Abuse Awareness Sunday is the fourth Sunday in September - this year, September 24th. The abuse awareness topic for 2023 is The Power of Trauma-Informed Ministry. Devoting a Sunday to naming, praying, and preaching about abuse is a great way to foster awareness and break the culture of secrecy that allows abuse to go unchecked.
This, however, should be done with sensitivity and care, mindful that there are those in your congregation who have experienced abuse (1 in 3 women, 1 in 6 men). To prevent re-traumatization, it’s a good idea to let people know the theme for Abuse Awareness Sunday a week ahead of time. Additionally, we would encourage worship leaders to take great care in the language, images, and videos played during the service, keeping survivors' needs in focus when planning.
What Does It Mean to Be Trauma-Informed?
“But I don’t feel safe,” the woman said while sitting in a domestic violence shelter after leaving her abusive husband. She was protected by a restraining order and the shelter’s bullet proof glass, alarms, and surveillance systems. Safety measures did not matter to her. She was physically safe, but her body did not allow her to feel safe. That is what trauma does.
As the Church, we can no longer say “these things don’t happen here.” They do. If we want our churches and ministry places to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually safe places, we need to be aware of how trauma impacts and effects those who participate in our ministries.
Being trauma-informed means utilizing a framework to support policies, practices, and procedures that adequately meet the needs for the vast amount of people that have experienced trauma. Let’s use our power to become trauma-informed by using the four R’s* (a framework developed by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration):
1. Realizing the frequency and pervasiveness of trauma.
2. Recognizing the signs and symptoms associated with trauma.
3. Responding by integrating knowledge into policy, practices, and procedures.
4. Resisting Re-Traumatization, let’s not harm them or their families again.
New Worship Resource Suggestions for 2023:
- 2023 Abuse Awareness Sunday Flyer/ Bulletin Insert (they are available in English, Spanish and Korean).
- Projection Slide attached to the end of this article
- Worship Songs: The Kingdom is Yours (Common Hymnal), Come as You Are (by David Crowder), Daughters of Zion (by Porter's Gate)
- Prayers and Litanies (see attached)
- May the Peace: A Liturgical Prayer
- A Blessing for Those who Come to Jesus
- Sermon Starter: Mark 5:21-34. In this story, Jesus heals a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for 12 years. In her quest for healing, the woman had been taken advantage and suffered at the hands of many who claimed they could help. Instead of finding healing, the woman had been further traumatized. In a desperate attempt to seek life and flourishing, she reaches out to Jesus with the hopes that even just touching his cloak will bring a measure of healing and peace. What the story makes clear is that Jesus is the one who can help her and who she can trust. Through Jesus, the woman is not further traumatized but experiences the healing she seeks and more. Jesus affirms her value and dignity as an image bearer of God. Note that he stops what he is doing to attend to the woman, giving her his undivided attention. He prioritizes her needs and well-being over other immediate pressing needs vying for his attention. He takes time to listen to her story - the text says she told Jesus the whole truth. And Jesus advocates for her, even when the disciples are ready to dismiss this woman and move on. We might say that Jesus engaged in trauma-informed ministry - upholding the value and dignity of this broken and broken-hearted woman, attending to her needs, and bringing healing and wholeness to her life where others had brought harm.
General Resources for Abuse Awareness Sunday:
- Prayer based on the 5 Steps to a Safer Church (written by Worship Ministries)
- Worship Resources For Abuse Awareness Sunday 2022
- Worship Resources For Abuse Awareness Sunday 2021
- Safe Church Ministry Worship Resources
- Video: 3-minute video on the ministry of Safe Church
Resources on Trauma-Informed Care:
- Understanding Trauma in our Church Communities, by Becky Jones
- Should My Church Sing Hillsong? CRC Worship
- Webinar: On Being a Trauma-Informed Congregation - With Dr. Dawn Gibson and Pastor Anthony Gibson of Peletah Ministries
- Becoming a Trauma-Informed Church, by Dr. Tara Boer
- Trauma Informed Care in Church Worship and Life, by Joan Huyser-Honig
Learn more about special Sundays at crcna.org/ChurchYear.