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Issue 17: May 2022
Tending to the Trauma of the Pandemic in our Congregations 
By Lisa Hart
Trauma has made lots of news in the past two years. Consider these headlines, taken from the New York Times and Washington Post: 

“Past pandemics remind us COVID will be an era, not a crisis that Fades,” atop a story examining the long-term psychic effects of pandemics. (NYT) 

“Art created 100 years apart, linked by trauma, offers solace,” the title of a story about the reopening of the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., whose founder was motivated in part by a desire to heal after the death of his brother in the 1918 influenza pandemic. (NYT) 

“Burned out by the pandemic, 3 in 10 health-care workers consider leaving the profession,” above a Washington Post story reporting the impact of trauma on the nation’s doctors and nurses. (WP) 

“ ‘Teach me to be brave’: Protecting my kids from COVID-19’s physical and emotional toll,” the headline above a first-person piece by a mom navigating the pandemic with her children.  

Although experts describe trauma in various ways, the definition used by American Psychological Association may best capture the experience of the COVID years. Trauma, says the APA, is “any disturbing experience that results in significant fear, helplessness, dissociation, confusion, or other disruptive feelings intense enough to have a long-lasting negative effect on a person’s attitudes, behavior, and other aspects of functioning. Traumatic events include those caused by human behavior as well as by nature and often challenge an individual’s view of the world as a just, safe, and predictable place.”
   
As people of faith, we are called to be (and to build up) God’s beloved community. The pandemic has affected all of us one way or another, which is why COVID has been referred to as a collective trauma. Yet while it has been a shared experience, our responses to the experience have varied. After all, not everyone who experiences trauma will be traumatized. Just as one body may be affected by physical trauma more seriously than another, some people are more deeply affected by psychological trauma. 

Building resilience in the individuals who are part of the beloved community can foster healthy responses to traumatic experiences. Resilience is not a trait we are born with, but rather a skill that can be developed. For a better understanding of what resilience looks like and how it can build up the beloved community, LeaderWise offers a free download of Reflections on Resilience in Tumultuous Times

Trauma-informed ministry is an additional tool for building up the beloved community. The Office of Christian Formation and the Association of Partners in Christian Education, agencies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), have produced resources for developing trauma-informed faith formation ministry. The principles can be applied to all areas of congregational life.   

To support clergy and congregational leaders in the Wisconsin Conference, a pre-Annual Meeting intensive workshop on Trauma Informed Care and Ministry is being offered June 9 at the Green Lake Conference Center. Dee Savides, a clinical social worker with 30 years of experience as a psychotherapist, will explain why it is more critical than ever for us understand just how trauma is affecting our church leaders and members, and share resources for how to engage our faith communities in healing practices. For more information and to register, click here

Lisa Hart is associate conference minister for faith formation and justice ministries. Reach her at lhart@wcucc.org. 
For more information on trauma and mental health resources: 
 
“Four ways ministry leaders can shift to trauma-informed ministry” by Danielle Tumminio Hansen: https://www.christiancentury.org/article/recommendations/four-ways-faith-leaders-can-shift-trauma-informed-ministry
 
“People are developing trauma-like symptoms as pandemic wears on” by Kat Lonsdorf: https://www.npr.org/2022/04/07/1087195915/covid-pandemic-trauma-mentalhealth 
 
Trauma and COVID-19: Communities in Need Across the U.S. , statistical information from Mental Health America https://mhanational.org/research-reports/trauma-and-covid-19-communities-need-across-us 
 
Mental Health America Self-help Tools: https://mhanational.org/self-help-tools 

**Please note: The Supportive Ministries Team will not be hosting a Tending the Soul Conversation in June, July or August. We look forward to reconnecting with you in September.** 
Missed these articles?

Revisit these thought-provoking articles from previous issues. Many include questions for groups discussions in your congregation, or for personal reflection.
Conference Supportive Ministries

In addition to the direct support to pastors and congregations provided by Wisconsin Conference staff, here are some of the supportive ministries congregations can take advantage of. Follow the link below to learn more about this programs and how your church might benefit.
  • Conflict Transformation
  • Coaching Partners
  • Grants and assistance programs
  • Communities of Practice for Clergy or Faith Formation
  • Appreciative Inquiry
  • 5 Practices of Fruitful Congregations
  • Readiness 360
View a comprehensive list with more information about Supportive Ministries offerings.
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Supportive Ministries Task Force
Through this communication, the Wisconsin Conference Supportive Ministries Task Force provides articles, discussion guides and other resources for clergy and congregations on coping and thriving as we navigate the current turbulent waters. Supportive Ministries Task Force members from top left are Bob Ullman, Lisa Hart, Bonnie Andrews, Cathleen Wille and Tim Perkins.
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