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Trauma and Grace – Theology in a Ruptured World

Serene Jones

Westminster John Knox Press, 2nd edition 2019, ISBN 978-0664264772

Review by Dr Esther Elliot, Workplace and Community Chaplain for West Edinburgh

<strong>Trauma and Grace – Theology in a Ruptured World</strong>

This is an exceptionally rich resource which gives the reader the opportunity to explore in multiple directions. I have passed it on to colleagues with pastoral responsibility for people and organisations who have experienced trauma. I would also recommend it for those looking for ideas and examples of creative Biblical exegesis, deep doctrinal theology and meaningful story telling.

Jones’ premise is that trauma as an event and as a memory can rupture and invade a person and grace can sooth and heal the imagination. The call of the church is to reorder and recraft the collective imagination of her people. This happens through a process of providing space in which people can tell the story in ways in which it is truly witnessed and then a gradual reweaving of the story back together again.

I found the chapter on Calvin’s understanding of the Psalm’s both interesting and helpful in understanding the whole thesis. Seen through the lens of Calvin writing at a time of personal trauma, Jones’ finds a pattern in his understanding of the Psalms which is performative; there is an expressed need for recovery, the establishment of a place of safety, the activity of witness and remembrance and finally an explicit reconnection to ordinary life.

Alongside this ability to engage with doctrinal and historical material Jones’ also showcases an ability to use the Biblical text with imagination and flare. A telling of an imagined story of Mary the Mother of Jesus meeting an invented woman called Rachel whose son was killed in the slaughter of the innocents after Jesus’ birth is both innovative and thought provoking.

For preachers Jones’s specifically addresses a question which I have often wrestled with; how to end a sermon in a way which neither manipulates those listening or those speaking through the text. She suggests that the great silence at the end of Mark can be a helpful model if it is seen is as an absent ending created by the rupture of resurrection. This is an example of being at the end of language where only a gesture towards redemption starts to fill the gap. I am reminded of one of the most valuable sermons I ever heard which had a lasting effect on both individuals and a parish community. In full flow the preacher turned a page in his notes, looked down, paused for a moment and simply said ‘I think, actually, I will leave it there’ and stopped.

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