AS TRAUMA is increasingly becoming an occasional if not regular part of community life, this book is aimed at church leaders. Arising out of the Tragedy and Congregations Project, which helps churches to respond in a healthy way to the impact of tragedies and their aftermath, the book is divided into three parts.
Part One focuses on the impact of trauma on the individual, and offers strategies for rapid response and continuing pastoral care. Part Two considers a whole congregation or community with ways of building resilience, using biblical and liturgical resources. Part Three reflects on the importance of memory and making meaning, and grapples with difficult theological questions that may arise from an experience of trauma. Each chapter has key takeaway points, making it a very useful teaching aid.
This is essentially a practical book, which also confronts both the complexity of trauma itself and the challenging theological questions to which it may give rise. It is very well researched, and written in such a way as to encourage the reader to follow up references and further reading. The author draws on her own experience candidly and acknowledges her own learning from a past time of burnout compounded by a ministerial trauma. Tellingly, she comments: “The standard expectation that ministry is a six-day-a-week role, often requiring long hours in the evening, is death-dealing.”
Thus, when you have come back from, or in order to avoid, burnout, self-care is essential, not optional. One surprising detail is that, according to one research resource, our bodies and brains need to spend 42 per cent of our time resting.
The book’s clear structure and relatively short, clearly written chapters make it accessible in short bites. Diagrams and appendices supplement the text, which moves easily between psychology and biblical theology while doing justice to both. Essential qualities for the pastoral carer are the protection of boundaries and cognitive empathy, so that vicarious trauma can be avoided.
This timely publication was completed during the third UK lockdown of the pandemic and includes reflection on the current Anthropocene era of human activity shaping the world with its impact on our planet. The author ends on a note of hope that “some of the lessons of the pandemic will prove 2020 to have been a training ground for years to come.” Resilience lies in adaptability, and pastoral care needs to be strengthened. This book is designed to help that process.
The Revd Dr Anne C. Holmes, a former NHS mental-health chaplain, works as a psychotherapist and SSM in the diocese of Oxford.
Trauma and Pastoral Care: A practical handbook
Canterbury Press £18.99
Church Times Bookshop £15.19