Man-made disaster plan still a dream

Organizers of post-Sandy Hook event say they are ready to respond again if needed, but funding for centralized response remains elusive.

By Jeff Brumley

christians violence600Organizers of a CBF-sponsored conference held in April to help ministers and counselors emotionally impacted by the Sandy Hook massacre say they’re prepared to replicate the program if needed. However, they add that it’s yet to become a funded, intentional program in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship or elsewhere.

That 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.

greg hunt“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 CBF’s Charles Ray suggested Hunt’s book to Newtown-area CBF 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.

That sparked conversations that led to a series of conversations between Ray, CBF Responds coordinator, David Lane, professor of counseling at Mercer University, Hunt and Coker, 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.

Its focus was in providing ministry to those who provide ministry, ranging from recognizing the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder and 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. But the moment it’s too early know if or how that template may become an official CBF program. He said that will depend on the availability of funds and will likely become clearer later in the year.

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 will likely 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.”

Related New Voice features:

Christian views on violence vary

Preaching on violence peacefully