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27 Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Q. 5 (1998)

handle is hein.journals/npvolsq27 and id is 1 raw text is: 


Agency, Communion,
and   the  Formation of Social Capital

In November   of 1996, residents of the small town in which I live (population
30,000) witnessed a double murder and suicide committed by a husband after
he and his wife, co-owners of a highly visible and successful business, had
separated. The wife had  taken up with  her husband's best friend, left the
husband, took the children, and was in the process of taking over the business
from her ex. The husband became increasingly and visibly distraught as these
events occurred, his escalating instability noted by townspeople as it pro-
gressed. Two  days after the deaths, a large spontaneous memorial-several
hundred  folk-was  held on the steps of the town's city hall. A week later, the
director of the town's community  center held a town meeting. Participants
talked about the events that had transpired, offered assessments of what had
gone  wrong, and collectively named a number  of preventive measures  and
programs  to be developed and implemented. Of the 74 who attended this town
meeting, 35 local citizens committed to participating in task groups created to
move  forward these group-proposed  initiatives. A month later, participation
had dwindled  to two people.
   Clergy had been noticeably absent at the town meeting. We learned later
that several of them had been among those who had witnessed  the man who
later killed others and himself increasingly lose emotional control over the
course of several weeks. When queried why they had not acted, their responses
were that it was the responsibility of the local women's organization/battered
women's  shelter to act and, moreover, that no one knew what else could have
been done. When  asked what resources the community  might make  available
to clergy and their respective congregations to ensure that this kind of tragedy
did not again occur, enthusiasm ran high for skill training in how to identify
potential and likely domestic abuse and for the development of appropriate
resources for men. This interest also soon dissolved. When training sessions
were announced  and provided  6 months later, not one pastor, rabbi, priest, nor
self-identified lay church representative participated.
Note: Support for this project was partially provided by a grant from the Lilly Endowment to the
Program on Nonprofit Organizations, Yale University. Data for this project were collected as part
of a pilot project carried out as part of a fledgling Religion and Society Program at Yale. Amanda
Spriggle, working under the supervision of myself and several Bucknell University and Susque-
hanna Institute staff members, collected much of the data for this commentary. I bear full
responsibility, however, for the contents of this report.
Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, vol. 27, no. 1, March 1998 5-12
o 1998 Sage Publications, Inc.

from the SAGE Social Science Collections. All Rights Reserved.

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