The strong winds and heavy rain of Hurricane Irene left a trail of devastation along the eastern seaboard from North Carolina to southern New England. While the immediate level of damage from Hurricane Irene did not meet that which was feared or predicted, the storm continues to wreak havoc by causing significant flash flooding. Thousands of families are still without power. The full extent of the storm and its damages will continue to unfold in the days and weeks ahead.
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) has been in been in contact with mid-councils (presbyteries) along the East Coast as communities begin to assess hurricane-related damage. Four teams of PDA National Response Team (NRT) members were positioned prior to Irene making landfall to help support presbyteries in carrying out their disaster recovery plans, to help connect them with broader response efforts, and to help with spiritual and emotional care.
Assessments are still in the early stages, and the amount of damage seems to vary widely from place to place. Assessments include emerging needs that have been identified, the ability of the community to respond, and the availability of resources.
Christ by the Sea Presbyterian Church in New York City Presbytery has lost its roof. Newton Presbytery (New Jersey) has identified at least six churches and one manse with significant flood damage (one with boilers under water). They are continuing to contact congregations to determine needs. PDA is waiting to receive reports from other presbyteries that were in the path of Hurricane Irene.
While we wait further assessment, gifts and prayers are needed in response. Laurie Kraus, pastor of Riviera Presbyterian Church in Miami, Florida, and a member of the National Response Team for PDA, has prepared a prayer for this time. Please join us in praying:
God of our life, whose presence sustains us in every circumstance,
in the aftermath of storm and distress, we welcome the restoring power of your love and compassion. We open our hearts in sorrow, gratitude, and hope: that those who have been spared nature’s fury as well as those whose lives are changed forever by ravages of wind and water may find solace, sustenance, and strength in the days of recovery and reflection that come.
We are thankful for the generous grace of days of preparation; for the wise counsel of experts and the generous collaboration of so many communities, that in the face of the storm kept many out of harm’s way, and lessened the effects of wind and water on others. We are grateful that dire predictions did not result in the worst case scenario for all, yet still served to support our best efforts at preparation and immediate relief.
At the same time, we open ourselves to the stories of those for whom Hurricane Irene was not a near miss: communities deeply affected, whose livelihood, homes and stability have been destroyed. We pray in grief, remembering the lives that have been lost in the Bahamas and here in the United States. We lift our voices in sorrow and compassion for families who have lost loved ones, homes, or livelihood.
We ask for sustaining courage for those who are suffering; wisdom and diligence among agencies and individuals assessing damage and directing relief efforts; and for generosity to flow as powerfully as rivers and streams, as we, your people, respond to the deep human needs beginning to emerge in the wake of the storm.
In these days of relief, assessment and response, open our eyes, our hearts, and our hands to the needs of your children and the movements of your Spirit, who flows in us like the river whose streams makes glad the city of God, and the hearts of all who dwell in it, and in You.
In the name of Christ the Healer we pray,