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New book by Westminster John Knox Press designed to help preachers called to speak about mass trauma

Kimberly Wagner’s ‘Fractured Ground’ responds to preachers’ urgent questions and concerns

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — A book published last month by Westminster John Knox Press, “Fractured Ground: Preaching in the Wake of Mass Trauma,” offers help to preachers and community leaders who are called to speak and respond to mass trauma.

The author is the Rev. Dr. Kimberly R. Wagner, Assistant Professor of Preaching at Princeton Theological Seminary. Her previous experience on the pastoral staff of a PC(USA) congregation in Virginia helps fuel and inform her present scholarship and teaching.

Grounded in research on the nature and impact of individual and communal trauma and responsive to preachers’ urgent questions and concerns, “Fractured Ground” offers both theological insight and practical guidance for those called on to preach or publicly respond in the wake of a communal traumatic event.

“All clergy must, at various points in their ministries, preach in the context of trauma,” said the Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston, senior pastor at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York and the author of “Elusive Grace: Loving Your Enemies While Striving for God’s Justice,” published last year by WJK. “These sermons, delivered next to open graves and in the face of national calamities, are heartbreakingly difficult to breathe into life. Wagner’s ‘Fractured Ground’ is an unflinchingly honest and intelligently hopeful guide to this most difficult work. Right out of the gate, this book is a pastoral classic.”

The Rev. Dr. Kimberly R. Wagner

“Because our society is in an epidemic of mass trauma, ‘Fractured Ground’ is unfortunately very timely,” Dr. Thomas G. Long, Bandy Professor Emeritus of Preaching at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, writes in the book’s foreword. “But precisely because we are in such a time, we are blessed not only by this book’s timeliness but also by the fact that it is a very wise guide to those of us who much preach in the midst of disaster. Even as we lament the circumstances that made this book essential, we give profound thanks for the astute lessons and reassuring counsel Wagner offers.”

According to a news release by WKJ Press, “Fractured Ground” is a useful book for at least three reasons:

  • It provides incisive explanations of what trauma is and how it affects communities of faith.
  • It offers practical guidance for crafting sermons that reflect the brokenness of the traumatic situation.
  • It draws on the burgeoning field of trauma studies, eschatological theologies of hope, scriptural wisdom and liturgies of lament to address how mass trauma impinges on the preaching task and how preachers can respond to it.

Westminster John Knox Press publishes books that cover the spectrum of religious thought and are used in the training of seminarians, the dissemination of religious scholars’ work, and the spiritual and ethical formation of clergy and laity. Learn more here.

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