Dealing with Disaster

@Natalie_Oxford via Wikimedia •

The United Kingdom suffered several shocking terror attacks in 2017, as well as the Grenfell Tower fire in which 71 people died. Now a new project led by a professor from the University of Exeter offers training to clergy on how to cope in the aftermath of terrorist attacks and other disasters.

“Tragedy and Congregations” held its first session with curates in the Diocese of Exeter in November. Project director Christopher Southgate is a professor of theology with a long-standing research interest in human suffering; he is also a spiritual director.

“People often have to find their own systems of support,” he told BBC Radio’s Sunday program. “It needs to include trained and qualified people like a supervisor, a spiritual director.”

He added that the trauma of dealing with upsetting events can lead to clergy leaving the ministry, or to long-term health problems.

“We need to help trainee ministers not only to have their systems of human support but also to find ways and places where they can be genuinely honest with God about the cost of what they’re having to do,” he said.

The new program will run courses in different areas of England, initially for three years.

Churches have been at the center of many crises this year. Southwark Cathedral was forced to close for more than a week after a terrorist attack at nearby London Bridge. After the Grenfell fire, St. Clement’s Parish, Notting Dale, became a hub for volunteers helping people who were left devastated and homeless.

John Martin


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