Each Other’s Keeper: The Church’s Response to Violence has been organized to provide considerable flexibility in its use by both individuals and groups. Each module is similarly organized and includes the following:
An Opening Collect to invite participants into a thoughtful analysis of a particular dimension of violence and prayerful reflection on the potential ways people of faith might address it
Specific learning objectives to guide the study of the topic, personal reflection and discussion
Biblical passages which provide a perspective on an aspect of violence, forgiveness or reconciliation
Background information that summarizes the current social science, medical and theological research on issues related to the topic of the module
A video or audio commentary on a dimension of violence offered by an individual with specific expertise in that area or a unique perspective
Questions related to the module’s topic for individual reflection or group discussion
Relevant resources for further study
A Concluding Collect encouraging participants to deepen their faith, bear witness to the violence in this world and lead in shaping the response of people of faith to it
In addition, each module is accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation and single-page summary for those participating in a group discussion.
The curriculum was developed primarily for use in congregational adult education and formation. It has been evaluated and further refined in that setting, as well as in a university-based continuing education venue. Generally, each module can be presented and discussed in an hour, although individual and group interests may necessitate extending the time or increasing the number of sessions.
The sequence of the modules is a matter of personal preference and can certainly be altered to meet the needs of a particular group or individual. However, beginning with “Violence in Scripture” and concluding with “Forgiveness and Reconciliation” is recommended. Each module is self-contained and, therefore, can be studied without reference to the others.
It is important to note that the topics discussed throughout this curriculum are difficult and may for some be quite painful. Conversations, even among the faithful and with the best of intentions, can easily trigger a range of emotions and re-traumatize those who have survived violence. Consequently, those who lead them must be especially mindful of the potential impact of a particular setting and presenter, as well as sensitive to the language used and emotional responses of the participants. The need for pastoral support also should be anticipated in implementing this curriculum. It is not uncommon, for example, for participants to engage the presenter following the discussion of one of the topics, recounting intimate details of personal experiences and needing to be heard, understood and embraced. Remaining attentive to this possibility is an essential element of program leadership.
The selections from the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament (NSRV) included in the modules are intended to stimulate reflection on and discussion of the manner in which Biblical authors have variously described violence, forgiveness and reconciliation and their implications for our understanding of God and God’s relationship with the created order. Although each passage offers a distinct perspective, modules can be effectively presented without addressing each of the selections.
Commentaries by a distinguished group of clergy, lay people and scholars accompany the modules and can be accessed through the electronic link provided in each module. They can be used to supplement the curriculum or independently.
The questions which accompany each module are intended to stimulate individual reflection, as well as facilitate group discussion. They are by no means exhaustive, and those engaged with this curriculum are encouraged to explore issues that they discover and want to examine more thoroughly.
Finally, the resources highlighted for further study include those that have been directly quoted or otherwise cited in the curriculum. In addition, other published works that offer especially keen insights also are included. Again, however, the bibliography is not intended to be comprehensive.