By DIANE XAVIER
The Dallas Examiner
The church is often considered the bedrock of society, an institution that heals and brings people together of all backgrounds, races and socioeconomic status. In the Black community, the church is where people turn to for spiritual, economic and family guidance and it plays a critical role in the development of the whole person.
Recognizing these vital roles, the Alliance for Greater Works announced the Resilient Church Collective initiative during a May 13 zoom press conference called The Resilient Church Collective: A Trauma Informed Community Network. This program received a seed funding from the Lilly Endowment – a total of $1 million in grants over the next five years. The initiative will provide the tools needed to respond to the trauma experienced by youth and adults such as COVID-19, intergenerational trauma and community violence to 50 Black churches located in marginalized communities across Texas.
“We decided to pursue this because we have been working with churches for the last 20 years and this really came to the forefront when we saw what was happening with COVID-19 and how marginalized communities were not able to give the testing and the support that they needed to help with being tested around COVID-19, then with the shot, and then second, when we saw what happened with even George Floyd, the impact and the trauma that everyone went through as a result of that happening and the things that we have seen over the last year,” explained Sherrye Willis, founding president and CEO of Alliance for Greater Works. “That was really some of the reasons for why we really felt like it was important that the Black church can be equipped with addressing the trauma that we are seeing in our communities.”
May is also mental health awareness month. Over the past years, much has been learned about the importance of mental health as individuals, as a community and as a country. The initiative was designed to recognize the signs of trauma in youth and help them begin the healing process by providing the tools needed to cultivate resiliency to overcome traumas, according to Willis.
“Due to this collaborative work, we revised this strategic priority for the next five years to address the trauma experienced by people of color in marginalized communities, especially over the last year related to the pandemic, civil unrest and in climate weather.” Willis said. “We are returning to our roots of working with the Black church which has historically been an anchor institution and an invaluable asset to marginalized communities.”
The organization is currently accepting applications for the first cohort of churches through Aug. 15. Churches can apply at https://www.alliancetx.org.
Willis said the program is not funding but training for the churches selected on how to help those who experience trauma overcome them.
“The program is completely free to any church who is accepted into the program,” she said. “We believe that if people are informed that they can then begin to make the changes necessary in their individual lives that will ultimately impact individuals, families, community and hopefully our state.”
A cohort of around 25 Texas churches will be selected for the program for 2021 and 2022 and includes Black churches located in rural, urban and suburban areas. The first round of churches selected will begin the program in January 2022, as noted on the organization’s website.
Willis said the churches first chosen will be announced on Oct. 15.
“We are so excited about this because The Resilience Collective of Trauma Informed Network will enable congregations to thrive by supporting and guiding Black churches into a framework of trauma informed healing,” she said.
The organization is also celebrating 20 years of providing service to over 25,000 leaders and organizations.
“We are a nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming marginalized communities so that all people have opportunities to thrive,” Willis said. “Today, we are pausing to commemorate 20 years of service across the state of Texas and beyond and to affirm our continued commitment to transforming marginalized communities.”
The program will also be led by Dr. David Wang, a professor at Biola University, who will lead the evaluation process which will look at partnering with 50 Christian congregations who are interested in tackling injustices, COVID-19 exposure, intergenerational trauma, police violence in communities and mass shootings affecting youth and adult congregants.