Series Host

Rev. Matthew Crebbin

Rev. Matthew Crebbin has been Senior Minister at the Newtown Congregational Church, UCC since 2007. He has served faith communities in New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. A sought after preacher and lecturer, his ministry has focused upon a variety of areas including: theological dialogue, ecumenical and interfaith partnerships, grief and trauma ministry—as well as justice and peace advocacy. He currently serves as the Coordinator of the Newtown Interfaith Council.

Rev. Crebbin grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley where he received a BA in Legal Studies. He received his MDiv. from Andover Newtown Theological School. He has served in leadership capacities on a number of local, regional and international organizations including: Rotary International, Habitat for Humanity, Department of Justice Newtown Victims Grant, Gun Violence Prevention organizations and various other Health and Human Services projects.

Since the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, Rev. Crebbin has worked with a broad coalition of faith leaders in Connecticut and nationally to build bridges of understanding and compassion between diverse communities affected by trauma. He has been a leader in promoting gun safety policies and finding other means locally and nationally to reduce gun violence in all communities and help people of faith to minister more effectively in the midst of trauma.

Matthew is blessed to be married to Martha and together they have four children and a Jack Russell dog. When not doing ministry or transporting his children to their various activities, Matthew enjoys music, singing, exercising, enjoying the outdoors and working on endless projects around his house.

Read Rev. Matthew Crebbin’s reflection here »

Project Consultant

Rev. Dr. Kate Wiebe

Rev. Dr. Kate Wiebe is a pastoral psychotherapist and organizational health consultant who focuses her research and practice around restoring leaders and groups after major critical events. She has served as the Executive Director of the Institute for Collective Trauma and Growth since 2012, and has volunteered as a National Responder with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance for nearly a decade. She lives with her family in Santa Barbara, CA.

Read Rev. Dr. Kate Wiebe, PhD’s reflection here »

Featured Faith Leaders

Rev. Kathleen E. Adams-Shepherd

Rev. Kathleen E. Adams-Shepherd has served as the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, the Episcopal Cathedral in the Diocese of Missouri since January 2017. Previously, she served for as rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Newtown, CT, for over two decades.

Rev. Shepherd graduated from New York City’s Union Theological Seminary in 1981 and was ordained deacon by the Rt. Rev. John Coburn, Diocese of Massachusetts, and priest, by the Rt. Rev. O’Kelly Whitaker, Diocese of Central New York. While in seminary, she served on the staff of St. James’ Church, NYC; as curate and then, priest-in-charge at The Church of the Resurrection, Oswego, NY; and rector of Christ Church, Clayton, NY; St. John’s Church, Cape Vincent, NY; and Trinity Church, Newtown, CT.

In the Diocese of Connecticut, Shepherd has served as a Deanery Dean; a member of the Commission on Ministry; as chair of the Committee on the Diaconate; on the Diocesan Christian Formation Committee; on the Board of Trustees for the Bishops’ Fund for Children; and on the Bishops’ Fund Race Committee.

Since the tragic murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, Rev. Shepherd has been an active, outspoken advocate for victim families across the United States, especially in Sandy Hook and St. Louis, where multiple gun deaths happen weekly. She is a strong proponent of gun violence prevention initiatives and common sense gun laws.

Rev. Shepherd’s family is also active in serving the community. Her husband and daughter both work as therapists and her son is a former firefighter with Newtown Hook and Ladder and Dodgingtown Fire Department in Newtown township.

Rev. Henry Brown

Rev. Henry Brown first committed to ending gun violence on a January night in 1972. That day he had been discharged from the U.S. Army and joined family members in a Cusseta, GA, nightclub to celebrate. When a dispute flared up in the parking lot, Rev. Brown went outside to help. Thinking everything was settled, he went back inside to join his family when he saw a flash and realized that the argument wasn’t over.

Rev. Brown spent a month in a coma, but his mindset had been changed forever. He felt angry, withdrawn, depressed, unloved, and most of all, scared. But that shot also gave him new purpose.

In 2001, Rev. Brown was called to serve the Lord after an act of violence in Hartford, CT, caught his attention: The bullet-wounded face of little seven-year-old Takira Gaston, an unintended victim of a rolling gunfight between rival drug dealers, appeared on the front page of the newspaper and Rev. Brown decided something had to be done. He completed his Black ministries course at Hartford Seminary in 2006 and was ordained the following year in the Heart of God Healing Center.

Today, most people know Rev. Brown as the face of Mothers United Against Violence, an organization born in 2003 when he gathered a group of mothers together who had been affected by gun violence. For over a decade, Mothers United Against Violence has helped families devastated by violence. In that time, Rev. Brown has spoken at nearly 300 homicide sites in an effort to bring families and community members a message of hope and he has lead annual marches in Hartford every year since 2009. Through his work with Mothers United Against Violence, Rev. Brown also hosts Real Talk, a weekly call-in show on Hartford Public Access TV to which he invites community activist, pastors, law enforcement, and elected officials to offer commentary on the state of violence in the city.

Rev. Melvyn Kawakami

Rev. Melvyn Kawakami has a lifelong personal and professional commitment to ministry. After growing up in a close-knit Japanese community in San Jose, CA, he attended the University of the Pacific for his Bachelor of Arts, then headed east to Harvard Divinity School for his Master of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees, with a focus on pastoral counseling.

While working at Harvard Bureau of Study Counsel, Rev. Kawakami guided students as they navigated the spiritually and psychologically rigorous demands of the University. In the mid-Nineties, he directed the Manchester Pastoral Counseling Center in Manchester, CT, and served Simsbury United Methodist Church (UMC) for almost 20 years in various pastoral roles, including Senior Pastor from 2004-2008. He has also served as Interim Pastor for churches in nearby Avon and Pleasant Valley.

In 2008, with a passion for mission and parish care, Rev. Kawakami arrived at Sandy Hook as Senior Pastor for Newtown UMC. He guided the congregation in the devastating wake of the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. He retired in July 2016.

Rev. Kawakami currently fills the role of a loving husband, Uncle Mel to many nieces and nephews, and the attentive custodian of Mimi, a very opinionated West Highland White Terrier.

Monsignor Basil O’Sullivan

Born in Wales in 1932, Monsignor Basil O’Sullivan spent his youth in Cork, Ireland where he attended both the North Monastery School and St. Finnbarr’s College. He trained for the priesthood at Dublin’s All Hallows College and, in 1956, became an ordained priest for the Diocese of Dunkeld, Scotland. Monsignor O’Sullivan then studied at Gregorian University, Rome, where he received his license in canon law. Subsequently, he became the chaplain at the University of Dundee, and then priest of two parishes before arriving at the Holy Family, Dunblane in 1988, where he has remained ever since. In March, 1996, Monsignor O’Sullivan was the chaplain to Dunblane Primary School when 16 children between the ages of five and six-years old were shot and killed, along with their teacher. Thirteen others were wounded, including two female staff members. Two of his parishioners were among those slain. In 1992, Monsignor O’Sullivan was made Canon of the Dunkeld Chapter and, in 2018, Pope Benedict XVI made him a monsignor. He also currently serves as a judge on the Scottish Catholic Interdiocesan Tribunal.

Rabbi Shaul Marshall Praver

In 2013, Newsweek named Rabbi Shaul Marshall Praver one of the 50 most influential rabbis in America. He had become a prominent leader among American Jewish in the past 23 years. However, that all changed the day he was called upon to be a first responder at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT.

As a result of the tragedy, Rabbi Praver became guided by a mission to reduce societal violence and accepted a position, that same year, as chaplain for those incarcerated in facilities run by the Connecticut State Department of Correction. At the same time, Rabbi Praver pursued a doctoral degree in prison ministry through Hartford Seminary. He is expected to graduate this winter, 2019.

Rabbi Praver’s humanitarian work earned him the prestigious Samaritan Medal for Peace. He is also a gifted cantorial artist and author of several manuscripts.

Pastor Samuel Saylor, Sr.

This year, Pastor Samuel Saylor, Sr. marks 12 years as a pastoral minister, and he has been ordained with Elder’s Orders for ten years by the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church. Currently, Saylor is the Senior Pastor of the Gardner Memorial AME Zion Church of Springfield, MA, and was appointed by the New England Conference as Chairman of the Social and Political Action Committee. Pastor Saylor is also the National Vice President of the National Gun Victims Action Council, a Chicago-based coalition of gun violence victims.

Pastor Saylor has fought tirelessly for gun reform laws since October 2012, when his son Shane was senselessly murdered. He has mobilized with the parents from Newtown, CT, as well as other concerned citizens, traveling to Washington, D.C. and other major cities to lobby for responsible gun legislation. Pastor Saylor coined the phrase, “We are Newtown,” during a speech in Hartford, CT, after gaining insight into the interconnectedness of urban and suburban gun violence. In February 2013, the pastor met with Vice President Joe Biden to secure support for a new campaign called “Kids Without Guns,” where children would pledge to not play with and turn in their toy guns.

Pastor Saylor has spent the last 33 years serving as an activist, youth worker, administrator, and parent leader. Among the many awards and recognitions he has received, some include: Hartford Public Schools “Parent of the Year Award,” African American Alliances “Father of the Year,” and Hartford District Conference’s “Preacher Appreciation Award.” For the past three decades, Saylor has served on many boards and task forces such as: The Connecticut Governor’s Task Force of Education and Equality; the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance (IMA); the African American Alliance; Mothers United Against Violence; and, Hartford’s Hundred Man Movement. He is also the founder of Sons & Daughters of Harriet Tubman. He is also husband to Gabriella, a father of six, and grandfather to four.

Cantor Michael Shochet

Cantor Michael Shochet currently serves as the Senior Clergy of Temple Rodef Shalom, in Falls Church, VA, where his primary responsibilities including leading worship, teaching, and guiding lifecycle rituals.

Before he was ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City, Shochet was an officer with the Baltimore City Police Department, and it is the intersection of these two callings that informs his current community service work as well. With advanced training in pastoral crisis intervention, Shochet serves as the Fairfax County Police Department’s Chaplain Coordinator, where he aids first responders in the aftermath of traumatic events, and teaches at their police academy. He was also most recently the Chair of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) Public Safety Chaplains’ Committee.

Shochet’s volunteer community service has not gone unnoticed. He has been recognized by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors; the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington; the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution; the Jewish Social Service Agency of Greater Washington; the Fairfax County Police Department; and the American Conference of Cantors.

In addition to all his work, the happily married father of two sons remarkably manages to pursue a personal passion for music as well. He has performed in concert throughout Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, Israel, and the United States—including at the Kennedy Center—and, has received a Doctor of Music, honoris causa from his alma mater.

Written Reflections

Rev. Jessica Bratt Carle

Rev. Jessica Bratt Carle, M.Div, BCC is a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and currently serves as a hospital chaplain at Spectrum Health and Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, MI. She received her Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary and is currently working toward the completion of a PhD in Religion, Psychology, and Culture from Vanderbilt University. She is board certified through the Association of Professional Chaplains and has previously worked as a chaplain at the National Institutes of Health; Yale-New Haven Hospital; Boston Children’s Hospital; Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt; and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. She serves on the advisory board of the Institute for Collective Trauma and Growth.

Rev. Dr. Stephanie M. Crumpton

Rev. Dr. Stephanie M. Crumpton is a scholar, teacher, and ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. In 2006, she began doctoral research on Black women’s experiences of intimate and cultural violence. During this time she also worked as a state court-appointed family violence advocate in the Fulton County Solicitor General’s Office in Atlanta, GA. Crumpton has consulted with the Georgia Commission on Family Violence’s initiative to equip faith communities with networks and practical resources for responding to intimate violence. Her work continues to inform her trauma-sensitive approach to her community outreach, research, and teaching. As the Assistant Professor of Practical Theology at McCormick Theological Seminary, Crumpton teaches introductory level courses on pastoral care and religious education, and elective courses on pastoral theological method for justice work, womanist/feminist pastoral care and counseling, and the role of African cosmology and ritual in pastoral care. She has also taught at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology; Chicago Theological Seminary; Hood Theological Seminary; Lancaster Theological Seminary; and Interdenominational Theological Center.

Rev. Marvel Hitson

Rev. Marvel Hitson, MDiv, is the Director of Congregational Health and Trauma Chaplain with the Institute of Collective Trauma & Growth. Hitson received her Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary focusing on Pastoral Care and Counseling, as well as a BA in Human Environmental Sciences & Family Services. Her ministry has found her serving in a variety of capacities, including: Hospice & Palliative Care Chaplain; Bereavement Counselor & Educator; Director of Spiritual Formation for Families; Associate Minister for Youth; Compassion & Outreach Ministry Leader; Program Coordinator for La Casa de Maria Retreat and Conference Center, as well as Spiritual Care and Social Work Intern at Princeton Medical Center and Trenton Psychiatric Hospital, respectively. Her training also includes clinical pastoral education, FEMA’s Crisis Counseling and Assistance Program, and mindfulness practitioner training.

Rev. Dr. Kimberly R. Wagner

Rev. Dr. Kimberly R. Wagner serves as the Axel Jacob and Gerda Maria (Swanson) Carlson Assistant Professor of Homiletics at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago (LSTC). Kimberly is ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and served a church in Virginia for four years before pursuing her doctoral work. Wagner graduated from Emory University (MDiv, PhD) where she researched preaching in the aftermath of trauma, specifically following gun violence. Currently, she is working to find an emergency homiletic appropriate for communities who have been impacted by mass gun violence.

Rev. Dr. Bruce G. Wismer

Rev. Dr. Bruce G. Wismer is an ordained teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and has served in ministry for 35 years. He shares duties as co-pastor at Pine Shores Presbyterian in Sarasota, Fla. with his wife, Karen. Wismer graduated from Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC and received his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He has served on the boards of numerous non-profits and other community organizations. Wismer is also a member of the National Response Team of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance where he has aided in both natural disaster and human-caused events like those taking place in Newtown, CT, Boston, Orlando, and Parkland, FL. Wismer has also co-authored Recovering from Un-Natural Disasters: A Guide for Pastors and Congregations After Violence and Trauma, published by Westminster John Knox (2017).