Oct. 31: New York area churches to be open Sunday for worship; John Street safe; New England reports

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United Methodist News Service will continue to update this information throughout the day.

LAWRENCE, Mass. — “I am sure that these last few days have brought moments of anxiety, concern, pain, and sorrow as you have watched ‘post-tropical’ superstorm Sandy make its way through many parts of the Eastern seaboard and other places affecting the lives of countless numbers of people,” Bishop Suda Devadhar of the United Methodistd New England Annual Conference (Boston area) wrote today to his conference.

“There were different effects in different areas of the New England Conference. Loss of electricity has been widespread, and many areas have yet to have power restored. To date only a few reports of damage to New England Annual Conference churches have been received. Most local church damage has been related to the intense winds (a toppled steeple, a tree falling on a sanctuary) and has not been catastrophic.

“I am calling upon all of us to continue to be in prayer with those in Southern New England and in the mid-Atlantic region where damage in some areas has been devastating. Parts of Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey report significant damage and a number of deaths and injuries. Areas in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and the Mid-West continue to feel the power of this storm.

“In the same way that the United Methodist Committee on Relief responded and provided financial assistance in a number of disasters in New England in recent years, they are here for us again. May we encourage you to be in prayer for the important ministry they are doing to reach out to the victims of Sandy and other disasters and kindly continue to support their ministries through your generous financial support. If you want to explore how to support UMCOR, kindly visit the New England Annual Conference website at www.neumc.org/hurricane.

“Starting last week, we (NEAC) communicated information on disaster preparedness from UMCOR and our insurance companies, so our congregations and members could be as prepared as possible for the severe storm.  We have continued to provide information for insurance and other reporting. Please do not hesitate to contact your District Superintendent or Jim McPhee or Bill Burnside at the New England Annual Conference if you need guidance or help in any matters related to the aftermath of the storm.

“In moments like this and as we continue to raise all kinds of existential questions about why and how, may we offer our prayers to our Creator God, using the words of the Psalmist, who said, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.” (Psalm 46:1-3).

“May the words of the Psalmist offer hope to all who are affected by this storm in one way or another. May all the efforts of God’s children everywhere, reaching out to those who need help, be blessed by our Creator God as we carry out our own ministries with the compassion of Christ and with the real peace and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

“May this be the time, not only to pray for all the children of God who have been affected by Sandy, but also to place the words of our prayers in action through our Christian witness and outreach by our acts of mercy and kindness.” 4:15 p.m. ET, Linda Bloom, UMNS

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NEW YORK —The Rev. Jason Radmacher, pastor of historic John Street United Methodist Church in lower Manhattan, reported Wednesday that the church is “safe and sound,” despite flooding in some parts of that area during Hurricane Sandy.

In an email response to UMNS, Radmacher noted that Oct. 30 marked the 244th anniversary of the first worship service at the church’s present location, not far from Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange.

“My family left the parsonage this morning for a friend’s place with power and water,” Radmacher wrote. “I’m slowly catching up with church members. I know some are displaced, but thankfully no reports of injuries at this time.”

John Street, which often hosts visiting confirmation classes from United Methodist congregations, is the oldest Methodist congregation in America, founded in 1766. 3:40 p.m. ET, Linda Bloom, UMNS

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NEW YORK — New York Area Bishop Martin McLee reported Wednesday that all of the conference’s churches would be open for regular worship on Sunday.

“We were really blessed in the New York Annual (regional) Conference to not have any devastation at churches or any loss of life or injuries of any of our members, as far as we know,” he said.

A few churches did sustain some water damage, he said, including Island Park United Methodist Church on Long Island and the United Methodist Church of Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn. A small building on the property of Hampton Bays United Methodist Church on Long Island also was damaged.

Some churches are dealing with loss of power and internet service and access problems.  “Many of our roads leading to churches are pretty damaged with trees,” McLee noted. The New York Conference office in White Plains has power, but poor telephone connections at present.

The New York Conference is assessing how it can assist communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy. “We’re just receiving reports now,” he said.

The bishop said he already had heard from many other annual conferences and episcopal colleagues, who pledged prayers and support, as well as the United Methodist Committee on Relief and is “very appreciative” of the response by the connectional church.

McLee, who was elected a bishop during the denomination’s 2012 Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference in July, began his assignment on Sept. 1 and was officially installed on Sunday, as hurricane preparations were underway. “The conference showed up in huge numbers,” he said. “I was so grateful we were able to celebrate right before the storm.”

The bishop posted a formal message about the hurricane on the conference website:

Dear New York Annual Conference Family:

In the midst of the devastation of Hurricane Sandy we can report that God is still good. There are no reports of personal injury or serious damage to any NYAC church facilities. The initial assessment indicates churches are experiencing scattered loss of power, inconsistent cell phone and Internet access and barricaded roads in certain areas. The Reverend Joseph Ewoodzie, Conference Disaster Response Coordinator, has organized our preparatory and response efforts and the conference website contains a concise protocol for local congregations.

I have received reports of prayers and expressions of concern from across the connection and it is comforting to know that we are cared for and prayed for by the denominational family. Let us continue to pray for those in other conferences impacted by this hurricane. Let us particularly pray for those in New Jersey.

While our churches have been spared from major damage, many of our neighbors have not been so fortunate. In locales like Breezy Point in Queens, portions of Staten Island and lower Manhattan the result has been devastation. Moreover, those with physical challenges and our older friends may be in need of support. I am inviting local congregations and covenant groups to join local agencies and community support initiatives in an effort to relieve the tremendous challenges that many are facing. You may feel called to provide volunteers, offer meals for first responders, assist at phone banks or provide other specific services requested by responding agencies. Reverend Ewoodzie is ready to assist in making connections should you need conference support. He can be reached at 914-615-2233. The Conference has been in contact with United Methodist Committee on Relief, our denominational disaster relief initiative and they have committed their full support as we respond to emerging needs.

Friends, the NYAC has an excellent track record of responding to urgent needs. God has blessed us to be a blessing to others. Let us continue in prayer as we connect with the communities in struggle and present ourselves as the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.

Scripture reminds us who God is; “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.” Ps. 46:1. May we be comforted and also serve to comfort others in this time of great need.
All my prayers,

Bishop Martin D. McLee

1:45 p.m. ET Linda Bloom, UMNS

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NEW YORK — From Harriett Jane Olson, the top executive of United Methodist Women: UMW staff update-many staff have either no electricity, no phone or no internet. a few were evacuated and don’t know the status of their homes. seems like all are safe and we give thanks to God. A few people will be in the office today, but “regular” operations will take a while. Still no electricity at Alma Mathews, but no flood damage at AMH, CCUN or 475. We are grateful. 12 p.m. ET, Barbara Dunlap-Berg, UMNS

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Board of Discipleship maintains a resource list to help children cope with tragedy. 11:34 a.m. ET, Barbara Dunlap-Berg, UMNS

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MANNASSAS, Va. – The Rev. Cynthia Abrams of the Board of Church and Society wrote that she is thinking of the children affected by the storm. Helping children cope with disaster http://m.fema.gov/cope_child.htm.  10:25 a.m. ET, Barbara Dunlap-Berg, UMNS

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ASBURY PARK, N.J.– From Bishop John Schol, Greater New Jersey Conference: Thank you, everyone, for all of your prayers and offer of support. It means a great deal to the United Methodists and people of Greater New Jersey. There are challenges ahead for many people. 2.4 million New Jerseyans are without power.

The conference center is without power, and our servers are down, which makes communication difficult. We could be down for a week or more. We are looking at moving the servers today. Those with generators are finding it hard to find gas. Yesterday I passed a mile long line in both directions on the Garden state Parkway of cars waiting for gas. People are driving up to 40 minutes to find an open gas station.

Our district superintendents and disaster response coordinators are assessing community and church damage. Already reports of churches and parsonages damaged. Several churches have opened to provide shelter and food. Our Chatham Church has opened its doors to 100 Drew Theological students. Drew University is without power. I urge all United Methodists to offer support to your neighbors, volunteer at shelters and as needed, provide support for your churches.

This is an opportunity to share the love of Christ. We are providing emergency grants to churches and community organizations who are assisting with humanitarian needs. Please pass this post on to other UMs in New Jersey. Thank you, everyone. 9 a.m. ET, Barbara Dunlap-Berg, UMNS

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