Trauma, Moral Injury, and Crisis Ministry

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Week One
June 5-9
1:30 - 4:00

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This course invites participants into the study of three distinct but overlapping forms of human suffering. Trauma is the experience of threat to one’s being and/or identity that exceeds a person’s resources for coping with the threat. Moral injury has been identified recently by scholars and clinicians as a psychological wound involving violation of conscience/deeply held values, either by someone in a position of legitimate authority or by one’s self, in a high stakes situation. It is often, though not exclusively, associated with military combat situations. Crises are turning point- moments of extreme difficulty or distress which bring to the foreground fundamental questions about life matters such as relationships, purpose/vocation, the existence and presence of God in human affairs. Engaging practical theology’s multi-disciplinary approach to these three complex phenomena, we will utilize perspectives from theology, psychology, sociology, biology, and art as frameworks for understanding and responding. We will explore basic skills of crisis intervention and trauma-informed pastoral care.  Readings for the course: Serene Jones, Trauma and Grace: Theology in a Ruptured World (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press), 2010 [a brief book, not difficult to read].  A couple of short articles will be made available online.


Joyce Ann Mercer joined the YDS faculty in January 2016. Her work focuses on practices of care in diverse contexts including post-conflict areas of Southeast Asia, children in the consumer culture of the US, addictions in family systems, and the religious lives of adolescent girls. A current book project with Oxford University Press is based on an ethnographic study of churches in conflict with their denominations over sexuality. She recently co-edited Conundrums in Practical Theology (Brill, forthcoming 2016). Earlier works include Welcoming Children: A Practical Theology of Childhood (Chalice Press). She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church USA.

Yale Divinity School

Joyce Mercer