The theme of trauma was selected for this year’s annual summer Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Day because “clergy responses to trauma an have a significant impact on our own healing and in healing our communities,” as described in the planning committee welcome letter. Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore hosted the gathering of over 100 pastoral students from the Maryland, Washington, DC, and Northern Virginia region.
Planning Committee Chair Ty Crowe, director of the Hospital’s Spiritual Care and Chaplaincy Department, squeezed me into July 13th meeting, but there wasn’t space for representatives of a national sports foundation who had contacted me for ideas on developing a day-long trauma training for their coach mentors. I had initially consulted with Leslie Brower of Delaware’s Trauma-Informed Care Initiative and Patricia Cobb Richardson, a leader in Baltimore’s Thriving Community Collaborative, for ideas on training programs and they put me in touch with Crowe who had done the same as he put the CPE program together.
The day began with a “centering” ceremony with song and drums led by David Fakunte, who is matriculating at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Deborah Pierce Fakunle (pictured above). The performance, based on African oral tradition, intensified the already great spirit in the packed room.
One of the most inspiring and compelling speakers on the subject of trauma—Donna Jackson Nakazawa—delivered the morning address and signed copies of the newly released paperback version of her book Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology and How You Can Heal. She painfully recalled that death of her young father that was the result of a medical error by a Hopkins physician. She tells some of this story in a recent Huffington Post article and provides encouragement to others who have experienced trauma in a video posted on ACEs Connection. You can join the conversations inspired by her book on the ACEs Connection group, Childhood Disrupted.
A table discussion on trauma care provided an opportunity for conversations on a number of topics, including: How do we heal trauma in our communities? What is the clergy role in healing trauma? And what are the indicators that healing is taking place?. The freewheeling discussion at my table included how to apply this knowledge as clergy but also in personal situations such as one described by a father of adopted siblings who had experienced significant trauma.
A session on “Healing Interventions for Trauma,” led by Nneka N’namdi and Changa Onyango, included an exercise to demonstrate human behavior in win-or-loose situations and what stands in the way of finding common ground.
Shannon Cosgrove, director of health policy at Cure Violence, and James Timpson, site director, Safe Streets, presented on programs that are showing remarkable reductions in community violence using a public health approach. They covered how community workers are identified (look for the highest risk individuals who are known in the neighborhood), how conflict is mediated and resolved, and how trust is developed. Timpson told how his spirits were lifted when an older, white man bought him coffee and told him to keep up the good work after a sleepless night of troubleshooting during the uprising in Baltimore in 2015. He said the gesture kept him going all that day and is a reminder of the power of small acts of kindness.
The conference was videotaped and the plan is to make it available after editing.