How can a community like Wilton best respond to violence?

As the Wilton Clergy Association cast about last year for a topic to present during its annual lecture series, the group thought about continuing the “religion” thread — previous presentations focused on Buddhism and Islam – with a look at Hinduism. Then the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School took place and the group changed direction.

“Mary Grace Williams, Rabbi Leah Cohen and I met in the library and thought out what we could do and how we could do it,” said Steve Hudspeth, who is on the program committee with the Rev. Williams, Rabbi Cohen and Karen Danvers, program manager at the library. What they came up with was an outgrowth of Wilton’s vigil for Newtown, he said.

The result is a three-part series with the title How Can This Generation Speak to the Next About Violence in Society? It is set for Tuesday evenings — March 5, 12 and 19 — in the Brubeck Room at Wilton Library, and each program begins at 7. The series is sponsored by the clergy association, the library and the Wilton Interfaith Action Committee, also known as WI-ACT.

The first program will focus on how the community addresses violence.

The second will look at how police and the media address incidents of violence.

The final program will revolve around a question-and-answer session with the audience.

Speakers from the Yale Child Study Center will approach “Creating a Common Space in Community Where Issues of Violence Can Be Addressed” on March 5. According to Mr. Hudspeth, this is the heart of the program.

“Where do you have safe spaces to talk about these subjects?” he asked. “This series is a place to start.”

The speakers from Yale include Dr. Steven Marans, Harris Professor and director of the Trauma Service of the Yale Medical Group, and Carrie Epstein MSW, assistant clinical professor in the center. The Yale Child Study Center focuses on the short- and longer-term responses of children, their families and communities to trauma and violence.

They will address the impact of violence on children and families, Mr. Hudspeth said. What is the cumulative impact of these kinds of incidents on children, and how should parents, grandparents and members of the community address it?

“Burying it in the sand is not the way,” Mr. Hudspeth said. “Kids appreciate truthfulness. How do you address it in a helpful way as opposed to a not helpful way?”

Police and media

Rabbi Cohen is the chaplain for the Redding Police Department and was instrumental in securing the appearance of Redding police Chief Douglas Fuchs, who was a first responder to the Sandy Hook shooting. Capt. John Lynch of the Wilton Police Department will join him on March 12 in addressing “Shaping Perspectives: Police and the Broadcast Media — What Potential Shooters and the Public Observe.”

“We wanted to get a police perspective on the question of gun violence,” Mr. Hudspeth said.

Concerning the question of arming school personnel, Mr. Hudspeth said, “Chief Fuchs emphasized there is so much training done by police departments, that when they arrive at the scene as first responders everyone knows what their role is. If you have people who are not part of that … to their credit they will be courageous but as much a hindrance as a help.”

He and Capt. Lynch will discuss what kind of police presence is truly effective in deterring violent acts.

Mr. Hudspeth said the organizers also wanted someone from the broadcast media to address the “pressure to go with the instantaneous.” To that end, Tom Appleby, news director and anchor of Channel 12 News, will parse how much coverage focuses on the sensational and how much is careful analysis of a situation. What are the pressures to give more attention to one form of coverage than the other?

Building consensus

The final program, on March 19, “Finding a Way Forward,” will be presented as a broad-ranging discussion with audience members who have perhaps gone to the two previous programs “having heard a lot of viewpoints and come to some directional thoughts about the way forward,” Mr. Hudspeth said.

On the panel will be Rabbi Cohen of Temple B’nai Chaim, Rev. Williams of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, and Imam Dr. Kareem Adeeb of the Islamic Institute and chair of the Interfaith Council of Southwestern Connecticut. Mr. Hudspeth will moderate the final installment.

Admission to each program is free, but registration is highly recommended. Information: or 203-762-3950, ext. 213.