Born in Trauma

This series of studies explores how trauma and the transformation of that trauma helped form and shape the early church. Each study looks at a key event in the Easter and Post Easter story, we will learn about contemporary understandings of trauma and reflect on the big and small traumas in our own lives and the life of our churches.

The Christian Church was born through trauma. The disciples and broader group of followers who had gathered around Jesus suffered a traumatic experience with his death. The Christian church and the writings of the New Testament arose out of this experience and speak to catastrophic human trauma. But it is trauma transformed. Trauma with the hope of healing.

In the events leading up to his crucifixion and immediately after the followers of Jesus were apparently scattered, but not too long thereafter it seems that they came to the conviction that something had happened. Something that changed their perspective on who Jesus was and what he would mean for the future of the movement, and this is what we know as the resurrection. It’s not clear what happened in the resurrection. We don’t know exactly how it occurred but what we do know that the followers of Jesus were absolutely convinced that he had been raised from the dead and had been taken away into heaven as a vindication of his messianic identity. He was the crucified and risen Lord. The resurrection story brings a different perspective to the understanding of Jesus.

These are stories of trauma, transformation, healing and hope.

The studies will be led by Brian Spencer, Education, Innovation and Resource Support Minister with the Presbytery. Brian is also the minister with Waranga Uniting Churches serving the small congregations at Colbinabbin, Rushworth, Murchison and Tatura.


If, at anytime, the content of these studies triggers a trauma or unwelcome response for you – please be kind to yourself, take a break, leave the session and seek professional help as required.

You are more important than any content. We are always ready to stop, to pray, to support each other in the event of such distress.

You can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36 for assistance.

Please call 000 if you require urgent assistance.

These studies are not intended to provide individual counselling or medical advice.

Trauma and Ourselves

In one way or another, we all carry trauma. It can manifest as anxiety, shame, low self-esteem, over-eating, under-eating, addiction, depression, confusion, people-pleasing, under-earning, low mood, negative thinking, social anxiety, anger, brain fog and more.

Initially, we think of trauma as something like the physical after effects of a car accident, living through a bushfire or some similar big T traumatic event. But everyday trauma is the emotional, mental, spiritual, or physical impact of and response to violence. That violence may be verbal, physical, spiritual, or cultural.

Dr Sarah Woodhouse is a Research Psychologist who specialises in trauma writes in her book You’re Not Broken, “Traumas, big or ‘little’, leave us trapped in cycles of dysfunctional behaviours, negative thoughts and difficult feelings. Yet many people are unaware they’re stuck in old reactions and patterns that stem from their past traumas. Many of us are wary of the word and push it away instead of moving towards it and learning how to break free.”

You can listen to her talking to Hillary Harper on ABC Life Matters

When and Where?

The studies will run on Tuesday afternoons from 2.00-3.30pm starting May 10th and be repeated Wednesday evenings from 7.00-8.30pm starting May 11th.

The last sessions will coincide with the birthday of the Uniting Church 21st and 22nd June. (Born in Trauma?  🙂 )

You can join as an individual or form a group in your congregation or community.

You can join the studies via Zoom using the following link

If the link does not work you can join the studies by starting Zoom on your computer and selecting “Join a Meeeting” and entering the Meeting ID: 851 5121 0548 and Passcode: 740651

Contact Brian Spencer: 0400 274482 or email 

Understanding Trauma

The first three studies will explore some of the key concepts in the modern understanding of trauma.

Using readings from the Gospel of Luke we look at the drama leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus.

Study 1: The past is not in the past – The body remembers

Our bodies remember trauma and abuse — quite literally. They respond to new situations with strategies learned during moments that were terrifying or life-threatening. Our bodies remember, but memory is malleable.

Scripture focus: The Lord’s Supper – Luke 22: 1-22; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
(1 Corinthians 11: 23-26)

Study 2: Overwhelmed – What happened and our reaction

When we feel emotionally overwhelmed, we feel completely consumed by our emotional state. All of us may feel emotionally overwhelmed at some point in our lives, but for those who have survived trauma, overwhelm can happen much more frequently and at unexpected times. When we are overwhelmed, acting and thinking rationally can be extremely difficult. 

Scripture focus: Betrayal, Arrest and Trial – Luke 22: 39 -71; Luke 23: 1-24

‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.’ Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief.  (Luke 22: 42-45)

Study 3: Helplessness and despair

Traumatic stress can shatter your sense of security, leaving you feeling helpless and vulnerable in a dangerous world. You may feel physically and emotionally drained, overcome with grief, or find it difficult to focus, sleep, or control your temper. These are all normal responses to abnormal events.

Scripture focus: Failed resistance, denial, crucifixion – Luke 23: 26-56

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’ And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. (Luke 23: 44-48)

Transforming Trauma

In these 4 studies we look at how trauma can be transformed.

Using readings from the Gospels of Luke and John we look at how the resurrected Jesus transforms the trauma experienced by his disciples through reframing and reassurance.

Study 4 Reframing the story

Each time we remember a memory we change the chemical structure of that memory ever so slightly, causing the memories to grow, shrink or change. The essential idea behind reframing is that the frame through which a person views a situation determines their point-of-view. When that frame is shifted, the meaning changes and thinking and behavior often change along with it.

Scripture focus: Resurrection & Road to Emmaus – Luke 24:1-35

Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

… When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’  
(Luke 24: 27-32)

Study 5: The new normal – No going back

The scary truth about trauma is that there is no such thing as “getting over it.” A major life disruption leaves a new normal in its wake. There is no “back to the old me.” You are different now, full stop.
This is not a wholly negative thing. Healing from trauma can also mean finding new strength and joy. The goal of healing is not a papering-over of changes in an effort to preserve or present things as normal. It is to acknowledge and live your new life with courage and find peace.

Scripture focus: Resurrection appearances -Jesus appears to the disciples -Luke 24: 36-52, John 20:11-23

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?  Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’  And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’  They gave him a piece of broiled fish,  and he took it and ate in their presence.

Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’  Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. (Luke 24: 36-45)

Study 6: Transforming Trauma – The wounds remain

When someone has a wound, the healing process can involve suffering that may feel worse than the initial acquiring of the wound. However, most people find this experience tolerable based on a belief that a certain level of suffering is required to allow the wound to heal. In turn, people with a healing wound assume that they are “on the mend.” In many cases, a healed wound may leave a scar as a reminder that successful healing has taken place. Although the scar may be ugly, annoying, a topic of conversation or not as favorable as regular tissue, it is still an image of success signifying that a wound has healed.

Scripture focus: Thomas and Saul -see and touch the wounds – John 20: 24-29; Acts 9:1-19

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’  Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’  Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’ (John 20:24-29)

Study 7: Healing, Forgiveness and Mission

In some instances, people who have experienced trauma find a mission through which they can continue to heal and grow, such as talking to youth, or peer mentoring. Successful resolution of the effects of trauma is a powerful testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.

Recovery is an individual process and will look different for everyone. There is an intense desire to feel well quickly and individuals can feel that the process is taking too long or they are not doing it “right”. Recovery is not defined by complete absence of thoughts or feelings about the traumatic experience but being able to live with it in a way that it isn’t in control of your life. It is important to gentle, patient and compassionate with yourself as you move through this healing process.

Scripture focus: Peter restored ; Promise of the Holy Spirit– John 21: 1-19; John 14:8-27

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’  A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’  He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.  John 21: 15-17