As Pastors Increasingly Respond to Mass Trauma and Comfort Survivors, a New Media Resource Promises Support to Help the Healers Heal

Pastor Sam Saylor Sr, is the senior pastor of the Gardner Memorial AME Zion Church of Springfield, Mass., his son Shane was shot and killed in 2012. | The Christian Post/Leonardo Blair

Time and air seemed to freeze as Pastor Sam Saylor’s raspy voice, still palpable with pain, boomed through the room inside the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

“We are called to be, as healers, we are called into a ministry, to serve God and it’s not an easy task. It will give us high blood pressure. It will even kill us. It is a seat of service, not to be served,” he said with steely defiance.

“We have to be like Aaron. When Aaron wanted to go and cry about the loss of his sons he was told to stay in the temple. You have to hold the mantle up. You’ve got to hold the sense of hope up no matter how devastated and dark it gets,” he said.

“How do you go to a mother’s door who can’t move beyond the bloodstained steps because she can’t afford to go live somewhere else? You’ve got to tell her how you made it over. So every one of our testimonies, every one of our pieces tells about the face of God how even in the midst of the darkness His hand will reach in and keeps us stabilized sufficient enough just to get through the next day,” he continued. “That’s what we have to do. That’s how we heal. … We have to become overcomers of this evil.”

Saylor is the senior pastor of the Gardner Memorial AME Zion Church of Springfield, Massachusetts. He is also the national vice president of the National Gun Victims Actions Council, a non-profit network of 14 million gun victims, survivors, the faith community and ordinary people.

Saylor’s son, 20-year-old Shane Oliver, was shot dead in a violent street encounter in 2012. Despite his steely resolve that faith leaders should stand and serve in the face of evil however, he also understands that those who heal must get healing when they need it too.

So on Friday, he joined a group of community and faith leaders at the museum who became first responders to mass trauma for a screening of clips from a new media resource recently released by Odyssey Impact called “Healing The Healers.” The series highlights the need for support for faith leaders who respond to mass trauma.

This mass trauma can be like the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where Adam Lanza, 20, gunned down 28 people including himself and his mother, or ongoing gun-violence in urban communities like where Saylor’s son was killed.

The new “Healing The Healers” series is hosted by the Rev. Matthew Crebbin, a senior pastor at Newtown Congregational Church who was present in ministry at the time of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. It was also created in partnership with the Institute for Collective Trauma and Growth to help communities prepare for and navigate complex trauma, and foster support and recovery in the aftermath of violent incidents.

“One of the reasons we want to inform you about trauma is when communities are traumatized and people don’t understand trauma, then people start accepting behaviors and conditions as normal because they don’t recognize that this is as a result of people behaving due to trauma,” Crebbin said Friday.

“Not being informed about trauma means we start accepting normal circumstances in our world as this is operational as opposed to saying actually when we’re traumatized it means our world doesn’t function properly and appropriately in all kinds of ways. So really the idea is by being mindful about trauma and helping to teach it, that’s why we have clergy being aware about trauma,” he explained.

“Clergy are serving in communities that are traumatized and don’t even know it. I look back at my ministry and say there are people that came into my doors that were traumatized and I didn’t recognize it. I didn’t know what was happening with them and I gave it to other things as opposed to recognizing now and saying ‘Oh my gosh. That was a traumatized person.’ I could have responded differently to them if I had understood that,” he said. “And that’s why it’s so important to inform those folks that are going to be engaging it because we tend to be transformative in all kinds of ways including how we deal with things in policy and political life.”

For Saylor, it wasn’t until the loss of his son that he truly began to understand the impact of trauma. He talked about how two weeks prior to Shane’s death he was at a rally with a group of Hispanic women who were protesting the violent murder of a young woman in their community.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leonardo Blair