April 2020
It's a critical time for trauma-informed and healing-engaged leaders!

  • What does it mean to connect what we know about trauma, faith and resilience in this time of global adversity?
  • What are our most valuable faith assets that we can bring to this crisis?
  • How does faith help us get through, practice resilience, heal, serve, and care—especially for the most vulnerable?

These are some of the questions the Chicagoland Trauma Informed Congregations Network (CTICN) Planning Team explored on our monthly call on Thursday, March 19.

Here are some abbreviated notes from the call with people’s ideas and sharing:

  • If we have a lock down in our communities, we will need to be more focused on how we are living compassion, love and empathy.
  • Walidah Bennett – we need to think about how we are weathering the storm, keeping people’s fears at bay and leading with love and care. Now is a time to especially care for veterans who are vulnerable to social isolation.
  • Mary Vasquez urges us to advocate for public health clients so that they can get more minutes on their phone. Please click here to see a draft letter to the Federal Trade Commission that you can sign on to.
  • Hema Pokharna asked– How do we create a pandemic of kindness during this time? How can we be highly contagious in love and kindness. This is a time to deepen our faith. We can think of this as God’s gift. One way we can express kindness is by staying at home. Hema’s sister is a doctor and says “We are going to work to keep you safe. You stay home to keep us safe.”
  • Shirley Fleming expressed concern about how we meet people’s basic needs for food, housing, jobs, etc. United Way has funding to help people with bills, rent and food. We can play a role in connecting people to what they need.
  • How do we talk to people about this using a tone of empathy that rewires the human fabric?
  • Michelle Day suggested that some of us have enough clout and resources to get these other messages out there using the local media. We need to research how to do that.

This newsletter contains other ideas, learning opportunities, and resources for leading through a trauma-informed and healing engaged lens in these uncertain times. A couple of CTICN members share brief reflections on what they know from their perspective about living well together. If you have wisdom that you would like to share with our learning community, please contact Cindy Novak at cynthia.novak@advocatehealth.com or share it here.
COVID-19 Resources
Racial Equity Tools offers a COVID-19 Racial Equity & Social Justice list. Includes information that can help communities and activists as they work to understand and respond to the moment and for the long haul. The COVID-19 Resources list categories include Analysis, Resources and Tools, Healing and Community Care, Organizing and Solidarity, Resource Building & Rapid Response and a List of Lists - a collection of resource lists shared by others that relate to equity, social justice and other areas in the context of the pandemic.

Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference offers Resources for Coronavirus. Categories include Faith Responses, Tools & Preparedness, Webinars, Online Meetings & Videos and Q&As.

Considering Faith, Community, and Mental Health During the COVID-19 Crisis . This document from The Partnership Center ( at the Department for Health and Human Services) is written with faith and community-based leaders in mind, as they serve people experiencing fear and anxiety associated with COVID-19.
Upcoming Webinars and Calls
April 7, 4:00-5:30 p.m.
The Impact of COVID 19 on Black Communities
Join federal, state, county and city elected officials for a tele-town hall. Zoom meeting ID: 469 420 712 Password 089318.

April 7, 4:00-5:00 p.m.
The webinar will explain important details of the recently passed C.A.R.E.S. Act, the positive provisions, and the key priorities that were left out. We will look at implications of COVID-19 and the recent legislation on a variety of issues and populations, including: incarcerated individuals, immigrants, low-income communities, Native Americans, our health care system, and elections. Congress is already starting negotiations on a fourth COVID-19 package. The second half of this webinar will be an advocacy training about how to set up and conduct virtual meetings with congressional offices. The faith voice is incredibly important in this moment.

April 8, 10:00-11:00 a.m.
The webinar will be presented by Kasey Franco, Director of Training and Education for NAMI Chicago, and facilitated by Amy McNicholas, Faith and Mental Health Program Specialist for Advocate Aurora Health.

April 9, 10:00-11:00 a.m.
Aggie Stewart, a counselor and yoga therapist, will discuss the role of yoga and other mindful practices in organizational wellness plans and in preventing burnout among staff.

Beginning April 9, noon-1:30 p.m.
Presented in partnership with the Presbytery of Chicago and as part of the Science for Seminaries Series, these presentations will provide highly relevant information for coping with communal grief and a global crisis.

April 13 and 17, times vary
Share with a diverse group of the faith community about how you are doing, tips for coping, what you are grateful for and concerned about and opportunities to make a difference even while sheltered in.  Sessions are one hour each and limited to 15 persons per session. (This is not therapy.)
Recorded Webinars
Thriving in Challenging Times: Crisis Response Training for Faith Community Leaders, led by Rev. Kevin Massey, System Vice President, Mission and Spiritual Care and Spiritual Care Leadership, Advocate Aurora Health Care.

In times of distress and uncertainty, people look to their faith community leaders for support and guidance. Psychological First Aid (PFA) training equips faith community leaders to provide basic immediate emotional support to people in distress and anxiety. This approximately 20-minute video equips faith community leaders with the basics of PFA and shares information about further training.

The Global Coronavirus Crisis: Steering Ourselves and our Clients Through New and Developing Traumas . Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, author of The Body Keeps The Score, shares timely approaches for those in the helping professions.

Trauma-Informed Care is Wraparound Care in Communities of Faith. Trauma-Informed Care is an approach to addressing experiences of early adversity that emphasizes compassion and incorporates the belief that every person has intrinsic value and should be treated with dignity. It also promotes the understanding that negative behaviors may be typical responses to past traumatic experiences. A slide deck is available for download here.
Sharing the Wisdom of our Community
Conflict Transformation for the Sake of Sanity

By Michelle Day

Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Albert Einstein

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God. Matthew 5:9 (NRSV)

“I’m going to kill him if he breathes like that one more time.” Unknown person sheltered in place

Conflict can appear like a multiple-armed monster engaging us in a constant game of trying to extricate ourselves from the grip of one arm while dodging the grasp of another one. So, fulfilling the call to be peacemakers in the midst of conflict in the world, in our communities and in our homes sometimes seems impossible. This may be especially true now that we are spending more time with people we love (or thought we loved before they breathed the wrong way this morning).

In our restorative justice ministry we have found there is the need to approach conflict and peacemaking differently than what we have done in the past. Do something different to stop the insanity. On the journey to something different there are four milestones: I. Naming concepts; II. Understanding the importance of perspective; III. Identifying the Response to Conflict; IV. Making the peacemaking effort. Read more here .
Companionship Model: Connecting with One Another During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Robert Skrocki

Companionship is a ministry of presence, a relationship responding to isolation and suffering and supportive of healing and recovery. Companionship welcomes the stranger, building a circle of care with individuals who are facing emotional and mental health challenges. Companionship is rooted in our natural capacities as human beings to be sensitive, compassionate and concerned.

The Model of Companionship has been used by faith communities to help individuals living with mental illness feel welcomed and included.

It also can be used to address the isolation many people are feeling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Companionship Model has five practices:

  • Hospitality: Respecting and honoring the inherent dignity in every human being. Hospitality creates a safe space, offering rest and refreshment in an often tense, confusing, and traumatic world.
  • Neighboring: Inviting us to discover what we have in common with one another, to set aside our power and privilege, and meet as equals.
  • Side-by-Side: Sharing the journey side-by-side. Helping us to look out at the world together, not imposing our priorities on the other.
  • Listening: Opening us to another’s story without judgment.
  • Accompaniment: Walking alongside the other, supporting the individual through connecting them with community resources to build a circle of care. Phone wellbeing checks are an example of this care.

To learn how to set up a Companionship training or for more information, contact Robert Skrocki at contact@interfaithmhc.org or click here.
A Prayer from Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky of B’nai David-Judea Congregation in Los Angeles
“Every hand that we don’t shake must be a phone call that we place. Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern.

Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another, must become a thought as to how we might be of help to that other, should the need arise. 

So, as we keep a level of social distance, let us all remain spiritually near to each other, by responding to this health emergency with love and care for everyone’s well-being. 

May Adonai give us the wisdom to continue to react appropriately to this crisis and heal those who have been infected.” 
The Chicagoland Trauma Informed Congregation Network is an interfaith table that brings together faith-rooted organizations and others that are interested in using our collective wisdom to respond to the call to facilitate and deepen the role of faith communities in recognizing and creating "safe and brave spaces" that support the healing of trauma experienced by individuals and communities. The Network is not a direct service provider, but a vehicle for education, skills transfer and connection of the intersection of faith, trauma and restorative justice.

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This newsletter is sent out on behalf of the Chicagoland Trauma Informed Congregations Network by The Center for Faith and Community Health Transformation (a joint initiative of  Advocate Health Care  & 
the  Office for Community Engagement and Neighborhood Health Partnerships  at the University of Illinois at Chicago) and ReCAST (Resilience in Communities After Stress and Trauma) of the Chicago Department of Public Health.