Pastor, now homeless, feeds drenched community through his Bay Head, N.J., church

It will be years, the Rev. Scott H. Bostwick said, before residents of Bay Head, N.J., define their “new normal.” Last week, Hurricane Sandy huffed, puffed and blew through the barrier island, tearing it in two. Today a canal divides the mile-square town of 1,000.

“Bay Head is right along the shore,” Bostwick explained. “The storm surge ripped right through the town. Homes on the coast were washed out to sea.”

When Sandy hit, Scott and Karen Bostwick and their two sons, ages 4 and 6, had evacuated. The parsonage, three blocks in from the coast, lost the first floor. And while the parsonage is salvageable, the family is homeless for now.

The little boys are staying with their grandmother, and Scott and Karen are bunking down with his brother, 40 miles north of Bay Head, or with people in town who have a little extra space.

But that turn of events hasn’t stopped the pastor of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church from reaching out to his drenched community. The Office of Emergency Management contacted Bostwick about using the church — which he termed “the only dry spot on this end of town” — which for relief efforts, and the pastor quickly agreed. The church, open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., is now the official Bay Head feeding station, providing nourishment and nurture to some 200 people a day.

“We have no heat, no electricity, no gas,” said Bostwick, who has served St. Paul’s for a decade. “We got the water back two days ago.”

‘A place of sanctuary and respite’

Bostwick speaks proudly about the 108-year-old church. “It’s a great church. During the summer, we have worship services on the beach.” The congregation recently hosted the bishop’s “day on the district.”

Many of the church’s 170 members come from outside the community, and that is a problem now as Bostwick tries to find local volunteers to help with hurricane relief.

“The challenge” he noted, “is people can’t get into town.” Because of gas leaks and extensive structural damage, Bay Head is in lockdown. The National Guard is enforcing the lockdown.

If homes are habitable, some people are trying to stay put. But it’s tough with night temperatures sinking into the 30s. “There’s another nor’easter scheduled to come through tomorrow,” Bostwick said on Nov. 5.

On Sunday, Nov. 4, St. Paul’s invited two neighboring congregations for an ecumenical community prayer service. Both All Saints’ Episcopal Church and Sacred Heart (Catholic) Church sustained extensive storm damage and are located in an inaccessible part of town.

“When I heard of the level of devastation to so much of the community and to other churches,” Bostwick said, “I thought it was important to restore a sense of normalcy and routine here. We needed to provide a place of sanctuary and respite for those who have been bailing water out of their homes and dealing with the level of destruction in their town.”

‘Mostly, we need prayer’

Both All Saints and Sacred Heart are close to the ocean and now with little or no access to the area. Much work is still under way to regulate gas lines, check structures for stability and clear streets of sand.

The Rev. Neal Turton of All Saints Episcopal  Church and the Rev. Michael O’Connor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church joined Bostwick in presenting the morning message. United Methodist Bishop John Schol of the Greater New Jersey Area stopped by to share a few words.

The service offered “a time to hear the stories of the people, to care for their needs but, most of all, to give thanks and glory to God,” Bostwick said.

Now he is looking ahead and encouraging others to do the same.

“A bright ray of hope,” Bostwick said, “is that schools may reopen on Nov. 12.” However, that news will send parents scrambling for housing for their children who are staying temporarily with friends and relatives outside of Bay Head.

Bostwick has heard from concerned United Methodists across the connection, offering to bring work teams to do whatever they can to help. He is grateful. But with the lockdown in force and housing scarce, it is too early for outside volunteers.

“Mostly, we need prayer right now,” Bostwick said.

*Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor for United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.


Like what you're reading? Support the ministry of UM News! Your support ensures the latest denominational news, dynamic stories and informative articles will continue to connect our global community. Make a tax-deductible donation at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.

Sign up for our newsletter!

UMNEWS-SUBSCRIPTION
Violence
St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery in Kyiv, Ukraine, is a foremost example of Cossack Baroque and one of the country's most recognizable landmarks. Photo by Roman Brechko, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; graphic by UM News.

Church faces obstacles to help war-displaced

United Methodists continue to scramble to provide aid to war-displaced people in Ukraine and surrounding countries. One recent challenge: Finding new housing for displaced people in western Ukraine who had been using a school as shelter.
Immigration
United Methodist Bishop Christian Alsted prays with Alexandre, who is living in the gymnasium at the Onokivtsi Secondary School near Uzhhorod, Ukraine, after fleeing his home due to the war with Russia. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Photo essay: United Methodists stand with Ukraine

United Methodists in Eastern Europe have been welcoming Ukrainian refugees since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of their country. UM News staff photographer Mike DuBose was part of a team that traveled to Eastern Europe in late May to share stories of United Methodists’ humanitarian ministry.
Immigration
People wade or ride rafts made from inner tubes across the Suchiate River, which forms part of the border between Guatemala and Mexico, near Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico. The busy, informal crossing is used by migrants as well as by people hauling commercial cargo in both directions. A ride across on one of the inner tube rafts usually costs between 10 and 20 Guatemalan quetzals, roughly $1.25-$2.50 U.S. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Church leaders explore ways to help migrants in Mexico

A group of leaders from the Methodist Church of Mexico and The United Methodist Church traveled to southern Mexico in April to meet with groups working with immigrants crossing into the country.