All Our Griefs to Bear: Responding with Resilience after Collective Trauma


Where do our churches go from here?

Church and Christian community look a lot different than they did before the horrors of the coronavirus pandemic, racial trauma, and economic uncertainty revealed difficult truths about the wounds we carry. The damage caused by trauma is deep and affects every part of our lives together. At the same time, the pandemic has upended or called into question many of our traditional ministry models. For those tasked with leading congregations through this disorienting new territory, the challenges are great indeed.

Yet God’s people are amazingly resilient. In All Our Griefs to Bear, author Joni S. Sancken builds on her own trauma-aware background and engages leading sociologists and mental health professionals to name some of the largest issues that congregations now face and will face as we process the cascading trauma of our time. Chapters focus on practices such as lament, storytelling, and blessing to help leaders and church members to nurture resilience and compassion.

We cannot go back to who we were before. But the church can experience new life and renewal in the wake of trauma as God’s healing and hope move through us into our world.




“Joni S. Sancken’s All Our Griefs to Bear is a necessary summons to the church, often distracted by questions of relevance, to be the church for a world battered and bruised by trauma. We can do this best by reclaiming and then living with humility and generosity practices that we know to be life-giving but have neglected—lament, storytelling, and blessing. The church needs to show up and ‘do what we do.’” ~BISHOP GREGORY PALMER, resident bishop of the Ohio West Area in the United Methodist Church
All Our Griefs to Bear is an accessible and practical resource for pastors and other leaders seeking to minister to individuals, families, and congregations who have been affected by the many kinds of trauma that are an ever-increasing reality in our fallen world. In plain language, Joni Sancken describes the types, nature, and effects of trauma and then offers three means of hope and healing, with practical examples and suggestions throughout. This is a much-needed and long overdue book!” ~ANGIE WARD, general editor of When the Universe Cracks and assistant director of the Doctor of Ministry program at Denver Seminary
“This book is a significant contribution to pastoral literature. Psychologically informed by trauma theory, biblically set in lament and reverence for pain, humanly expressed in grieving by way of narrative and story, and with a grasp of the warmth and power of blessing, this book will tug pastoral ministry and congregational life in a direction toward healing. In a time when ‘I am blessed’ has been reduced to ‘How lucky and privileged I am,’ Joni Sancken pierces our dark cells of denied or distorted suffering to let in the light of grace and truth. ~DAVID AUGSBURGER, professor emeritus of pastoral care and counseling at Fuller Seminary
All Our Griefs to Bear is a gift to pastors and to churches wondering ‘What now?’ amidst our collective traumas and griefs. Filled with examples and suggestions to help us acknowledge and honor what we’ve been through, this insightful, highly practical book will help us confidently begin that essential work. Drawing on her pastoral and trauma-informed expertise, Joni Sancken walks through three communal practices for corporate worship and pastoral care that point us not only to the sustaining hope we have in Christ but also toward the power of that hope to transform our communities—and a world hungry for true healing.” ~GRACE JI-SUN KIM, professor of theology at Earlham School of Religion, author or editor of 21 books, most recently Invisible, and host of Madang podcast with Christian Century
“Seminary professor Joni Sancken has written a timely, practical, and pastoral work on our contemporary experiences of collective trauma and the practices of lament, storytelling, and blessing that can help us process our trauma together. Highly recommended for church leaders, counselors, and all for whom collective trauma is a vivid ministry concern today.” ~DAVID P. GUSHEE, distinguished university professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University and chair in Christian social ethics at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
“Understanding and responding to trauma is one of the most important skills for faith leaders today. As trauma threatens to isolate people, Joni Sancken offers a theologically robust vision for communal resilience that draws people together for healing and wholeness. All Our Griefs to Bear relies on sound research in trauma studies, making a complex field accessible through concrete faith practices. This book is an important and timely resource for faith communities and their leaders.” ~REV. SARAH ANN BIXLER, assistant professor of formation and practical theology and associate dean of the seminary at Eastern Mennonite University
“Joni Sancken is a leader in trauma studies. In these pages, she crafts wise and practical help for rising above the trials many of us face in these difficult times. Her three practices open fresh opportunities to experience anew the redeeming love of God in Christ and to move forward in hope.” ~PAUL SCOTT WILSON, professor emeritus of homiletics at Emmanuel College, University of Toronto
“With a new and needed lens on the collective impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, All Our Griefs to Bear acknowledges the global, personal, and intersectional nature of this shared experience. Joni Sancken’s transformative work assures us that ‘while long-term unprocessed trauma can be corrosive, our immediate adaptations to life amidst trauma are gifts that help us survive.’ This book provides us a place to rest.” ~ALI W. ROTHROCK, CEO and lead instructor for On the Job and Off and author of After Trauma

About the Author

Joni S. Sancken is associate professor of homiletics at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. She is interested in theological and contextual issues in preaching and is the author of Words that Heal: Preaching Hope to Wounded Souls (Abingdon Press, 2019). Joni is an ordained pastor in Mennonite Church USA and has served congregations in Indiana and Pennsylvania and completed level one STAR training (Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience) through the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University in 2017. She lives in Oakwood, Ohio, with her pastor husband Steve Schumm and children Maggie and Theodore.

Review & Commentary