Notes from FIEC Leadership in Lockdown webinar on ‘Trauma Care after COVID’ with John Stevens, Jonathan Thomas, and Catherine Haddow.
1. Our ministry is primarily a ministry of proclamation. Our fundamental task is to be those who dare to tell the gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:1-2). The gospel is good news about Jesus Himself. It is a message about a person and what that person has done. Jesus, the Son of God, who came from heaven, died and rose, will return in judgment and who rescues us from the coming wrath against us because of our sin. This is the message we are to dare to tell in the face of opposition from those who hate the gospel and don’t want to hear it (both inside and outside the church) and we are able to do this with the help of God.
2. A few challenges churches are facing coming out of lockdown are a) communal worship because not being able to sing indoors; b) community because of the restrictions over the last year preventing being able to meet together; c) capacity of venue with social distancing in place.
3. Lockdown Update:
– Reality is that we are living in a period of uncertainty where we do not know whether step 4 is going to come into effect on 21 June.
– Speculation that a delay is seriously being considered which means we need to prepare in our thinking for a 2 or 4 week delay.
– It is unlikely that we will be going back from step 3 so we will be able to carry n doing what we are currently able to.
– The only step 4 implication that was guaranteed for churches was allowance of mixing and mingling indoors for greater numbers than groups of 6 or 2 households.
– There had been no commitment that guidance regarding social distancing and singing, and rule concerning face coverings would end.
– It could be that in step 4 wearing face coverings moves from law to guidance in churches and managing this could be a challenge for church leaders if there are a variety of sensitivities within the congregation.
– Don’t get caught up in guessing about the future. Instead focus on what we can do today.
4. Why do we need to think about trauma care after COVID? Because people in our churches are experiencing trauma now and or will do in the future because of the pandemic and it is easy for us to cause further harm and re-traumatise the survivors.
5. Trauma is a wound or injury. It is both an event and an experience that overwhelms the survivor.
6. The COVID pandemic may cause both PTSD and cPTSD. PTSD as people are overwhelmed by exposure to suffering (medics), losing a loved one, going through surgery or difficult childbirth without the usual care support in place etc. cPTSD as people suffer for example systematic spiritual abuse, domestic abuse, sexual abuse that they have been unable to escape from. There may be survivors in the church family who are silently experiencing this.
7. PTSD compared to cPTSD.
– PTSD is caused by a single event with a distinct end. It is often public, open and shared. Help is usually available. It often occurs in adulthood. Safety can be established for recovery time. The brain is usually developed. The person have stable, trusted, caring relationships.
– cPTSD is caused by repeated and ongoing events. It is private, secret, shameful and isolating. Those suffering cPTSD are unable or too afraid to get help. It usually begins in childhood. It is repeated and there is no escape for recover time. The brain of the individual is growing and development can be affected. The harm was caused in a care relationship.
8. Symptoms of PTSD: stuck in time, altered memory processing, hyper-vigilance, sleep issues, strong emotions or lack of emotions, triggers and flashbacks, avoidance, negative self-perceptions, (unhelpful coping strategies). In addition to these symptoms of cPTSD: mood severity and regulation more severe, catastrophic mental health episode more likely, self-harm, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts more common, many unexplained physical symptoms, intimacy and trust issues in relationships, heightened risk of further destructive relationships, ongoing disassociation, ongoing social and developmental issues.
9. The effects of trauma is that it silences, removes choice, isolates and shames, causes immense confusion (of who they are and who God is), and fractures relationships.
10. One sufferers experience of trauma is not the same as another’s (even if there are similarities). We give survivors dignity when we remember this.
11. What are some frequent pastoral care errors?
– Trauma silences so we need to be careful we don’t rush and assume rather than listen and learn their story. We need to be careful that we don’t inadvertently trigger flashbacks.
– Trauma removes choice so we need to be careful that we don’t tell them what to do. We need to be careful that we don’t reject or overly embrace secular help.
– Trauma isolates and shames so we need to be careful that we are self-aware of our limits and make sure we help in community and not on our own.
– Trauma confuses so we need to be careful we don’t address the sin instead of the suffering and we don’t rush in with Scripture.
– Trauma fractures relationships so we need to be careful we don’t pressure them to forgive or try to be their saviour.
12. How can we show redemptive care to survivors?
– We gently encourage and help them to speak (to reverse silence).
– We always emphasis and respect their choice (to reverse helplessness and despair).
– We slowly build a healthy community around them (to reverse isolation).
– We compassionately offer a better truth (to reverse the confusion and lies they have believed or been told).
– We patiently build trust (to reverse mistrust and betrayal) and we lovingly show them the promises and presence of a Saviour who cares.
13. Sign up for the Church as a Refuge conference and read everything by Dr Diane Langberg.