Louisiana churches cope with flooding
By Sam Hodges
Aug. 15, 2016 | UMNS
First United Methodist Church in Denham Springs, Louisiana, was proud to be a Red Cross Shelter for people flooded out of their homes late last week.
But the good work stopped when floodwaters started closing in on the church itself.
“It became very apparent that we had to evacuate the shelter,” said the Rev. Jackie King, pastor.
Denham Springs would have to turn out the people it was rescuing, as well as volunteers. Sunday services were cancelled.
King and other church leaders have been scrambling to make sure church members are accounted for, and to offer comfort and counsel to the many who have had major flood damage to their homes.
“We’ll forever more talk about ?after the flood,’” King said. “This is catastrophic on a level that even those who have weathered many, many storms have never seen in their lifetime.”
The flooding from heavy rainfalls that began last week has claimed at least seven lives in Louisiana, and prompted the rescue of more than 20,000 people. Thousands fled to shelters, and even Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and his family had to leave the Governor’s Mansion in Baton Rouge because of flooding and loss of electricity.
President Obama has signed a disaster declaration for the state, even as officials predicted waters would continue to rise in some areas.
Louisiana Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey said she is unaware of any United Methodists among the fatalities, but she estimated that a dozen of the denomination’s churches have had flood damage, and many church members have major flood damage to their homes.
The area just north of Baton Rouge, including Denham Springs, was especially hard hit because of flooding of the Amite River, she said.
Harvey counseled patience, emphasizing that the situation is still threatening, making volunteer relief work premature.
“Right now, we’re still in the rescue efforts,” she said. “We’ve got to stay out of the way of that. Next will come our trained early responders.”
Harvey predicted it make take a few weeks before volunteer groups can be deployed safely and effectively. However, she said there’s an immediate need for cleaning buckets and monetary contributions, which can be made through the United Methodist Committee on Relief or theLouisiana Conference.
The upper part of Louisiana was hit by flooding earlier in the year, Harvey noted.
Gregory Forrester, UMCOR executive for disaster response, said Harvey has requested a $10,000 emergency grant and relief supplies in regard to the new floods.
“We are working with her and her staff to meet those needs,” he said.
Hard times, selfless acts
United Methodist churches in the worst hit areas are helping a variety of ways.
Zachary United Methodist, in Zachary, Louisiana, had flooding damage to its parsonage, but not to the church itself, so it’s trying to be of service.
“We’re staging a day care free to anybody in the community that has young children and they’re trying to clean up their homes,” said Jan Whiddon, church secretary.
She added that the beginnings of recovery in her area have been hampered by lack of supplies at local stores.
“At Wal-Mart, there’s a line out the door and down the street,” Whiddon said. “They’re only letting 10 or so in at a time.”
Zachary United Methodist called off church services Sunday, but did open for prayer at 10 a.m.
“Quite a few were able to show up,” Whiddon said.
The Rev. Jonathan King — husband of Rev. Jackie King — reported by Facebook on the situation at Blackwater United Methodist Church in Baker, Louisiana.
“When it came to our church members some had to be airlifted out of their homes and the folks that were staying at our church had to be airlifted out,” said King, pastor of Blackwater United Methodist. “Everyone is alive even though many homes have been flooded.
Jackie King credited many with acting selflessly under extreme conditions.
“I had church members whose house was going under, but because they had a boat they went out to rescue people,” she said tearfully.
Hodges, a United Methodist News Service writer, lives in Dallas. Contact him at (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Resources for Vital Congregations
Lewis Center for Church Leadership
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Books
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Serve Your Neighbor
GBHEM Leadership Resources
Living Faithfully: Human Sexuality and the United Methodist Church
Englewood Book Review
Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations
Ted Talks: The Golden Circle
Ted Talks: The Power of Vulnerability
Ted Talks: The Price of Invulnerability
Meditations on the Ministry of All Christians
Be A Disciple
A Disciple’s Path; A Guide for United Methodist
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Adult Christian Studies from the Wesley Ministry Network
Traveling Together: A Guide for Disciple Forming Congregations
Living As United Methodist Christians
Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials
Reclaiming our Wesleyan Tradition: John Wesley’s Sermons for Today
John Wesley Sermons: Anthology
Get Their Name
Evangelism & Theology in the Wesleyan Spirit
Canoeing the Mountains
Fresh Expressions: Dinner Church
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: Reach New Disciples
Lewis Center for Church Leadership: 50 Ways to Reach People
Community: The Structure of Belonging
RESOURCES TO CONNECT WITH THE COMMUNITY:
Institute for Emerging Issues
Congregations 4 Children
The Royce and Jane Reynolds Ministry Fund Grants
The Duke Endowment
The Appalachian District Church Vitality Team has been prayerfully seeking ways to help support you and the ministries of your local congregation during this COVID-19 pandemic. Together they have diligently researched and connected with others throughout the conference and our denomination to identify resources and offer them to you. We hope they will be helpful to you and bless you greatly in leading your churches and communities through this unprecedented time. We are very grateful to the District Vitality Team and other contributors for their great work on this resource.
This faithful team has created three documents, two of which you are receiving today. They include:
- Family Home Worship – designed to help families establish a regular worship space within their homes as well as a time where they can worship together.
- Tech Strategies – to help guide you in selecting effective tools and resources within your budget to best communicate in the digital world.
We believe these resources will be of great benefit to you. Also know that the District Vitality Team is available to answer any questions you might have in regards to the documents attached. If you have questions, you may email Rev. Howard Fleming at email@example.com.