Community Connection

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MSW Honoring the late Alicia Martinez as MSW Spirit of Social Work Award Recipient This year, it is with great pleasure mixed with great sadness that we award Alicia Martinez with the Garland School of Social Work’s 2021 Honorary MSW Spirit of Social Work Award. What a bright, up-and-coming leader in the field of social work we lost when Alicia passed away due to COVID-19 in January of this year. But, today, it is our great honor to recognize her as this year’s recipient because she truly was a shining example of what it means to be the spirit of social work. Alicia was a first-generation college student determined to make an impact on people. A friend said this of her: “She’s like, ‘I don’t care if they remember my name, but I just want to know that I’ve touched them.’” Community COVID-19 and Women’s Mental Health: The Impact on Wellbeing, Disparities, and Future Implications The Coronavirus, first declared as a global pandemic on March 11th, 2020, has impacted millions of individuals in a variety of ways. Across the nation, people have suffered financially, physically, and emotionally from the virus. As a result, an immense number of individuals’ mental health amongst every age group have taken an extreme toll. However, a prominent population that has been heavily impacted have been women. According to research, the fatality rate for men has been twice as high than for women – however, the pandemic has impacted more women’s mental health than men. Because women represent the majority of the health workforce, they have been at a greater risk for COVID-19 and the emotional toll it comes with (Thibault, 2020). The effects of quarantine alone have caused many to feel isolated, lost, and scared, which is distressing for anyone – but add a susceptible population for increased mental health issues into the mix, and you have a recipe for disaster. Community Falling Seed: How to provide pastoral care for complicated grief Grief is a part of life for every person and, therefore, is a natural part of life for every church community. Two of the most foundational duties of those in ministry are to walk alongside those who are grieving and to conduct funerals for the deceased and their loved ones. While the church is no stranger to grief, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges in how the church approaches and supports those grieving the loss of loved ones. C3I Why You Should View Your Words as Expressions of Love Words have power; they can carry freedom or they can carry weight. We often forget that power also resides in names. Our names are what we closely identify with in places of comfort and places of estrangement. Knowing someone’s name can allow them to feel safe and cared for, just like forgetting someone’s name can make someone feel shame and embarrassment. The adjectives or labels that we ascribe to someone also carry weight. When talking to or about someone who is in a vulnerable state, the words used are particularly important. For example, there is a common tendency to call individuals who are on the journey out of addiction and in recovery as “addicts” or “alcoholics.” The intentions might be pure, but the verbiage is haunting. “Hi, my name is Lacey, and I am a new creation in Christ Jesus.” This statement was a hopeful reminder of a new identity I received when accepting the gift of salvation. Community Women In Social Work In honor of women’s history month, I want to take a moment to emphasize the diversity of women in Social Work, and acknowledge contributions to the work of intersectionality that encompasses women’s issues. “Social workers are tasked to examine roles, equity and fairness not only in the profession, but within society and with the women they serve each day (NASW, 2021).” The role of the social worker is to promote social justice in all aspects of life including advocating for meaningful change for a better tomorrow. Social work is an emerging field with women taking the lead in addressing women’s rights. According to CSWE Annual 2019 report, 74.1% full time faculty in accredited Social Work universities are women (Council on Social Work Education, 2019). C3I After spiritual trauma, finding welcome in church once more Growing up, the church always was a safe place for me. I grew up in the same small-town church my entire life, and a lot of our life revolved around the church. Sundays were filled with Sunday school and the beloved evening prayer meeting, while Wednesdays were for mission group and choir. Our church felt like a village, a family that was raising me alongside my family of origin. As a teenager, this could feel smothering at times. The beloved elderly church ladies had a running commentary on my life; out of a place of love, they would frequently express their opinions on my life choices — both positive and negative. Overall, my church was a safe, loving, nurturing place to be. C3I Falling Seed: Compound collective trauma: Four ways ministry leaders can help Lately, it seems I never can get enough sleep. I find myself with less patience. A task that used to take me an hour now takes me three hours. Any of this sound familiar? I guess it probably does. We are in the midst of “compound collective trauma.” Collective trauma is described as a traumatic experience that affects and involves entire groups of people, communities or societies, such as a hurricane or war. In a previous article, I discussed the positive and negative effects of the collective trauma of Hurricane Harvey. That is just one example of a collective trauma that effects a specific community or geographical area. The whole world is a geographical area, right now, experiencing the collective trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic. While various countries are experiencing it differently, everyone is simultaneously in the midst of some aspect of the pandemic, and we all are experiencing the trauma throughout our specific communities. C3I Falling Seed: Don’t underestimate the power of little things Because of the sensitivity and confidentiality of the people and location, this piece has been generalized to keep those involved safe and to challenge congregations of all sizes not to underestimate what they can do. “We sometimes underestimate the influence of the little things.”—Charles W. Chesnutt I am the kind of person that must be doing something “big” in order to think change will occur. However, I was challenged by the above quote from Chesnutt. I was blessed recently to witness a church do something that in most eyes would seem small, insignificant and ordinary. Last week, I observed a small community church rally around one of their members, do the “little things” and, through them, advocate for this individual while also instilling a sense of hope. Community Fears of the Faithful Hinder Care, Bring Harm Why it is so hard for some people of faith to own their own discomfort? To own their own fears and see how they injure others? These are salient questions when it comes to creating caring Christian community for the LGBTQIA+ community. It is an even more relevant question for the leadership of my own university. In the Bible, there are multiple references to people being known by their fruit and people’s actions being judged by their consequences. Jesus’ fruit analogy seems to be one of the most useful lenses through which we can examine our words and actions. And it should help us provide clarity for any conversation about how we offer support to the LGBTQIA+ community. People who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community do not harm or injure others in any way because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Community LGBTQ+ Christians Continue to Feel Sting of Judgment, Exclusion The history of the Christian church includes many examples of addressing who belongs and who does not belong, starting at the very beginning. Despite how clear Jesus was that women belonged, that Samaritans belonged and that lepers belonged, the early church struggled with whether or not Jesus came for the Gentiles as well as the Jews. That seems obvious to us now (as most reading this are likely Gentiles, not Jews), but it was a matter of contention until both Peter and Paul understood God’s inclusion of all and spoke up and spoke out. Phillip’s encounter with the Ethiopian Eunuch gave a concrete answer to the question, “Is there anything preventing me from being baptized?” The answer, to someone barred from entering the sanctuary because of sexual difference, resounds through the years but often not through the church. As a member of Protestant, often Baptist, congregations through the years, I have participated in the use of the words “Brother” and “Sister” to refer to other Christians. If we are truly family, what does it mean when we cut off our siblings? When we make them hide or leave the family because they are different and unwelcome? Community Dear America, stop erasing me It didn’t take long for me to learn that what made me different was not always seen as beautiful by the world that existed outside the four walls that I was raised in. My story is from a third generation Chinese American lens, who was raised in the Midwest and attended school in the south — please know this writing doesn’t encompass or represent all Asian American stories.

From the Dean

Jon Singletary
Welcome to Community Connection online!
Jon E. Singletary | Dean, Garland School of Social Work

I am excited to welcome you to Community Connection online magazine. This digital publication highlights everything that makes this vibrant, creative community so special: our students, our alumni, our faculty and staff, our research, our partners and the communities we serve.

Here you will find stories showcasing the work, events, activities and accomplishments of the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work. If you find our stories valuable, inspiring or informative, please share them!

I am grateful for all the time, energy and resources you pour into our school. The work we do here and in partnership with people and organizations from all over the world is about making a real difference, a true impact. This is the heart of our mission, and I pray you will continue to partner with us on this journey. You enrich our lives in so many ways, and we love to share our stories with you!

We look forward to staying connected with you, and as always, we encourage to stop by and say hello if you are ever in town.