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A World in Need: Brokenness and Reconciliation Explored through Paul Tillich’s Doing of Social Work

William G. Ressl

Abstract

Using Tillich’s work with the ‘Self-Help for Emigres from Central Europe’ group and his related theological reflections as a framework, this essay brings Tillich’s life and work into conversation with contemporary social work theory and practice. The author demonstrates Tillich’s thematization of renewal beyond individual and collective brokenness as a constructive framework for the reconciling vocation of social work today. Our world is in need of “re-newal.”1 Brokenness is impacting individual functioning, social relationality, and environmental connectedness. It is also minimizing the human capacity to be aware of a new reality.2 Paul Tillich’s theology, informed by his experience of social work as a theologian, offers the foundation for an introductory framework addressing brokenness and reconciliation. The framework can be used by social workers and other helping professionals to assist individuals and social groups discover a reconciled new reality from within the midst of brokenness.

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