5 April 2023

The Revd Hilary Ison discusses her Trauma Informed Ministry Series: Moving on from the Pandemic

As the immediacy of the Covid pandemic is passing, many are looking forward to moving on in life and ministry, and this current workshop builds on and develops material from previous trauma-informed ministry workshops both before and during the pandemic.

It is only now that the full extent of the legacy of the pandemic is becoming apparent in our personal lives, in our churches and in wider society.  While some feel ready to face these challenges, many ministers report feeling exhausted, more anxious and vulnerable, and unable to cope with the stresses and strains they may previously have handled well.  The latest report from the ‘Living Ministry’ research bears out the impact that the pandemic has had on clergy well-being and vocational reassessment.[1]

Our experience during the pandemic will have been very different depending upon our circumstances and resources, but we now face the challenge of navigating a changed landscape.

What resources do ministers need, not only to work through the impact of the pandemic on them personally and their churches, but also to face the challenges of leading congregations through change in increasingly anxious and uncertain times? In the face of falling income and church attendance, the desire and need in dioceses is to press the ‘full-steam ahead’ button. However, taking time to name what has happened and work with where we are now, both in our own lives and in our pastoral ministry and church leadership, is a crucial foundation for discerning creative and sustainable ways forward.

This day workshop will explore what might sustain and resource ministers in these challenging times. Drawing on recent developments in neuroscience and the study of trauma alongside biblical and faith resources. participants will be offered opportunities to:

  • articulate their experience of the impact of the pandemic on them and their congregations;
  • make connections between these reactions and trauma theory, especially looking at –
    • our embodied nature – how our bodies and brains are connected, what our experience of this is when it is working well and in balance, and how we can rebalance our nervous system when we are feeling anxious and overwhelmed;
    • our need for relationship – how we communicate and connect with others non-verbally through the innate capacity of our nervous system to resonate with others and to mirror calm or agitation; our need for safe and loving relationships to thrive and survive;
    • how we apply this in leadership and ministry and work with the dynamics of communities after a tragedy;
  • explore biblical and faith resources for addressing our current situation. Two key concepts from trauma studies (that we are embodied people and made for relationship) will be explored in parallel with the heart of our Incarnational and Trinitarian Christian faith.

This day workshop is best offered as an in-person, experiential event, from 10am-4pm (timings are negotiable).  As an in-person event it works best for between 20 – 50 people, seated around tables if possible.  It can be offered as a shorter half-day, online (Zoom) workshop for smaller groups (12-16).

The workshop can also be offered with a focus on the particular experience of those who left a particular ministry or parish in the pandemic and arrived in a new ministry or retirement.

 Before and during the Covid pandemic, members of the Tragedy and Congregations Research project https://tragedyandcongregations.org.uk delivered numerous sessions for ministers in Anglican dioceses and other denominations on Ministry in a Time of Trauma.

Two books coming out of the project are:

Carla A. Grosch-Miller (June 2021) Trauma and Pastoral Care (London: Canterbury Press)

Megan Warner, Christopher Southgate, Carla A. Grosch-Miller and Hilary Ison (editors) (2019) Tragedies and Christian Congregations: The Practical Theology of Trauma (London and New York: Routledge).

[1] https://www.churchofengland.org/resources/diocesan-resources/ministry/ministry-development/living-ministry/living-ministry-research

The Revd Hilary Ison

Hilary has been in licensed lay ministry since 1980 and ordained ministry since 1987 in parish and sector ministry, theological education and from 2008-2017 as a National Adviser for Selection in the Bishops’ Advisory Panels for ordained ministry.

She trained in Organisational Consultancy and Systems Leadership (MA, Tavistock Clinic 2002) and since 2017 has trained as a practitioner in Systems Constellations www.systemicconstellations.com

Hilary is a Trustee of St Luke’s for Clergy Wellbeing, with a particular interest in reflective practice groups for ministers, which she has facilitated in the Diocese of London, alongside 1:1 supervision sessions.

Her interest in building resilience in congregations and ministers has been informed through participation in a three-year research project (2017-20) looking at how better to prepare ministers to cope with tragedy and trauma in congregations. Resources and training days for those in ordained ministry were developed as an outcome from the project and were much appreciated, especially during the Covid pandemic.

Hilary lives in North Devon with her husband, David, and has four adult children plus grandchildren and enjoys walking on the beach with her black Labrador dog, Phoebe!



For more information visit our Wellbeing Menu Wellbeing menu
Or to book a course contact our Wellbeing Manager Contact us