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Help for faith communities after a natural disaster or tragedy

Help For Faith Communities After A Natural Disaster Or Tragedy Prayer and Preparedness During a Disaster Insights into Religion Lilly Foundation

Natural disasters, like the massive tornado that struck Oklahoma, can devastate entire communities and sometimes shake our faith, whether we are directly affected or not. Many ask why God would allow such tragedy, or wonder if the disaster is God’s punishment.

Churches, if they survive the disaster, often are part of the first-response wave that arrives immediately to provide for critical needs; but they also perform essential ongoing care in the form of spiritual comfort and guidance. Insights Into Religion has compiled relevant articles, worship ideas, commentary, resources and advice from our affiliates that may be useful for faith communities in the aftermath of tragedy.

Praying for Others Promotes Hope, Optimism, Study Suggests

Religious Response To Disaster Is Often Critical

Worship In Times Of Natural Disaster

  • This collection of resources, initially created in response to Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Southeast Asian tsunami, is equally applicable for all natural disasters. These suggestions are offered to stimulate thinking and serve as models of services to address traumatic natural disasters.

Answering Questions About The End Times

  • In 2011, 44 percent of Americans said they believe that natural disasters are signs of the end times; among evangelical Christians, it was 67 percent. Religion Newswriters Association, a member organization that supports quality reporting on religion, put together a resource page on doomsday prophecies featuring context, background, recent articles, definitions of terms and expert contact information covering all sides of the issue. The information, archived on RNA’s sister site, ReligionLink, could be used by writers, students, or clergy wishing to discuss the theories with their congregations or answer their questions about natural disasters and doomsday. Disaster Preparedness and Response Major disasters, in ways almost too large to comprehend, demonstrate the importance of preparedness, training and response. The role of clergy and caring teams in congregations is hard to fully outline in advance of a traumatic event, but having a plan is vital. This article, from the Alban Institute, outlines the steps to creating a solid disaster preparedness plan for your congregation.

A Ready Hope: Effective Disaster Ministry for Congregations

  • A Ready Hope, by authors Kathy Haueisen and Carol Flores, is an initiation for people of faith who are new to the ministry of disaster preparedness and response. The authors have both personal and professional experience dealing with disasters and have worked closely with ecumenical faith-based and other nongovernmental networks, governmental groups, judicatory leaders, and congregations assisting those affected by disaster. Their book, published by the Alban Institute, provides an overview of existing disaster-response networks, details the predictable phases of disaster recovery, and prepares congregations to respond appropriately to a disaster in their community.

Disaster Continuity Planning

  • In a free, 13-minute podcast produced by the Alban Institute, Lewis Saylor, a faith-based disaster preparedness consultant based in Northern Virginia, describes the value of having a disaster continuity plan for your congregation, who should be involved in the plan, and how having a plan in place provides multiple benefits.

Preparing for Severe Weather

  • No community in the United States is immune to severe weather and the resulting danger to life and property.  Like all community institutions, congregations should be prepared for events such as hurricanes, earthquakes, fires and tornadoes. Nancy Armstrong, of the Center for Congregations, offers a list of resources that can help congregations with planning and response to natural disasters and severe weather. The Center supports Indiana congregations by helping them find the best resources for their needs, and offers its information online to congregations everywhere.

PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey, March 2011

  • The RNS Religion News Survey in partnership with and conducted by Public Religion Research Institute examines attitudes about the relationship between God and natural disasters. Questions gauged beliefs about whether God controls everything that happens in the world and is responsible for natural disasters. The survey also asked about the tsunami that struck Japan and gauged support for U.S.-sponsored disaster relief.

Church Services After a Disaster

Good Intentions Aren't Enough

The Morality of Nature

  • Exploring the human and religious implications of natural disasters, On Being host Krista Tippett interviews two scientists who reflect on human life in the context of the natural world, and approaching the morality of nature from a non-theological angle, tracing how natural disasters have fueled religious agendas and movements and how strictly scientific perspectives can both challenge and illuminate religious questions.

Out of Tragedy, Questions About God

Where was God in the Earthquake?

Can We Speak of God’s Activity, in Triumph or Tragedy? (Luke 1:39-55)

  • Certain Christians seem compelled to speak for God in disorienting moments, Matthew L. Skinner wrote in an ON Scripture article just after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. Skinner says while he regularly encourages people to talk about God and assess who they think God is and how God operates, he takes issue when talk slips into “absolute confidence about God and how God might be or not be connected to” the disaster. How do we respond when someone defines God’s will or claims to know the specific reasons for a disaster or tragedy?

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