Dear clergy and other colleagues in ministry:
I’ve just returned to Burlington following a couple of days on the road here in Vermont, in which I visited three sites where members of our churches are responding to the devastating results of Tropical Storm Irene.
First I went to Gethsemane Church in Proctorsville, where the most extensive damage to any of our church buildings occurred. There I found the people of Gethsemane dealing well with their loss, but more significantly engaged fully in the relief effort underway in their community for those most affected by the flooding from Irene. I was able to bring them a reminder of the prayers and support of people throughout our diocese, as well as a check representing a portion of the funds we have received so far from Episcopal Relief and Development and others who have made donations through my office and on our web site. This money is being used to help those who have lost much, most, or all of their belongings and who have sustained severe damage to their homes. I am so very proud of the efforts of this “small” church of ours. They need and want our help in this effort, so please reach out through their Senior Warden Mary Springer. [Find pictures from Bishop Ely’s visit to Gethesemane here.]
Next, I visited Melrose Terrace, a housing complex for seniors and people with disabilities in West Brattleboro, where the people of Saint Michael’s, Brattleboro, have concentrated their relief efforts. I was privileged to arrive at lunch time, when the staff was offering thanks to the members of Saint Michael’s for all that they had done over the course of these past two weeks. The whole complex was evacuated prior to Irene! The appreciation and level of personal relationship and gratitude present in that room was as rich as anything I have seen. The bulk of the “hard work” there is done, but I am sure the good folks of Saint Michael’s are not done with their ministry among the residents of Melrose Terrace, even as they look for additional opportunities to help others affected by the flooding.
My third stop was at Saint Paul’s, White River Junction, which is serving as a central gathering and distribution center for many communities affected by the flooding and as a place where the efforts of many of our Episcopal Churches have been connected through the ever expanding “Freeway Relay” set up to bring food and supplies from the more northern areas of the diocese to the areas of most need in the central and southern parts of Vermont. The outreach effort and level of participation in this ministry is amazing and so well organized by the folks at Saint Paul’s. Again, I was able to offer a check to support this expanding ministry from the support we are receiving from ERD and others. Here I heard story after story from the volunteers who are bringing food and other needed relief to the workers and residents of some of the most hurting communities in that region. [Find more pictures from Bishop Ely’s visit to St. Paul’s here.]
These are only three of the many expressions of outreach that are part of the effort of the people of the Episcopal Church in Vermont. You can read about more on other pages of the Hurricane Irene Response section, including updates coming from our Disaster Response Team, headed up by Canon Lynn Bates. If you have a story to share, or a situation in need of assistance, please be in touch with Lynn about it firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a time and circumstance when God is calling us to act together as a diocese for the relief of those in need. Obviously, we cannot solve all the problems, or answer all the needs resulting from Irene, but we can offer our generous hearts and resources as part of the effort. Please keep up the effort and increase it where you are able. As the effort moves from relief to recovery the needs will continue to be there and I hope we will be there as well.
Our web site is now expanding with stories and articles and resources related to Irene. We are receiving not only the good wishes and prayers of others throughout The Episcopal Church, but also offers of human and financial assistance. One of the most moving emails I received this past week was from Zaché Duracin, the Episcopal Bishop of Haiti, who wrote this to us:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This is to express my deep sympathies and those of the church here for damages caused by the hurricane Irene in your respective diocese. We pray for families and individuals who have been victims. We in Haiti, know what that means by our experiences.
May God sustain you all in this difficult time.
Someone asked me if we were going to postpone our fundraising effort for the rebuilding of Haiti in light of Irene and the need we have right here in Vermont. I said, absolutely not. The choice is not them or us. Our generosity as partners in God’s own mission for the world embraces both local and global needs and we made a commitment to do our share for this church-wide effort. So please keep on with your efforts for Haiti that will culminate at our Diocesan Convention in November, even as you offer generous response to the needs here in our diocese.
I leave Tuesday for a meeting of the House of Bishops, where I will have an opportunity to report on the impact of Irene here in Vermont and our efforts to respond to the human need resulting from the flooding. I am reminded that it is ten years ago now since the House of Bishops met in Vermont, in those weeks following September 11, and how welcome they all felt by the people of our diocese. I will tell them that the place that offered its beauty and hospitality to them at that time is now bruised and broken in many places. I will ask for their prayers and support and I know we will receive both.
Thank you for all that you are doing to respond to the needs throughout our state. I am so privileged to share in ministry with such generous people.