeks ago we discussed how the Eucharist may be a means toward healing and well-being. Our forth topic was how the faith community can journey with the veteran in a search for justice and restoration. Last week we looked at how the “sacred story” can be a means of healing for the soul.

Faith community, recognize and celebrate your strengths and capacities for care! For each is a gift that can become a part of the foundation on which you can now move to respond in developing a relationship with a veteran and their family.

BACKGROUND

While the primary role for caring for our veterans lie with the Department of Veterans Affairs; community leaders and groups, and faith communities have engaged in an increasing role supporting veteran challenges. Community groups and faith communities often fill the gaps in meeting the needs of the veteran community. Partnerships form in order to provide housing, employment, education, reintegration resources, and mental health care. However, the faith community can provide an additional role, helping veterans recover from spiritual wounds.

The faith community’s role has importance. Research suggests,

At the same time, higher levels of religious belief, as measured by frequent attendance at religious services, dramatically increases the odds that a post-9/11 veteran will have an easier time readjusting to civilian life. According to the analysis, a recent veteran who attends religious services at least once a week has a 67 percent chance of having an easy re-entry experience. Among post-9/11 veterans who never attend services, the probability drops to 43%. (The Difficult Transition from Military to Civilian Life, Pew Research Center, December 8, 2011)

Does the faith community have relevance? It is interesting to note that returning veterans are among the demographic least likely to attend church, synagogue, temple or mosque. The millennials, which make up the largest demographic in the military, are largely second generation un-churched.  But, many millennials have loved ones who attend religious services regularly. Additionally, faith community members live out their faith with compassion, love, and care in their community.

Important to note: less than than 1% of our nation have served or participated in the Post 9/11 wars. If you add direct family members it still is only 5% of the population that understand our veterans’ experiences or challenges. How can the faith community be supportive? With awareness, training, coaching, support, and resourcing; caregivers (faith community leaders, parish nurses, congregation members, loved ones and friends) can be empowered to render an invaluable service to the returning veteran and their families.

However, some returning veterans do not desire to return to their places of worship. They are;

  • afraid of being judged for their actions in war
  • concerned that the faith community is uninformed or ill-prepared to meet their needs
  • troubled of being told they are no longer welcomed in the community
  • lacking in the trust of God or the people of faith with their stories

It is not just the veteran that may be the obstacle. Some faith communities that hold an anti-war stance often do not know how to reconcile their views with the fact that they have veterans in their community with spiritual needs. In fact, in a workshop I conducted for clergy, a pastor explained that he was anti-war and did not know how to welcome veterans. Some faith communities approach veterans on the other side of the spectrum. They laud over veterans, calling them heroes and placing them on pedestals.

POSSIBLE FAITH COMMUNITY RESPONSES

How can the faith community better help veterans recover from spiritual wounds? The faith community is uniquely positioned to respond. When a warrior has a soul wound, people of faith can live out a critical role in the warriors’ journey.  After wars of the past, clergy and congregational members have played a key role in helping veterans find healing of the soul. Clergy and laity have offered through their actions hope, love, patience, forgiveness, trust, and comfort.  Clergy have offered words of assurance from Holy texts. Both actions and words living out the sacred story provide remarkable healing power.

In spite of all of the challenges mentioned, the faith community is uniquely suited to be in relationship with the veteran. The church, synagogue, temple, and mosque do the following;

  • make a lifetime commitment of care
  • understand fear, shame, suffering and grief
  • know how to be supportive of persons having spiritual wounds

The faith community’s responses center on several core competencies such as;

  • cultivate an awareness within the congregation and community
  • provide support
  • seek a restorative path
  • create safe space
  • make meaning
We will explore each of these competencies in detail over the next month or so.

PRESCRIPTIVE OR DESCRIPTIVE?

An important factor that we must address, the context within our communities is very different. We may attend religious services in a United Methodist church in Iowa, a Hindu Temple in New York City, a mosque in Washington, DC, or a synagogue in Boston. The various community and veteran challenges will be unique to each particular context. As the Soul Care Initiative developed the core competencies, we did so not intending that they provide answers, but are a means to discovery. The Congregational Tool Kit is a guide for the faith community to begin a conversation with leadership in the community and faith community, interested faith partners, congregants and veterans. Conversation will open doors of opportunity for the faith community to develop relationships and trust with veterans.

Next week, we will look in detail on how to cultivate an awareness within the faith community. In the meantime, Happy Independence Day and thank you for the conversation…

 

 

Soul Care Conversation (Faith Community Assets for Veteran Care, Search for Justice)

June 9th, 2016 Posted by Blog 2 comments

(The purpose of Soul Care Conversation is to create a place to generate dialogue, initiate thoughtful consideration for the challenges our veterans face each day, share ideas of veteran and family well-being and healing, and spark within all of us a call to be engaged with the veteran and caregiver community. Click here to visit the forum and join the conversation!)

About a month ago we began a conversation with a new focus, the faith community’s strengths and capacities for veteran care. The first topic we discussed was hospitality. Next we looked at the importance of ritual as a means of support for the veteran to transition from the battlefield to civilian society. Last week, we discussed how the Eucharist may be a means toward healing and well-being. This week, we will share how the faith community can journey with the veteran in a search for justice and restoration.

BACKGROUND

Restorative justice has its origin in legal principles. It is an approach that focuses on the needs of;

  • victim
  • offender
  • community

Both the victim and the offender take an active role in the process. A dialogue ensues where the victim shares what he or she desires to be done to repair the harm and the offender takes responsibility for his or her action. The results foster victim satisfaction and offender accountability. More importantly, the results suggest the beginning of healing for both the victim and the offender.

The community has an active role as well. The community seeks to;

  • build a partnership between victim and offender
  • re-establish mutual responsibility for constructive responses
  • pursue a balanced approach to the needs of the victim and the offender

While restorative justice may have its origins in legal principles, it has as its roots the biblical concept of justice that focuses on the victim, the offender, and the community in the hope of restoring all to a sense of God’s wholeness. Several months ago, we began to develop a theology toward healing. We discussed restorative justice as a part of God’s purpose in redeeming a broken world. Justice is the basic principle upon which God’s creation has been established. It is an integral part in God’s redemptive pursuit to wholeness.

We also discovered that the Gospels remind us that healing and restorative justice remain at the center of God’s response. Jesus conveys the message for the faith community to be healers, peacemakers, and justice doers when faced with brokenness, emptiness, alienation, and violence. Through compassion, love, mercy, and forgiveness, Jesus models how to transform lives and restore dignity and purpose to the injured, broken and lost.

Jesus’ message focused on something radically different; those who know God’s mercy must share it with others. Jesus instructs his followers to do the same. The God of restorative justice works in and through the faith community to bring healing and wholeness.

LIVING LESSONS

While in Iraq in 2003, Champion Main, the headquarters for the 82nd Airborne Division experienced a vehicle born improvised explosive device (VBIED) on the “secure” forward operating base. After triage of the casualties and the discovery that one US Soldier was killed, 20 volunteers received a very sterile briefing on how to process the scene which included picking up body parts. Important to any warrior is that if killed in action, they would not be left on the battlefield, but honored by being returned to family for burial. In this situation it was not so easy at times to determine whose pieces of human remains we were securing, the two Iraqi insurgents or our brother in arms.

However, there was one incident where it was very evident. A First Sergeant, who was one of the volunteers, approached me to say that he had found the two heads of the insurgents, about 75 meters from the point of the explosion. He said he could not retrieve them and asked me if I could do so. As I walked to where the First Sergeant said they were located, I did not consider what I would do or how it would affect me. As I picked up the heads and placed them in a bag, I said a prayer, “God, may these men rot in Hell!”

It took several days to realize what I experienced on 11 December 2003. Not only was I recovering from my own proximity to the explosion and the anger of losing one of my brothers in arms, I reflected on my prayer. Here I am nearly 13 years removed from that day, I still mourn the loss of my brother in arms. I can recall the horrors of picking up pieces of human remains. But, the part of that experience that I still struggle with was my prayer. How does God’s restorative justice work here? Where can I experience healing?

THE FAITH COMMUNITY

The faith community has an important role in a healing strategy; to share God’s mercy by being a blessing to others. As we recall Jesus’ message of sharing mercy, the church can walk with veterans and their families on a healing journey as a means of restorative justice. A faith community that lives this role will be a partner with the veteran in a difficult and long journey.

Jesus provides us with three distinct models of justice. Each have a radical approach that at their core exemplifies the role of the community in sharing God’s mercy to the victim and the offender;

  1. In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus explored the responsibility the community has for those who have been victimized: “‘Now which of these three would you think was neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?’ The man replied, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Yes, now go and do the same.'” (New Living Translation, Luke 10:36-37).
  2. Jesus was concerned about offenders by exhibiting mercy as a model of justice rather than retribution and vengeance. “You have heard that the Law of Moses says, ‘If an eye is injured, injure the eye of the person who did it. If a tooth gets knocked out, knock out the tooth of the person who did it.’ But I say, don’t resist an evil person! If you are slapped on the right cheek, turn the other too…” (New Living Translation, Matthew 5:38-39)
  3. But Jesus’ model of mercy went even further. The community also has a responsibility to directly care for the injured, broken, alienated, and lost. “I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me…and the King will tell them, ‘I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me.'” (New Living Translation, Matthew 25:36, 40)
In each of these models, the central actor is the community. So, how can the faith community live out the biblical imperative of justice through the initiatives of restoration, mercy, and wholeness with our veterans? The faith community can be a blessing, a blessing to our veterans who are “victims” or who are “offenders.” The faith community can do this by;
  • engaging the veteran through opportunities of worship, prayer, study, fellowship, and counseling in order to restore relationships that have been broken
  • modeling conflict transformation by bearing witness to each other’s stories
  • empowering the veteran to make amends if necessary
  • seeking opportunities for reconciliation through forgiveness and healing, and the service to others
  • sharing the sacred story that includes the role of the Soldier’s faith
  • addressing the larger community and faith community’s role in the harm to the veteran

Possibly you can think of others to share! Through restorative justice, the faith community is uniquely positioned to “be a blessing” to veterans and their families who have experienced a soul wound. Next week we will share how the Sacred Story can prove to be a critical component toward healing. Until then, thank you for the conversation…