Healing the Healers

Healing the Healers

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  • Directed by: Kirsten Kelly
  • Released: 2019 (educational)
Running Time:  102 min. each (5 segments, approx. 20 min. each.) 
Language: English
Subtitle Options: English Closed Captions
Subjects: Religion and Spirituality, Psychology, Physical and Mental Health

When mass trauma strikes, faith leaders are called upon to guide and sustain communities through the aftermath. Their role is to help us heal. But who Heals the Healers?
When mass trauma strikes, faith leaders are called upon to guide and sustain communities through the aftermath. Their role is to help us heal. But who heals the healers? 

Healing the Healers is a new resource intended to support clergy, laity, social workers, first responders and other spiritual care providers facing community-level trauma. The five-part film series is accompanied by written reflections and discussion guides written by scholars, clergy and other experts.

In the series, Reverend Matthew Crebbin, of Newtown Congregational Church, leads an important conversation with faith leaders who’ve experienced mass trauma, either suddenly, as at Newtown or during 9/11, or through ministering to a community facing chronic violence, such as Hartford, CT, or St. Louis, MO. 

Newtown Faith Leaders Unite in Tragedy
Reverend Matthew Crebbin talks with fellow Newtown clergy Rabbi Shaul Praver and Reverend Mel Kawakami about their experiences as faith leaders during and after the Sandy Hook School Shooting. They talk about the steps they’ve taken toward healing, and how the trauma and its impact on their lives, faith, and work continues on.
Looking Ahead and Moving Forward
Expanding on the conversation he began in the first episode,  Reverend Crebbin talks with another Newtown colleague, Reverend Kathie Adams-Shepherd, formerly of Newtown Episcopal Church, about her healing journey since the Sandy Hook School Shooting. Reverend Adams-Shepherd discusses maintaining faith in the face of tragedy, and talks about how her experience in Newtown prepared her to serve her new community.  Reverend Adams-Shepherd is currently Dean at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown St. Louis, where she ministers to communities (inner-city St. Louis and Ferguson) that face ongoing trauma in the form of chronic gun violence. 
Pastoring in a Community That Faces Continual Trauma
Reverend Crebbin continues the conversation about chronic gun violence as he speaks with Pastor Samuel Saylor, Sr., Senior Pastor of Gardner Memorial AME Zion Church, and Pastor Henry Brown, of Hope Street Ministries and Mothers Against Violence of Hartford, CT. Pastors Saylor and Brown both have personal connections to trauma that they discuss with Reverend Crebbin. , and in this episode, they describe how they cope with the chronic stress, both mental and physical, that can result from ministering to a community re-traumatized continually by gun violence.
Heartbreak and Hope 20 Years After Tragedy
Father Basil O’Sullivan is the parish priest in Dunblane, Scotland, which, in 1996, was the site of a shooting at a primary school that killed sixteen children and one teacher. It remains the deadliest mass shooting in Great Britain thus far.  Father O’Sullivan reached out to the Sandy Hook community after the shooting. Here, he talks with Reverend Crebbin about his experience as a faith leader, Dunblane’s journey of healing through the past twenty years, and what issues may arise for faith leaders as the acute grief of the initial trauma gives way to mourning over the long term.
Faith Leaders As First & Second Responders
Before Cantor Michael Shochet, a Senior Clergy at Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, VA, was ordained, he was a police officer in Baltimore who experienced the trauma of his partner being shot in front of him. Today, in addition to serving his congregation, he also leads the Police Chaplain unit for Fairfax County, VA. He has been on call during such traumas as the Pentagon terror attack on 9/11, the Washington Sniper shootings, and many local traumas related to gun violence and terror attacks. Cantor Shochet and Reverend Crebbin discuss the similarities between Police and Faith Leaders as responders to tragedy, the importance of self-care for faith leaders in the aftermath of trauma, the possibility of being re-traumatized when similar events, like the Parkland shooting, occur, and the uses of sacred rituals and theology in the midst of such events.

‘The ‘Healing the Healers’ series of documentaries on the interfaith response to the shootings in Newtown, CT, are an invaluable resource in theological education. They delve into the lived experience of clergy on the ground, in a respectful, compelling, and informative way, which enables the future clergy to learn from those who have walked this path before.  This window into the valley of the shadow of death is a sacred witness to both the pain and grace of being at the site of a disaster.  Thank you, Odyssey, this is a resource I cannot recommend enough.’ The Reverend Dr. Willard Walden Christopher Ashley, Sr., MDiv., DMin., SCP, Vice President for Strategic Institutional Initiatives, Associate Professor of Practical Theology

“Healing the Healers looks at the ongoing experiences not just in the first year after collective loss - but in the subsequent years, the year two, year five, and so forth and also how the impacts of collective loss changes who you are as a person and who you are in your profession.” Rev. Dr. Kate Wiebe, Executive Director of Institute for Collective Trauma and Growth


“This series is phenomenal! Thank you for making it possible for us to hear these stories (and raw emotion) that we wouldn't otherwise have access to.” - Calvin Theological Seminary Student 

“It really hit me when the Pastor said, "We have to be brave enough to show we break, too." - Calvin Theological Seminary Student

“I really appreciated this resource in my training as a Pastor. And I appreciated the hope this series provided.” - Calvin Theological Seminary Student

“This project is an exceptional resource for caregivers, faith communities, and theological education, and is long overdue.  It provides deep insight into the pain incurred by pastors as they endeavor to care for the broken and wounded. This documentary gives pastors permission to hurt, cry, and seek healing for themselves.” - Dr. Danjuma Gibson, Associate Professor of Pastoral Care, Calvin Theological Seminary


Kirsten Kelly is an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and the Senior Producer for Transform Films and Odyssey Impact where she oversees development and production of long-and short-form documentaries. Currently, Kelly is directing/producing two new documentary film projects: Salaam Shalom: Muslim and Jewish Women Unite Against Hate, and Healing the Healers media project, which supports faith leaders during moments of mass community trauma. Her Emmy-winning feature documentary, The Homestretch—about homeless high school students in Chicago Public Schools—was co-produced with Kartemquin Films and broadcast on PBS Independent Lens as part of the American Graduate Initiative. Other film projects include the award-winning Asparagus! Stalking the American Life and the upcoming The Girl With the Rivet Gun, an animated new media project about Rosie the Riveter.

Kelly’s work has been supported by ITVS, CPB, AmDoc, the MacArthur Foundation, the Sundance Institute, the Fledgling Fund, Chicken and Egg, Good Pitch, and Bertha Foundation/Brit Docs. The National Runaway Safeline awarded her the 2015 Spirit of Youth Award for her advocacy work supporting homeless youth surrounding The Homestretch Impact Campaign. Kelly is also a theatre director and arts educator and was awarded the President’s 2014 Award for Youth Programs in the Arts & Humanities, is a Fellow at the Sundance Documentary Institute, and a graduate of the Master’s Directing program at The Juilliard School.

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