To study thought as it affects religion . . . A Gathering of Unitarian Universalist Ministers
Trauma – Prairie Group 2021
Session #1: Trauma-Informed Pastoral Care and Theology of Trauma
This first session is intended to establish guiding principles for this year’s Prairie Group:
1) In speaking of trauma, we must remember that we can never truly “speak” of trauma. Instead, trauma is specifically a thing that always eludes our ability to express it in words. Because trauma is always embodied, it can’t be understood through intellectual abstractions or through academic, spoken or written language only. It must be felt and performed.
2) We all are affected by trauma in some way. This may take several different forms, including intergenerational, historical/racial, personal or vicarious. For this reason, the topic may trigger physical and emotional reactions that may be unexpected, frightening, and even profound. It will be especially important to be gentle with ourselves and with others, and to make ample space for silence and for opportunities to observe our own physiological and emotional responses. Self-care and care for others’ well-being must take precedence over the rigors and expectations of tradition.
3) A trauma-informed ministry is one that emphasizes the particular over the abstract, renounces the goal of perfection, and decenters the Word to make space for the body, the gesture, and the silence that exceeds description.
Keeping all these things in mind, we hope that this first session will examine AND EMBODY a theology of trauma and trauma-informed pastoral care both through words and through ritual and silence. We hope that this first session will be as much a framing moment of pastoral care as it is about pastoral care.
Some questions to consider: How can we protect our own emotional/spiritual integrity and well-being as we witness the trauma of others? How can we maintain an awareness of our own trauma even as we help to heal others? What is there in our Unitarian Universalist faith that we can use as a resource in the healing of ourselves and others? How is the science of trauma supporting or complicating our understanding of the importance of non-anxious presence in pastoral care?
Paper: Janne Eller-Isaacs
Chaplain: Jennifer Nordstrom
Serene Jones, Trauma and Grace
Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others (Parts Two and Four)
Rita Nakashina Brock and Rebecca Parker, Proverbs of Ashes
Viktor Frank, Man’s Search for Meaning
Shelly Rambo, Spirit and Trauma
Session #2: The Unspoken Voice: Trauma Embodied
Trauma has long been dealt with by western medicine as something to be talked through or medicated. Many eastern traditions, on the other hand, have recognized that trauma lives in the body and is healed through the body. Medical studies now affirm this. How does this dialectic of trauma of the mind (Freud, et al) vs trauma of the body reflect a larger conflict between mind/spirit focused philosophy (Descartes, Augustine, etc.) and body-focused alternatives? How has this dynamic played out within our own UU heritage and in our congregations today? What are the implications for our anti-oppression work and decentering whiteness?
Paper: Alan Taylor
Respondent: Kim Mason
Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score
Peter Levine, In an Unspoken Voice (ch. 1, 3, 12, 14)
Additional Resources (Optional):
Films: Atlantics (2019); Fearless (1993); Manchester by the Sea (2016); Marnie (1964); Moonlight (2016); Mystic River (2003); Ordinary People (1980); Room (2015)
Non-fiction books: Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery; Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog
Session #3 Moral Injury: Trauma of the Conscience
Most often, we associate moral injury with participation in war, but, more recently, the term “moral injury” has been used to describe the experience of medical professionals who can save lives but are restricted by insurance and malpractice worries, those serving in law enforcement, and even citizens of the United States who are implicated in what is happening at our southern border, in our prisons, and among our most vulnerable populations. How can we apply the concept of moral injury to our ministries, whether in a chaplain or parish setting? How are we as religious professionals prone to moral injury?
Paper: Bill Neely
Respondent: David Schwartz
Rita Nakashima Brock and Gabriella Lettini, Soul Repair
Session #4: The Healing that Never Ends: Intergenerational, Racial/Ethnic and Societal Trauma
How can clergy help process intergenerational trauma? What is our role and the church’s role in this? What is the connection between intergenerational/racial trauma and the social justice and pastoral work of the congregation? How do we nurture resilience in traumatized populations, including ourselves?
What is there in our Unitarian Universalist faith that we can use as a resource in the healing of ourselves and others? How can we utilize art in developing empathy and an understanding of intergenerational and racial trauma?
Paper: Sydney Morris
Respondent: Kathleen Rolenz
Resmaa Menakem, My Grandmother’s Hands
One of the following novels:
Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing
Toni Morrison, Beloved
Tommy Orange, There, There
Additional Resources (Optional):
Wendell Berry, The Hidden Wound
Joy DeGruy, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome
Tirzah Firestone, Wounds Into Wisdom: Healing Intergenerational Jewish Trauma
Session #5: Cultivating Healing Grace in Our Ministries: Trauma-Informed Liturgy
Classic Freudian psychoanalysis puts the word/language at the center of healing (the “talking cure”); this kind of thinking is in keeping with our Congregational (Puritan) heritage, which puts the word at the center of worship (the importance of the sermon) as opposed to ritual. How might an awareness of trauma influence the way we incorporate ritual and other embodied experiences into worship? What is there in our Unitarian Universalist faith that we can use as a resource in the healing of ourselves and others? This paper shall include an embodiment of a liturgy of trauma.