On December 12, 2014, the life of Rev. Matthew Crebbin, Senior Minister of the Newtown Congregational Church, his congregation, and his community were changed forever when a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and murdered twenty children and six adults. For Rev. Crebbin, unimaginable grief was laid at his doorstep as he was called upon to heal his congregation, a situation for which he and his fellow Newtown clergy were unprepared. And once the initial shock and grief wore off, Rev. Crebbin began to wonder what his healing journey might look like five, ten or fifteen years down the road. The sacred space of healing took on a new perspective, and Odyssey Impact joined with Matt on this journey.
Healing the Healers began with Rev. Crebbin’s dual focus: to learn about and better understand the mid-to-long term effects of trauma on faith leaders and to help educate and prepare other faith and community leaders who may be faced with such events in the future.
Rev. Crebbin began the work with a series of intimate, powerful conversations within the Newtown faith leader community and then widens the circle to include other faith leaders who’ve experienced mass trauma through similar events such as during 9/11 or through ministering to a community facing chronic violence, such as Hartford, CT, or Ferguson, MO. Each conversation leads to another, and becomes an essential resource as faith leaders increasingly face the call to lead their congregants through tragedy while simultaneously work on their own healing.
Years after the Newtown shooting, Rev. Crebbin is still coming to terms with the trauma, describing the healing process as “like learning to dance again, only with a limp.”
Rampant and chronic gun violence continues to plague urban and rural areas, and community-wide trauma after terrorism, such as 9/11 or the Boston Marathon bombing, leave us all on edge questioning our safety and looking for solace. The mass death resulting from COVID-19 and the economic crisis it has caused creates a lingering trauma on communities throughout the United States. The rising issues of domestic violence and mental health require faith leaders to be even more available to their community as they themselves face the same issues.
On May 25, 2020, Mr. George Floyd was killed and his death filmed for the nation to witness the trauma of racism that has plagued our nation for over 400 years. Faith leaders have long been trying to heal communities faced with racial injustice as they themselves are facing the same injustice. The Healing the Healers Preaching During Crisis Town Hall, names this pain and emotionally delivers insight for the thousands of faith leaders facing the crisis of experiencing and healing through racial injustice.
All of these crises put critical demands on faith leaders, who must sustain their congregations, themselves and their families. What does sustainable self-care look like for those called to minister to others? How do they replenish their own wells in effective ways?