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Dr. Michael Blue, pastor of the Door of Hope Christian Church in Marion, S.C., shared how faith leaders can foster collaborative relationships between the government and traumatized communities.

Jefferson Summit Explores Impact of Trauma on Communities of Faith

Being trusted advisers, mediators and counselors, faith leaders often become first responders to trauma within their communities, offering support and facilitating healing.

To best serve those impacted by trauma, Jefferson Trauma Education Network (J-TEN)—the community arm of the MS in community and trauma counseling (CTC) program—hosted the Interfaith Leaders’ Summit on June 13. Over 75 people from the Philadelphia area, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, and North and South Carolina attended the inaugural event on East Falls Campus.

“We hope to foster partnerships within the faith community through education and resource building to increase support and wellness,” explains CTC Professor Dr. Nicole Johnson, who helped organize the all-day meeting. “Training also can reduce compassion fatigue, burnout and/or secondary traumatic stress among faith leaders who serve as community caregivers.”

A seminary graduate and faith-based leader, Jefferson CTC student Charryse Wright says she sometimes sees the unintentional re-traumatization of people who seek help. “Many spiritual leaders don’t know what trauma is or have the knowledge or training to understand the effects that trauma has on the people they serve,” notes Wright, who also helped plan the summit. “Therefore, it was important for me to be involved as we attempt to bridge the gap between religion and faith and trauma.” 

Throughout the program, faith and faith-based organization leaders, clergy and seminary students learned about the impact of trauma, reflected and shared their own experiences, and planned ways to integrate trauma-informed practices into their respective communities.

Keynote speaker Dr. Michael Blue, pastor of the Door of Hope Christian Church in Marion, S.C.—an area rocked by economic upheaval and a recent string of natural disasters—shared how faith leaders can develop  collaborative relationships to connect services between local, regional and national government to traumatized communities.

“We need to make sure that we don’t stop believing in our possibility,” he passionately told the crowd. “The faith community is certainly one of the most viable institutions in the community. People are looking for leadership, and we have the potential both to lead and to help shape leaders for now and what’s coming.”

This event marked just the beginning of training and education J-TEN will provide to faith leaders about trauma and other behavioral health concerns, Dr. Johnson says.

Launched with grant support from the Scattergood Foundation, J-TEN is co-directed by CTC Program Director and Department Chair Dr. Jeanne Felter and Associate Program Director Dr. Steve DiDonato.