Mass trauma is an unavoidable reality in the United States. Trauma from violence, natural disasters, and disease has become all too familiar in the American experience, inevitably raising questions about where God is to be found in the midst of such tragedies. In every case, the aftermath leaves communities’ sense of well-being broken and capacity to imagine a way forward thwarted. Though language often fails us in the midst of trauma, preachers and religious leaders are nevertheless called on to offer a Word.
Fractured Ground helps pastors craft sermons that fully plumb the disorienting suffering created by events of mass trauma, while still offering an authentic word of hope. Kimberly Wagner provides both incisive explanations of what trauma is and especially how it affects communities of faith, along with practical guidance for crafting sermons that reflect the brokenness of the traumatic situation and the persistent love of God that binds the broken together. Drawing on the burgeoning field of trauma studies, eschatological theologies of hope, scriptural wisdom, and liturgies of lament, Wagner helps preachers imagine what it might mean to preach a narratively fractured sermon in the aftermath of a communal traumatic event, ultimately affirming that no amount of brokenness is beyond the presence and promise of God.
“All clergy must, at various points in their ministries, preach in the context of trauma. 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.”
—Scott Black Johnston, Senior Pastor at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York, and author of Elusive Grace: Loving Your Enemies While Striving for God's Justice
“Because our society is in an epidemic of mass trauma, Fractured Ground is unfortunately very timely. 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 must preach in the midst of disaster. Even as we lament the circumstances that make this book essential, we give profound thanks for the astute lessons and reassuring counsel Wagner offers.
—Thomas G. Long, Bandy Professor Emeritus of Preaching, Candler School of Theology, Emory University (from the foreword)