In the Shift

The Megachurch Conversation: Trauma, Red Flags, and Recovery

June 6, 2022

Episode 61: In this episode Michael has a conversation with narrative therapist Nicole Conner and megachurch survivor Jess Holdaway. Jess speaks of her journey through the megachurch, the impact on her body and her experience of trauma, as we weave in and out of a wider discussion on religious trauma, abuse of power and burn-out. They share reflections on institutional and religious gaslighting, how to know if you're in an abusive or toxic community, the signs of trauma, and some ways forward for those processing their experiences.

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For those looking for a little grounding after listening to this episode, you may find this meditation helpful. 

Nicole Conner
Nicole was born in Hamburg, Germany, and grew up in apartheid South Africa. This created an awareness of how religion can influence and serve a political ideology, and vice versa. Something to keep in mind when discussing religious trauma. Nicole’s formative years were not shaped by any strong religious ideas. As a teenager she joined a Pentecostal church in South Africa and was part of Pentecostalism for 3 decades. In Melbourne, Nicole was an Associate Minister at a large Pentecostal church that was led by her husband. She stepped down from her role and leadership in 2010. Since then, Nicole retrained in narrative practice that informs the therapy, supervision and organisational consulting she offers as director of her business, Defining Stories.
A growing percentage of Nicole’s clients are people reclaiming their lives from religious ideologies and practices that had a negative and/or traumatic impact on their lives.
Jess Holdaway
Born in South Africa, Jess immigrated to Aotearoa with her family when she was 10 years old. Keen to find a community, Jess entered the megachurch scene as a 13 year old and spent 9 years volunteering and eventually working for the church. Since leaving church, she trained as a graphic designer and has spent most of her career working on projects that have a positive impact in Aotearoa.  She has also birthed two beautiful human beings and relocated with her husband and children to the beachside town of Mangawhai.  Always curious, always keen for deep conversations and passionate about creating a more collaborative future where people thrive, Jess is here for this conversation!

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