On Dec. 14, 2012, Rev. Matthew Crebbin was plunged into crisis. Seven years later he’s still healing from the trauma of that day and, through a new film series produced by Odyssey Impact and directed by Kirsten Kelly ’95, helping faith leaders with experiences like his to heal.
Crebbin is the senior minister of the Newtown Congregational Church. When a young gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 children and six staff, Crebbin responded with the town’s other clergy, comforting families of the victims, survivors, and community members. Nothing in his education or career had prepared him for the role he took on that day and in the tragedy’s long aftermath.
“In a mass trauma people turn to faith leaders, who then often feel as if they have to do it all,” Kelly said. “As Rev. Crebbin says, ‘You sacrifice yourself on the altar of the good and end up isolated, sometimes with your own secondhand trauma.’”
In the five-episode film series, titled Healing the Healers, Crebbin hosts conversations with faith leaders about what they’ve learned coping with mass tragedies—whether single events or ongoing community violence.
“We didn’t want to make this series a how-to on healing,” Kelly explained. “Instead, we wanted to provide a sacred space for faith leaders to share intimate conversations about what they’ve been through.”
If there is a main takeaway the faith leaders in the films offer, she said, it’s this: “Strengthen relationships among yourselves before tragedy happens so you can help and support each other when it does.”
Piloting the series, Kelly brought it to Danjuma Gibson’s pastoral care class at Calvin Seminary. “I heard profound relief from students,” she said. “They realized that though they could never be prepared for such a tragedy, there were people who’ve lived through it offering them wisdom.”
To learn more about the film series, including how it’s being used in seminaries, denominational headquarters, medical facilities, and congregations around the country, visit healingthehealers.org.