Relevant Religion class strives to restore hope, build justice

A Relevant Religion class open to the community Saturday, Dec. 3, will explore the reality of experiencing spiritual trauma while doing the work of justice and sharing stories and practices for restoring hope.

“Reaching for Hope and Building Justice in a Time of Lament: The Embodied Realities of Spiritual Trauma” is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon in the Vanderbilt Divinity School’s Reading Room.

Phillis Sheppard
Phillis Sheppard (Vanderbilt University)

The class will be taught by Phillis Sheppard, associate professor of religion, psychology and culture at Vanderbilt Divinity School and the Graduate Department of Religion; and Pamela R. Lightsey, associate dean for community life and lifelong learning and clinical assistant professor of contextual theology and practice at Boston University School of Theology.

“In response to the violent spiritual, emotional and physical trauma that is inflicted on specific human bodies, we will explore and emphasize the necessity of an intersectional approach to communal practices,” said Sheppard, whose research examines womanist perspectives in psychoanalysis and religion. “Using our experiential knowledge, we will create spaces of collective conversation to name what we know about embodied and spiritual trauma and to reflect on practices that restore hope and health.”

Pamela Lightsey
Pamela Lightsey

In Self, Culture and Others in Womanist Practical Theology (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), Sheppard argues for the necessity of fostering a psychoanalytic dimension to womanist approaches to practical theology. Her current book project, Tilling Sacred Ground: Explorations in a Womanist Cultural Psychology of Religion, asserts that religious experience, and the contemporary sites where it is produced (cyberspace, sermons and spiritual guidance, conversion narratives and “outsider” art), creates spaces for the embodiment of the gendered, racial and psycho-cultural aspects of the self and groups.

Lightsey is a scholar, social justice activist and military veteran whose academic and research interests include classical and contemporary just war theory, womanist theology, queer theory and theology, and African American religious history and theologies. Her publications include “Our Lives Matter: A Womanist Queer Theology” (Wipf and Stock), “Reconciliation,” in Radical Evangelical (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), and “If There Should Come a Word” in Black United Methodists Preach! (Abingdon Press).

Registration is $15 for the public and free for Vanderbilt Divinity School students. The Relevant Religion series is made possible in part by a gift from Sylvia Kelley and Blain Kelley Jr. For more information, email Sha’Tika Brown or call 615-936-8453.