by Chris Nickels, Pastor at Spring Mount Mennonite Church
For two days (May 13-14, 2015) a group of thirty-one individuals gathered at Salford Mennonite Church to learn about the experience of veterans and how to provide support for veterans and their families. The title of this seminar was “The Journey Home from War,” a branch of the STAR: Strategies for Trauma Awareness & Resilience program from the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University. This learning community consisted of veterans, spouses of veterans, representatives from social service and community development agencies, veterans network leaders, and members of congregations from a variety of denominations.
Each person in attendance felt a call to this gathering, and opportunity was given to share about our personal connection with military veterans. As a body, we had combat veterans and war protestors, those suffering post-traumatic stress and those providing care for friends and loved ones who do, pacifists and non-pacifists, clergy and laity. Our differences did not prevent us from discovering that we have so much in common. All of us have been touched by war in some way, and are feeling the need to respond in compassion, care, and support of veterans and their families.
As the seminar concluded we were sent out to embody what we had learned together. Some action steps I noted include:
- Raising awareness about the physical and spiritual needs of veterans (and their families).
- Developing mutuality in our relationships as we commit to learn from each other.
- Being committed to helping returning veterans find “meaningful work…that rewards the soul,” as my friend Glen articulates so well.
Looking back, it feels like a good description of this experience could be a liturgy of healing and hope. Sometimes liturgy is thought of as “the work of the people.” Liturgies consist of work that is intentional and repeated, and so I’m reminded of the important ongoing work that will emerge from this training and these relationships. Liturgy is also a way we are drawn into the restoring, reconciling, healing work of Jesus Christ, who announces hope and good news for all.
In the midst of the work of these two days, my mind kept recalling words from Psalm 34:
“seek peace, and pursue it…
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.”
May we find ways to embody these words, and may God extend this space of healing and hope deeper into our communities and into our hearts.