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Sunday, May 8, 2016

Faith communities provide essential service

Joyce Sasse, Spiritual Gleanings

Ready or not, disasters never announce themselves. Furthermore, the frequency of weather-related disasters is increasing.

Faith Communities need to establish themselves as part of the essential service infrastructure in both urban and rural situations. Their help is invaluable, though it will never be reported in the media.


While the primary concern of First Responders is in mitigating destruction and saving lives, people who are part of Faith Communities need to be there for people who are displaced, distraught and riding an emotional roller coaster.

Some disaster preparation by your church or synagogue or mosque community would give a heads-up on where to begin. People with a local knowledge of the situation are invaluable when they ready themselves to swing into immediate action – especially when located at a distance from larger urban centres.

During that long period of recovery following a disaster, Faith Communities can model a positive way to provide emotional and spiritual care. That involves being non-judgmental in cases where anger and blame are rampant, and in offering rituals for lament and grief. Words and songs at such a time, and the reminder that God is present with us in this time of tragedy, can help people move from PAIN to HOPE.

What is important is that these counselors are part of the community for the long-run. Spiritual care workers are usually quickly invited into people’s lives in a very deep and personal way. But everyone needs to recognize there is a cost. Compassion fatigue happens, and it is even deeper than burnout.

Resiliency in the lives of individuals and the life of the community is an ultimate goal. To deal with the adversity and move forward is essential. Each member has a contribution and can make a difference. The goal is not to re-establish what was, but to move ahead to what can be.

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