Thirty seconds before I was due to take the podium, I opened my copy of my new book and realised that my carefully prepared notes were on my desk in my office halfway across the building. And that was how I winged my first ever book launch. Best laid plans…
On a cold Tuesday January evening at Sarum College in Salisbury, I was delighted to celebrate the launch of my new book Broken Bodies: The Eucharist, Mary and the Body in Trauma Theology (SCM Press, 2018) with colleagues, friends, family, and members of the public. Despite leaving my notes in my office in my haste to get to the launch on time, it was a real privilege to share my research (a project I’ve been working on since 2013!) with so many interested people. I shared some of the inspiration for the project with those gathered; my frustration at the eliding of bodies in theology and my sense that the concept and experience of trauma offered real potential for doing something creative and fresh in theological scholarship.
A short section from the middle of the book entitled ‘Rupture’ sets out the task I am undertaking in Broken Bodies.
The experience of trauma is a rupturing event. Like an earthquake rolls through a landscape and radically alters the topographical features, so does trauma roll through lives, stories, memories and bodies, leaving them radically altered. Allowing the traumatic memory of the Body of Christ to be framed in terms of the Annunciation-Incarnation event and moving it away from the destructive power of the Cross causes a rupture in traditional Christian narratives. The way in which the Christ-event has been understood, along with the intertwined narratives of priesthood, sacrifice, and the Eucharist, are radically altered in the light of this traumatic reframing. It is from this rupture that new, fresh, life-giving theological narratives come forth. They blossom in the space cleared by the rupture of trauma. Like a forest awakening in the aftermath of a fire, or a trauma survivor stirring up a survivor’s gift in the aftermath of trauma, some stories can only be told in the wake of the rupture. These are those narratives.
Highlighting the way in which my reading of trauma through and against traditional Christian narratives of death and destruction brought to light a theology that was full of generativity and flourishing, this sense of traumatic rupture captures something of what this book is about.
The discussion afterwards ranged from questions about caring for those who had been in war zones, self-care when supporting people who had been traumatised, and the responsibility of the church to be a place where trauma was acknowledged and where liturgy and ritual for post-traumatic remaking was offered. It was a rich conversation that helped make the connections between theological work and praxis. I was reminded once again of the words of Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado who urged me to do my theology from the place where it hurts. Broken Bodies is theology from a hurting place and I’m really delighted it is available for people to read.
You can buy it from SCM Press in hardback or if you can wait until late March you can buy it in paperback!
Coordinator, Centre for Contemporary Spirituality and Programme Leader for MA in Christian Spirituality, Sarum College.