Introduction to Risk Healing Connections
An Ecumenical, Congregation-based Forgiveness Practice with and for Veterans
Risk is congregation-based care of the soul designed for veterans, but applicable to everyone (Cor. 12:1-26; Philippians 2:1-4; Romans 12:15, etc.). The central feature of Risk is an individual or small group confession and forgiveness practice tailored specifically for veterans who wrestle with post-trauma and moral injury. Risk is rooted in the power of the Gospel and utilizes the means of grace and God’s forgiving love as a frame and path to support the hard work of human forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration to a more satisfying life in the congregation. Risk proceeds with the belief that Christ, the Divine Forgiver, is at the center of any circle gathered in his name and believes that the Spirit of Christ inspires and equips pastors and congregants for an adventure of daring deployment of forgiveness.
Congregation care is as old as the church itself. But, Risk is different because it views the congregation as the primary context of veteran care – not the therapist’s office. Risk is not just for veterans. Risk can also be utilized by many groups in the congregation. For example, Risk features can be introduced to confirmation mentor groups or study groups. Risk participants learn to unleash the quiet power of a gospel that is at the heart of both the personal and the communal care of the soul.
Many pastors don’t realize that most veterans still view the congregation and clergy as the primary means of spiritual support! In a National Veteran’s Administration Chaplain’s Office survey 67% of veterans reported that the single-most important factor for a successful transition home was attendance at weekly worship. And, over 40% reported that they first sought help from their pastor – more than all behavioral health professionals combined. The main reason given by veterans is the spiritual nature of their concerns. Risk builds on these pastoral relationships, dives deep and invites everyone in the congregation to join veterans on a courageous journey of forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration.
Today, we understand better than ever how forgiveness not only brings spiritual health but benefits physical health as well. We understand the positive impact of forgiveness on individual brains, chemistries and how it affects the broader community. Risk challenges congregations to join veterans and engage Spirit-power that can regenerate the fine tissues of the individual and communal soul. The church has long understood the transformative power of God’s forgiveness and the need for safety and confidentiality. Risk helps congregants appreciate the extreme hospitality veterans and need to engage in this challenging, vulnerable work of the soul. Congregation understanding and support is essential.
Congregations and congregants that learn to Risk Healing Connections with veterans:
- Immediately increase their capacity to help.
- Reduce chances of doing harm.
- Promote compassion satisfaction vs. compassion fatigue.
- Build personal as well as communal spiritual strength.
Risk has four phases. Risk Phase 1: Orientation for Pastoral and Congregation Discernment. Risk Phase 2: Congregation Care Team (CCT) Training. Risk Phase 3: Congregation Care Teams train and implement Risk in the Congregation. Risk Phase 4: Expansion of Risk nationwide.
Risk Healing Connections is sponsored Welcome Them Home – Help Them Heal in cooperation with the Northeastern Minnesota Synod, Voyageur Lutheran Ministries and the ELCA Bureau for Federal Chaplaincy Ministries. For more information contact: Rev. John Sippola: firstname.lastname@example.org
Overview of Risk Healing Connections
Whether your congregation is large or small, rural or urban, Risk helps the congregation build on their unique legacy of care to support veterans as they engage in the vulnerable work of the soul.
Phase 1: Orientation for Discerning Risk (2014 / 2015)
- Is there a fit with the vision of Risk and the vision for mission of our congregation?
- What people, groups or ministries in my congregation might benefit from Risk?
- What is the role of the pastor, the camp director, the parish nurse, youth director, others?
- Who in my congregation might help implement Risk?
- What are the costs for the pastor? For the congregation?
Phase 2 Risk Training for Congregation Care Team (Winter 2016)
Pastors of congregations who elect to participate in Phase 2 invite one or two leaders to join them to receive training as the nucleus of a Congregation Care Team (CCT). Congregation Care Teams commit to prepare for training by initiating a personal forgiveness practice for a period of eight weeks. Materials are similar to those used by veterans and will be provided. CCT are trained in four core practices of Risk:
- Risk Forgiveness Practices: The Use of the Means of Grace for Forgiveness of Moral Injury, Reconciliation and Restoration to Community.
- Risk Forgiveness Circles with Contemplative Listening
- Risk Safety and Trust: Extreme Hospitality needed for Veterans Wrestling with Moral Injury plus Post-traumatic Stress.
- Risk Suicide Awareness, Intervention and Prevention.
Phase 3: Risk Implementation in the Congregation (fall 2016 / winter 2017)
CCT teams commit to:
- Orient the congregation to the four core practices of Risk.
- Initiate one Risk Forgiveness Circle.
- Assist in the introduction of Risk into an already existing ministry.
- Craft a written description of Risk ministry suitable for website, newsletter, etc.
Well-written descriptions create and reinforce individual and public perceptions of safety and trust. They address common concerns, encourage questions, reduce anxiety and set the table for invitation to participate. Well-written descriptions help normalize and institutionalize ministry. They encourage everyone in the congregation to risk healing connections without feeling singled out.
Phase 4: Risk Implementation Nationwide (2016 / 17)
Risk spreads to other ELCA Synods, Ecumenical Partners, Outdoor Ministries, Camps and Retreat Centers.
Risk Healing Connections is sponsored by Welcome Them Home – Help Them Heal in cooperation with the Northeastern Minnesota Synod, Voyageur Lutheran Ministries and the ELCA Bureau for Federal Chaplaincy Ministries. For more information contact: Rev. John Sippola: email@example.com