Sandy Hook Shootings

Clergy in crisis conference could become model for ministry

WILTON, Conn. (ABP)—Organizers of a conference sponsored by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship to help ministers and counselors emotionally affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre say they’re prepared to replicate the program if needed.

However, they add, it’s yet to become a funded, intentional program in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship or elsewhere.

greg hunt130Greg HuntThat leaves the Connecticut event’s key participants, for the moment, on their own, said Greg Hunt, a former CBF pastor who now consults, speaks and writes on equipping leaders for crisis.

“We are all doing work related to this . . . in our own contexts,” said Hunt, the author of Leading Congregations through Crisis.

But that doesn’t mean the effort has been forgotten, he added.

“We’re not going to be asleep at the switch. We’re passionate about these issues,” Hunt said.

It all began when Charles Ray, national disaster response coordinator for CBF, suggested Hunt’s book to Newtown-area Pastor Jason Coker. At Coker’s suggestion, Ray was able to get copies of the book to other ministers who had been emotionally and spiritually overwhelmed providing care to the family, friends and first-responders of the massacre.

david lane100David LaneThat sparked conversations that led to a series of conversations between Ray, Hunt, Coker and David Lane, a professor of counseling at Mercer University, from which the “Clergy in Crisis” conference in Wilton, Conn., was born.

The event was co-sponsored by CBF organizations in Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas. CBF disaster response also provided funds.

The conference equipped people who provide ministry, ranging from recognizing the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder to remembering the need for self-care.

“And then there is: How do you sustain the process (of providing care) while sustaining pastoral excellence and avoiding burnout?” Hunt said.

That approach—and the timing of going in a few months after the tragic event—has provided a template for responding to future events, Ray said.

At the moment, it’s too early know if or how that template may become an official CBF program. It depends on the availability of funds and likely will become clearer later in the year, he said.

But none of that means the organizers and participants won’t be ready to respond the moment they are needed.

“I think in the next hour we could literally build on what we had in Wilton,” Ray said. “We haven’t lost anything by standing down.”

Hunt agreed, and said the next incarnation likely will be better than the program held in Wilton.

“We gave good, careful thought to how we prepared for that event, and the plan worked,” Hunt said. “At the same time, we learned some things, so we’ll be able to work from what we experienced and do it better in the future.”

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