How can Congregations be Helpful in Times of Tragedy?
TWCF Number
Project Duration
March 1 / 2017
- February 28 / 2020
Core Funding Area
Big Questions
Amount Awarded
Grant DOI*

* A Grant DOI (digital object identifier) is a unique, open, global, persistent and machine-actionable identifier for a grant.

Christopher Charles Benedict Southgate
Institution University of Exeter

This project aims to help churches respond to the impact of local and global tragedies. Through training ordinands in good practice and resilience, it will give churches the necessary resources to achieve this goal. Tragedy can jeopardize congregational flourishing. Such events threaten the ordinary frames of meaning in which groups of worshippers live. This can lead to symptoms of trauma and communal narratives that prevent healing. How, then, can Christian congregations respond with integrity, courage, and compassion to tragedies, including those that seem to have a scientific explanation? The role of the clergy is to assist individuals and congregations through practices of compassionate action, conversation, liturgy, prayer, and reflection on theological motifs. And they seek to respond with honesty and compassion, make sense of the insensible, and integrate events into their explorations of life with God. This project seeks to explore the following questions: How can we inspire trainee ministers to react to tragedy with confidence, self-awareness, and resilience? How can their initial training instill the formational qualities necessary to respond with wisdom? What range of practices and processes will enable them to resource churches? How do tragic events relate to the narratives of Christian Scripture and doctrine in preaching, prayer and worship, and in discussion groups? And in what ways does this relationship allow honest exploration of feelings and theological reflection on the nature of God? How can scientific understandings feed into that exploration? Finally, how can the resources of lament and psalmody be deployed in tragic situations?  

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