THE SOUL REPAIR CENTER: FOR RECOVERY FROM MORAL INJURY
Newsletter Vol. 1 No. 2
SAVE THE DATE: JUNE 20-22
Soul Repair will host another Congregational Consultation on June 20-22.
SOUL REPAIR HOSTED ITS
CONSULTATION FOR CONGREGATIONS
Congregations from across the U.S. sent members to Fort Worth to learn more about moral injury at our first congregational training consultation on February 8-10.
Leaders from congregations and other organizations learned about moral injury and its causes, and they explored ways their organizations can support recovery from moral injury. Duane Kelderman, from the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship, was the keynote speaker at our Friday evening dinner and the preacher at our worship service on Sunday morning. Plenary speakers on Saturday included Rita Brock and Herm Keizer, Soul Repair Center Co-Directors; Kim Olson, CEO of Grace After Fire; and Peter Bauer, a Clinical Social Worker with the VA and ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. Brite Executive Vice President and Dean, Joretta Marshall demonstrated deep listening and conversations with veterans with Brite student and Iraq War veteran, Michael Yandell.
SOUL REPAIR CENTER CO-DIRECTORS
CONDUCT WEBINAR ON MORAL INJURY
In February, Rita Brock and Herm Keizer conducted a webinar for the network of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, in which they discussed the definition and causes of moral injury, how it differs from post-traumatic stress disorder and what is involved in the recovery process. They also shared about the importance of congregations and communities in the process of soul repair. This free webinar can still be accessed at http://network.crcna.org/forums/elders/moral-injury-and-soul-repair-webinar.
BECOME A FOUNDING MEMBER OF SOUL REPAIR
The Soul Repair Center’s current grant funding covers around half of all we plan to undertake in our first year. We need the support of those who believe in our mission to accomplish all our goals in the next two years and to become a permanent center for recovery from moral injury. Everyone who makes a donation to the Center no later than May 31, 2013, will become a member of the Founders Circle of the Center. Please contribute.
NEW ADDITIONS TO THE NATIONAL ADVISORY BOARD
We are pleased to welcome two new members to our National Advisory Board, Dr. Nancy Ramsay and Dr. Amir Hussain.
Dr. Ramsay will serve as chair of the Soul Repair Center National Advisory Board. She is Professor of Pastoral Theology and Pastoral Care at Brite Divinity School, where she began her service as Executive Vice President and Dean in June 2005. Prior to that time she was the Harrison Ray Anderson Professor of Pastoral Theology at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. She holds a BA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a D.Min from Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, and a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University. She is active in the Society for Pastoral Theology where she has served as Chair of the Steering Committee and Co-Editor of the Journal of Pastoral Theology. She is a member of the Association of Practical Theology and the International Association for Practical Theology. She has also served at the regional and national levels of AAPC. She holds clinical memberships in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors and the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists where she also has supervisor status. She is an ordained clergywoman in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Dr. Amir Hussain, a Canadian Muslim, is Professor of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University, the Jesuit university in Los Angeles. He has authored over 35 articles and book chapters on Islam and Muslims since coming to LMU in 2005. He is the co-editor of World Religions: Western Traditions, and A Concise Introduction to World Religions, both textbooks published by Oxford University Press. He is also the editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, the flagship journal for the study of religion. His research focuses on Muslim communities in North America. He also teaches about comparative religion and interfaith dialogue.
WELCOME TRISH CASSADAY!
In January, the Brite and Soul Repair Center welcomed our new administrative assistant, Trish Cassaday. Trish comes to us with a strong background in administration in the corporate world.
The Soul Repair Center's current grant funding covers around half of all we must accomplish in our first year. In the next few months alone, our Co-Directors will be leading seminars, training congregational leaders, and consulting with groups in Washington D. C., Midland, TX, Grand Rapids, MI, Spokane, WA, Cleveland, OH, Madison, NJ, Indianapolis, IN, Tulsa, OK, Kansas City, KS, and Scottsdale, AZ. Consider us for your year-end giving.
We need the support of those who believe in our mission to accomplish our goals in the next two years. We will become, with your help, a permanent center for recovery from moral injury.
Everyone who has made or will make a donation to the Center no later than May 31, 2013, will be counted a member of the Founders Circle of the Center. Please contribute.
Congregations from across the U.S. will be sending members to Ft. Worth to learn more about moral injury at our first congregational training consultation. If your community wants to join us, sign up here at our website.
Brite choir, Michael Riggs conducting, sings anthem in Carr Chapel at Nov. 12 Interfaith Service to Honor Moral Conscience.
Organizations can learn how to create a community that supports recovery from moral injury over the long term. See our page on "Pilot Organizations" to see what we ask of those attending. If your congregation is not ready to commit, you can still send a delegation to get the process of commitment started.
Registration is $50. Housing and travel scholarships are available for folks coming from afar (up to three per congregation can receive scholarships, but more can attend!). We also welcome others from the public to the training.
Here is a tentative schedule of events (speakers will appear on the website when they are confirmed):
• Friday 3 pm: registration
• Friday 5-9 pm: dinner, opening lecture, and getting acquainted time
• Saturday morning: Keynote speaker, panel of veterans
• Saturday afternoon and evening: workshops, interest groups for various aspects of work on moral injury, discussion in affinity groups, next steps
• Sunday morning: Worship experience for congregations created by liturgical experts from the internationally-recognized Calvin Institute for Christian Worship
• Sunday noon: Conference ends
Deadline to register is January 15. CEU credits will be available for those who want to register for them, for an additional fee of $25.
Over the past several months, major media stories have begun to speak about moral injury in veterans and the work of the Soul Repair Center, including NPR's Talk of the Nation, Newsweek, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, and KERA's Think with Krys Boyd. To see them all, visit our News page.
For links to these sources and additional resources for understanding moral injury, visit the Soul Repair Center website, which is regularly updated with new materials.
On a crisp, clear fall day in Fort Worth, the Soul Repair Center officially dedicated its offices and introduced the public to moral injury in veterans of war. The day began with an Interfaith Service to Honor Moral Conscience, at which the Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr. preached. Worshippers recessed to the Center office entrance, where the Brite Trustees and President Newell Williams dedicated the offices. We had two hundred who attended in person and others who streamed events online.
Brite Board of Trustees members, Linda Brookshire, Elaine Kellam, Stephanie Burk. and Paul Ray, with President Newell Williams dedicate the offices of the Soul Repair Center, accompanied by guest preacher, Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr., and Center staff, Rita Nakashima Brock, Herman Keizer, and Coleman Baker.
Led by a TCU Color Guard of ROTC cadets, we paused at the TCU Veterans Memorial to plant flags in the lawn in honor of the veterans in our lives and then proceeded to University Christian Church for a luncheon hosted by Brite Board of Trustees Chair, Elaine Kellam, where co-directors the Rev. Herman Keizer Jr. and the Rev. Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock spoke. Everyone at the luncheon received a signed copy of Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury After War, co-authored by Rita Nakashima Brock and Gabriella Lettini and released just in time for the launch by Beacon Press.
TCU ROTC cadets lead processional from the TCU Veterans Memorial to University Christian Church
For many, the highlight of events was the afternoon conference on moral injury. The Rev. Dr. Coleman Baker, Project Manager of the Center, hosted the conference, and the Rev. Bob Hill, pastor of Community Christian Church and Center Advisory Board member, facilitated the first panel, which featured five veteran testimonies. Each veteran reflected upon his or her moral struggles after war. The panel included Iraq veterans Mr. Logan Mehl-Laituri, Mr. Dweylon Fifer, Mr. Michael Yankell, and Mr. Camilo Mejia, as well as Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey, a member of the Center Board, a veteran, and the mother of Dweylon Fifer.
Veteran panel: Pamela Lightsey, Dweylon Fifer, Michael Yandell and Logan Mehl-Laituri
Speaking at the conference, Iraq veteran Camilo Mejia
Dr. Paulette Burns, Dean of the TCU College of Nursing and a member of the Center Board, chaired a response panel of professionals who work with veterans. They included Capt.. Kyle Fauntleroy, Navy chaplain and Center Board member; Rev. Will Kinnaird, Associate Director for the National Chaplain Center of the Department of Veterans Affairs and Center Board member; Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr., President of Healing of the Nations Foundation and Senior Minister Emeritus of Riverside Church in New York City; Rev. E. Terri LaValle, Director of the VA Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships; and Col. Kimberly Olson, USAF (Ret.), Executive Director of Grace After Fire, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing equitable care for women veterans.
The day concluded with a remembrance of the life of Joshua Casteel, a friend to many associated with the Soul Repair Center who succumbed to cancer in August. Camilo Mejia spoke of Joshua's life and contributions to the cause of peace, including his participation the film "Soldiers of Conscience" and in the Truth Commission on Conscience in War that led to the creation of the Soul Repair Center. Herman Keizer dismissed us for the day with a benediction.
How can we turn national attention to the moral questions facing soldiers in war? That was the question four people discussed at a dinner in December 2008 in Berkeley, CA—Rita Nakashima Brock of Faith Voices for the Common Good, Gabriella Lettini of Starr King School for the Ministry, and Catherine Ryan and Gary Weimberg of Luna Productions. The group wanted to introduce congregations to Luna's Emmy-nominated documentary, "Soldiers of Conscience," which reveals how every soldier struggles with moral questions in war.
From that initial conversation, the group conceived the idea of holding a Truth Commission on Conscience in War (TCCW) so that more people could listen to the voices of veterans struggling with moral conscience.
Rita Nakashima Brock, Center Co-Director, and Rebecca Parker, President Starr King School for the Ministry and member of the Center Board, at the Interfaith Service for the Launch on Nov. 12, carrying forward the Starr King practice used by the Truth Commission on Conscience in War: lighting two candles, a white one for loss and sorrow in war and a green one for the persistence of life and hope.
January 2009-March 2010
The planning committee for the TCCW included the dinner group and Ian Slattery, a producer at Luna Productions, who worked half-time from October 2009-March 2010 to provide administrative support. He also reached out to Luna's extensive military contacts to invite veterans to testify and to recruit Chaplain (Col.) Herman Keizer, Jr. (U.S. Army ret.) as Honorary Host of the Commission. In addition to the film company, the Starr King School for the Ministry and Faith Voices for the Common Good became the anchor organizations to provide personnel, funds, and in-kind support for the TCCW. The Board of Directors for Faith Voices unanimously embraced the project as the legal entity with fiscal responsibility.
The planning group secured the generous in-kind support of the Riverside Church in New York as the venue for a public hearing. They invited Dr. Kaia Stern of Harvard Law School to chair its public hearing. In addition, to help the public understand war trauma, so they sought expert witnesses that included a VA psychiatrist, a philosopher of war who is also a veteran, a military chaplain, religious leaders, a legal expert, and a war correspondent.
Beginning such a huge undertaking in the early months of 2009 meant trying to raise funds for the project during a financial crisis. For many months, the response was disappointing and
suspicions of the project came from many sectors. Many wondered, with a new administration, why we were not lobbying for an end to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, instead of looking at conscience in the military. Among those supportive of the military, questions were raised about whether the event was anti-military. And many wondered why, as feminist theologians, Drs. Brock and Lettini were working with veterans and soldiers.
These questions emerged at a time when moral injury was an unfamiliar concept in the society. In preparation for the Commission, Ian Slattery received an unpublished essay in the fall of 2009 from a clinician, Brett Litz at the Boston VA, which would in December 2009 become the first published essay on moral injury. (Brett T. Litz et al., "Moral Injury and Moral Repair in War Veterans: A Preliminary Model and Intervention Strategy," Clinical Psychological Review 29, no. 8: 695-706). The essay would become a pivotal document in preparation for the Truth Commission hearing, and it was provided to all commissioners.
In December 2009, interest in the Truth Commission surged after President Obama delivered speeches at West Point and in Oslo. The planning committee secured the support of several private donors and almost seventy co-sponsoring organizations within two months of the event, which donated funds and in-kind services to support the project. Each co-sponsor provided a commissioner for the hearing. (Listed at www.conscienceinwar.org.)
During the spring of 2010, Drs. Brock and Lettini offered a course on the history and purpose of truth commissions for a dozen graduate students and seminarians from all over the United States, with former U.S. Marine Jake Diliberto of Fuller Theological Seminary as the teaching assistant. The students prepared the briefing materials for the commission, and they also served as commissioners, with the exception of Logan Mehl-Laituri, a U.S. Army veteran of Iraq, and Jake Diliberto, a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq, who testified at the hearing. The students in the course conducted interviews with the Rev. Peter Storey, appointed by President Mandela to chair a committee that designed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, and Ms. Pat Clark, a commissioner on the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
March 21, 2010 – November 12, 2012
The TCCW received testimony at the public hearing on March 21, 2010, (see
www.conscienceinwar.org) and met the next day to discuss the testimony and to develop a response to what they had heard. Commissioners created strategies for further conversations in their communities and shared ideas for educating their constituents about the complex issues the commission raised. On November 10, 2010, the Truth Commission on Conscience in War Report was released at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. The next evening, the Report was dedicated and delivered to religious representatives at an interfaith service to honor moral conscience at National City Christian Church, preached by the Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr. of the Riverside Church, who had also served as a commissioner at the March hearing.
Among the recommendations contained in the TCCW Report (available online at www.conscienceinwar.org) was the following:
To Religious and Community Leaders
In working with members of the Armed Forces and veterans, religious and community leaders must educate themselves and their members about the consequences of the physical and psychological wounds of war and the needs of those who struggle with lingering wounds. They must learn to listen to veterans about how to reintegrate them into their communities while not falsely valorizing or demonizing them or leaving them to suffer invisibly and in silence. They must, especially, educate themselves and their communities in how they can support those who suffer moral injury.
From 2011-2012, Drs. Brock and Lettini implemented this recommendation in several ways. They organized the first conference on moral injury held in Berkeley, CA, on March 2011, as the first step to creating a center on moral injury in Berkeley. They also worked to elicit support at various denominational bodies and general assemblies, including the Brethren Church, the Presbyterian Church USA and the Unitarian Universalist Association. As a result of this outreach, in July 2011, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) became the first denomination to undertake formal study of moral injury, by unanimous vote of its General Assembly, which was moderated by Dr. Newell Williams, President of Brite Divinity School.
Drs. Brock and Lettini also gave presentations for the 2010, 2011, and 2012 Annual Meetings of the American Academy of Religion and for institutions of higher education, as well as writing pieces for the Huffington Post and the Washington Post. They also investigated funding sources to create the Soul Repair Center. After the Lilly Endowment, Inc. became interested in funding the project outside of California, Dr. Brock coordinated the writing of a proposal and initiated a search for a home for the project.
During the year Dr. Brock sought a home for the Center, she and Dr. Lettini also began work on a book to introduce moral injury to the general public, especially those identified in the TCCW report as needing to undertake work to address moral injury. On November 6, 2012, Beacon Press released their book Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury After War. Four veterans, Camillo "Mac" Bica, Herman Keizer, Jr., Pamela Lightsey, and Camilo Mejía, generously allowed their stories of moral injury to be told. They maintain involvement with the Center by serving on its National Advisory Board. In addition to these veterans, Kevin Benderman, Tyler Boudreau, and Dweylon Fifer, who fought in Iraq, also provided book material.
The creation of the Soul Repair Center would not have been possible without the generous collaboration of many volunteers in Berkeley, New York City, and Washington DC. Soul Repair acknowledges many of them. In particular, Rev. Dr. Rebecca Ann Parker, President of Starr King School for the Ministry and board member of Faith Voices for the Common Good, offered ongoing institutional and personal support to this project and is now serving on the SRC National Advisory Board, and Ms. JoAnne Kagiwada, Chair of the Board of Faith Voices, along with members of the board, Mr. Amir Soltani and Rev. Jim Eller, provided guidance and support throughout the life of the project. In addition, Rev. Keizer has spent countless hours helping to assure a good home for the Center and reaching out to his extensive networks among veterans and people in military service to promote interest in moral injury.
In early 2012, Brite Divinity School accepted the invitation to become the home of the Soul Repair Center, which received a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. in Indianapolis, IN, in March 2012. The offices opened on June 1 with Rev. Keizer and Dr. Brock as the Founding Co-Directors. The Rev. Dr. Coleman Baker joined the team on July 31 as Program Manager and Paula Monthie became the Administrative Assistant on August 20. The Center's official launch event was held on Nov 12.