As we see the wounds in others, we gently encounter our own. And in growing in our relationship with each other, we grow in Christ. We offer no quick fixes or guarantees but by admitting our brokenness and lovingly bearing the pain of others, somehow, we all become more open to God’s grace.”
The Cory Johnson Program for Post-Traumatic Healing, led by Rev. Liz Walker with her team at Roxbury Presbyterian Church in Roxbury, MA, has been providing community trauma healing services for four years. Each week people are invited to the program that addresses the mind, body, and spiritual impacts of trauma. Below is Rev. Liz Walker’s pastors’ statement about God’s healing work that is taking place through this ministry. Through this program, eight participants have now become members of the congregation, which she describes is “a testament to God’s healing draw.”
To learn more, you can contact Colleen Sharka at firstname.lastname@example.org or attend their “Abiding in the Community” national-level conference on Saturday 11/3!
I have often wondered why there are so many churches along Roxbury’s busy Warren Street corridor between Dudley Square and Grove Hall and still so many lost souls on the streets; the homeless, drug and alcohol addicted and the mentally ill. This is the reality not only in our neighborhood but in many others overrun by poverty, violence and hopelessness. The problem is not that urban churches neglect our neighbors. We all commit to revivals, prayer walks, and door to door evangelism. The problem is a growing disconnect between the sermon and the streets. We are big on sin but too often we ignore the symptoms of profound pain.
The Cory Johnson Program for Post Traumatic Healing (CJP) is Roxbury Presbyterian Church’s way to bring light and air to these collective wounds. Trauma is a modern term for the deep suffering that has always been part of the human experience in a fallen world. It is considered an epidemic in urban American, rivaling far-away war zones. While psychologists and sociologists have tried many strategies in caring for the mentally, emotionally and spiritually wounded, we believe Christ’s redemptive words offer the true healing foundation, “Abide in me and I in you”.
By abiding or remaining with our wounded neighbors week after week in CJP trauma events, we, like Jesus, welcome them as they are. The program invites all, without entry requirements or judgment, to enter a circle of love made up of our trauma companions (trained church members), many of whom are struggling with their own wounds. After we break bread, we “open the floor” encouraging our guests to share their stories of violence, loss and healing…stories that are too often left festering and unspoken. Sometimes our guests speak and sometimes they sit quietly. Our most important role is simply to be with them in their darkness, as God is with us. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death….thou art with me.”
We never deny or try to fix someone’s suffering in CJP gatherings. We are there to “witness” through intentional listening. Our companions provide Kleenex and compassion. Our musicians, the balm of song. Our licensed onsite clinicians provide counseling when requested (the requests are growing) but above all our presence assures the suffering they are not alone. There is no preaching, no pat answer, no three-step redemption plan. We allow God’s Spirit to move. And people come, on average about 40 each week. Many join us based on word of mouth. Strangers walk in off the streets, others from far away. People return week after week. The community grows. As we see the wounds in others, we gently encounter our own. And in growing in our relationship with each other, we grow in Christ. We offer no quick fixes or guarantees but by admitting our brokenness and lovingly bearing the pain of others, somehow, we all become more open to God’s grace.
Just this year, a dozen program participants have started attending services at RPC and eight have actually joined, a testament to God’s healing draw. We are now in the process of replicating in seven faith communities around Boston and, amazingly enough, in Gary, Indiana. Our doors are open every Thursday evening at 6. We invite you to join us.
Reverend Liz Walker