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FROM THE BISHOPS RE: HURRICANE HARVEY
Hurricane Harvey has left widespread destruction in its wake after making landfall near Rockport overnight as a category 4 hurricane. With record rainfall expected to continue along the coast and inland, significant flooding and further damage can be expected in other areas of the diocese for the next several days.
At this time, there is still much that remains unknown. While news coverage and social media are providing continual information, it is still difficult to gain clarity and coherence, particularly in the worst hit areas.
Still, we believe it's important to tell you what we DO know, at this time, though we stress that much of our information is partial.
First, because people always matter more than buildings and belongings, we are glad to tell you that all of our clergy in the affected areas are safe and well. We have been in communication with all of the active clergy, and most of the retired clergy. Some had evacuated, and some stayed in place. Within Corpus Christi, our clergy are able to move about the city to a degree. Those who evacuated may not be able to return for several days.
In churches without a priest, we have attempted to contact lay leaders, and their reports are consistent with what we've heard from the clergy.
Also, so far as our clergy know, all members of their congregation are okay. The great majority seems to have followed evacuation orders where they were issued. Not all have been accounted for, but the clergy believe everyone is okay. At the same time, we lament the death of one Rockport resident and injuries to numerous nursing home residents there.We have not received reports of damage to church buildings, though there has likely been some, and perhaps extensive in some places. But we have not heard; again, in the hardest hit towns, communication is challenging and travel is not safe at this time. We have been in touch with Church Insurance, and they have assured us they are ready to help when our needs have been assessed.
We have not been able to get any report of possible damage to the Mustang Island Conference Center.
We know, without having a lot of detail, that Rockport, Aransas Pass, Portland, Port Aransas, Port Lavaca and Victoria have been very badly hit, with a great deal of devastation, as well as continued flooding. Again, we do not know the status of damage to our churches in those towns, as the clergy and lay leadership of these churches are still unable to assess any damage.
Most of the churches in the affected areas have cancelled worship services tomorrow. For those that will be open, we urge everyone to be prudent if traveling to church. In churches where worship will go on as normal, we ask for special prayers for our churches and towns beginning to deal with the aftermath, and for all the first responders moving into the area.
We have been contacted by numerous bishops from around the country, assuring us of the prayers of their diocese and of their support for recovery efforts. Likewise, staff members from Episcopal Relief and Development have begun coordinating relief efforts and have made themselves available to West Texas as we respond to this disaster. We are grateful and encouraged by the prayers and the support.
Our own Commission on Disaster Response, chaired by the Rev. Nancy Springer, has been hard at work during the past week, and they have sent clergy and church offices several updates and information regarding preparations and safety. They will continue to update you as necessary. Kaitlin Rogers continues to gather information about lodging for evacuees, matching coastal church folk with parishioners offering housing inland. You may contact her at email@example.com, or 210-621-5445.
The diocesan website (dwtx.org) has been updated with a prominent link on the homepage, directing you to current information from the Commission on Disaster Response (www.dwtx.org/disaster-response/). The page lists many helpful contacts and information. In anticipation of great and on-going need, the diocese is prepared to receive donations to assist churches in helping their members and their communities. Anyone can donate via the “donate” link on our webpage. We are also posting regular updates as we have them on the diocesan Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/DioceseWestTX/.
We need to be mindful that Harvey is also doing damage in coastal areas of the Diocese of Texas. We've been in touch with the bishops there and will look for ways to collaborate in recovery efforts.
Please pray without ceasing for all those affected by this terrible storm. Give thanks to God for mercies received and for his Spirit already working to restore, rebuild and heal. Consider prayerfully the many ways you and your church can participate in that work. We are looking at a long-term recovery effort, and the needs will seem overwhelming at times. But our God is bigger and his love is stronger, and Jesus calls us to follow him into the midst of the devastation and heartache.
We will communicate with you again, when we have confirmed news to share.
God bless you.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Bishop David Reed & Bishop Jennifer Brooke-Davidson
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