Thursday, February 18
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Synod of Northeast
Presbyterians pitch in to help in storms’ aftermath
Congregations Try to Recover From “Devastating” Winter Weather
When winter storms wreaked havoc in New England last winter, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance stepped in to help.
Confronting what one meteorologist has called a “once every 26,000 years” event, New Englanders were reeling from the cumulative effect of multiple winter storms that dumped more than 100 inches of snow within a 30-day period. Coupled with frigid temperatures that did not allow thawing, the storms were fear to have long-term implications for the survival of Presbyterian congregations in Boston and northern New England.
“We could see churches cease to exist because of these storms. It could result in 20 or more church closings, nearly a third of Presbyterian congregations in the area,” Cindy Kohlmann, resource presbyter for the Presbyteries of Boston and Northern New England said at the time. “These are churches that have vibrant congregations but don’t have the resources to deal financially with the issues brought about by the snow and cold temperatures.”
Many churches in the region suffered significant structural damage, including potential roof collapse as well as water damage resulting from ice dams and frozen pipes. The cost for snow removal from roofs and parking lots, in addition to increased heating and electric bills, hurt congregations significantly — at a time when the forced cancellation of services further strained the ability of a congregation to pay its bills.
“The financial impact to local congregations is devastating. No one has budgeted for this; even basic city services are paralyzed,” Kohlmann said during the crisis. “Snow removal capabilities are extremely scarce right now, and if you can get it removed, there is literally no place to put it. There’s a sense of desperation; one church was quoted $20,000 to get the snow off their roof, but they don’t have that kind of money. A contractor within the congregation offered to pay his workers out of his own pocket to remove the snow before the roof collapsed.”
Synod of the Northeast leaders reached out to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance for financial support during the crisis.
“The repeated and powerful snowstorms have had catastrophic impacts on our congregations where heavy snowfall, cancellation of services and limited resources have created a second perfect storm increased vulnerability,” Laurie Kraus, PDA coordinators said during the emergency. “Working in collaboration with the synod, PDA is responding to the synod’s request for $300,000 and [for] disaster-support services to provide emergency relief and long-term recovery efforts in the affected presbyteries.”
Funds were earmarked for three general areas of assistance: snow removal from strained roofs and parking lots, alternative worship locations during the crisis and support for pastors and congregations to pay utilities (heat and water).
Emergency managers anticipated another challenge when thawing occurred severe flooding. High water from the melt was expected to impact communities downstream that are currently had not been not affected by the snow.
Thirty-three congregations and seven immigrant fellowships have been impacted by the successive storms. Assessment teams will worked churches to determine the best ways to meet needs, help churches resume worship and provide emotional and spiritual care.
PDA volunteers experienced in working with insurance companies will help congregations resolve coverage issues. Others will provide emotional and spiritual care for pastors and church leaders. Teams will be organized in the spring to assist with building repairs.
Donations to One Great Hour of Sharing provides essential funding for PDA responses to such emergencies.
“Responding immediately and compassionately to the urgent needs is precisely what One Great Hour of Sharing does,” Kraus said.
Rick Jones and Scott O’Neill
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Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. —Prayer of Saint Francis