By Stan Friedman
CROMWELL, CT (October 31, 2012) – Members of East Coast Conference churches have been removing water from church buildings and assisting neighbors with cleanup as well as adapting to power outages since super storm Sandy smashed into the region.
At least one pastor expressed concern about the impact of lost wages on low-income members of his church.
“The biggest issue for us is going to be the congregants that work from check to check,” said Michael Carrion, pastor of Promised Land Covenant Church in Bronx, New York. “The city shutting down causes most to lose three days pay and that will cause our families to lose much-needed income for groceries.”
Many of the members live in tall brick low-income project buildings, Carrion said. Although crime remains an ongoing significant issue, the solid structures turned out to be safe locations during the storm.
A member of New Vision Community Covenant Church still was waiting to be allowed back to his home in Long Beach and hasn’t heard whether it was damaged, said Pastor Martin Chang. Many of the congregation remained without power.
Jose Humphreys, pastor of Metro Hope in Harlem, New York, had to evacuate his parents from a low-lying area of the city. At their church, as well as others, people were networking via Facebook.
Jim Stanley-Erickson, pastor of Christ Covenant Church in Harleysville, Pennsylvania, had to visit a congregation member in the emergency room on Tuesday evening. “It was a very, very dark drive,” Stanley-Erickson said. “I took a different way home and had to be rerouted as roads were blocked.”
Churches throughout the area were dealing with the second and even third storms that struck over the past year and a half. The children’s Sunday school wing at St. Paul’s Wolf’s Covenant Church in York, Pennsylvania, flooded for the second time. It had flooded when Hurricane Lee struck in 2011.
“We’ve spent over a year and a lot of money trying to get the children’s Sunday school wing and undercroft repaired from Lee,” said Pastor Matt Stillman. Members who arrived to help pump water and clean were initially discouraged when they arrived on Tuesday, but have found the damage was less than they expected. The church also had removed whatever it could from the floor before Sandy struck.
Members of St. Peter’s Covenant Church removed about 18 inches of water even though the church was without power, said Pastor Jim Fox. Bucks County, where the church is located, has 180,000 customers without power – the most outages in the state, Fox added.
Church members have been helping neighbors remove trees from driveways as well as doing repair work on the roofs of others, said Fox. “At our house, we lost seven mature, majestic oak trees – they look like dinosaurs in our yard,” said Fox, who added that none hit their house.
Despite the widespread outages, power also remained on at their house, so neighbors were invited to eat meals and take showers.
Communication has been spotty, so Fox has been driving around the area to check on people, he said.
The shed at Trinity Covenant Church in Livingston, New Jersey, blew apart, and the wind also knocked out a large storm window. “But we have power there, so it is serving as a home base for a set of folks,” said Pastor Sue Gillespie.
The church still is available for other activities. “The local community theatre orchestra is rehearsing at church tonight, since the school where they usually rehearse is closed,” Gillespie said. Getting to rehearsal may be difficult because many of the streets remain blocked.
Howard Burgoyne, conference superintendent, said churches are exploring ways they can help neighbors in the coming weeks.