Dear People of God,
The apostle Paul writes: "Rejoice with them that do rejoice and weep with them that weep" (Romans 12:15). There is cause for rejoicing and weeping in response to the events we are experiencing in Harvey's wake.
We can absolutely rejoice in the fact that no one in our St. Stephen's community has died in this storm, as far as I am aware. Several members of our community had harrowing experiences as they escaped their homes by boat, walking, and helicopter. Each is in a safe place. Some of us evacuated before the storm. Several of us were out of town. Many of us are privileged to have dry homes, air conditioning, power, and passable streets.
There is weeping as we survey the damage to our community. The pictures of thousands of the survivors, those who are separated from their families, the desolation of our land cause us to grieve. The numbness will begin to wear off soon as we start to cope with the scale of our loss. Anger, resentment, depression, sadness will settle upon us with the residue of this storm. These feelings are real and a faithful response to what we are going through. You do not need to deny them.
St. Stephen's campus has very little damage; merely some broken plaster in the Gathering Area of the Church as far as we know. Our rental properties are also unscathed. The streets in Montrose while initially flooded, drained quickly.
St. Stephen's folks are ready to respond. We have set up a Facebook page to begin to coordinate what we have, with the needs of our community. Please, let us know what you need and what you would like to offer. If you would like to volunteer this week, and can get there safely, I invite you to connect with new shelters that are being set up: The Forge for Families at 3435 Dixie in the Third Ward, especially needs mental health and medical folks; and Lakewood is open now to receive refugees from the storm. George R. Brown is covered for now. Many people in our congregation have taken on water and will need help shoveling out when the time comes.
If you, or your friends and family from afar, want to financially contribute Episcopal Relief and Development has set up a fund, as has the Diocese of Texas. St. Stephen's has also set up a way to give to the discretionary fund for immediate needs in our community. The links are here.
We plan to be open for church on Sunday for all services at 7:45, 8:30, and 10:30 a.m. St. Stephen's School will open on Tuesday, September 5, and will begin with an All School Chapel service at 8:30 a.m. Parents and parishioners are invited to attend. We respond to these events with prayer--of thanksgiving, supplication, and for healing.
Patience is the virtue we need to deliberately cultivate now and in the days to come. Recovery from this is going to take years, not days.
Fifteen years ago, my church in Nashville was destroyed by a tornado. My young children were with me in its basement. Many members of my congregation had their homes ripped apart. My father, may he rest in peace, came to my aid the days after it hit. I was frantic and exhausted, trying to coordinate the care for our people and to manage the business of insurance. He drove me to the Kroger and turned to me and said,"Wyms, you've got to take care of yourself. This is a marathon, not a sprint. You will be no good to anyone if you are spent."
My father's words were true then and I commend them to you now. We will need our reserves of love, empathy, and grace over this long haul. Spiritual and emotional care are essential. When you need to, fast from the news. Care for your neighbors to ward off despair. Listen to others for understanding; we do not live by bread alone. Say your prayers.
To help, I offer one I discovered from the Church of England:
Lord God, we pray for all who are suffering the effects of the floods: for those who have been injured, for those whose homes have been lost or damaged, and for those who live in fear. Be with them and us, we pray, that we may know the calm of your presence, through him who stilled the raging of the storm, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church Rector
Chair, St. Stephen’s Episcopal School Board of Trustees
Dear People of God,