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Resilience and Religious Leadership

Resilience and Religious Leadership

The term resilience is widely referenced today. It has informed a wide range of thought and has been utilized in diverse academic disciplines and communal, social, political, economic, and medical contexts, often in response to crisis or trauma. How can the concept of resilience be applied to religion and religious leadership?

Resilience, Vulnerability and Religious and Theological Leadership

As part of the project on “Religion, Vulnerability and Resilience,” co-directors Dr. Mike Hogue (Meadville) and Dr. Dean Bell (Spertus) offered a graduate course related to resilience and vulnerability in religious leadership. Designed for seminarians and religious professionals (including educators, chaplains, and communal service workers) the course addressed these concepts in the context of theological education and religious leadership. The course engaged the interdisciplinary discourse of vulnerability and resilience as a way to equip students with concepts, skills, and strategies that would help them to become more creative, agile, and effective leaders in contexts of change and uncertainty. The syllabus is available here and a related materials, including a bibliography, are included below.

Visit the sidebar for links to some additional key resilience websites and resources.

The development of this course and this resource page was supported in part by a grant from the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion.

Download the Course Syllabus

As part of the course, in May 2015 Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership’s Center for Jewish Leadership and Meadville Lombard Theological School co-hosted two lectures by the renowned scholar Dr. Kenneth Pargament. These lectures addressed the following topics:

  • Cultivating Sacred Moments: Vital Resources for Clergy and Chaplains
  • Inspiration Leadership: Sacred Matters in the Workplace (related to Spertus’ year-long exploration of creating great places to work

These presentations can be accessed here:

Pargament, Cultivating Sacred Moments, Part 1

Pargament, Cultivating Sacred Moments, Part 2

Pargament, Inspirational Leadership

Jewish Resilience: Responding to Crisis, Catastrophe, and Change

Continuing work in the broad area of response to crisis, Spertus along with 30 other Chicago Jewish organizations held a community-wide program that explored a wide range of Jewish responses to crisis. Presentations were delivered by Dr. Alan Mintz, Dr. Laurie Zoloth, Dr. David Shyovitz, and headline Dr. Susannah Heschel. These lectures can be accessed here: 

Crisis in Jewish Literature (Mintz)

Jewish Responses to Environmental Crisis (Zoloth)

Crisis in and as Jewish History (Shyovitz)

Jewish Resiliance (Heschel)


  • “Six Foundations for Building Community Resilience,” Post Carbon Institute, 2015.
  • Acemoglu, Daron and James Robinson. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty. New York, 2013 (reprint).
  • Allen, Rebecca S. et al. “Resilience: Definitions, Ambiguities, and Applications,” in B. Resnic et al, eds., Resilience in Aging: Concepts, Research, and Outcomes (Springer, 2011), 1-13.
  • Biale, David. Power & Powerlessness in Jewish History (New York, 1986), 3-9.
  • Birkmann, Jörn, ed. Measuring Vulnerability to Natural Hazards: Towards Disaster Resilient Societies. Second ed., Tokyo, DATE.
  • Brown, Bene. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Avery, 2015 (reprint).
  • Carr, David M. Holy Resilience: The Bible’s Traumatic Origins (New Haven, 2014).
  • Chandler, David. Resilience: The Governance of Complexity. New York, 2014.
  • Curtis, Daniel R. The Resilience and Vulnerability of Pre-Industrial Settlements. Aldershot, 2014
  • Denhardt, Janet and Robert Denhardt. “Building Organizational Resilience and Adaptive Management,” in John W. Reich, Alex J. Zautra, and John Stuart Hall, eds., Handbook of Adult Resilience (New York, 2012), 333-349.
  • Evans, Brad and Julian Reid. Resilient Life: The Art of Living Dangerously (Polity, 2014).
  • Gandolfo, Elizabeth O’Donnell. The Power and Vulnerability of Love: A Theological Anthropology. Baltimore, 2015.
  • Gunderson, Lance H. and C.S. Holling. Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems. Washington DC, 2001. 2nd ed.
  • Hall, Peter A. and Michele Lamont, eds. Social Resilience in the Neoliberal Era. Cambridge, 2013.
  • Hollnagel, Erik, Jean Paries, David Woods, and John Wreathall, eds. Resilieince Engineering in Practice: A Guidebook. Aldershot, DATE.
  • Julio F.P. Peres et al, “Spirituality and Resilience in Trauma Victims,” Journal of Religious Health (2007) 46: 343-350.
  • Lakens, Daniel. “Grounding Social Embodiment,” Social Cognition 32 (2014): 168-83
  • Lederach, John Paul. When Blood and Bones Cry Out: Journeys Through the Soundscape of Healing and Reconciliation. PLACE, 2010.
  • Mackenzie, Catriona, Wendy Rogers, and Susan Dodds. Vulnerability: New Essays in Ethics and Feminist Philosophy. New York, 2013.
  • Mintz, Alan. Hurban: Responses to Catastrophe in Hebrew Literature. New York, 1984.
  • Norris, Fran H. “Behavioral Science Perspectives on Resilience,” CARRI Research Report 10 (June 2010).
  • Pargament, Kenneth I. and Patrick J. Sweeney, “Building Spiritual Fitness in the Army: An Innovative Approach to a Vital Aspect of Human Development,” American Psychologist 66:1 (January 2011): 58-61.
  • Pargament, Kenneth I. The Psychology of Religion and Coping: Theory, Research, Practice. New York., 2001.
  • Pelling, Mark. The Vulnerability of Cities: Natural Disasters and Social Resilience. London, 2003.
  • Reghezza-Zitt, Magali, et al. “What Resilience is Not: Uses and Abuses,” Cybergeo: European Journal of Geography (2012). 
  • Richardson, Glenn E. “The Metatheory of Resilience and Resiliency,” Journal of Clinical Psychology 58:3 (2002): 307-21.
  • Rodin, Judith. The Resilience Dividend: Being Strong in a World Where Things Go Wrong. New York, 2014.
  • Rosmarin, David H., Kenneth I. Pargament, and Kevin J. Flannelly. “Do Spiritual Struggles Predict Poorer Physical/Mental Health Among Jews?” The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 19 (2009): 244-58.
  • Scharmer, Otto and Katrin Kaufer. Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies. San Francisco, 2013.
  • Sehgal, Parul, “The Profound Emptiness of ‘Resilience,’” The New York Times Magazine, Dec. 1, 2015.
  • Snyder, Steven. “Why is Resilience so Hard?,” Harvard Business Review, Nov. 6, 2013.
  • Spidell, Steven. “Resilience and Professional Chaplaincy: A Paradigm Shift in Focus,” Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy 20 (2014): 16-24.
  • Turner, Bryan S. “The End(s) of Humanity: Vulnerability and the Metaphors of Membership,” The Hedgehog Review (Summer 2001): 7-32. 
  • Walker, Brian and David Salt. Resilience Practice: Building Capacity to Absorb Disturbance and Maintain Function. Washington DC, 2012.
  • Walker, Brian and David Salt. Resilience Thinking: Sustaining Ecosystems and People in a Changing World. Washington DC, 2006.
  • Walker, Jeremy and Melinda Cooper. “Genealogies of Resilience: From Systems Ecology to the Political Economy Crisis Adaptation,” Security Dialogue 42:2 (2011): 143-60.