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Compassionate Response to Sexual Assault Survivors

Though the #MeToo movement has brought greater media attention to sexual assault, it is not a new phenomenon. There are countless examples of congregations and denominations acting in ways that proved harmful to victims. Even the most well-intentioned leaders can inflict pain due to a lack of information and preparation. 

The Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault has put together a host of resources for congregations seeking to get ahead of the game. As any great leader will tell you, the best plans are laid well before they’re needed. If your congregation would like information on working with law enforcement and other professionals to form Sexual Assault Response Teams, check out the SART guide. There are also other workshops and trainings offered through ICESA that congregations can take advantage of. Finally, to gain a better perspective on the ways sexual assault impacts victims, watch the Break The Silence video.

 



 



 

For The CRG Created For The CRG
Encouragement and Engagement for the 2020 Election

A critical presidential election looms before us. Christians want to play a constructive role and make a positive difference, but often are unsure how to get involved and what issues to address. Letters to the Church seeks to help the church:


  • to think again about God’s presence and purposes in our lives and in the world

  • to shine the light and language of our faith on issues and situations that diminish individuals and threaten our common life

  • and to prompt us all to think about what it means to be the church in the face of these particular challenges and opportunities.

Designed for individuals and church study groups, the book begins with a letter to pastors and a letter to congregations. Pastors and congregations share a mutual vulnerability these days that is hampered by an inability or lack of interest in open, honest, faith-informed conversations.

What We Are Experiencing Now - letters in this section address the anxiety of often feeling on-edge and off-balance, the craving for certainty, the revival of deadly prejudices and unresolved grief.

What We Hope - readers can envision an inclusive American family portrait, the hope of trusting each other again, the desire to see courageous leadership exercised and the need for clarity between ethical commitments and political maneuvering.

What We Are Called To - letters encourage acts of confession and justice, careful and critical thinking, the need for allies, recognition of when to support and when to resist and a path for constructive engagement.

Each letter names a specific issue and describes the importance of that issue for our country and for this particular election season. Each letter concludes with reflections on “The Witness of the Church.”

Whatever the outcome of any heavily partisan election where money and shrill voices are likely to dominate, our first calling is to be the church, to be light to the world. Letters to the Church seeks to support the church in that vocation through re-centering ourselves, clarifying our commitments and engaging courageously.

 

For The CRG Created For The CRG
Tracking the Religious Response to the Pandemic

Amid much speculation and pundit prophesying about how the pandemic is affecting congregations and will reshape their future, several denominational groups and research organizations are studying the issue in real-time. This isn’t an easy task. Trying to track congregational and public reactions to the pandemic is like attempting to hit a randomly moving target. Nevertheless, much can be learned from these glimpses into the evolving response by religious leaders and the general public. The Faith Communities Today (FACT) collaborative project has attempted to archive many of these research efforts. There have been more than 20 studies so far.

What do all these reports indicate, you might ask? There are no simple summaries given the diversity of surveys, audiences, congregational sizes, and the disparity of the spread of the virus. Nevertheless, four distinct phases seem apparent in the results:

Lost and Reactive Phase – Surveys from early in the pandemic indicated that most religious groups didn’t know what to do. They reacted the best they could, but many were unsure about technology, how to offer worship virtually, whether online access and usage would be feasible for everyone, and what to do next. Religious leaders needed resources and help desperately. Congregations closed temporarily or went online with a variety of formats. There were a lot of mistakes and giving plummeted. The majority of congregations were not ready for a crisis like COVID-19.

Hardship but Hopeful Phase – By April, a number of surveys found religious groups beginning to understand the technology and getting into their virtual groove with online giving and digital ministry.  For many congregations, giving began to track upward (though not to pre-COVID levels). Congregational functioning was nothing like before, but leaders were more confident and creative outreach efforts were beginning to be implemented. Being a religious community at a distance was difficult but congregations were functioning overall. Of particular surprise to faith leaders were the large number of participants in their online worship, more than had ever attended in person. 

Resilient Stability and/or Expectations of Resurrection Phase – Into May, quite a few surveys indicated a resilience mixed with attempts at creative efforts of adaptation. At the same time, a gap began to open between Protestant churches in different locales, regions of the country, and at different ends of the theological spectrum. Much of this was likely driven by the disparity of initial outbreak patterns. More theologically moderate, urban and east coast churches expressed the desire to hunker down and remain digital as long as necessary. At the same time, some evangelical churches in the south, midwest and western portions of the U.S. began to plan for, or attempt, a phased reopening. They had a glimpse of the end of the pandemic and were preparing for it.  Giving had rebounded or was on the road to recovery for many congregations.

Exhaustion and Uncertainty Phase – By June (and anecdotally into July), as much as a third of evangelical congregations were opening, though most had not returned to in-person gatherings and were uncertain about reopening timelines. At the same time, positive cases were beginning to spike in parts of the country previously untouched by the virus. Uncertainty and anxiety were evident in the public, with nearly two-thirds of Americans saying they were somewhat or very uncomfortable attending an in-person religious service. This same tension is being felt within congregations with some members having to return to work while other remain at home, so some are more comfortable gathering than others. In every case, however, both clergy and congregational members are exhausted due to the continual anxiety about the virus (especially as it is now dramatically increasing), uncertainty about a clear way forward to “normalcy,” and the significant additional effort it takes to do virtual ministry with added pastoral care and social ministry demands. 

With no clear end in sight, the religious response to the pandemic continues. Check the FACT site regularly for new research as the impact continues to be assessed and reported.

 

Books
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book Updated
Money Matters for Youth: Integrating Faith and Finances
Written by a faith-based financial services organization, this download offers a seven-session curriculum for youth on finances.
book Updated
Necessary Endings
This book guides readers to determine what activities and beliefs are worth keeping or ending so they can move forward and experience authentic human flourishing.
book Updated
Joining Forces: Empowering Male Survivors to Thrive
Based on his work with male survivors of sexual abuse in addition to his own experiences as a survivor, this author offers readers information and tools for healing and recovery after abuse.
Articles
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article Updated
What does it mean for a ministry to be trauma-informed?
This short article gives an overview of trauma-informed organizations and offers six key principles for ministries to adopt.
article
Why the word millennial makes me cringe
Author John Green discusses the downside of labeling millennials, especially if you're trying to attract young adults.
article
Medical Emergency Preparation
This article argues for a health ministry team that can be integrated into the congregation and provides suggestions for how to do so.
Web Resources
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web resource
On Being
This website is associated with On Being, the weekly radio podcast, hosted by Yale Divinity School graduate Krista Tippett, and represents the broadcast with blogs and posts that allow a listener and non-listener to explore wide-ranged topics, such as ethics, in greater depth.
web resource
Building Church Leaders
This website of practical training packs quickly equips leaders and teams for effective ministry. Content spans over 100 topics including staff orientation, facilities management, and discipling in a digital age.
web resource
Ten Commandments for a More Welcoming Synagogue
This blog web resource, provided by Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth, the Rabbi of Ohel Ari Congregation in Raanana, Israel and the Executive Director of Beit Hillel: Attentive Spiritual Leadership, a Modern-Orthodox spiritual leadership organization, addresses hospitality in synagogues, particularly during the High Holy Days.
Organizations
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Faith Trust Institute
This organization offers online trainings, resources, and consulting addressing sexual and domestic violence in faith communities.
organization
MeckMin
This organization provides resources, including three short documentaries, for starting conversations within your congregation about discriminatory language against people of non-majority races, religions, sexual orientations, and socio-economic levels.
organization Updated
Alpha
This organization provides online resources, group discussions, and courses that focus on the basics of Christianity and Christian spirituality.
Media
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media
A New State of Mind - Ending the Stigma of Mental Illness
This hour-long documentary details the stories of everyday people while breaking through the silence, shame, and stigma related to mental illness.
media
Simon Sinek - The Golden Circle - Ted Talk
Ted Talk from Sinek's book "Start with Why" articulates the difference between value-based and feature-based communication. The difference is important to understand how people view and relate to organizations.
media
A Look Inside a Funeral Home during COVID-19
This video provides a deep dive into the logistical and emotional duress of Black people and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Events
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event
Dawnings: Welcoming a New Day In Your Church's Missional Journey
This retreat offers spaces for reflection and focus on visioning, forming, and engaging in the question of how public ministry might be a part of the future for a congregation's life together.
event
Wild Goose Festival
This event is part outdoor music festival, part retreat, and part justice conference. It brings speakers and performers from across the theological spectrum, and hosts interactive workshops.
event
Mental Health First Aid
This practical, skills-based training teaches participants how to address mental health and substance-use issues.
Periodicals
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periodical
Church Finance Today
This e-newsletter covers timely finance topics such as record keeping, business expenses, church office security, internal controls, best practices for donations, and money management.
periodical
Church Health Reader
The quarterly Church Health Reader recognizes the challenge of maintaining spiritual, emotional, physical and social well-being in a world of stress, violence, confusing value systems and social turmoil and offers practical, timely instruction and helpful options.
periodical
Lifelong Faith Journal
The Life Long Faith Journal is an online free magazine available in PDF format that covers a wide range of topics, such as: faith formation in a missional age, cultivating a community of practice, the emerging media and the gospel, church leaders and tech visionaries, hybrid networking, drawing children to the center of congregational life, faith formation in small congregations, less talk-more action, infant faith formation and doing children’ s ministry differently.
Software
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software
Fellowship One
This member management software has a suite of tools to track attendance, member engagement, and donations. It's easy to use from any computer or mobile device.
software
Givelify
This free mobile app empowers congregations to offer online giving.
software
WeShare: Online Giving for Churches and Other Community Organizations
This company makes online donation software that can be used with computers, tablets, and smartphones, and through credit cards, debit cards, or electronic transfer of funds.
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