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Community Healing Ceremony

May 11, 2023 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm EDT


Community Healing Ceremony

The event will be in person at the VA in Philadelphia and the Hauenstein Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Limited online participation.


The Community Healing Ceremony is a service of reconciliation for Veterans and non-Veterans led by VA chaplains, community clergy, and Veterans.

The Ceremony invites U.S. citizens to see themselves as sharing responsibility for various harms perpetrated by, or occurring within, the U.S. military.

The Ceremony provides a space to celebrate Veterans’ moral sensitivity and moral seriousness, share the truth of their military experience, and initiate them in a process of transformation we call “patient to prophet.”

Veterans who bear moral injury are not sick people with a disorder, they are responsible moral agents who are morally-laden with an unfair burden that will only be relieved when that burden is more equitably distributed among all who own some portion of responsibility for the harmful consequences of warfare.

Psychiatrist Robert J. Lifton described the prophetic mission of Veterans this way: “Their experience parallels that of priests and shaman, the predecessors of biblical prophets, who ventured into the ‘land of death’ and then ‘returned’ to bring their people deepened knowledge of the mysteries of life and death.” He says the essence of their “truth-mission” is “conveying truth at the source” which is both the basis for “personal transformation” and the source of “regenerative insight” for the community as a whole.

During the Ceremony, Veterans bear witness to the human cost of war and military service while the community listens to, and wrestles with, moral responsibility and civic duty.  Blame and guilt is not avoided or abandoned, but shared in a way that advances therapeutic helping and healing. Sharing, and holding one another responsible, for painful truths about the harmful consequences of U.S. authorized warfare is difficult but necessary to authentically honor Veterans, relieve them of the moral burden many too often carry in isolation, and reconcile Veterans both with the society, on whose behalf they were willing to kill and die, and with the people who died in war. The Ceremony shifts the focus of the work away from individual therapy or treatment of the Veteran and gives the work of deep remembering, moral reckoning, and moral engagement back to the community. The presence of non-Veterans and Veterans together is necessary to advance the work of reconciliation and promote human flourishing.

Caution: Veterans will testify at this event to the realities of warfare and military service. Some may be disturbed, unsettled, or even overwhelmed by what they hear. Still, we encourage everyone to attend and stay for the entire Ceremony.  

Special Guidance for online participants: This is first and foremost a therapeutic experience for the Veterans, in which community engagement is crucial. To facilitate this, community members are expected to be active participants and fully present for the full duration (120 minutes) of the program (i.e., with video on without multi-tasking). The event begins promptly at 4pm EST with a 30 minute mandatory orientation for the community. The event will be locked at 04:05 and latecomers will not be allowed in. The event will end at 6pm at which time the community may leave or elect to join a reception with Veterans from the Moral Injury Group. Staff will monitor the platform during the entire event to help ensure the best possible experience for the Veterans and may remove anyone who is unable to be fully present and engaged. If you are unable to meet these expectations please do not register for this event.


Responses from past attendees:

“I felt the impact of [the] atrocities of war on a veteran’s life, psyche.”


“A powerful healing event to connect all human beings to our own darkness and light together.”

“The ceremony allowed civilians to hold space for the Veterans and let them know we support them.”

-civilian hospice care worker

“Confession brings a certain release and fosters a sense of identification with the Veterans.”

– civilian clergy

“The ceremony helped me see that moral injury does not only involve the veteran; our entire society needs to consider our responsibility for war and its impact.”


“The ceremony was very well planned and very moving and healing.”

 – wife of Vietnam Veteran

“To feel the realness of pain and then the power of healing was amazing!”


“as a voter, a tax payer, a community member benefitting from freedom and protection – I AM complicit, I AM part of bearing the wounds.”


“I hoped to get healing after the loss of my son to suicide and my hopes were met.”

-mother of Veteran who died by suicide

“I wish our politicians could be required to participate in this.”


“I found more closure in my life. It’s good to give the community some of the moral burden.”

-Vietnam Veteran

“Beautiful, devastating, impactful, well organized, inclusive!”


“it was beyond words.”

-civilian clergy

“I felt included, part of the solution”

-civilian VA employee

“we need a moral injury Ceremony in every town in America!”

-Vietnam Veteran

About the Moral Injury Group

The Moral Injury Group (MIG) at the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, meets for 90 minutes for twelve consecutive weeks.  During this time, the chaplain and mental health clinician who facilitate the MIG educate Veterans with wisdom from psychology (moral emotions, moral disengagement/engagement, post traumatic growth) as well as spirituality and religion (spiritual disciplines, moral values, collective responsibility, social ethics). In the process, Veterans explore the moral and spiritual dimension of their military experience and rebuild moral identity. After the tenth meeting Veterans hold a Community Healing Ceremony. The aim is not to replace morality with therapy but rather to integrate morality and mental health in order to arrive at moral health– mental well-being based on moral integrity–both individually and collectively. The intended short-term outcome is better whole health care for Veterans, including moral repair and spiritual development, indicated by greater moral engagement, awareness, compassion, trust, and commitment to live in service to values. The intended long-term outcome is moral and spiritual development of the whole community, including, perhaps,  a greater integration of Veterans into society, a responsible use of the US military, a greater reverence for all life on this fragile earth, and the promotion of human flourishing.


May 11, 2023
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm EDT
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Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center
7th Floor Community Hall 7A141 3900 Woodland Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19104 United States
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