This was the fourth webinar of the 2021 Series: On Being a Safe Church! In these webinars, we have been hearing from a variety of people that have been inspiring us to wonder together at how best we can create healthy and safe cultures in our congregations and communities.
We had the honor of hearing from Dr. Dawn Gibson and Pastor Anthony Gibson about how Peletah Ministries pursues ministry as a church and school in intentionally trauma-informed ways.
In 2011 the Lord gave the word "Peletah" to Pastor Anthony and a vision of starting a church. Six weeks after Pastor Anthony and Dr. Dawn received a blessing from their pastor and church to launch this new church, Hurricane Irene hit their community in New Bern, North Carolina. As they reached out to their community to meet the needs, providing food and resources, and organizing bible studies, people knew they could be fed, both physically and spiritually and rely on them for physical and spiritual needs.
As they recognized the needs of their community, they changed the question to intentionally provide trauma-informed care. Instead of saying: What is wrong with you? They asked the question: What happened to you? -- and even further, not just what happened to you, but: What is strong with you?
Subsequently as the church continued to grow they also began a school, Peletah Academic Center for Excellence, a trauma-informed K-12 School, and further The Peletah Institute for Building Resilient Communities.
They also developed a framework for resiliency centered around being trauma-informed which can be found on their website here, which is defined by the acronym S.H.E.L.L.:
S- Safety (Building Safe Communities)
H-Hope (Building Hope within Communities)
E-Efficacy (Advocating for Educational Equity, Economic Empowerment, Environmental Justice, Employment Opportunities, Emotional Supports, Engagement in Communities)
L- Lasting (Sustainable Systems for Building Resilient Communities)
L- Links (Links to Community Partners)
A few other highlights from the webinar include:
Being trauma-informed does not just start in counseling or after a situation comes to light, it starts at the very beginning of relationships - from the conversation in the grocery store, to worship, how we relate, talk and show physical affection, asking for a hug before simply embracing someone.
As Dr. Dawn and Pastor Anthony's dog, Galley, illustrated when her barking was triggered by a deliveryman @ Minute 20:40 of our webinar link here, there are times when something happens that triggers a trauma reaction in a person in what some others may view as "no apparent reason." As Dr. Dawn stated, "sometimes we get offended because people can
come on so strong and you're not really sure why... and that's what we have to recognize in trauma-informed care it's not what's wrong with someone, it's what's happened."
Pastor Anthony and Dr. Dawn also emphasized that for them being trauma-informed means everyone in their congregation gets trauma-informed training. They are also very adamant about what safety requires in their community when someone discloses their experience or story, it means that community members must hold these stories in confidence and nothing about someone else can show up Facebook.
They also emphasized, "we are advocates for mental health and so we often say, I can have Jesus and a therapist because in some communities, in some cultures, there's a stigma attached to either being a recipient of mental health services or needing mental health - and we work hard to shatter that."
Dr. Dawn and Pastor Anthony’s work has been featured by Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, and this article Trauma-Informed Congregations and Worship: Being Made Whole, shares more about their ministry as well as the work they have done to become a trauma informed ministry.