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Wednesday, February 24

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Presbytery of Boston

Ongoing Support Helps Churches Cope with Late-Winter emergencies

New Englanders were hopeful the end of February 2015 would mean an end to an onslaught of heavy snow and freezing temperatures. But hopes continued to be dashed the first week of March with more snow and more problems for the churches and businesses in the region. With more than 100 inches falling in just a few weeks, communities continued to move closer to an all-time record amount of snowfall for a single season. 

The cost of snow removal and the closing of many businesses put many communities in a critical state.  Presbyterian Church leaders said they lost track of how many churches were dealing with leaking ceilings, extraordinary bills for snow removal and limited financial resources due to a decline in offerings. At least two congregations had to request emergency assistance ahead of the receipt of PDA funds simply because they could not wait. 

One was a new worshiping community serving Brazilian immigrants in two cities. The Presbyterian Church Shekinah Fellowship had baptized more than 20 adults in the previous year alone and was growing quickly enough to consider finding own space instead of sharing space with other renters. 

“In February, they had to cancel seven different gatherings, and their offerings were 75 percent less than normal,” said Cindy Kohlmann, resource presbyter for the Presbyteries of Boston and Northern New England.

The second congregation was First Presbyterian Church, a multicultural community in Worcester, Massachusetts. Like the Brazilian fellowship, its membership is made up largely of hourly workers who have been off the job due to the weather.  Heavy snow and some melting had caused serious damage to facilities. 

“We are a small congregation of 100 members and a budget of about $120,000 with very little savings,” said Rev. T.J. DeMarco, pastor.

The church hired workers to remove snow from the roof as well as away from the walls of the church in order to prevent leakage. “Two people called me to report it was ‘raining’ in our fellowship hall, due to snow dams on the roof that were too large to remove,” said DeMarco. Moisture also damaged walls, insulation and a drop ceiling. DeMarco said insurance would cover only some of the costs of repairs.

Despite the crisis, DeMarco said the response from church members, the Presbytery of Boston, the Synod of the Northeast and the Presbyterian Mission Agency was been inspiring. He said he’d never been more proud to be the pastor of his church and a minister in the PC(USA). 

“We were thrilled to hear that the folks in the Presbyterian Mission Agency wanted to help,” he said. “We are a mostly immigrant congregation, and none of us are wealthy. “

First Presbyterian Church in Worcester had recently completed New Beginnings, in which PC(USA) officials assess the church’s ministry strengths and make recommendations to help it grow. Despite the snow, DeMarco said the church would move forward with plans to reach out to the community with a large international festival later this year. 

Even as churches across the region wrestled with storm damage, Kohlmann said congregations remained active in caring for communities while dealing with limited resources. 

Rick Jones

Let us join in prayer for:

Presbytery Staff

Wren Collie, Administrator
T.J. Demarco, Stated Clerk,

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff

Penny Franklin, FDN                                                                
Mark Frey, BOP                                                                                   
Judith Freyer, BOP

Let us pray

Creator God, we are grateful for food that nourishes our bodies and for servants who, having heard your voice and felt your Spirit in their lives, share a compassionate discipleship that seeks to alleviate hunger. May your Spirit descend on us, that we too, might live as those who witness to your love and grace in our community. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Daily Lectionary

Morning Psalms 5; 147:1-11
First Reading Genesis 42:18-28
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 5:9-6:11
Gospel Reading Mark 4:1-20
Evening Psalms 27; 51