Earlier this summer, Dr. Chelle Stearns, Associate Professor of Theology, traveled to St. Andrews to participate as a plenary speaker in the Theology & Trauma Conference. This year’s conference bore the title of Christ and Trauma: Doing Theology East of Eden. Featuring speakers Rachael Clinton, Director of Organizational Development at The Allender Center, Elaine Storkey, and Preston Hill, the conference sought to address questions such as: “What is the intersection between the story of Jesus and our stories of trauma?”

Watch Rachael Clinton’s talk here.

In her presentation, “A Trauma-Informed Christology—Telling the Old Story Anew,” Chelle discusses how she came into the study of trauma and theology, the language of the body and its response to trauma, and how to faithfully bear witness to suffering and experiences of trauma in light of the hope of the Gospel.

“Christian faith and church gatherings are often oriented around word-based communication and proclamation. The practice of theology is very similar. In trauma-informed practice, the body of traumatized persons become more central. Trauma activates a kind of perpetual shattering or disintegration of meaning-making in the mind and the body. In other words, in the aftermath of trauma rational assent to particular tenants and belief is not sufficient for the lived experience of faith. Instead, some kind of embodied witness becomes necessary for one’s capacity to even make sense of the world if healing is to be possible.

“If communities of faith want to bear witness to the word who is Jesus Christ, then how particular bodies make sense of the world is central to the heart of the church’s call. In this way of thinking, it is vital for churches to generate space for those that have experienced significant trauma.”