Emotional support will be critical

BY HEATHER MOYER | NEW YORK | October 25, 2001



"We'll be discussing how children's reactions differ from adults."

—Katrina Bright


Financial and material needs are not the only long term problems that need to be assessed in the areas affected by the September 11 terrorist attacks. Clergy and laity are faced with the challenge of helping their parishioners cope with difficult feelings and losses as the time goes by.

Church World Service (CWS) is holding the first of many pastoral training sessions Friday and Saturday to help clergy and laity help their parishioners.

CWS Disaster Resource Consultant William Sage has been one of the leaders responsible for bringing the training to New York City and says these sessions have been extensively modified.

"These trainings are geared toward the New York City and New Jersey area clergy and laity," said Sage. "We've seriously modified our normal pastoral disaster training to cover the effects of this disaster." He added that the reason that church laity are also invited is because they also hold church leadership roles and do so much in helping congregations through difficult times.

The sessions are being led by professionals who helped pastors and their churches in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing. Dr. Katrina Bright, a consulting psychologist from Oklahoma City, is one of the two trainers that will be leading the sessions. She said her time assisting people of faith after the bombings in Oklahoma got her thinking about creating a different type of counseling and training for pastors after disasters.

"After my experiences there, I partnered with a local pastor and we decided that it would be very helpful to devise a mental health training for faith leaders," she said.

Bright then helped organize this new type of training program and used it with local faith people after major tornadoes struck Oklahoma in May of 1999. "Church World Service then heard about it, and then now they've asked us to come to New York City," said Brightman.

One of the differences in these training sessions is teaching about how the grief and bereavement the public feels after most disaster is very different than the feelings after a terrorist attack such as the Sept. 11 attacks and the Oklahoma City bombing. "We'll also be discussing how children's reactions differ from adults, and sensitivity to people of different faith backgrounds and cultures," said Bright.

In addition to modified curriculum, the sessions are also only four hours. Sage said those attending only have to go to one of the training days and that they've "streamlined" these sessions due to the time constraints of the clergy involved.

"This is also just a pilot program," said Bright. "We anticipate coming back again and again, and we want to train local people to continue the sessions in the future."

Bright said they're hoping to have between 40 and 60 people at these first sessions, and she hopes that the number will grow as the trainings continue.

"We're seriously concentrating on getting this training out to all the local faith leaders," added Sage. "We'll keep doing it for as long as people keep signing up to do it."


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