Note: The Rev. Carol Lillie is co-pastor with her husband, the Rev. Dave Lillie, of a United Methodist Church in Longmont, Colo., one of the towns clobbered by the recent historic floods near Denver. The church last year changed its name to The Heart of Longmont at First United Methodist Church of Longmont, reflecting a renewed commitment “to serving the people of Longmont with Christ-inspired faith.” Carol Lillie wrote the following about what her church and Longmont have been going through in recent days:
Our town has been hard hit but our church building is OK, apart from roof leaks, which are always a problem in any aged building. We had church services as usual last Sunday, because the part of Longmont where the church is was high and dry. As you might guess, attendance was low, but we gathered to support and uplift each other. (“Wherever two or more are gathered…”) Several folks had to leave church at the start of the second worship service when it started raining hard again and the streets began to flow with water.
The town was cut in half for a time when the St.Vrain River and local creeks and waterways overflowed. At one point, the St. Vrain literally cut a new channel and had to be re-routed back into its banks. Bridges are out, several streets remain closed and several neighborhoods have to boil their water. Many evacuees were allowed back into their homes Monday. With the exception of a few neighborhoods, folks are being allowed back in to their homes to assess damage and begin clean up. There are, however, curfews and time limits in effect and members of the National Guard are manning road blocks to prevent looting. Some folks remain in evacuation shelters because they literally don’t have anywhere else to go at this time. FEMA is on site and working on housing.
I-25 was closed for a time from just south of Longmont all the way to the Wyoming border. It has been reopened, but access is limited from Longmont bridges on Highway 119.
The response from our congregation has been amazing. We had volunteer teams out Tuesday helping to muck out basements and houses for our members and others in some of the hardest hit areas. We have about eight families (we’re still gathering information) who have experienced significant damage. One of our members was taken from an evacuation center to the hospital with heart problems. He has since been released and has returned home. (He was fortunate; his home didn’t flood although the neighborhood was cut off by flood waters). In addition to this, several folks had cabins near Estes Park. It will be weeks or months before they will be allowed in to see the extent of the damages. We do know that several dams were breeched and roads no longer exist in some of these areas.
Our church is the site for Head Start in our community (called the Wild Plum Center). Classes have been cancelled there and with the Longmont Public schools until Thursday. I think it is likely that their families will have been hard hit by this disaster, but we won’t have any information until Wild Plum resumes classes.
Our sister church, Long’s Peak United Methodist, is distributing United Methodist Committee on Relief cleaning buckets and the ecumenical clergy group will meet Wednesday to coordinate efforts. We are already being contacted by various volunteer groups who will be coming to help.
Dave and I currently serve as co-pastors here. Our home sits on high ground, so we have been very lucky.
Finally, our nursery coordinator, nursery staff and church volunteers will be providing child care for Longmont’s Oktoberfest celebration THIS Saturday, Sept. 21st. The event is sponsored by the Left-Hand Brewery, a local business that is located in one of the areas with the heaviest flooding. Proceeds will go to disaster relief, Meals on Wheels and HOPE (Homeless Outreach Providing Encouragement).