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The Stories

Healing Congregations: Nurturing Love, Life, and Hope in a Hurting World was written collaboratively as we told our stories to each other and wrote them down. Hear and experience some of our stories told in our own voices.

Shirley Fleming

My heart was broken by the injustice of being excluded so unfairly, and it was only through Grace and the wisdom and faith of my parents and godmother that I came through it stronger. They reminded me of who I was and who we are as African Americans.


Emily Viverette

Eloise experienced much hurt as a child and young adult, which I knew haunted her, but she never let it slow her down. With her faithfulness to the church, I believe that her sufferings fuelled her service in the world. She was one of many strong women in the small Baptist church of my childhood who organized, ran and led the church’s work. They may not have been visible during the worship service, but the church wouldn’t have happened without them. Eloise was the one who taught my mother and who then, in turn, taught my sisters and me about what it meant to be of use in this broken world and, more importantly, to be of use in ways that serve others.

Laneita Williamson

Eventually, I was asked to leave the church I had attended since I was two-years-old. “It’s probably not the right fit for you.” I was told. I had not missed a Sunday service for 14 years. It did not matter. What mattered was that I didn’t fit their specific profile of being a white, rural Christian, who submitted herself to her husband no matter the abuse. They struggled with me not becoming a glossed, painted, quiet, meek female drinking their harmful beliefs and denial.
When asked to leave the church, I vowed to break away from such poisonous mentalities and sought healing from sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and centuries of transmitted ancestral trauma. I decided I would devote myself to the next generation by becoming a seeker and ferocious learner of what trauma can do to us neurologically, socially, physiologically, and psychologically. And what to do about it.


A joint project of Advocate Health Care & the OCEAN-HP at the University of Illinois at Chicago.