|Many stuck in ‘Holy Saturday,’ professor says|
Shelly Rambo, professor at Boston University School of Theology,
addresses participants at the 2009 JustPeace conference in Nashville,
Tenn. UMNS photos by Kathy L. Gilbert.
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
April 9, 2009 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)
"Holy Saturday," the day between life and death, is the place where
many returning military personnel and their families live, a theology
professor told participants at a conference to help churches welcome
home the warrior.
though we are opposed to war, maybe we can bring some comfort,
compassion and healing to those who are fighting for us,” says
seminarian Tiffany Smith.
Shelly Rambo, assistant professor of theology at United
Methodist-related Boston University School of Theology, was one of the
keynote speakers for the April 1-2 gathering of JustPeace . She is
author of "Trauma and Redemption: Witnessing Spirit Between Death and
Life," forthcoming by Westminster John Knox Press.
She explained that Holy Saturday is the day after the crucifixion
and the day before resurrection. Someone living in that day is stuck
between dealing with trauma and getting on with life.
"War changes people and not for the good," Rambo said. "There is no
going back to who they were before war, and yet when they return home
they are expected to be the same."
The world wants to offer them "beer and turkey dinners" and tell
them to get over it, Rambo said. "Christian communities must engage in
the moral complexities of war."
Dealing with trauma
Rambo led sessions on Trauma Healing 101 and Trauma Healing and
Theology. The Rev. Laura Bender, a United Methodist Navy chaplain, led
sessions on the role of churches with returning veterans and moderated
a panel of chaplains reflecting on what they heard during the two-day
JustPeace, a center for mediation and conflict transformation
affiliated with the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, and the
Board of Higher Education and Ministry and the United Methodist
Endorsing Agency sponsored the event. Participants included clergy,
pastoral counselors and concerned laity.
The "ongoingness" of the Iraq war with multiple deployments, high
suicide rates, family disruptions and health care crises, are taking a
toll on the nation’s soul, according to Rambo.
The Rev. Ronald McCants, a retired chaplain, says many returning soldiers are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
"The role of religious leaders is timely and necessary," she said.
Religious leaders need to learn about trauma and how to integrate
theological resources when faced with someone who has been traumatized.
Rambo said trauma occurs when a person’s ability to respond to a
threat is overwhelmed. "Trauma is when your biology gets assaulted in
such a way that you might not be able to reset yourself."
People who have been traumatized reorganize their lives around the
trauma, she explained. Many times a person who has experienced the
horrors of war lives with images that a sight, sound or smell can
trigger, propelling the person back into the situation.
"I see so much pain and hurt. Even though we are opposed to war,
maybe we can bring some comfort, compassion and healing to those who
are fighting for us," said Tiffany Smith, a seminary student at United
Methodist-related Perkins School of Theology in Dallas. She plans to be
a Navy chaplain in a few years.
"It is going to be a few years before I can go on active duty, and I
wanted to know what I can bring into the church (on this subject) since
I will have my appointment in several weeks when I graduate in May,"
The Rev. Brian Marcoulier serves as associate pastor at Madison Street
United Methodist Church in Clarksville, Tenn., which is located near
Fort Campbell, home of the 101st Airborne.
“We are a congregation that believes in peace and works toward that but we also want to embrace the warrior, the
soldier," says the Rev. Brian Marcoulier who serves a congregation near an
"I appreciated the diversity of thought and struggle with this
issue," he said. "We are a congregation that believes in peace and
works toward that, but we also want to embrace the warrior, the
soldier, and the tension of those two things is certainly a personal
struggle that I feel. To see I am amongst colleagues in that same
struggle but willing to have the conversation, to me speaks volumes."
The Rev. J. Paul Womack, retired Army chaplain, said he would like
to see churches reflecting on Holy Saturday, "that middle ground."
"I haven’t felt the presence of God since Vietnam, and I am
ordained. That is a long time to be in Saturday. I think that is
probably true for a lot of our folks who have seen things that have
them stuck some place."
The Rev. Dennis Goodwin, also a retired Army chaplain, said one of
the strengths of The United Methodist Church is an ability to engage
hard subjects. "We can deal with Holy Saturday, we can engage in hard
decisions others will not discuss."
The Rev. Ronald McCants, a participant in the conference who is also
a retired chaplain and pastor of Mount Sinai United Methodist Church,
Mantua, Ala., said many returning soldiers are suffering from
post-traumatic stress disorder.
"They have seen people killed," he explained. "Soldiers are
stigmatized and labeled, and we must find ways to educate our
congregations about what is going on because they are heroes."
*Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
Churches need courage, compassion to welcome warriors
United Methodists discuss the hard conversations
Delegates call for world peace, end to war in Iraq
United Methodists reflect on costs of Iraq war
Chaplains: Church must support returning soldiers
Military chaplains extend church’s global outreach
United Methodist Board of Discipleship
United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry
United Methodist Endorsing Agency
Military Appreciation Month