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The Trauma-Informed Church

Karen O’Donnell, Cambridge Federation

Initial Description

In response to the Seedcorn Grant Call for Applications for research in Theological Education and mental health, we propose a project that is focused on exploring what it might mean to be a church that is trauma-informed.

We are living in an age of trauma (Bond and Craps, 2020: 41); that is to say, a time in which understandings of trauma have come to characterize so many aspects of personal and cultural identities, inclusion and belonging. This characterization has been aided by a century of psychological and medical developments in which we have come to understand what trauma is, how it happens, and what its ongoing impact on both individuals and collectives might be. In the ongoing aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the persecution of people of colour and LGBTQ+ people, and the continued restrictions of women’s bodily autonomy, not to mention terrorist attacks, warzones and crises of migration, trauma is a living reality for many people. We expect that both students and staff at TEIs, as well as members of congregations and fellow ministers, will be impacted by trauma. This is a key element in understanding current experiences of mental health.

This research projects seeks to equip theological educators, church leaders, students, and academics to understand what it means to both be and work in ways which are trauma-informed in general, before considering how this might be applied to the church context specifically. We aim to provide space for informed theological dialogue and pedagogical re- sources that might enable further consideration of what it means to be a trauma-informed church across TEIs.