As the Storm Approaches

by | Sep 13, 2018

Remember I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
Matthew 28:20

Every morning at 8:00 a.m., program officers from Episcopal Relief and Development’s disaster preparedness team convene a video conference call with diocesan leaders whose jurisdictions lie in the path of Hurricane Florence. On today’s call, we were reminded that while the storm has been downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane, with the slowing of wind speed comes greater potential for storm surge and inland rain damage. “Houston wasn’t touched by the winds of Hurricane Harvey last year,” Lura Steele of ERD said, “but by storm surge and sustained rainfall.”

According to CNN, Florence is expected is to hover over the Carolinas for days, with hurricane force winds and relentless rain at least through Saturday. As the storm moves inland, meteorologists warn that Georgia, Virginia, and Maryland will also be in peril.

Many in the Diocese of Washington have close family and friendship ties to communities poised to bear the brunt of Florence’s imminent arrival. I am heartened by the calm determination of our Episcopal Church counterparts as they’ve gone about their preparations, helping people evacuate, caring for their congregations and positioning themselves to be of service to their communities. An EDOW priest with family and former congregants in South Carolina said at a meeting last night, “Countless people’s lives will be forever changed by this storm. Some may die. Others will lose houses, businesses, mobile homes, jobs. By Sunday, it’s going to happen.”

The Episcopal Church will be there, and is there now. “We’re as ready as we can be,” several on the phone said this morning. “Right now it feels a bit like being assaulted by a turtle.”

While we wait, pray, and do all we can for those in immediate danger, please take time today and tomorrow to finalize your own preparedness (here’s a helpful checklist). While most of our diocese is not in the direct path of the storm, for many the possibility of flood damage and power outages is high. Should the rains place lives and property in danger, please heed all warnings and directions of emergency responders and civil authorities.

Thanks to our partners at ERD, we have registered all parochial clergy and senior wardens in a Diocesan Alert System. We will check-in twice a day as the hurricane system passes through our area and provide updates through the messaging system should there be any specific alerts.

I can’t speak highly enough of the spiritual and material support provided through Episcopal Relief and Development. As grace would have it, we had arranged for a member of ERD’s team to meet with EDOW staff earlier this week to learn more about disaster preparedness and the Episcopal Asset Map. Thus we were blessed with on the ground training and resource sharing in real time as Hurricane Florence approached. As you are able, I encourage you to donate to Episcopal Relief and Development’s Hurricane Relief Fund. Your donation provides our partners on the ground with critical supplies, such as food and water, for communities devastated by hurricanes and other storms.

As today’s call was ending, Canon Mark Stevenson of the Presiding Bishop’s staff assured us of the prayers and support, not only of the Presiding Bishop, but of our entire church and beyond. “Remember that you are not alone,” he said. “We are here and will see you through this time.”

Those are Jesus’ words to us as well, and to all those in harm’s way: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” I pray that each one of you feels his presence with you and your loved ones as the storm approaches, and I know that whenever the call comes, you will be Jesus’ hands, feet, and heart for others.

Will you pray this prayer with me now?

Lord God, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all that we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.